1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 24

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 24

“I know, Metropolitan. Even so, a lot of the converts were happy enough to switch back as soon as the threat of exile was removed.”

“So I heard.”

“Another point is the fact of the Ring of Fire,” Father Kiril said. “I’ve known Bernie for years, since he first came to Russia. He is a good man, even if he isn’t of the Russian Orthodox Church. But the fact of the Ring of Fire seems to me to indicate that the particular way you pray may be less important to the Lord God than we had assumed.”

“Even to Muslims and pagans?”

“Bernie is not a Christian. He was an agnostic, if not an outright atheist, before the Ring of Fire. In the aftermath of the Ring of Fire, he was very angry with God for putting him here, where the medicines that kept his mother alive were no longer available. Over the years, he has mellowed, even acknowledged that he is of greater use here than he would have been up-time. But he isn’t a member of the church. And that doesn’t prevent him from being of great use to Russia and all her people.”

“Yes, the Ring of Fire. We all must deal with its blessings and confusions.”

They talked more about the specifics of the situation, and finally Kiril said, “You know, if you were patriarch of Russia, you could have much greater influence.”

“Czar Mikhail appointed Joseph Kurtsevich, the former archbishop of Suzdal as patriarch last year,” Metropolitan Matthew said, sounding disgusted.

“No. Actually, Sheremetev appointed Kurtsevich. Czar Mikhail wasn’t consulted on the matter.”

“And you’re offering to buy me with the patriarch’s crown?”

“No. But neither is he going to give that crown to someone who will abuse it.” As Sheremetev did hung in the air between them.

“I’ll consider it,” Metropolitan Matthew said.

That pretty much ended the meeting. Father Kiril said his goodbyes and walked back down to the river where he boarded the riverboat back to Kazan.

It took a few more days, but Metropolitan Matthew declared for Czar Mikhail and influenced the garrison at Sviyazhsk to accept Czar Mikhail as the true and legitimate czar. This was helped by the fact that there was a picture of Mikhail on the money. It was hard to declare him a false Mikhail, because there were pictures of him on each paper bill in Russia and they had been in circulation for years now. Sheremetev could declare him “under influence” but he couldn’t make the notion that Mikhail wasn’t the real czar stick.

Moscow

August 1636

Prince Daniil Ivanovich Dolgorukov sat in the duma and listened to Sheremetev make plans. It had been a harrowing two months. Four members of the duma had been executed for treason, and eight forcibly tonsured since Mikhail had escaped. For a body that only had twenty-eight members, that was a massive amount. The executed and tonsured had fallen into two categories: those most personally loyal to Czar Mikhail, and those with the closest ties to the Gorchakov Dacha. Czar Mikhail’s uncle, Ivan Nikitich Romanov, had sided with Sheremetev.

Which, Daniil thought, made quite a bit of sense. Ivan Nikitich hadn’t received a single post since Mikhail had been elected. Now he was in charge of the embassy bureau, which had control of the Dacha and the Grantville desk. The army was finally assembled. It had taken a month of purges and another of reorganization, but a cavalry force of twenty thousand was assembled outside of Moscow, with a contingent of streltzi almost as strong, and twenty of the new breech-loading rifled cannon.

Prince Semen Vasilievich Prozorovskii raised a hand. “I’m concerned about the Poles. I know that they are busy with the Swedes, but the opportunity we offer them by taking so many of our soldiers east . . .”

Director-General Sheremetev waved for attention. “I have an arrangement with the magnates of Lithuania and the Sjem will not vote to go to war with us.”

“What did you have to give them to get that assurance?” Prince Ivan Ivanovich Odoevskii asked angrily. Which, Daniil thought, was quite brave and rather foolish. Director-General Sheremetev didn’t go out of his way to encourage free and open debate.

“Not much,” Sheremetev said coldly. “They are busy enough dealing with the Swede.” Then, apparently relenting a little, he added, “Mostly simply a promise not to invest Smolensk or attack Poland. That will free up their forces to face the Swede to the west and the Cossacks to the south.”

