1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 08

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 08:

Chapter 4

Near Poznan, Poland

As he watched the archer bringing his horse around again for another run at the target, Lukasz Opalinski leaned toward the man standing next to him. “So, tell me, Jozef. Is Grantville as exotic as its reputation?”

Jozef Wojtowicz didn’t answer immediately. He was pre-occupied with watching the mounted archer.

“I think he’s still the best horseman I’ve ever seen,” he said quietly.

“He’s probably the best in Poland, anyway,” said Opalinski. “For sure and certain, he’s the best archer.” The words were spoken in a tone that had more of derision in it than admiration — albeit friendly derision. Then, in the sure tones of man who was still no older than twenty-two: “The archery’s a complete waste of time and effort. The horsemanship… Well, not so much. But this is still –”

He waved at the man on horseback, now racing past the target and drawing the bow. With his size and splendid costume, he was a magnificent figure.

“Completely ridiculous. We are not Mongols, after all, nor will we be fighting such. Even the Tatars have outgrown this foolishness, for the most part.”

The arrow pierced the target, almost right in the center.

Wojtowicz didn’t argue the point. But it was still a mesmerizing sight to watch.

“Grantville,” nudged his companion.

Josef shook his head. “It’s complicated, Lukasz. In some ways, it’s incredibly exotic. Yes, they can talk with each at long distance — miles, many miles — using little machines. Yes, they can make moving pictures on glass. Yes, they have flying machines. I watched them many times. Yes, yes, yes — just about every such tale you’ve heard is either true or is simply an exaggeration of something that is true.”

The mounted archer came back around again, still at a full gallop. Jozef, who was an accomplished horseman himself, knew how much skill was required simply to manage that much. The rider’s hands, of course, were completely pre-occupied with the bow. Add onto that the skill of the archery –again, the arrow hit the target’s center — and add onto that the preposterous pull of the bow being used. Jozef had no idea what it was, precisely, but he was quite sure that he’d have to struggle to draw the bow even standing flat-footed. And while Jozef was not an especially large man, or a tall man, he was quite strong.

He’d broken off his account, watching. Opalinski nudged him again. “Grantville, Grantville. Let’s keep our mind on the future, Jozef, not” — he waved again at the mounted archer, with a dismissive gesture — “this flamboyantly absurd display of prehistoric martial skills.”

Jozef smiled. “In other respects, no. Leaving aside the machines and marvelous mechanism, Grantville seems much like any other town. People going about their business, that’s all.”

He was fudging here, but he didn’t see any alternative. Not, at least, any alternative suitable for a conversation held under these circumstances. The months that Jozef had spent in Grantville had also made clear to him the more subtle — but in some easy, even more exotic — differences in social custom that lay beneath the surface of the fantastic machines. He’d also come to understand that those subtleties in social custom were inextricably tied to the mechanical skills that were so much more outwardly evident.

It was not complicated, really, if a man was willing to look at things with clear eyes. If you wanted your serfs to build and operate complex equipment for you, in order to enhance your wealth and power, then…

Sooner or later, you’d have to be willing to end their serfdom. The American technology presumed a level of intellect and education even in their so-called “unskilled” laborers that no Polish or Lithuanian or Ruthenian serf could possibly match. And simply instructing them wouldn’t work. In the nature of things, education can only be narrowed so far or it becomes useless. And given the necessary breadth, how could a sane man expect an educated serf to keep from being discontented — and, now, far better equipped to struggle against the source of his discontent?

Nor was it simply a matter of education, as such. Another thing had also become clear to Jozef in the time he’d spent in Grantville — and perhaps clearer still, during the months that followed when he’d resided in Magdeburg. The sort of broad-ranging skills that were necessary in a population to create and sustain the technical marvels which the Americans took for granted also presupposed mobility of labor. There was no way around it. Not, certainly, in the long run. The needed skills for that sort of advanced technical society were simply too complex, too inter-connected — most of all, too unpredictable. The demand could only be met by a productive population which was free to move about at will, to learn whatever skills and apply themselves to whatever labor they chose. You could no more regulate it than you could regulate the ocean.

