1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 01

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 01

1637: The Volga Rules

By Eric Flint, Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett

PROLOGUE

Go East, Young Man

February, 1636

Factory in Poltz, Russia

Stefan Andreevich wiped off the sweat, then motioned for Nestor to turn the crank. While Nestor cranked and the weight lifted, Stefan checked the irons in the fire. He had plenty of time. It was a stone forge with a leather bellows, newly made last year with little regard to appearance. The stones were quarried, but not shaped, and the mortar was not of good quality. The sparks flew up as Stefan used the tongs to check the color of the wrought iron globs in the glowing charcoal, while Nestor cranked away.

Once the hammer was up, Stefan used the tongs to pull the plate out of the stamp forge and set it on a scorched wooden shelf. Then he pulled the mop from the bucket and ran it over the bottom and top molds. The molds steamed and hissed with the water, but it was an important step. They couldn’t be allowed to get too hot or they would start to deform. He turned back to the fire and pulled another blob of wrought iron. It was yellow hot and would take off a limb if he allowed it to touch him. He placed it in the mold and signaled Nestor, who pulled the lever that dropped the weight.

Over five tons of lead-weighted stamp dropped almost six feet. Wham!

Torn between admiring the efficiency of the system and resenting the labor, Stefan repeated the process. Then he repeated it again. There was little discussion. The men at the bellows were from Poltz, where he and about half the men of Ruzuka had been sent to work. It made things much harder, because if they were here stamping out plates they couldn’t be back home weaving cloth, which was the main winter craft of Ruzuka. After a long day, the men were given a poor meal and sent to bed in a barn. Just as had happened yesterday and would happen again tomorrow and the day after, six days a week for the last three months and another to come.

Stefan wouldn’t be making cloth if he were in Ruzuka. He would be making iron parts for the looms and the plows and other needs of the village. He looked back into the fire of the forge and checked the color of the blobs, then waved for more pumping. Then he thought about how fast he could stamp out various parts if he had a drop hammer.

Nestor would be making cloth if he were in Ruzuka. Like most of the villagers in Ruzuka — and like most of the peasants in Mother Russia — Nestor had two professions. Farmer in spring, summer, and fall, but in winter he was a weaver and made cloth.

Stefan was an exception. A blacksmith was needed all year round, as much in winter as in summer. He was here because, as a blacksmith, he was a skilled craftsman. Colonel Ivan Nikolayevich Utkin, the man who held Ruzuka as pomestie from Czar Mikhail, would get paid more when he rented Stefan out.

Ruzuka, Russia

March, 1636

Vera pulled Stefan to her and kissed him vigorously, then pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Was it bad?” she asked, her greenish-brown eyes shining.

“No worse than usual,” he told her stoically.

She hugged him again. “The women have been working at the weaving, but we don’t have nearly as much cloth as last year. Still, the colonel insists that we owe him the same amount of cloth, in spite of the extra work you’re doing. And Kiril Ivanovich has told him how much we made, so we can’t hide any away. The colonel is going to take almost all of it.” Vera’s usually pleasant tone was harsh and angry. Then she hugged him again, as though trying to use his strength to hold away the world.

Stefan wished he could hold away the world, but they were serfs and Colonel Ivan Nikolayevich Utkin controlled their lives. The colonel was a deti boiarskie, which literally meant “child of boyars,” but really meant a retainer of one of the great houses. Someone who served a member of one of the great houses or who owed their position in the bureaus or the army to the influence of a great house. The colonel was both. He was a retainer of Director-General Sheremetev himself and had gotten his position in the army due to Sheremetev influence. The village of Ruzuka was part of the colonel’s pomestie, payment in land with serfs. As a serf in Ruzuka, Stefan had little say in how his life or the lives of his wife and children would unfold.

A thought that had been slipping around in the back corners of his mind for the last couple of years came to the fore. We should run. He had his wife and children to think about, and though he wasn’t over fond of Father Yulian, the priest had said some things in his sermons that struck Stefan as worthwhile. That God and the angels had intended men to be free, but men, in their weakness and fear, had given over their liberty to the strong and the vicious, in hopes of protection. Well, the strong and the vicious had taken the liberty, but they didn’t seem overly concerned with protecting Stefan’s wife and child from hunger and want. Maybe it was time to try a little freedom. But for now Stefan kept the thought from his lips, even with Vera.

