1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 07

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 07




          Filaret leaned back in his chair. This was the reason he’d called for Boris Petrov to see him. He wanted to hear, first hand. “Yet they don’t fly now. None of the machines, the airplanes, was it? None came with them.”


          Boris nodded. “True. It was a poor village of peasants that was sent back to us. Yet even there they have miracles in every art and philosophy and in things we had not even dreamed of. Undreamed of wealth, Patriarch. The products of mass production, they call it. Everything identical, made by machines. If we can make the machines, we should be able to do the same.”


          Filaret raised an eyebrow. “Yet you say you’re not sure?”


          Boris sighed. “You know the problems with hiring outlander experts. If they were really experts they would be getting rich where they were. What we get are the less adept or the ones no one is willing to hire for some reason. We have seen that, time after time.”


          “Your outlander is a mal-adept?”


          “You must remember that there were only around three thousand people brought back in the Ring of Fire. That includes babes still at their mothers’ breast and those so . . . sick that they could not survive without constant intervention from their medical practitioners.”


          Boris had, Filaret was sure, almost said “so old” but caught himself in time. Filaret hid a smile. He was over eighty and Boris was afraid to offend.


          “By their standards,” Boris continued, “it was not a particularly educated group. Most adults had high school diplomas . . . never mind. The point is that anyone who had much in the way of special skills or unusual talent was already employed by their government, getting rich right there in Grantville, or both.


          “Bernie is friendly, willing, and doesn’t lie about his abilities. That, above all else, Vladimir insisted on and I agreed. We have had too many master cannon makers who were more familiar with gold than bronze.”


          Boris paused and Filaret considered. Boris was good at his job and Vladimir was clever. He didn’t think that Vladimir was planning anything against the czar, partly because Vladimir was a good lad and a friend of the family, but mostly because he was staying in Grantville. Manipulating court politics from such a distance was almost impossible. Not entirely impossible; Filaret had done it from imprisonment in Poland. But that was a special case and hadn’t worked out the way he had wanted. At the same time, Filaret realized that Vladimir was beginning to play politics, albeit at a remove. This project was to be the Gorchakovs’ entrance into the ranks of the high families and Filaret thought he could use that. There was a great deal of tension in the boyar duma, in part because of the Ring of Fire and the general uncertainty of what it might mean, but also because the word from Grantville had weakened the war faction and given hope to the Polish-lovers like his own cousin, Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev.


          By this time Filaret had almost decided to approve the project, but he had a few more questions.


          “Then –” Filaret leaned forward with his fingertips steepled. “– if he is so unskilled, what is he doing here? And why did Vladimir hire him into the Gorchakov family’s service instead of the czar’s? Why agree to pay him so much?” He motioned toward the contract. “This is what we would pay for a colonel of artillery.”




          “His salary is the least of the expense of this project,” Boris admitted. This was one of the most important parts of the plan. “Vladimir had an idea. He will be having copies made of the books in Grantville. They will be sent here. But they are only copies, Patriarch, not translations. Not even Latin translations, much less Russian. He doesn’t have the staff, or the cash on hand, to pay to have it done and the time it would take would put us years behind. The books will have to be translated here or our experts must learn up-timer English.”


          “I still don’t understand what we need this outlander for. Not that I object to his presence. The czar has been anxious to meet an outlander from this miracle and I am curious myself. That, however, doesn’t justify this salary or this change in our traditional ways.” The patriarch waved a hand at the contract again. “Contracts like this . . . well, I suppose I can understand the idea. But it’s not the way we have done things and I don’t like the precedent it sets.”


          “I speak the English of England in this century quite well,” Boris said. “The American English of the end of the twentieth century is full of words that I don’t even have the concepts for. What is an electromagnetic field?” Boris used Russian for field and English for electromagnetic.


          At Filaret’s look, he answered his own question, sort of. “Had someone asked me that before I went to Grantville, I would have had no idea what they were talking about. Even if I had looked up electromagnetic in a dictionary from Grantville, I would still have thought it a nonsense phrase. The dictionary would tell me that electromagnetic is the adjective form of the word electromagnetism which is magnetism caused by an electrical current, which is useful to know. But the real trouble comes with field, because the field they are talking about has nothing to do with plowing or reaping nor with grain or grass or battles or the flags and ensigns carried into battle. It’s the area where the electromagnetism is, which I didn’t find out because though I didn’t know the meaning of electromagnetism, I did know the meaning of field.