Daniil considered. It might work, or it might not. Mostly because the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth wasn’t one nation, or even two. It was a loose alliance between a dozen or so magnates who were each effectively independent monarchs of their territory. So the Director-General’s plan would probably work fine for the PLC as a whole. But any magnate he had failed to adequately bribe might decide to take the opportunity to bite off a chunk of Russia . . . and there weren’t that many chunks between Smolensk and Moscow. Daniil found himself wondering if perhaps he should have wrangled a post in the army, just to get away.

Army Camp, Outside Moscow

Ivan Vasilevich Birkin was wondering the same thing, from the other end. He had been at Rzhev. In fact, he had been part of the cavalry that got slaughtered by the damn Poles at Rzhev. He had been lucky enough to have his horse shot out from under him and had ended up in command of what was left of the cavalry after they got decimated. He had a healthy respect for the effects of technology on warfare and was much less confident in the belief that cavalry was king than he once had been. Yet, here he was. In command of an army that was better than fifty percent cavalry. They had riverboats, even steamboats, but just in support to ferry supplies. The army would be marching across Russia. Eight hundred miles from Moscow to Ufa. . . . He would be lucky if he got there before November, and if he didn’t he would have to stop and wait for the rivers to freeze. That would delay any attack till January. It would also mean that his army would be in the field in the worst time of the year. That worst time wasn’t winter. Russians knew how to deal with winter. The deadly times were the quagmire seasons, the rasputitsa in spring and autumn, when the world was made of mud.

“What do you think?” asked Iakov Petrovich Birkin, his cousin and second in command. “Shall we spank little Timmy for his effrontery?”

“Probably. I know that the boy was in trouble with General Izmailov after the battle at Rzhev, but I didn’t get the details. On the other hand, he was the general’s fair-haired boy up to then.”

“Who cares? He’s only . . . nineteen, isn’t it . . . and he has almost no real experience. He spent all his time playing games in the Kremlin.”

General Prince Ivan Vasilevich Birkin didn’t say anything. He had said similar things and believed them himself. He still believed them. The war games that the up-timers Bernie and Cass had introduced to the generals at the Kremlin were just that, games. They had nothing to do with facing sword and shot in a real battle. They were at best exercises, and at worst the sort of foolishness that made every idiot clerk think he was the equal of a soldier. But General Shein had doted on the things for some reason. And if Shein was under a cloud for his political position, he was still an excellent general. And General Izmailov had been frankly brilliant in his siege of Rzhev and in the final battle where they had taken the place. All in all, it was a lot easier to criticize the antics of people like that when you didn’t have an army to command. He tried to shake off the mood. “How are we set for chambers?”

“Well, cousin, the gun shop has been delivering more since Lowry died. It’s certain that he was diverting much of the output to his purse. I had a little talk with Andrei Korisov and made it clear that if we didn’t get what we needed, we would be testing our rifles on him.”

“What about the cannon?”

“Not so good. He insists that until he gets better steel, he will have to make the breech blocks heavy to compensate for the weakness.” Iakov Petrovich grimaced. “He’s probably right, anyway.”

The army had twelve rifled twelve-pounders. They were breech-loading but the breeches weighed too much for easy, or rapid, reloading. On the other hand, the carriages were excellent, so he didn’t expect the cannon to slow him that much. Not in comparison to the streltzi infantry that would be coming with the army. “All right, then. We have our orders from the Director-General. We march next week.”

Besides, Ivan Vasilevich told himself, Czar Mikhail and his boy general had had to leave their entire industrial base at the Dacha and Murom. He wouldn’t be facing breech-loading cannon. Half of Little Timmy’s army would be carrying bows and arrows, and the rest mostly muzzle-loading matchlocks.

“Yes, cousin. What about Andrei Fefilatevich Danilov’s riverboat scheme?”

“Let him try it. If he can knock Little Timmy out of Kazan before we get there, so much the better.”

 

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2 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 24

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    You know what is the most gut-wrenching, mind-numbing, soul-crushing horrible in this particular snippet? Not the atrociously bland dialog, when you have trouble distinguishing one character from another in style and manners. Not anachronistic unspecified use of the term “agnostic” coming from the 17th c. Russian priest.