They sat down to a meal of stewed beets with just enough grease to make you think there might be some ham in there somewhere, and talked about the goings-on in the village. Vera’s friendly manner made her everyone’s confidant and mostly she didn’t share what she was told. Except with Stefan, but Stefan was a taciturn man. He didn’t talk much, being the sort who thought of just the right thing to say . . . a day or two after the conversation.

***

That night, with Vera snuggled against his chest, Stefan looked around the small room and thought about what they would need to take if they ran, and how they would carry it. Their house was next to the smithy and not in great repair. Stefan was good with metal, not so good with wood. But small as the house was and as little as they had, they would have to leave a lot. If they went. And if they went, where would they go? Vera hugged him in her sleep and he hugged her back.

***

Izabella smiled like a cat as she saw her mother leaving Father Yulian’s cabin. She knew what was going on there and she decided that if Mother could do it, she could too.

Three days later, she sat in the quiet room that Father Yulian used to take confession. “I have these urges, Father Yulian. Even while in church, I feel these strange new feelings.” Izabella was five foot three with golden blond hair, blue eyes, and a curvaceous figure. She knew she was desirable. She only needed Yulian to notice. And she paid attention in church and understood the doctrine. Besides, she had seen him with Mother and heard what he said. “They distract me from the contemplation of faith.” She considered mentioning that she had seen him and her mother. Perhaps confessing her snooping would be a good way, but she held that in reserve. She really wanted Yulian to want her, not to be forced into her bed.

Father Yulian was most understanding and instructed her that the best cure for lustful thoughts was satiating them. Then the mind was left clear for the deeper concerns of the faith. “Also,” he said, “the realization that our desires can distract us from the worship of God makes us humble and more willing to welcome the Holy Spirit.”

By the time he had finished ministering to her, Izabella felt so calm as to be called languid.

 

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31 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 01

  1. dave o says:

    My four grandparents were born in Russia, and left as soon as they could. One was being chased by the Czar’s secret police. I never heard any of them speak a good word about Russia. or Russians. The country seems to be ruled by xenophobia and paranoia with a strong taste for dictatorial rulers,- think Putin, Stalin, the Czars. If this book were realistic, I suppose Shermetev and his ilk would end up in charge

    • Tweeky says:

      I suspect that in the end Shermetev and his buddies are going to end up with their heads mounted on spikes.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “My four grandparents were born in Russia, and left as soon as they could.”

      Ah! Here’s the reason for your Russophobia, dave o. Say, are you by chance Jewish?

      “The country seems to be ruled by xenophobia and paranoia with a strong taste for dictatorial rulers,- think Putin, Stalin, the Czars”

      What about them?

      Also – xenophobia? “You keep saying this word. I’m not sure you know what it means”.

      “If this book were realistic, I suppose Shermetev and his ilk would end up in charge”

      Soooo…. Because your distant ancestors came from Russia this makes you and expert on the time period (17 c.), Russia as the country and Russians as the people, and makes you a judge of what is “realistic”? Am I right?

      • dave o says:

        National cultures tend to remain constant. If you can point out a period when Russians did not favor an authoritarian government,I would appreciate it. As for my religion, it’s none of your business.

        Are you claiming Putin et al were not dictatorial? If so, perhaps you don’t understand the word. Rulers of that type ruled Russia, with brief intermissions for most of history.

        Xenophobia: fear, and usually hatred of strangers.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “National cultures tend to remain constant.”

          Can you prove that? Also – what do you understand by the “national culture”?

          “If you can point out a period when Russians did not favor an authoritarian government,I would appreciate it.”

          Republic of Novgorod.

          “As for my religion, it’s none of your business”

          I wasn’t asking about your religion. AFAIK, there are two most numerous die hard Russophobes in the US numerically speaking – ethnic Polish and Jewish Diasporas. To which one belonged your ancestors?

