by Max Barry

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The Republic of
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[WIP] 20th Century Crisis

The Twentieth Century Crisis, also known as the Imperial Crisis or simply the Crisis, was a period of instability and war following the collapse of the Seglandic Empire and lasting from 1909 CE to 1964 CE. It began with the assassination of Emperor Adrianus dae Farheim in 1909, which resulted in 36 different claimants to the throne. After a brief descent into feudalism, the sides had by 1911 coalesced into two major organizations: the Neo-Imperialists, who had the support of the aristocracy, and the Etatists, who wanted the total destruction of the monarchy and the establishment of a populist dictatorship.

The economic, military, and social effects of the Crisis transformed Seglandic society into an anomaly on the world stage, one that eagerly embraced the totalitarian ideology espoused by Hugo Nimitz and the Demarchists.

Chronology

Historians universally agree that the start of the Crisis was the assassination of Emperor Adrianus on February 6, 1909. The fighting portion of the Crisis, the Seglandic Civil War, is marked as having begun on December 11, 1911 when the Sack of Ryutsvaag occurred.

There is a debate, however, as to when the Crisis truly ended. Most academic writings and textbooks state that it only ended when Hugo Nimitz came to power as chancellor on May 25, 1964, solidifying the state of Seglandic politics. Others agree with the historian A.T. Kaube, who contended that the signing of the peace treaty between Neo-Imperialists and Etatists on May 1, 1949 effected the official end of not only the Civil War, but also of the Crisis as a whole.

A small minority assert that the Crisis ended even earlier, on October 28, 1948, the date of the armistice which ended large-scale warfare in Segland. The armistice was signed to provide time for Neo-Imperialist and Etatist delegates to negotiate a lasting peace, and their eventual peace treaty would commence the early phase of the Seglandic Republic.

Background

The Seglandic Empire at the turn of the 20th century was a prosperous and wealthy state, its success enabled by machine industrialization and the rapid spread of such innovations as electricity and automobiles. Emperor Adrianus was viewed as a benevolent dictator who would lead Segland to a position as the global exemplar of reason and scientific progress. Nonetheless, he was not universally admired. In the minds of some, he was a vestige of Aazeronian colonial oppression.

Despite the fact that there were no government-sanctioned class divisions, the majority of the aristocracy was made up of Sonians, the blue-blooded descendants of the first Aazeronian settlers in Segland. The Germanic natives, Oriers, were being incorporated into the imperial upper class at an ever increasing rate, but many were still bitter over past treatment. It did not help matters that Adrianus himself was the son of a Sonian prince.

Adrianus took a number of actions to appeal more to Oriers and promote ethnic equality. One such action was the establishment of the Bureau for Pan-Seglandic Affairs, a department of the bureaucracy that dealt with Orier-Sonian disputes and was meant to favor Oriers in granting titles of nobility. This system was, unfortunately, abused by venal bureaucrats who demanded favors in exchange for the titles they granted.

Resentment of the imperial government was strongest in remote provinces, such as the southeasterly Egedera, whence was born the would-be killer of Adrianus -- a disgraced executioner, of Orier ancestry, named Hako Nars.

Nars had been a respected swordsman employed by the justice ministry in Ryutsvaag, known for his efficiency with decapitations. He executed many a murderer and traitor, but when told to execute a prominent Orier duke convicted of plotting against Adrianus, he suffered an apparent failure of nerve and refused. Threatened with death himself if he did not comply, Nars fled the capital and returned to his home province of Egedera. Agents of the empire were relatively rare there, and Nars avoided detection for years.

The swordsman resurfaced in Ryutsvaag, well after his little scandal had blown over, in 1908. He brought himself back to the attention of the central government when he started frequenting gun shops in the city, and police considered this suspicious enough to arrest him for questioning. Satisfied that he wasn't planning revenge, he was released within days. No one had any reported dealings with Nars for months afterward.

Then, on February 6, 1909, the unthinkable occurred. Emperor Adrianus was going on a leisurely carriage ride through the city (as he preferred carriages to automobiles) when a man later identified to be Hako Nars walked up to him. Drawing a sharp, curved saber from his coat, he hopped into the carriage and chopped off Adrianus' head in one clean motion. He managed to slice open Empress Irene dae Farheim's throat as well before being pulled out by a mob and trampled to death.

Because women were prohibited from ascending to the throne, and Adrianus had no clear male successor, the results of his assassination were disastrous. The capital was thrown into disarray, and as news of the emperor's and empress' violent deaths poured into distant provinces, Ryutsvaag was faced with a major secession crisis.

Imperial collapse

Under the provisions of the Imperial Constitution, the Diet of Segland was to assume control of the country in the event of the royal family's incapacitation. This control went into legal effect immediately as the Diet members in Ryutsvaag announced emergency rule. Most other members of the Diet were in their respective provinces, for the assembly was not in session. Representatives in a number of peripheral provinces, particularly in southern Segland, decided not to return to the capital immediately and instead convened in their own districts to discuss recent events. Jonatan Rettig, the governor of Bente province, became a vocal opponent of the centralized imperial government, capitalizing on the authoritarian emperor's death to propound his agrarian ideals. Certain ideas of his contributed to the foundations of Etatism, particularly the ones that favored peasants.

On April 30, 1909, the Imperial Diet declared 19-year-old Corbinian Shoerd, a distant cousin of Adrianus, the new emperor of Segland. At this point, the assembled Diet consisted only of Ryutsvaagers and delegates from the city's surrounding provinces; thus only these areas recognized Corbinian's authority. These areas became known as the Imperial Governance. Taking advantage of Corbinian's youth and inexperience, the Diet manipulated the emperor and relegated him to the role of figurehead.

