1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 11

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 11

July 1636, on the road northwest of Moscow

Elena Utkin was in need of some religious comfort, so she headed for Father Yulian’s wagon. Only to notice that it was rocking. Just a bit, in that certain way. Furious, she pulled open the door. Only to find Izabella astride the priest and in such a state of undress that the pregnancy was visible, if barely. She gasped. “Izabella!”

“We’re busy, Mama. Wait your turn,” Izabella said.

With a shout of rage, Elena reached for her daughter, pulled her away from Yulian, and shoved her to the floor, slapping her face as she fell. Then she turned toward Yulian and slapped him as well. “You rotten bastard!”

“Now, Elena, you need to control yourself. This isn’t the way a mother should treat her daughter. You’re distraught. You need to calm down.” Yulian reached for her.

Elena slapped him again. “Keep your hands off me, you faithless peasant! And keep them off my daughter too!”

“You don’t control me!” Izabella hollered, her hand holding her face where her mother had slapped her. “And you’re the last one to be calling anyone faithless.”

By now, the shouting had called the rest of the wagon train to the priest’s wagon and there was a crowd displaying a mixture of emotions. Quite a bit of amusement, because Father Yulian’s habits were more something not discussed than something not known. Especially in regard to his relationship with Elena and her daughter. There was even some jealousy showing on the part of some of the women. And there was a tiny bit of worry on Stefan’s part.

***

Stefan was riding a borrowed horse, scouting the route through the lightly wooded plains to the north of Moscow. Once this had been forests, but now it was a mix of field, pasture, and woodland, much of it abandoned as the land wore out or the peasants to farm it became unavailable. Stefan didn’t know this; he just saw the results. Peasant villages left to weather, fields left unplowed, feral goats, pigs, even sheep. The land had been over-farmed, worn out, then abandoned, and then slowly recovered as nature took it back. There were forests and fields interspersed and abandoned paths, where a village’s produce had flowed to market before the village was abandoned. Stefan was on one of those. It was about six feet wide and twisty, but he thought they could run a wagon along it, if they were careful. Right up to here, where a four-inch-wide, twenty-feet-tall tree had decided that the middle of the road was the perfect place to grow. Stefan got down and examined the tree. It was going to have to be chopped down but that was the least of it. Once it was chopped down, it was going to have to be chopped up, because the limbs were interwoven with the limbs of trees on either side of the road.

He remounted and rode around the tree and continued on. There might be more such blockages. As it happened, there weren’t, and he eventually turned his horse back the way he had come.

***

“I need four men with axes to cut down a tree about three miles up the road, but after that it’s clear to a crossroads and an abandoned village about five miles further.”

“That would be old Geonsk,” Yulian guessed.

Stefan shrugged. “Maybe. But no one has lived there in a long time and probably no one will see us.” One good thing about the amount of forest they were passing through — unless someone was right on top of them, they were safe from observation. On the downside, things like the tree they were going to have to chop down to make the road passable and fresh wagon ruts meant that they would be easy to track.

Balakhna, A town on the Volga

Lieutenant Nikita Ivanovich Utkin sat at the table with the other lieutenants of his unit. He slapped down a broadsheet. “All the peasants in Russia are running mad.”

“Not all of them,” corrected Alexander Nikolayevich Volkov judiciously, examining the broadsheet. “No more than a third, I would guess.”

“You can laugh. You have that new farming equipment. You don’t need serfs.”

“That’s not entirely true. My family doesn’t need as many serfs to farm a given amount of land, but we still need serfs.”

“So you don’t care if half your serfs run off? It’s just fewer mouths to feed.”

“Not at all, my friend. I am just of a more philosophical bent. We’ll get them back, at least most of them. That’s what we’re here for, after all. To catch the runaways before they get to –” Alexander paused, then continued, leaving off “czar.” “– Mikhail.” It was a touchy subject, whether Mikhail was actually still the czar.

“Maybe. But I’m worried about Ruzuka. Mother and Izabella are there all alone. And you know that the Poles and the Swedes are going to take advantage of this.”

“Maybe not. They seem fully occupied with killing each other for the moment,” Pavel put in.

“And since when has a magnate of Lithuania cared about the rest of the PLC? Ruzuka is only two hundred thirty miles from Smolensk,” Nikita said.

“That’s a long way through Russian forests. Don’t get yourself in an uproar,” Pavel said.

“And what about the runaways? You know they turn into Cossacks the moment they get out of sight of the village they are tied to. Bandits and murderers, that’s all a peasant is. Only restrained by the whip and the noose,” Nikita said.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Alexander repeated. He didn’t mind tweeting Nikita Ivanovich, but he didn’t want to say anything that would get him or his family in trouble with the Sheremetev faction. Not since it had become clear that they were coming out on top in the power struggle that had happened after Czar Mikhail had sent his radio message. They were in enough trouble for being what Bernie Zeppi called “early adopters.” They had two family members actually at the Dacha and they had been there for the last three years.

It had only been ten days since the czar had captured the airship, and no one knew which side most of the service nobility were going to come down on. In the meantime, the Sheremetev faction — which included the regiment’s colonel and Nikita Ivanovich — had been ordered to turn back the escaping serfs.