          “Are you claiming Putin et al were not dictatorial?”

          Define “dictatorial” before we can have any meaningful discussion. Something tells me, that you define it “everything I don’t like”. When some kid in response to their parents insistence to stop playing videogames and do their homework calls them “fascist” – that’s what your situation looks like.

          “Xenophobia: fear, and usually hatred of strangers.”

          Which makes you a xenophobe, dave o. You are clearly a Russophobe, which is a sub-set of xenophobia.

      • Terranovan says:

        Asking if he’s by chance Jewish implies that there’s a causal link, and seems to me to be a bit hypocritical coming from someone who’s complained several times in the past about someone else’s racism (alleged or otherwise).
        Saying that “here’s the reason” in the same sentence as “Russophobia” sound like an attack, and, if true, would constitute a textbook example of an ad hominem attack.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “Asking if he’s by chance Jewish implies that there’s a causal link, and seems to me to be a bit hypocritical coming from someone who’s complained several times in the past about someone else’s racism (alleged or otherwise).”

          Not at all. Statistics are on my side. See my above comment about certain Diasporas from the former Russian Empire/USSR, which hold predominantly anti-Russian attitudes. What I do is making an educated guess.

          • Johnny says:

            “Statistics are on my side” is the second slogan of the white supremacist movement, Lytt.

            The first step to recognizing a racist? When they can’t admit maybe they erred and said something racist.

            • Lyttenburgh says:

              ““Statistics are on my side” is the second slogan of the white supremacist movement, Lytt.”

              Maybe – I don’t know. I’m not interested in rightard and neo-Nazi denominations, whatever they fancy to name them. But I know that the statistics are on my side.

              Just because Hitler was a vegetarian does it mean that all vegetarians support Nazism?

              “The first step to recognizing a racist? When they can’t admit maybe they erred and said something racist.”

              Potentially questionable approach, but – go ahead. Try to convince dave o that his Russophobic bigotry is wrong.

  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    “Factory in Poltz, Russia”

    There has never been such a town or settlement. Even the name itself is not Russian, but something the authors came up thinking it will do for the undemanding clientele aka the readership.

    OTOH, “Poltso” is a legitimate toponym – several villages in Russia bear it, the eldest of them founded in mid 19 c.

    “The men at the bellows were from Poltz, where he and about half the men of Ruzuka had been sent to work”

    Likewise – there is no such kind of toponym as “Ruzuka”. What, the authors think they are writing a fantasy novel set in the alien, totally different from our own world?

    [sees that the authors are the same old “relible” Goodlett and Huff]

    Well, that explains it.

    “It made things much harder, because if they were here stamping out plates they couldn’t be back home weaving cloth”

    The thing is – peasant women did that. Not men. Cloth weaving had been traditionally women winter-time promysel in Russia. Most of the produced cloth (not a big volume, really – it was physically impossible to have it big) was not even sold, but paid to the noble landlord as part of the natural rent (obrok).

    “After a long day, the men were given a poor meal and sent to bed in a barn.”

    Key words here – “given” and “meal”. In the wintertime it was not something guaranteed for the peasant.

    “Stefan wouldn’t be making cloth if he were in Ruzuka.”

    Of course he wouldn’t – he’s a man.

    “Nestor would be making cloth if he were in Ruzuka.”

    Nestor is a woman? :)

    “Farmer in spring, summer, and fall, but in winter he was a weaver and made cloth.”

    The authors are unaware of the other, typical male winter-time promysly methinks, like fishing, hunting, gathering of pinecones, becoming an itinerant tinker or simply hiring out as a seasonal laborer (like here).

    “Colonel Ivan Nikolayevich Utkin, the man who held Ruzuka as pomestie from Czar Mikhail, would get paid more when he rented Stefan out.”

    Only he couldn’t do that. It’s still 17 c. and the power of the noble landlords does not extend to the privilege to “transfer” his peasants wherever he likes. If he held this so-called “Ruzuka” as a pomestie from his feudal liege (the Czar) it meant that the peasants of “Ruzuka” remained Czar’s subjects temporarily paying their taxes not to the Royal treasury but to the Royal treasury employee, i.e. their pomeshik in question. That’s it. That was the limit of the noble authority in early 17 c.