Put it all together, and the conclusion was obvious. Jozef had come to it long before he left Magdeburg. If the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania was to have any chance at all of surviving the historical doom so clear and explicit even in Grantville’s sketchy historical records of the future of eastern Europe — the Commonwealth had been the one and only major European power which had simply vanished by the end of the eighteenth century — then serfdom had to be destroyed. And Jozef could see only two options. Either the Poles and Lithuanians destroyed serfdom themselves, or someone else would destroy it for them. And, in that second event, might very well destroy the Commonwealth in the process.

But how to explain that, even to the young man standing next to him — much less the mounted archer putting on this impressive display?

The archer was Stanislaw Koniecpolski, who was not only the Grand Hetman of the Commonwealth but also one of its greatest magnates. The Koniecpolski family was one of the mighty families of the realm, not to mention one of its richest. They owned vast estates in Poland and the Ruthenian lands. The hetman himself owned sixteen districts and had a yearly retinue somewhere in excess of half a million zlotys. He’d even founded a complete new town — Brody, which had manufactories as well as serving as a commercial center. Jozef had heard it said that more than one hundred thousand people lived on Stanislaw Koniecpolski’s estates, most of them Ruthenians. And most of them serfs, of course.

He was immensely powerful, too, not just wealthy. King Wladyslaw allowed Koniecpolski what amounted to the powers of a viceroy in the southwestern area of the Commonwealth. Some foreigners even referred to the hetman as the “vice-king of the Ukraine,” although no such title actually existed in Polish law. But the king trusted him — and for good reason. So, the hetman negotiated directly with the Ottoman Empire, and the Tatars, and even signed treaties in his own name. He also had perhaps the most extensive spy network in the Commonwealth, which penetrated Muscovy as well as the Ottoman and Tatar realms.

And now, penetrated the United States of Europe as well. Insofar, at least, as his young nephew Jozef had been able to create a spy network in that newest realm of the continent over the past year and a half.

It was a rather extensive network, actually, given the short time available — and, in Jozef’s opinion, quite a good one. It turned out, somewhat to his surprise, that he had a genuine gift for such work.

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16 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 08

  1. 4th Dimension says:

    Hmm. This text seems familiar. Haven’t we’ve already seen this scene somewhere? Maybe in the story detailing Ruth’s adventures in Prague?

  2. Virgil says:

    This is taken from the Andoconda Project, the scene that preceeded it was with Roth, and REd, plus a Cossack, plus 2 others,

  3. bradford m. parkhurst says:

    it is always interesting to see howw the different threads of the stories intertwine with each other.

  4. bradford m. parkhurst says:

    it is always interesting to see howw the different threads of the stories intertwine with each other,

  5. robert says:

    @3
    I think…that the Anaconda Project, at least the chapters dealing with Morris Roth’s becoming established in Prague, is one of the foundations for this book, and the episodes that take place in Poland will be subsumed in this book…I think. So what Eric is doing is tying up the threads, or rather, weaving them into another great story.

    The only major characters missing so far are Harry Lefferts, the McKays and the Americans stuck in Italy (The Cannon Law).

  6. Summertime says:

    Well, here it is: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Evidently these characters are to work to prevent it’s extinction. Serf’s up!

  7. Jose says:

    Vasa Protestant in Germany & Scandinavia creating a stable Germany against France and a stable “Greater” Sweden against Russia.
    Vasa Catholic in Poland & Lithuania creating a stable “Greater” Poland against Russia.
    Bohemia-Ukranian buffer state creating stability in Germany, Poland-Lithuania, and Austria-Hungary.
    Russia is thus force to modernize and end serfdom earlier.

    Vasa Protestant in Germany, a Spanish Habsburg line converting to a Dutch Habsburg line in the Netherlands, & a German ‘prince’ recreating Burgundy thus creating a stable buffer against France. Switzerland as buffer state with Netherlands, Burgundy creating stability in Germany, France, Austro-Hugarian, and Italian entities.