    The greatest problem here lies in this:

    ““Another point is the fact of the Ring of Fire,” Father Kiril said. “I’ve known Bernie for years, since he first came to Russia. He is a good man, even if he isn’t of the Russian Orthodox Church. But the fact of the Ring of Fire seems to me to indicate that the particular way you pray may be less important to the Lord God than we had assumed… Bernie is not a Christian. He was an agnostic, if not an outright atheist, before the Ring of Fire. In the aftermath of the Ring of Fire, he was very angry with God for putting him here, where the medicines that kept his mother alive were no longer available. Over the years, he has mellowed, even acknowledged that he is of greater use here than he would have been up-time. But he isn’t a member of the church. And that doesn’t prevent him from being of great use to Russia and all her people””

    I’ve been noticing this in their previous works but it’s worth repeating – Huff&Goodlett write colonial romance. Mighty-Whitey Mary/Marty Sue among the Primitives, totally awed by the Superior Outsider and longing, desiring to be granted (one happy day in the future!) the title of the Honorary Whites.

    Nothing that Bernie have done should really matter for these two clerics. They should not be awed by him and his works “for Russia”, if he remains his godless self. None of his works ensured the spiritual salvation of the people – only raised a level of their comfort in the fallen world. That’s what should those two men, products of their time and upbringing, be discussing here. But, I guess, the authors were not aiming to write about something/someone they, clearly, have trouble understanding – i.e. the people with religious outlook. They simply wrote about what they (think they) understand… or imagined if it was them talking. But this is wrong – no people are carbon copies of each other. People differ greatly and there are real reasons for that, for each time and place. How hard is that for you to understand?

    Berny is not member of their Church. If they value him then it is their job to convert him. If they don’t care about him a little bit – then they will allow him to face nearly assured damnation. Simple as that.

    That’s what this short exchange is really about. It is still badly written, but beyond this poor job hides the fact that these thoughts are always present on subconscious level among the authors duo – and some of their intended readership. Thus you have a handy explanation why you never actually bothered to study the background and history. But, thinking themselves soooo clever, the authors fell into a double trap. Inventing you own setting from the scratch (like in fantasy of space opera) is time consuming, requires imagination and ability to describe things in both not too contradictorily manner while keeping readership’s interest. But it provides most creative freedom. If you opt for established setting (like a historical time period) you have world-building part already done for you by reality. But you are also less free and have to oblige by the laws of physics and logics.

    What Huff&Goodlett do time after time could not really be considered even alternative history fiction, because it sorely lacks in history and logic. But it could not be considered “fantasy” either, in part because the authors themselves are not at freedom to call their genre as such. In the end we have a tormented Frankensteinian monster of a novel – indeed, something made from the (already, long-long) dead bits and pieces that could not be a possibility in the rational world. We have a colonial romance recycled in time and space with bits of the Western canon and large scale pure fantasy battles and world-shattering events.

    Another metaphor for these books (and Huff&Goodlett have several of them) would be a… mule. Not a (cash-)cow, but would do collecting money from the still faithful fandom, some of whom would buy just about anything with “RoF” on it. But, ah, the thing is… mule is sterile. Sad, but true. And to produce one, well… That requires something.

    ““Czar Mikhail appointed Joseph Kurtsevich, the former archbishop of Suzdal as patriarch last year,” Metropolitan Matthew said, sounding disgusted.”

    The greatest problem with multi-author effort is that sooner or later but the timeline stops making any sense. Multiple authors either don’t care about consistency with others’ or make honest mistakes – but it is the job of the leading author/editor to watch over canon’s consistency.

    Once. Again. Who is the current patriarch? According to “1636: Papal Stakes” in May 1636 it was Joasaphus. Now it is Josephus, and not even the one who was appointed after Joasaphus death in OTL, but a completely different person with the same name.