So far it was mostly individuals or ad hoc groups. A single serf or a family would run. There was no practical way to drag them individually back to the farms they were supposed to be working. If they were to try, the regiment would be turned into individual soldiers, each escorting an individual serf back home. Instead, they were to terrorize them and run them back.

Alexander wasn’t sure it would work. He wasn’t even totally sure he wanted it to, because Alexander wasn’t yet sure where he was going to come down.

On the road northeast of Moscow

July 1636

“She’s not going to cooperate,” Vera said flatly, some days after the incident at Father Yulian’s wagon.

Stefan lifted an eyebrow. “Did you expect her to?”

“Everyone knows what Father Yulian is,” Vera said. “Expecting him to keep it in his cassock is like expecting sunshine at midnight.” She sighed. “Granted, the fact that Elena caught him with Izabella rather than one of the village women was probably upsetting, but really . . . after all, Izabella was willing enough to share.”

Stefan just shook his head. The whole situation was both funny and tragic. But mostly, it was dangerous for the villagers. “We need her. We need her to stand out in front and tell people that we are where we’re supposed to be.”

“We can use Izabella,” Vera insisted, but Stefan heard the doubt in her voice.

 

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12 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 11

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    “July 1636, on the road northwest of Moscow”

    So… in order to reach Siberia, they decided to travel to… northwest?

    “This isn’t the way a mother should treat her daughter”

    No, that’s exactly (the bare minimum) how she should be treaty her slutty daughter. Every down-timer would have know that.

    ““You don’t control me!” Izabella hollered”

    Yes, she does. You are not up-timer spoiled brat – you are downtimer. Behave yourself accordingly.

    ““That would be old Geonsk,””

    First – gee, how convenient that there is NO ONE on their way, to either raise an alarm to stop them. Second – “Geonsk”? Just… what kind of name is that? If you are making things up, like toponyms, try at least make them plausible.

    “On the road northeast of Moscow”

    Mind you – it is still this “endless” July 1636, “some days after the incident at Father Yulian’s wagon”, but the direction is already northeast.

    • Bret Hooper says:

      No, that’s exactly (the bare minimum) how she should be treaty [sic] her slutty daughter.

      Would that I could warn every woman and every girl to have nothing to do with Lyttenburgh or anyone else who agrees with the above despicable attitude. Of the two of them, mother and daughter, Izabella seems more worthy of respect: she harmed no one and she was willing to share.

      Every down-timer would have know [sic] that. [emphasis added]

      So despite the above example of Elena and Izabella, down-timers are like one size of paper clips, completely interchangeable? This attitude may explain many of Lytt’s unreasonable criticisms.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Would that I could warn every woman and every girl to have nothing to do with Lyttenburgh or anyone else who agrees with the above despicable attitude.”

        What “despicable attitude”? My attitude of saying, that in different times in different places the social norms of behavior were different? That’s what you find “despicable”, Bret? Besides – who am I to even attempt of stopping you from “warning every woman and every girl” about this dangerous attitude of mine? Please, go ahead! If you would be truthful (i.e. you would not lie) I have nothing against your “proselytizing”

        Or you meant something other, Bret? Please, share with us your concerns and suspicions!

        “Of the two of them, mother and daughter, Izabella seems more worthy of respect: she harmed no one and she was willing to share”

        She harmed herself, her future, her family and, possibly, her yet unborn child. Respect? What can anyone respect in her?

        “So despite the above example of Elena and Izabella, down-timers are like one size of paper clips, completely interchangeable?”

        This one is proven – you are not allergic to straw, seeing how often instead of addressing my comments you are attacking a strawman. No, they are not “interchagable”. Yes, both of them are products of their own epoch, time and place, which includes the social mores. Key word here – “of their own time and place”. Not of today.

        Can you really disprove my critique here? Or you are truly enjoying the… “literature”?

        • Daryl Saal says:

          These comments pages used to be interesting places where adults could politely discuss various points in a respectful manner, as fans, not as undergraduates trying to impress a professor of history. No one should have to “disprove your critique”, we really don’t care enough about your opinion to want to do so. If you disparagingly refer to these snippets as the… “literature”, why stay here in such low brow environs?
          So then as we say in a shorter way, go elsewhere and fornicate, or FO.

          • Knoche says:

            “We really don’t care enough about your opinion to want to do so”

            Plase, the “we” is too much, you can’t speak for all the people who read this blog.

            Lyttenburgh is right.

            • Daryl Saal says:

              Sorry about the “we”. I was speaking for the 1632 fans who used to come here to discuss the series, not nitpick about minor historical matters. If this is now not our play pen I’ll shut up and let those here argue about their interpretation of academic historical texts that may or may not be accurate.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “No one should have to “disprove your critique”, we really don’t care enough about your opinion to want to do so.”

            Was that a “royal We” here? Because I’m fairly certain you can’t possibly speak on behalf of all others.

            If you can’t defend what you hold so dear to you, well, either you are really bad at it, or you understand, that there is nothing you can do – that my criticism is spot on.