Meanwhile, without any real form of centralized government, the rest of the empire devolved into quasi-feudalism. Local aristocrats assumed control of their own little fiefdoms, but the conferences of estranged Diet members continued as a way of keeping some political connection between the feudal states.

The Diet effectively dissolved its military in September 1909 due to the absence of any coherent threats to its power and the perceivedly unnecessary cost of keeping up an army. Feudal lords in the fragmented parts of the empire maintained their own private security forces, but these forces kept their distance from anything related to Corbinian and the Diet. This state of affairs continued unremarkably until July 21, 1911, the day referred to as the July 21 Coup.

The July 21 Coup was a seizing of power from Corbinian by a preeminent member of the Diet, Erdmann Lehrer. Lehrer and his allies in the Diet were growing tired of having to act through a surrogate (i.e. Corbinian), so they sought to end all pretense of Corbinian's power. Lehrer had his friend, Chief of Police Yatser Dolerin, order the arrest of Corbinian on the fictionalized charge of contravening the Diet. (Corbinian would be held in the urban Hoel Castle Prison until his suicide in 1915.)

Lehrer then explained the events to a special session of the Diet, christening himself Emperor Erdmann Adrianus. A trio of aristocrats attempted to overthrow him the next day before he consolidated his power, but they were apprehended and summarily executed before their men could infiltrate the building where Erdmann was staying. It turned out that one of the men had informed police of the plot. With the executions, the new emperor's ruthlessness was established and his rule accepted by what was left of the empire.

News of the change in regime worried the feudal lords far removed from the courtly intrigues of Ryutsvaag and the Imperial Governance. A seasoned statesman in charge of the center of Seglandic society was a major threat compared to the ineffectual reign of Corbinian, and there were also rumors that Erdmann intended to enact conscription to rebuild the imperial military. The possibility of a reunified Seglandic Empire loomed over the land, and with this possibility, the ideas of Jonatan Rettig gained new prominence.

A secret meeting of feudal lords from various provinces occurred on August 5. The lords discussed the best way to stay in power and keep Erdmann contained, and they asked Rettig, who was in attendance, if he would be willing to lead a coalition of former provinces. Despite initially refusing, by the time the meeting had ended, he agreed to rally the people of the provinces. He set to work giving a series of fiery speeches across Segland. In these speeches, he demanded a somewhat vague political system that would serve the people instead of aristocratic interests. The oppressed peasants took up these concepts with gusto, and the emaciated middle class welcomed any attempt at a more unified country. Thus was born the ideology of Populist Statism, or Etatism, which was grounded in its hate for everything imperial.

The feudal lords realized that Etatism would require a vessel with which it could be spread more orderly around Segland. They met again, this time comprising representatives from a total of 18 former provinces, on September 26 and signed a document proclaiming the foundation of the Confederacy of Populist States. It assumed the role of a direct rival to the Imperial Governance. Few provinces remained unaligned to either the Confederacy or the Governance, and the two went on in an uneasy peace for several months. But the peace was destined to be broken, and so it was in December of 1911.

War

On December 11, 1911, the furtively-assembled Army of the Confederacy launched a sudden lightning strike at the heart of the Imperial Governance: Ryutsvaag itself. Their objective was to bypass the main lines of Neo-Imperialist defenses, overwhelming the city and abducting the emperor to use as a bargaining chip.

However, Erdmann Adrianus was not to be found in the Imperial Palace, and he was never kidnapped. The Etatist attackers proceeded to ransack the city in a disorderly fashion. Clashes occurred as the Neo-Imperialists attempted to cut off the ensuing Etatist retreat southward. The bulk of the Etatist army escaped Governance territory, but not before leaving a trail of destroyed towns in its wake.

Despite the failure to abduct Erdmann, the Sack of Ryutsvaag was a strategic victory for the Confederacy. It showed that the Imperial aristocrats were not safe in the city and that the Confederacy was not merely a conglomerate of backwater provinces.

The subsequent portion of fighting, lasting from 1911 to 1920, was marked by severe stalemate and extensive trench warfare. Early gains made by Etatist forces were repulsed as the Imperial Governance gained support from neighboring countries like Conpatria and Poldania, and the front lines stabilized. The Battle of the Holders in summer and fall 1917 resulted notably in the acquisition of most of the province of Nederwampach by the Etatists. By 1920, the degree of stalemate made it seem as if the Confederacy and the Governance could almost co-exist.

But with the Neo-Imperialists' introduction of the armored tank in late 1920, it became possible to break through entrenched lines of soldiers without having to resort to costly charges across no man's land. Initially, the Neo-Imperialist used tanks as a trump card, reconquering Nederwampach and expanding south into Flach and Langenditz. Any hopes for an end to the war were dashed at this point. The Etatists pioneered anti-tank weapons and soon began manufacturing tanks of their own. One of the first engagements fought primarily by tanks was the Battle of Wadergau in July 1924, which ended in a Neo-Imperialist victory that solidified their control over Flach.

On the northern front, the Neo-Imperialists were making a concerted effort to obtain total control of Segland's coastline along the Tressian Gulf. Two key coastal provinces in the Confederacy were Roosevelt and Perigal, and Erdmann dispatched one of his top generals, Siegfried Koppel, to invade them with an army of 130,000 men. Koppel and his army crossed the border from Unterlau into Etatist-controlled Roosevelt in February 1923, immediately meeting major resistance from the provincial militia. The combat was savage, but Koppel triumphed over the numerically inferior militiamen and took the port city of Rese. He then pushed westward into Perigal and overran Etatist territory all the way to the border with Conpatria. By the time both Roosevelt and Perigal were controlled by Koppel, 60,000 Neo-Imperialist soldiers had been killed, and 105,000 Etatists had died.

Truce and aftermath

The Republic of Segland

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