    We were not given the exact day of Filaret’s assassination – sometime in October 1635. In the OTL he died also in October, only 1633. His successor (Josaphus) was elected only in February 1634. Convening Sobor to determine the successor earlier was physically impossible. First, there was obligatory 40 day mourning period for the late Patriarch, then- the Advent/Nativity Fast, running from November 15 to December 24 (Julian calendar, for Gregorian one add 10 days in 17th c.). Only after that the top hierarchs (Metropolitans, archbishops and abbots from particularly important monasteries) would convene in Moscow to decide whom among their midst they would offer for Czar for approval as the next Patriarch. Of course – these included much time and politicking. In short – Filaret’s successor could NOT be elected in 1635. No. Way.

    Joseph Kurtsevich could not be elected either, because earlier in the OTL (March 1634) he had been exiled into a monastery by the direct Czar’s ukase for his outrageous behavior. Kurtsevich had too many enemies and too few allies in high places to avoid a similar fate in the NTL. In fact, this could have happened to him much, much earlier. So how was he, being “non-sitting” archbishop of Suzdal, elected to be a Patriarch? Does any book explains this in the cogent way?

    “It took a few more days, but Metropolitan Matthew declared for Czar Mikhail and influenced the garrison at Sviyazhsk to accept Czar Mikhail as the true and legitimate czar. This was helped by the fact that there was a picture of Mikhail on the money. It was hard to declare him a false Mikhail, because there were pictures of him on each paper bill in Russia and they had been in circulation for years now.”

    Ah, yes! Charmingly primitive natives, ready to fall for yet another cargo-cult worship of Fancy Stuff! Right?! I mean, look at all those revolts, rebellions and other stuff – ALL of them dissipated like a mist when the rebellious subjects gazed upon the royal countenance of their monarch, past thoughts of riots forgotten… Oh, wait!..

    “The villagers were in no hurry to take the paper rubles. The Sheremetev faction was using them to pay its debts off, but not taking them when they sold something. In the days since the czar’s flight, the paper rubles were losing value all over Russia”
    – Chapter 4.

    “So it went. The first mate ended up paying three rubles, and the sniveling little thief of a radioman insisted on real silver. No one was taking paper rubles since the czar ran to Ufa and the printing presses were left in Moscow. No one trusted paper money. That in itself was important news.”
    – Chapter 6.

    Wow! Paper rubles – a true foundation for one’s legitimacy! ;)

    “Mostly because the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth wasn’t one nation, or even two. It was a loose alliance between a dozen or so magnates who were each effectively independent monarchs of their territory.”

    If this was supposed to be another info-dump, disguised as the “thoughts” of the convenient down-timer, it’s dumb. As thoughts of the convenient down-timer is it doubly dumb.

    ““What do you think?” asked Iakov Petrovich Birkin, his cousin and second in command. “Shall we spank little Timmy for his effrontery?””

    “I say, what a spiffingly good idea, old bean! Oh, and we are talking in appropriate to the century – and land –lingo, say, what. Pip-pip!”

    ““Who cares? He’s only . . . nineteen, isn’t it . . . and he has almost no real experience. He spent all his time playing games in the Kremlin.””

    Being 19 y.o. noble meant back then being a veteran with 4 years of battle experience. The issue was never the age for the nobility or royalty of Europe. Young prince Hal fought the Welsh when he was 13, and then nearly died at the Battle of Shrewsbury when he was 16. Future Henry IV of France began his military life campaigning and fighting in 1569 when he was 15. Quite often he faced the royal armies lead by future Henry III of France, who was just 17, but already a veteran. Charles I of England took his son and heir to accompany him during the battle of Edgehill. Future Charles II was 14 when he participated in campaigns of 1645.

    For the people of that time period they were not “children” or “inexperience”. The lineage and status mattered more. To think of anyone past 15 as “child” is a relatively recent invention, which the people back then didn’t express.

    “Not so good. He insists that until he gets better steel, he will have to make the breech blocks heavy to compensate for the weakness”

    Question – why make “new” guns anyway? If there are simply more of the old cannons that would do the same job regarding the circumstances?

  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    Also – very important topic.

    “The army was finally assembled. It had taken a month of purges and another of reorganization, but a cavalry force of twenty thousand was assembled outside of Moscow, with a contingent of streltzi almost as strong, and twenty of the new breech-loading rifled cannon.”