          “When I asked Bernie what an electromagnetic field was. He told me ‘it’s what makes electric motors work and I’d have to look it up if you want to know more.’ I explained that I had looked up electromagnetic and it had not helped much. We discussed it for a while till it came about that Bernie’s definition of field contained several more meanings than mine did. Between us we worked out roughly how an electric motor works and how the changing of the electromagnetic field is crucial to its working. I understand it a little, but it feels profoundly unnatural to me, like the incantations of magic might feel.”


          “Could it be magic?” Filaret asked.


          “No, Patriarch.” Boris shook his head, trying to put into that gesture all the certainty that he had gained in his time in Grantville. “It feels like magic because it is so different from the way we are used to thinking. There are no demons running their machines and if an electromagnetic field is an unseen force, it carries no motive, no will. It is an effect like water turning a waterwheel. Not magic, just craftsmanship and great knowledge.”


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12 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 07

  1. dave o says:

    “If we can make the machines” Making the machines will require years of work, especially given Russia’s lack of infrastructure, and especially lack of skilled craftsmen. They have to import people who can cast cannons. Machine tools are a lot more complicated. Given Russia’s xenophobia and backwardness the idea that introducing even a 17th century version of modern technology, much less than they can do so quickly is ridiculous. In a comment to an earlier snippet, I discussed what Russia would need to build automobiles. I didn’t mention that they would need to build roads to get any use of them during the mud months. Can anyone suggest a source for enough gravel to macadamize thousands of miles of roads?

    “there are no demons running their machines.” I’ll bet that most russians won’t accept this.

  2. ET1swaw says:

    Conceptual framing changes forced by decree?
    A severely xenophobic culture, stratified and near moribund, to accept ‘outside’ knowledge?
    Rigidly enforced serfdom (serfs could buy-out, but by law were still tied to property, just without support) and religious intolerance and rigidity!
    Barter economy, severely limited infrastructure, limited expertise but widespread basics (estate/village support if nothing else), and byzantine politics!
    Point source of knowledge disemination will restrict spread but enable magnification of effort (Manhattan Project vs Industrial Revolution)!
    And remember ATT west of the Urals is pretty much it; despite claims to the contrary!
    There is good reason the rest of 163x still calls them Muscovy as they were the conquering polity not an overarching Russian Kingdom/Empire!

    Looks like a tough road to modernization to put it mildly, but Bernie seems a decent jack-of-all-trades and downtimers are not dumb just uninformed in many cases. At least in Russia top-down declarations of acceptance are an option (not a good one, but an option!).

  3. Stan Leghorn says:

    Magdeburg magnified. They will have ONE industrial site that will creat the weapons they need where all their technocrats will be guarded and watched. The other houses will have to play catch up or be crushed.

  4. dave o says:

    #3 Stan: That’s the way the story is going. But I still say it’s not plausible. Germany has a lot more skilled craftsmen than Russia and given the competition in western europe, between Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria, will find it hard to impossible to get enough of them from the West. The skills needed take years to acquire, and particularly since Grantville has no heavy industry, there will be no one to teach them. I doubt that they can get enough from encyclopedias to learn the skilled trades they will need.

  5. ET1swaw says:

    @4 dave o: flintlocks are easier than matchlocks (can’t see primers readily though); LTA is a simple concept (actual aerodynamics – no way); steam (with poor power transfer) possible (ICEs – NOT!); farm machinery/heavy equipment (a lot is in capability of a competent (talented not required) blacksmith); concepts (germ theory, etc.) can come through but are a Pandora’s Box.
    They don’t have an economy, infrastructure, craftsmen, or world structure comparible to Western Europe or the Ottomans (even the Poles are more advanced, the Irish more literate, and the Spaniards less hidebound); but tabletop/prototype processes are possible!
    Their path to industrialization can not IMO follow that of those others as there is nothing in place to support it.