    Austro-Hungarian Habsburg line detaching from Germany to pursue expansion against the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.
    Spanish Habsburg line revatilize – Infante does not die – and refocused on its world empire while creating a stable buffer against France on its southern flank and competing worldwide but primarily in the Americas with France.
    Spanish Habsburg detaching from Italy either by creating an Italian Habsburg line or more likely shifting Braganza ambitions from Portugal to Italy.

    The Spanish & French are neutralized in Europe and it thus forces competition and reform on their “empires” outside of Europe. The birth of a stable UK – England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland – is accelerated and Catholics are granted full rigths and thus religious freedom is not an isolated act in Maryland!!! The Dutch pursue a global ‘physical’ “empire” in competition with the Spanish and French while the British & Germans pursue a ‘virtual’ global “empire” via diplomacy and naval projection in the Americas, Africa, & Asia thus attempting to short circuit a portion of the colonization period. Everyone else becomes a regional player of a more or less stable nature. China & India late 20th century/ early 21st century development takes place in the late 1600’s instead and Africa starts its march in the early 1700’s instead of the early 21st century.

    And that would just be the beginning. It is true that the Habsburgs had they not inbreed to the degree they did and focus on an autonomous multi-line policy on its individual branches would have been a lot more successful than the Bourbons. And the Vasas had such great potential that was not realized.

  8. Jose says:

    So Bohemia-Ukraine will gather the Askenazin (unless the Poles or the Russians offer a better deal), and Germany & the Netherlands the Sephardic (unless the Ottomans or the Spanish offer a better deal). And you never know, the Ottomans may just offer the Greeks autonomy within empire and the Askenazin & Sephardic, Israel within empire!!! The Ottomans were not that stupid, and will need to deal with instabilities in Egypt and a competitor in “Greater” Iran so why not an Ottoman Confederation encompassing North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey proper, and a large chunk of the Balkans. And one should not count out an Iberian Empire devoid of the Inquisition since the attachment to Spain for Sephardic & Mozarabics would remain relatively strong since 1492 and 1608 would be a mere 140 years and 24 years from time of expulsion while historical habitation would be pre-Roman and 700+ years respectively. The severing of connections took quite a bit of time so in the 1600’s strong connections still existed!!!

  9. robert says:

    @7 Jose. Wow! That is a great piece of analysis. Braganza was, if I am not mistaken, a descendant of Manual I so he was legitimately in line to be the King of Portugal after getting rid of Philip and the Spanish. Why would he be interested in a piece of Italy instead?

    “And the Vasas had such great potential that was not realized.”
    So if Gustav had not been killed in the war and Christina had not abdicated, then what? I guess Eric would have to find something else to write about (joke). Or would the Scandinavian nations now be absolute monarchies instead of nice quiet (except for Palme’s assassination by neo-nazis) social democracies.

  10. robert says:

    @8 Jose. Wishful thinking. It took the pogroms in Eastern Europe to get the Jews (some of them, anyway) to migrate to America. It took the Holocaust to get them to migrate to Israel and some stayed on even in Germany after the war. A stubborn people.

    The Ashkenazim and the Sephardim were never close, and the “oriental” Jews were even more distant culturally and in language. To get the 17th century’s world Jewry to come together in one nation that was NOT Israel would not happen. Besides, Eric is not a separatist. He is an integrationist. So in the world of The Ring of Fire, this is not in the cards.

    If 100 Jews were put in the same room there would be 150 different sides of an argument on the same topic. And believe me, there would be something to argue about, no matter what! Look at the idiotic number of splinter parties in the Israeli government.

  11. robert says:

    My oops. By “oriental” I meant the Jews living in the Middle East, not China.