            “These comments pages used to be interesting places where adults could politely discuss various points in a respectful manner, as fans”

            Note – I’m not attacking other posters here. You do.

        • Terranovan says:

          You weren’t saying that that was how Elena was feeling – it sounded like that was how you viewed Izabella. For myself, I would hope for better than this from own family. But I believe and hope that it would take more than this to make me think of my own child with a word like “slut”.
          For the bit about “respect” – correct me if I’m wrong, Bret (and if you’re still reading the previous snippet) – but Bret seems to just be making a comparison. Elena found this out because she was about to engage in her own affair with Father Yulian, and she’s just being called out on her hypocrisy.

      • Obelix says:

        Bret,
        I am no historian, but we have today a fairly open society which allows a comparably wide spectrum of behaviour and beliefs (religious and non-religious) tolerated.
        Go back before Napoleonic times (= begin of technical revolution) and you have in Europe, of need, and by force if necessary, very tight-knit societies from our todays POV – the smaller the city/village, the more so. There were societally – and I think, sometimes legally – enforced clothing rules, to just name one example.
        Based on that – of course not everybody was the same, but Lyttenberg is IMO right in so far as this would have been not impossible but extremely untypical behaviour. (And right also on the authors allowing far too much of their preconceptions of how society “must have been” to filter through here.) They have done well where they describe the transplanted Grantvillers, but whenever there are interactions with downtimers, they usually (IMO) overestimate how fast the societal changes in the story can progress without becoming (highly) unlikely. Mostly I accept this because its still a good read, but in this book it has taken proportions which are, frankly, ridiculous.

        Much of our behaviour today would have been virtually unthinkable in most areas – especially rural areas – for most poor people, the peasant revolts notwithstanding (which were born out of sheer desperation usually) – and which had nothing to do how the people viewed family rules, by the way.
        One important reason why societal changes take so much time is that mostly and usually, the old have to die off before the formerly young can push through their opinions how things should be, and be done. And many such behavioural changes require external changes like technological progress first, which change requirements on society – otherwise, society can be pretty semi-static, cycling over decades mostly only through a relatively narrow spectrum (from our POV) of accepted behavioural variants. Of course, in prolonged chaotic times all (… some …) bets may be off – but at that time that may be the case in Germany (30 year war) but not so in Russia.

        • Bret Hooper says:

          Go back before Napoleonic times (= begin of technical revolution) and you have in Europe, of need, and by force if necessary, very tight-knit societies from our todays POV – the smaller the city/village, the more so. There were societally – and I think, sometimes legally – enforced clothing rules, to just name one example.

          Right in all respects─(the enforced clothing rules were called sumptuary laws)─BUT─extra-marital affairs e.g. Yulian & Elena, and pre-marital affairs e.g. Yulian & Izabella were not an up-time invention. Indeed, such occurred as early as Biblical times─e.g. David & Bathsheba.

          Where Lyttenburgh and I differ is where Lytt quotes Father Yulian and comments:

          “This isn’t the way a mother should treat her daughter”

          No, that’s exactly (the bare minimum) how she should be treaty her slutty daughter.

          Lytt expresses strong approval of Elena’s (in my opinion) mistreatment of her daughter. I think Izabella hit the nail on the head when she told her mother “And you’re the last one to be calling anyone faithless.”

          * * *

          Lyttenberg is IMO right in so far as this would have been not impossible but extremely untypical behaviour.

          I agree this would be somewhat untypical, but not extremely so. I seriously doubt that men in the 1630’s on the average desired women or that women desired men significantly more or less than they do now, or did at any other time in history. And anything introduced by the Grantvillers provided a new opportunity to satisfy their sexual desires, especially if it offered a seemingly good possibility of getting away with it, many down-timers would have been quick to seize that opportunity.
          Also, then as now, how well-liked the persons involved are can affect their chances of getting away with it. Apparently Father Julian was well-liked, so, as Gorg & Paula put it, “Father Yulian’s habits were more something not discussed than something not known.”

          * * *

          they usually (IMO) overestimate how fast the societal changes in the story can progress without becoming (highly) unlikely. . . . but at that time that may be the case in Germany (30 year war) but not so in Russia.

          Ah, but it may be more so in Russia than one might think. Bear in mind that Mike Stearns and his many friends are making a conscious and pretty well-thought-out attempt to create a social revolution. It should come as no surprise that changes are occurring faster in this alternate history than they did in our historical time-line. And there are at least two direct pathways for ideas from Grantville to penetrate into Russia: Prince Vladimir Gorchakov is maried to up-timer Brandy Bates and Princess Natasha Gorchakov is or is about to be married to up-timer Bernie Zeppi.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “Lytt expresses strong approval of Elena’s (in my opinion) mistreatment of her daughter.”

            I’m not passing moral judgment here – I’ve no right when talking about distant past. I’m only commenting of what was the appropriate/normal behavior for the patriarchal society back then. E.g. – children not talking back and absolute command of their parents over them. No matter what, no matter even if the parents are hypocrites.

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