  6. Cobbler says:

    @ 3, dave o:

    I’m having a hard time seeing Russia’s rush to modernize as plausable. Both for cultural and technical reasons.

    @ 5, ET1swaw:

    Flintlocks are easier than matchlocks? Look at a matchlock. Look at a flintlock. The barrel is the same. That’s the best I can say. The stock is more complicated since it must accept the trigger mechanism. The flintlock has precision fittings needed by no matchlock.

    LTA: What fabric are people using for the bags? Ninteenth century balloons used silk. Silk is rare and expensive. I expect this has been discussed somewhere, but I haven’t seen it.

    Farm machinery; Imagine an illiterate village smith in the Ukrane. His bread and butter is horshoes and sythe blades. He occasionally makes a hinge or mends a horse bit. Give him the plans for a McCormick reaper and see what happens. It’s not a pretty picture.

  7. Bret Hooper says:

    @6 Cobbler: You write “I’m having a hard time seeing Russia’s rush to modernize as plausable. Both for cultural and technical reasons.”

    Cultural reasons: If it required a majority vote of the Russian people of 1632, it would surely lose, but it doesn’t. It only requires, at most, the votes of the czar and the patriarch, and the consent (however reluctant) of enough of the boyars (no girlars required) to prevent a revolt. The push will presumably come from Feodor Nikitch and Mikhail Fedorivich, and will cause SOME modernization, but not likely anywhere near enough, and that is where the technical reasons enter the picture:

    Technical reasons: It would take decades at least to build up the technical infrastructure necessary, and by then Feodor Nikitch will surely be dead and likely Mikhail Fedorivich as well, and cultural problems may well be enough to stop the push in its tracks. Even in the twentieth century, the Soviet push to modernize was not an unqualified success. True, they managed to get a satellite in orbit when we couldn’t yet get ours off the ground (largely for cultural reasons), but their overall level of technology was still well behind ours. (I suspect that totalitarianism is less conducive to the general development of technology than is true democracy, because the lines of research and development tend to be restricted to those the top bosses favor.)

    163x Russia will probably manage to obtain some more modern muskets and rifles, and even cannon, but making those items top priority will be self-defeating; their greatest need is agricultural technology, to free serfs from the land to become technicians, and then teachers for the schools that can make technicians of them. Some of those technicians will become inventors and some, ‘standing on their shoulders’ will improve the level of technology, and so on.

  8. dave o says:

    None of the comments to this snippet think that it’s plausible that Russia will modernize anytime soon. But GG’s Huff and Goodlett stories assume that they will. It remains to be seen how EF’s input changed the tale. There will have to be a lot of changes before I think adding this to the canon is anything but a mistake.

  9. robert says:

    In fact, after the serfs were freed in 1861, the Russian state invested heavily in an extensive railroad system, which, by 1870, was driving industrialization and commerce. The ability to ship the natural resources of the east and the grain of the west brought about a degree of industrialization which placed Russia fourth in steel production and second in petroleum production by 1900. Only forty years after the emancipation of the serfs. Unfortunately, the social and political reforms that usually went along with industrial growth never really happened and the Revolution all but wiped out the economic gains made during the latter half of the 19th century.

    So knowing what we know about the author and the state of Muscovite society at the time, does anyone care to guess what will happen? A much earlier but different kind of revolution? Remember that serfdom in Western Europe did not end until after the American Revolution, even in Great Britain, what will happen if somehow Bernie manages to subvert things to the point where Russian emancipation occurs earlier and without massive upheavals?

    Go Eric!

  10. ET1swaw says:

    @9 It is major canon that Mike Stearns thinks that apart from conditionals leading to the Holocaust slavery and second serfdom are the greatest evils to be combatted in this NTL. Hopefully their isolationist mindset (Spaniards are insular, but Muscovites seem downright xenophobic) can possibly be eased so when the ‘Russian Bear’ awakens it is not so much a ‘dragon’!

    Go Eric indeed!!!!

  11. robert says:

    @10 ET1swaw
    Thanks for reminding me that serfdom did come later to Eastern Europe even as it was (slowly) disappearing in the West.

  12. vikingted says:

    it would be interesting to see the thoughts and discussions that Nasi and Stearns might have had on the topic of Bernie moving to Russia.

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