    “Stefan wished he could hold away the world, but they were serfs and Colonel Ivan Nikolayevich Utkin controlled their lives. The colonel was a deti boiarskie, which literally meant “child of boyars,” but really meant a retainer of one of the great houses”

    Incorrect. Deti boyarskie was a mid-tier category of the Russian nobility, below the boyars (who can trace their lineage to the princes and royalty of old), but above dvoryane (service gentry, oftentimes with no votchina at all). Deti boyarskie were not by any means “retainers” of any “great house”, their precise place in the noble hierarchy had been fixed by the system of mestnichestvo.

    “He was a retainer of Director-General Sheremetev himself and had gotten his position in the army due to Sheremetev influence.”

    Which would make other boyars cry foul, because of (see above) the violation of the system of mestnichestvo.

    “They sat down to a meal of stewed beets with just enough grease to make you think there might be some ham in there somewhere”

    That’s a rich meal for a family of peasants that survived through winter. Well, he’s smith after all. The other villagers won’t be having even that.

    “Izabella smiled like a cat as she saw her mother leaving Father Yulian’s cabin. She knew what was going on there and she decided that if Mother could do it, she could too.”

    Izabella is not a Russian name. What’s wrong with the authors? Are they seriously so lazy?

    “Father Yulian was most understanding and instructed her that the best cure for lustful thoughts was satiating them”

    Very… strange… outlook for 17 c. ROC priest. Who would be married, btw, and suggest the same thing for this so-called “Izabella”. There – in the happy marriage she’d have plenty of opportunity to satisfy her “lustful thoughts”.

    • Amy says:

      1. You seem to have a love-hate relationship with this series.

      2. Have you ever taken up your critiques with the authors directly?

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “1. You seem to have a love-hate relationship with this series.”

        Series are written by multiple authors. Some of them are truly talented, others are less so. It’s inevitable.

        “2. Have you ever taken up your critiques with the authors directly?”

        Please, Amy, tell me how to do that. No, I’m serious. If you know a reliable method of how to reach the authors in question in the way, that they will take the valid criticism seriously, I’d be only glad.

        I’m not their editor. I’m not their co-author. I don’t work for Baen. I’m but one of their intended target consumer auditory. The authors seem to think that if the vast majority of their readership keeps buying new books of the series (“hooked” by the originals penned by Eric himself) no matter the quality, who am I to spoil their blissful tranquility?

    • Terranovan says:

      You’ve demanded that commenters disagreeing with you in the past cite proof for their arguments. Why are you too lazy to do the same? Although, come to think of it, even if you did cite sources, I WOULDN’T CARE! So maybe that answers my question.
      With specific regards to your issue with the priest’s affair – the 1632 series is running over with sins of the flesh both major and minor. An affair is nothing new to the series. In addition, my understanding of Russian Orthodox clerical celibacy (feel free to correct me if you can CITE A SOURCE!) is that a priest can be married but isn’t required to be. So maybe Father Yulian hasn’t been able to get married yet. Or maybe he has and is cheating on her with Izabella.
      Finally, if you hate the series so much, can you please do us all a favor and not read or comment on any more of the snippets?

      • Daryl Saal says:

        He is forever making elaborate dismissive comments regardless of the setting’s time and place. His claims of rampant anti intellectualism seem to me to be his way of stating that he is an intellectual among ignorant peasants. Quite insulting and to my thinking quite wrong, the smart people look at the big picture and leave the “down in the weeds” minutia for the small thinkers to do.
        I suspect that he is quite young and has spent his time in academia not the real world.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “He is forever making elaborate dismissive comments regardless of the setting’s time and place.”

          I’m a historian. If the books presented here deal with different time periods (about which I know a great deal) and I see mistakes, inconsistencies and just plain stupid things – I’m going to share my expertise. My knowledge – it’s not going anywhere. It’s here in this head. It’s the new “content” that appears here that draws my reaction.

