Remixing History: Russia

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.

Remixing History: Tokugawa Japan

At the beginning of the Tokugawa period, Japan has movable type, flight, increased mining for coal as well as metal, texts on optics and the theory of the steam turbine. The requirements of unification still lead Toyotomi to decree fixed classes, to limit travel, to disarm farmers and control samurai by separating them from the means of subsistence. There is a growing group of artisans who deal with engineering and technology and some of the newly unemployed samurai migrate into that group. This trend will continue.

Tokugawa Iemitsu closes the country to most western trade after the Shimabara rebellion, cautious of western imperialism; this firmly sets the trend, present since Ieyasu, of representing other nations as an active threat to help solidify a national identity in support of the Tokugawa. As population expands, however, food production becomes insufficient. Instead of turning to intensive agriculture of marginal land, Tokugawa Yoshimune chooses to trade for food with Korea and China. The need to supply exports other than silver brings the growing group of technological artisans to the fore of the national economy. Restrictions on imported texts are greatly relaxed and, as the actual power of the merchant and engineer artisans rise, strain on the nominal class hierarchy intensifies.

The natural disasters and unrest during Ieshige and Ieharu’s rule creates unease within the government about the development of small arms by the engineer artisans. At Tanuma Okitsugu’s suggestion, government funding is focused on large land-to-sea weapons installations instead, billed as a coastal defense measure. Ienari’s rule sees the construction of a significant number of such installations, but also, under the increasing corruption of the government and failure of the social contract, the somewhat clandestine development of personal arms by the engineers. An unspoken agreement is reached that this will be permitted as long as there is no distribution of those weapons outside the engineers. Just as with the actual monetary power of the merchants, the presence of such effective weapons brings the engineer artisans into still more conflict with the samurai class and their less effective but more prestigious swords. The small but consistent influx of samurai into the engineer class puts an extra edge on this tension.

During Ieyoshi’s rule, an armed trade envoy from the Tlaxcalteca-Spanish state of Nahua (Mexico) is repelled with only one ship left unsunk. During Iesada’s rule, the Pueblo nation sends an envoy of their own and demonstrate some of the products and technology from the Americas This is tempting enough that Iesada’s government agrees to re-open trade. Despite the lack of destabilization from panic and rage attendant on this re-opening, the long running domestic tensions of the 18th and 19th C have still grown out of control. Yoshinobu’s reforms are too late to save the bakufu and the Meiji revolution happens on schedule.

The revolution does not have the impetus of a decade of foreign interference, and centers, instead, explicitly around domestic issues: the tension between the Emperor and the bakufu, the resentment of the tozama clans against the fudai clans, the class hierarchy in direct denial of the actual balance of social power, the economic upsets caused by even regulated contact with the global market. While the fighting is primarily between factions of the samurai class, both sides court support from both merchants and farmers for funding and extra bodies respectively. The existing large weapons installations are used only once, and the result is sufficiently appalling that both sides agree not to court the involvement of the engineers; despite this, a small number of individuals do join one faction or another, and the personal weapons they bring with them are decisive in more than one encounter.

The reforms Yoshinobu started are continued and accelerated in the hands of the new government, who understand, thanks to seeing the effectiveness of domestic weapons in the revolution, that Japan could be in great danger if it does not keep up with the technological developments of other nations. Consultants are hired from Europe, the Americas, the Ottoman Empire, and China to integrate developments from abroad into the work of Japan’s engineers, and Japan enters global trade at a run, and in a storm of domestic social change.

Remixing History: India

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.

4th-6th C: The Golden Age of India, the Classical period, happens on schedule and produces a bounty of achievements in the arts and sciences.

7th-9th C: Contending kingdoms compete among themselves and participate in sea-going trade with the Roman Empire and Asia.

8th-14th C: The Caliphate and several successors occupy northern India until the Mongol invasions.

16th C: Babur, a Timurid descendant of the Mongol-Turkish-Persian empire to the north, invades and establishes the Mughal Empire. While the empire is established by war, its policies are of integration and tolerance, and this results in a cultural renaissance.

17th C: Dara Shikoh becomes Mughal Emperor instead of his brother, Aurangzeb. Possibly he gains the loyalty of enough sub-rulers to win in the field, or possibly their father, Shah Jahan, decided that everyone was safer if Aurangzeb died young. Dara, being not only tolerant but a staunch proponent of syncretism, does not turn the Mughal empire toward intolerance; instead the Hindu and Islam cultures and religions continue to co-exist and interact to produce innovative advances. Over time, as the Islamic elements continue to be assimilated into the Hindu and the emperors and governors continue to marry local royalty, centralization gives way to still greater independence among the states and kingdoms.

18th C: The Mughal Empire has become an explicitly federal arrangement, with some powers retained by the Emperor but the majority of power and determination legally in the hands of the local ruler. The largest and most powerful of the kingdoms is Maratha, who have grown by alliance and marriage since the 17th C. They supply much of the military for the subcontinent, and especially most of the naval power, preventing the European powers from attacking militarily. Without the opening of severely divided kingdoms or the legal fig-leaf of imperial grants, the European powers are limited to trade enclaves and in competition with India’s old trade partners, China and Africa. As the products of other centers of arts and technology are introduced, the vigorous, hybrid culture India has built enters into the race for invention and innovation.

Remixing History: China, Korea, Japan

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


8th C: Tang dynasty The printing press has been invented and movable type spreads when an influential scholar from the court comes across Bi Sheng a lot sooner. Trade with Silla (Korea) brings in the innovation of metal type, possibly invented by an ancestor of Choe Yun-ui. The spread of printing is driven by scholars at first. Increased communication encourages settling on consistent terms and explaining one’s logic, which leads to a firmer theoretical grounding for advances to build on. This lays the groundwork for developing large-scale production which can be duplicated to the same end in many places. I posit that this will be sufficient to counterweight any philosophical convictions that logic is insufficient to comprehend/describe nature (a conviction which may lead to quantum physics really early, though).

