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Remixing History: Russia

By Branch, January 23rd, 2011

Note: This should by no means be taken as a comprehensive timeline. It is, rather, an outline intended to hit the key points of technological development and historical alteration. All named individuals are actual historical figures.

13th C: The Mongols advance westward as far as Vladimir-Suzdal/Duchy of Moscow, but Ogedei Khan dies a few years early. Batu and Subutai have to return from the Russian front, for the election of a new Khan, before they conquer Halych’s Daniel I or any of the surrounding states. The pause in the campaign gives Daniel I the chance to conclude stronger treaties with Hungary. The other Rus lands are somewhat shielded from the Mongols by the effectiveness of the Halych-and-Hungary alliance. The new Khan, Guyuk, has an increase in sensible paranoia where his cousin Batu is concerned and keeps General Subutai by him while he maneuvers to have Batu killed soon after Guyuk is elected. This assassination kicks off the civil disputes within the Mongol Empire early and arrests their westward progress even more.

The Duchy of Moscow is still a hotbed of backstabbing between the city-states, with the Khans stirring the pot to keep the nobles divided, but in face of the continuing clear threat of the Mongols Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Ukraine-to-be maintain a pretty tight alliance. Novgorod is raided fairly harshly a few times, but not actually subsumed into Muscovite rule because the Moscow dukes and their khanate backers keep trying to invade the easier to reach lands in the south. Under pressure of the attempted invasion, the various lands of Kievan Rus coalesce into new states, centered around the strongest city-states : Novgorod, Moscow, and Galicia-Volhynia (Ukraine-to-be). Eventually these are known under the umbrella term of Russia, which is a broad designator similar to Europe. All the member states have some cultural continuity from Kievan Rus, but each has their own diverging interests and inflections on that base.

14th C: Novgorod, still a rich trading nexus, offers Ivan I of Moscow a back-channel alliance, mostly financial aid, to kick the Mongols out. This works, piece by piece and city by city. In 1382, the capital is certainly not foolish enough to believe their competitor Dmitri of Suzdal’s sons and let Tokhtamysh, Dmitri’s khanate ally, in to raze the city. The Tatar Yoke will, instead, pretty much end in the 14th C. while the uluses commence to fighting among themselves until the Mongol Empire dissolves. Muscovite culture has been influenced by Mongol culture, but the surrounding states provide a reservoir of traditional Rus culture, law, arts, and values (literacy, equality, local government, urban civil engineering, monetary rather than corporal penalties). Poland turns on Ukraine-to-be, now that the khanate is in decline, and Lithuania moves in from the north to take the city of Kiev and surrounding lands. Ukraine-to-be mostly repels Poland, but Lithuania takes a big chunk of land that includes Kiev, and when the Lithuanian and Polish dynasties merge, and the Crimean Khanate switches to their side, Ukraine-to-be allies with the Dneiper Cossacks to get Kiev back. Eventually, European incursions turn the three states into allies again.

15th C: Thanks to the existing independence of the various Russian states, the dynastic conflict between Vasily II and Yuri of Zvenigorod pretty much halts the expansion of Moscow. Ivan III takes the Duchy of Tver, and a few surrounding areas, but does not make much progress against Novgorod or Ukraine-to-be, who have been fighting as allies with Poland and Lithuania against the Teutonic Knights and are quite prepared to turn around and fight him in turn.

16th C: Ivan IV consolidates the kingdom of Moscow under absolutist rule, instituting the beginning of serfdom and thereby limiting peasant mobility, but does not declare himself Tsar/Emperor. Urban engineering, trade transportation, and agricultural technology flourish in all the Russian states.

17th C: The Time of Troubles happens on a smaller scale, mostly limited to Moscow. The example of the other Russian states, in this timeline, offers political models to fill the vacuum left by the end of Moscow’s Rurikid dynasty, so while Tver breaks away from Moscow again, and Poland still stirs the pot there, the internal political strife does not end in total autocracy. The famine of this time still affects most of Russia, but is considerably alleviated by previous advances in agriculture. Novgorod is largely taken up with Sweden’s advance around the Baltic, especially as technology really starts to advance and weaponry with it. Novgorod, as a trade nexus, is first in line for such things, and they have enough money to hire soldiers, and Sweden doesn’t get as far inland and never takes the capital city. Ukraine-to-be prudently maintains good relations with the Cossacks, keeping a tight eye on Poland and guarding its borders ferociously. Eventually, the Romanov dynasty is established in Moscow, less autocratic and more influenced by the other Russian states’ loosely republican or limited monarchial political models. Peasant mobility is more limited there than of old, but full serfdom is not instituted. Moscow still deals with a lot more unrest than its neighbors. They still expand eastward, with a certain amount of alliance and funding from Nogorov, down the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena rivers to the Pacific, and the Treaty of Nerchinsk secures ocean access and fresh trade with China, albeit with the Shun dynasty rather than the Qing.

Also during this period, the Ukraine Church, not isolated from Constantinople and the other Orthodox states, continues to evolve slowly along with them. Moscow and Novgorod, however, do not, and Patriarch Nikon’s attempted reforms cause the Orthodox schism on schedule.

18th C: The Great Northern War happens on schedule, with Novgorod and Ukraine as individual players, ending with an alliance between Novgorod and Moscow that gives Moscow favored access to the recovered Baltic seaports. Ukraine is less involved, being less interested in the Baltic access and more in the Black Sea and their relations with Crimea (developing all this time as a powerful independent state and center of learning). Meanwhile, Peter I is focused on the Pacific water route, and sees the potential for Russia, and Moscow in particular, to become the melting pot for the technological advances of Asia, India, Europe, the Middle East, and even the western hemisphere. He courts both merchants and scholars from around the world, establishing Moscow as a massive trade center, which greatly enriches his state and reduces the impetus for ruinous taxation and absolutist governmental reorganization. He increases the power of the monarch, but is largely focused on foreign policy and leaves his boyars to govern locally more or less as they please. The city of Moscow remains the capital.

19th C: Russia’s conflict with Napoleon comes about somewhat differently. The Slavic states are all independent, but still part of a powerful trade network. At first Napoleon’s conquests have no particular impact on this network. When Napoleon’s expansion reaches Poland, however, the Russian states decide it’s time to slow him down, and embargo his Empire. Napoleon, rightly seeing this as a clear and present threat, seeks to invade the Russian states. The 1812 war commences. Because both sides are armed with advanced technology, it moves faster, but it’s still logistics and the land, as much as anything, that defeats the French army. Moscow, defended with the most advanced weaponry a major trade center could buy, borrow, or develop, does not fall or burn; instead autumn and winter catch Napoleon’s army outside the walls, unsupplied, and harassed by Cossacks, and Napoleon is soon drawn back home by the news of Malet’s coup; at this, the army retreats. The war establishes Moscow as a military, as well as trade, power.

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