          “His claims of rampant anti intellectualism seem to me to be his way of stating that he is an intellectual among ignorant peasants.”

          First of all – I don’t think that. Don’t strawman me. Second – what have you against peasants who were anything but ignorant? These people possessed a troves of practical knowledge. Just because, say, a 17 c. peasant knew nothing of about the pyramids of Egypt didn’t mean that they were stupid. If they could pull through themselves and family through the winter of the Little Ice Age they surely possessed enough knowledge and expertise.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “You’ve demanded that commenters disagreeing with you in the past cite proof for their arguments. Why are you too lazy to do the same? Although, come to think of it, even if you did cite sources, I WOULDN’T CARE! So maybe that answers my question.”

        Dear Terranovan. Can I ask you something? What would you in the following situations:

        – You are in a restaurant. Your order arrives and it is definitely sub par – undercooked, too much/little salt, meat if fired to the coal like crisp, some (living) maggots crawl in the salad, and a gigantic fly is taking a bath in your beverage.

        – You bought a new car. You trusted that this particular “brand”. Two weeks later paint starts to peel off, heater stops working, there are some unspeakable sounds every time you try to start an engine. And this is only the beginning of your problems.

        – You are having a surgery. It is successful… mostly. Now you have half a kidney, a medical bill the size of your arm, need to buy lots and lots of new (expensive) drugs with some interesting side effects. You might need to have a second surgery and there is no guarantee it will solve your health issues.

        What would you do in this situations? Just keep calm and carry on? Pretend that this is absolutely normal? Or… not?

        Oh, if only you’ve done a research before doing any of these things! Or, better yet, if this beyond your competency – if only you asked other peoples’ opinion about that. That way you could possibly avoided so much trouble and stress.

        But if you look flies in your beverages – that’s your call, not mine.

        “In addition, my understanding of Russian Orthodox clerical celibacy (feel free to correct me if you can CITE A SOURCE!) is that a priest can be married but isn’t required to be.”

        He is required. You, Terranovan, could have found this on your own. Something prevents you. I wonder – what? Lack of will aka laziness? Because I can’t believe that someone who can find a way to comment here does not know how to use the search engine. Or Wikipedia. I’d refer you to the ruling of the 3rd Council of Constantinople (aka the Sixth Ecumenical Council) and it’s rulings regarding the Sacrament of Marriage (based in particular on Mat 19:6 and Heb 13:4). I’d also refer you to the general knowledge of the ROC in particular and it’s devision on the White Clergy (low-tier parish priest who are allowed to be married) and the Black Clergy (celibate monastics from whom the higher tier is formed). The ordainment of the unmarried or deliberately celibate men into the White clergy only became an officially endorsed policy in 19 c. thanks to the efforts of the Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna Philaret (Drozdov) (canonized in 1994). Granted, if the father Yulian is a widower – I will remove my complaint, as the White clergy is forbidden from re-marrying after the death of their spouse. Moreover – once ordained and celibate they were not allowed to marry, but as I said, that was a future policy.

        “Finally, if you hate the series so much, can you please do us all a favor and not read or comment on any more of the snippets?”

        You don’t understand, do you? I love the series. If you see something that you love and hold dear profaned and trampled into the dirt, would you stay silent?

        Oh, I forgot! You, quote “WOULDN’T CARE!” (c).

        • Johnny says:

          You’re arguing on the internet, dimwit. Cite sources or what you say isn’t worth the electrons that hold the information.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “You’re arguing on the internet, dimwit”

            My-my! So much class and elegance here, Johnny! A Cicero reborn!

            Do you require the sources for 2+2=4 as well?

            But – let’s humor the notion! At risk of enduring an eternity in the “your comment is awaiting moderation” limbo – what kind of proof do you require?

            • Johnny says:

              A link to a reputable source.

              Bothering to lecture on class and elegance after being a condescending prick to anyone who even asks for proof of claims? Classic.

              • Lyttenburgh says:

                “Bothering to lecture on class and elegance after being a condescending prick to anyone who even asks for proof of claims? Classic.”

                I was asking about whether you’d believe a claim that 2+2=4. That’s your answer – “A link to a reputable source”.