10th-13th C: Song dynasty A period of growing meritocracy and bureaucracy. The need of the bureaucracy to oversee and communicate with an expanding population drives the further spread of printing and literacy, and advances in the sciences are also printed and disseminated more widely. Rural centers of government away from the capital distribute effort and promote competition; I posit an intensification of the general trend toward reliance on local gentry to govern the growing population. Military and naval development are driven forward by pressure from the Mongols and, later, the Jin dynasty in north.

13th-14th C: Yuan dynasty The Mongol dynasty during the Mongol Empire. China is not as comprehensively smashed as some other nations, but it causes a hiatus in development, as it does across the continent.

14th-17th C: Ming dynasty This is a period of stability and growth. The Ming gather a considerable standing army and pursue great construction projects: the Grand Canal, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City. An agricultural surplus leads to an export economy and increased wealth. The merchant class begins to field a significant number of governmental candidates. I posit that this prosperity also fuels a technology explosion as more people are free to engage in it over and above subsistence. In the 16th C China enters global trade. The Little Ice Age at end of the period, however, brings an agricultural crash, wrecks the economy and leads to trade interruptions and great unrest.

17th-19th C: Shun dynasty I posit the Manchu invasion and the Qing dynasty actually do not take place. Li Zicheng’s peasant rebellion succeeds and his forces reach General Wu Sangui before Wu lets the Manchu in past the Great Wall as allies. The Manchu coalesce into a separate nation, allied with the Mongols. This dynasty is, rather, the Shun dynasty, a period of some upheaval resulting in some decentralization of power. Land-ownership is given to the peasantry, though the government keeps a significant standing army to maintain control. The reform of exam standards, exchange rates and corrupt officials still happens. The Macartney trade embassy from Britain happens a lot earlier and global trade is resumed. There is a good deal of technology development as the tech race gets going, spurred by constant wars all over the world and the exchange of ideas created by trade. Technology and art trade staves off economic stagnation. There is no Taiping Rebellion. There are no Opium Wars because trade was never closed off; in addition, everyone is already too well armed on both sides and military confrontations, unless instantly decisive, are considerably more dangerous and costly.


10-14th C: Goreyo dynasty This is an era of unification and governmental reform. Increased civil freedoms support advances in scholarship and technology, and literacy spreads. There is considerable exchange with the Song dynasty. By mid period, two Khitan invasions and the depredations of Japanese pirates drives development of weapons, Choe Mu-seon’s ship-based weapons in particular. During the end of this period, the government is considerably weakened in the aftermath of war with the Mongols and under the control of the Yuan dynasty.

14th-19th C: Joseon dynasty. After considerable dynastic struggle, the new and more centralized government under Sejong the Great supports advances in science and the arts. By the 16th C central support is less and internal division worsened, but trade with Ming keeps greater momentum going. Weapons development is sufficient to beat off Toyotomi’s invasion with considerably lower losses, and, without the threat of Manchurian invasion and the Qing dynasty, Korea does not isolate itself nearly as much. Trade and development continue while the late Joseon rulers turn again to unification and reform.


10th-12th C: Heian period This period was the height of import and elaboration on Chinese culture, and the start of serious divergence into domestic innovations. The lapse in diplomatic relations due to the Five Dynasties Ten Kingdoms period after Tang’s fall spurs local development. There is still some trade, though, and when traders return with books of arts and science scholarship it leads the government to revive relations and expand trade. The printing press is adapted to local syllabary to distribute literature, and the new availability of printed materials leads to increased literacy.

12th-14th C: Kamakura period The first bakufu, or shogunate. Mongol invasions during 13th C introduce pressure to increase naval and technological development.

14th-16th: Muromachi period 1467-1600 is Sengoku, the Warring States period, and during this time firearms are imported from China and Korea. The first European trade contact is still the Portuguese, in 1543, which introduces some European and Ottoman variations on technology. Artisans experimenting with both kinds of imports are the start of what will become a separate class. Nobunaga, Toyotomi and Ieyasu follow in order to bring an end to the civil conflict. Toyotomi’s attempts to invade the mainland are turned back with some fairly advanced weapons; Ieyasu turns this to his own purposes by emphasizing the threat of outsiders to help unify the nation.

17th-19th C: Tokugawa period Codification of the class system includes technological artisans, who themselves include some unaffiliated samurai left after the Tokugawa consolidation, preferring to be weapons artisans rather than give up weaponry entirely to become farmers. The Shimabara rebellion still results in limiting Western trade; this requires more open trade with China, despite the deep distrust in which the Tokugawa bakufu holds the rather populist Shun dynasty. Trade passes through Dejima island, so that imported books and products can be vetted for political suitability. The distrust cultivated by the government drives the development of land-to-sea weapons in particular.

19th C: Meiji period A military-trade envoy from the Tlaxcalteca-Spanish state of Nahua (Mexico) is sunk by the defensive emplacements. In the wake of this, the Anasazi (Pueblo) nation sends a pure trade delegation instead, and examples of the products that the technology revolution in the Americas have produced leads the bakufu to re-open the country to trade. This change of policy is taken as an excuse by internal factions, and the simmering tensions of the Tokugawa period explode into the Meiji revolution. Without the panic caused by unequal weapons and treaties, however, there is no national shame, less psychotic nationalism, and less of a headlong drive to emulate Europe philosophically and politically. Japan loses its impetus to become an imperialist power and never invades or occupies Korea or Manchuria.