  12. Jose says:

    Well, if one were to offer the Braganza’s Italy in order to keep the Iberian peninsula intact, they may bite and the Italians may bite. At the 1632-1635 timeframe Portugal and thus Brazil are part of Spain. Cataluna failed to split, mostly because the French were so darn stupid that Cataluna preferred Spain over France by the end of the exercise. France would not allow an independent Cataluna since it viewed it as one of the to Marches of Charles the Great (Carlomagno). Also, Charles II was dim-witted but his half-brother and de-facto prime minister was not. Carrot-n-Stick actually worked for Cataluna but not for Portugal. Jose though illegitimate – and in the tradition of Spanish monarchs was not only made an Infante but was provided with a solid education – took a rather large army to Cataluna and then sat down and negotiated. He tried the same in Portugal but it did not work. He also tried to end the Inquisition formally. The report went missing after his death and his brother and Phillip V (first Bourbon on the Spanish throne). There would be nothing to prevent Spain from starting the reforms of Charles III just a tad early or to try even something more aggressive, specially because the young Infante that would have died thus necessitating Phillip IV second marriage that produced the dim-witted Charles II did not happen in the Ring of Fire!!!

    Christina basically wanted to semi-officially be a catholic so she could spent time with her lover (a cardinal) which did not sit well with the Swedish nobility or for that matter the “gentry”. The pope accomodated Christina. The negotiations to convert when on for years while she was having a relatively open affair with a cardinal she felt in love with. She gave up the Swedish throne over love. Eric is re-creating the Greater Sweden that either two or three kings forward would have challenge Russia and fail, BUT has given this Greater Sweden an expanded purpose which was indeed initially proposed by the German princes – although they later vascilated!!! Absolute monarchy was on its last breadth in Sweden even under Vasa, and for the most part the absolute monarchs favored the ‘gentry’ over the nobility in Sweden so mostly they spend time hammering at the nobility to the benefit of the ‘gentry’. The Vase Catholic line hold the Polish throne!!!

    I know. The three classical division – Germanic, Spanish, Oriental (Yemen, etc.). Sometimes a fourth, Roman – meaning ‘Byzantine/Roman’ and sometimes thought as a continuum with Spanish (Sephardic) which did move into the area post expulsion. Byzantium/Ottoman Europe!!!

    I would agree, that the diaspora would remain BUT that is not to say that the Ottomans would wish to loose expertise that they valued to other states offering better conditions. Or that an Iberian Empire devoid of the Inquisition would not be an area that would be attractive, specially when there is plenty of evidence from the Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian, New Spain, & Peru inquisitional offices to indicate that Jews remained within the empire (and were occassionally burned at the stake throughout the empire inclusive of the Viroyalty of New Spain and the Viroyalty of Peru).

    Two Spaniards, three opinions. And yes, the Knesset is overly splintered but then there are no limitations as to minimum vote % as can be found in Spain and Germany which tended to be overly splintered too. Constitutional reform in the Israeli state is long overdue on this issue.

  13. Damon says:

    I believe that Eric is going to use the “Historical Inevitably” of the rise of democratic capitalism and religious tolerance to drive a lot of the sixteenth political considerations into non existence, short circuiting two hundred plus years of maneuvering by the ruling elites of Europe. The CofCs are the popular manifestation of a mass of movements for social change that occurred over the same time period with the added benefit of “knowing” that they are right and that they “will” win.
    How Europe looks after that is anyone’s guess, but it is most likely that whatever shape the countries turn out to be it will be a European Union.
    I can’t wait for the Gold Rush in California and Alaska!

  14. robert says:

    @13 Damon
    “whatever shape the countries turn out to be it will be a European Union”
    Will there be a euro?

  15. Daryl says:

    @14 Robert, are you talking about next month?

  16. Phillip says:

    Hmm, the Wikipedia article from August 2009 says:

    Some foreigners referred to him as the ‘viceking of Ukraine’, although such a position never existed in the Commonwealth. With the knowledge and support of the king, Koniecpolski sent and received diplomatic missions from Istanbul, carried out negotiations and signed out treaties, and as a hetman, had a direct control over a significant part of Commonwealth military. He had his own espionage network stretching from Muscovy to the Ottoman Empire.

    This says:

    Some foreigners even referred to the hetman as the “vice-king of the Ukraine,” although no such title actually existed in Polish law. But the king trusted him — and for good reason. So, the hetman negotiated directly with the Ottoman Empire, and the Tatars, and even signed treaties in his own name. He also had perhaps the most extensive spy network in the Commonwealth, which penetrated Muscovy as well as the Ottoman and Tatar realms.

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