                Fine, Johhny – then I demand a link to reputable source, which would support your claim to call me a “prick”.

                See? Two can play this game. Or – or! – how about using your brain for a change and a bit of DIY?

  3. Durgollo says:

    Nice to see the start of a new book. Is this carrying on from the earlier Russia based book, looking at things from the aspect of the downtrodden in Poland, or perhaps blending the similar situations in both regions to a more general…reformation so to speak?

    It is a shame to see the extremely negative comments from Lyttenburg. It reminds me of similar, uniformly negative and sour comments that I see posted when I am reading comics online (which even us old folks can do). These things are works of fiction and while adhering to “our reality” for facts does make it seem more realistic, my take is that it is a story, designed to entertain me, and if an occasional bit of information pops up that contradicts what I know, I certainly wouldn’t be blasting the authors in a public forum for their stupidity. That’s just childish and needy. Early on someone suggested that the authors be contacted directly if there are so many egregious errors that stand out. Excellent idea! I like to see comments and thoughts on where the story might lead, interesting tidbits that relate, and references to other RoF books to help me interconnect them. I thought the critical comments were done after the last “spelling/grammatical errors” fiasco.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “These things are works of fiction and while adhering to “our reality” for facts does make it seem more realistic, my take is that it is a story, designed to entertain me, and if an occasional bit of information pops up that contradicts what I know, I certainly wouldn’t be blasting the authors in a public forum for their stupidity”

      Huh. What a fine worldview. Utterly consumerist. Claiming that ignorance is a bliss.

      • Bjorn Hasseler says:

        Regarding “Claiming that ignorance is a bliss,” you *just made* the same claim in your 9:10 post on November 8:

        “The authors seem to think that if the vast majority of their readership keeps buying new books of the series (“hooked” by the originals penned by Eric himself) no matter the quality, who am I to spoil their blissful tranquility?”

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “Regarding “Claiming that ignorance is a bliss,” you *just made* the same claim in your 9:10 post on November 8”

          What kind of point you are tying to make here? For the authors who earn money anyway from the ignorant and non-demanding loyal readership ready to consume whatever they throw at them provided it is in the familiar wrapping (“RoF” in our case) the ignorance is the bliss, yes. For the readership that parts – willingly – with their money expecting something of quality but ends up consuming second rate refuse it’s paramount.

      • Durgollo says:

        Yep, consumer…reading a work of fiction for entertainment, not for research or to have it be entirely 100% historically accurate. When I am being entertained, I don’t find that getting my knickers in a wad over some inaccuracy of grammer or historical fact/precedence contributes to the experience. Not sure why you read these works and feel obligated to spout your vitriol to the world.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “When I am being entertained, I don’t find that getting my knickers in a wad over some inaccuracy of grammer or historical fact/precedence contributes to the experience.”

          Woe is mine. “Woe from wit”. This begs a question though – who are the target readership of RoF novels and short stories? Is that only the people who have no knowledge of history?

  4. Alex Filonov says:

    Stefan is not a Russian name. Russian would be Stepan. Name Izabella is impossible in 17th century Russia (only names of recognized Orthodox saints were acceptible). Names were confirmed at baptism, and no priest would allow name Izabella at the time.
    Serfs in 1630-1640 were not slaves. They were bonded to land. And bondage was for the head of family only, not for the family members. Situation when serf was sent to work for somebody is, let’s say, unusual for the time.

  5. Alex Filonov says:

    By the way, what father Yulian’s wife thinks of his womanising? In Russian Orthodox church tradition, priest wouldn’t get a post until married… Of course, he might be widowed…

  6. David Hoff says:

    The history of the Volga region is a fascinating one to me as I’m descended from the “Volga Germans” who were invited in to the region from Germany by Catharine the Great en-mass to stabilize a mostly lawless and (to Russia) unproductive, even deadly region. Colonists who were then kicked back out of Russia about a century later.
    The colonization began after the 163X story timelines but according to what my grandfather had told me and what I’ve read on my own it was a snakepit dog-eat-dog every-man-for-himself area.

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