    Ohhhhhhhh, boooooy. Let’s start with the obvious – cavalry would outnumber infantry by large margin.

    Let’s start with the obvious – the total amount of streltzi infantry in 1630s Russia was c. 35 000, more than half of them quartered in Moscow. The rest were in garrisons all across Russia, or in the “field”, like, in Siberia or southern borders. Basic unit for streltzi was “prikaz” (don’t mistake for the term for the bureau, which is the same) of c. 500 troopers. Streltzi’s function was tri-dimensional – they were shock troopers during the sieges, they were garrison troops and they were the city guard, carrying out police functions. Who they were not? They were not field troopers. Without guliay-gorod their deployment on the field of battle was… “problematic” in the tactical sense.

    Question: could Sheremetev (a person with thread-bare legitimacy, who just recently, in June, “lost” the czar) muster nearly 20 000 of streltzi in just couple of months for campaigning season of 1636? No-ope. Deduct from the mobilization potential all those streltzi in the “disputed” territory who can not answer the call (e.g. in the cities and towns along the Volga), plus all those in Siberia, plus all those on the board-guard duty, who can’t simply return in time. Keep in mind that stripping Moscow of streltzi contingent is to invite riots and lawlessness – something this new “semiboyarschina” don’t want to happen. If you are feeling especially generous, then it would make 3-5000 streltzi contingent tops. Traveling on foot, of course, and ought to be provided with salary, gunpowder and shot, plus the food from the government. If they expect a field battle, then they have to travel with their guliay-gorod.

    Next. According to available to us sources, the so-called “muster books” (rus. razryadniye knigi) of the Razryadni prikaz (the bureau responsible for the muster and tally of the military service bound nobles, the results of the muster, the land allocated etc.) we can make an estimate as to the mobilization potential of the noble cavalry – about 40 000 tops. Again – that’s from all over the country. On such short notice it would not be possible to summon service-bound nobles from far off regions, from the border and along Volga. Yet – Sheremetev and his camarilla controls the most populous regions, providing the bulk of the (irregular) gentry cavalry – Moscow, Novgorod and Ryazan. If they are not really picky and value the speed of deployment over the quantity (no one talks about the quality…) they can easily muster in just one month about 10 000 of cavalrymen.

    Question: could Sheremetev (again – a person with thread-bare legitimacy, who just recently, in June, “lost” the czar) muster nearly 20 000 of cavalry in just couple of months for campaigning season of 1636 ESPECIALLY after Mikhail’s proclamation, that freed the serfs? No way. The books itself said, that government troops were deployed to seek and return/whip up to shape serfs, who seek to escape. This summer no pomeshik or son of boyars will think of anything other but the state of his estates. “Repressions”? Uhm, yah, but who’s gonna carry them out, punishing “draft-dodging” nobles? Oh, wait – I know! Other nobles, who also have the threat of serfs running away from their estates, and who will be too preoccupied with the thoughts of how to “catch them all” (like – literally). Oh, and while we are at it – how about a rebellion somewhere, hmm?

    In short – whatever number of the noble “militia” Sheremetev will gather in August, it’s bound to be reduced tremendously by constant desertions. There were precedents of that even for lesser reasons.

    If they want to repeat 1552 conquest of Kazan – they are too late (by 2 months). Sheremetev is one of the Designated Bad Guys ™. Which does not make him a Mustachio Twirling Operetta Villain ™. Or an imbecile. Boyars are the top of the military aristocracy. They have survived through decades of plots, military campaigns and sieges. They are not idiots. Why is this happening, then? Why this obviously silly, pointless late in the year campaign? Gah, to watch it crash against motley crew currently holed up in Kazan is like watching two ill-programmed amateurs built robots trying to find each other… and then trying to hit, but missing for hours to come. Why not attack in winter?!

    P.S. Oh, and one more thing:

    “The army had twelve rifled twelve-pounders.”

    In Russian state arsenal there were literally *ten times* that number of other “down-time built” cannons of equal of greater caliber. Why take only “rifled” ones?

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