1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 08

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 08


          “Very well. So this Bernie will tell us what the words from the future mean. What about the contract?”


          “Bernie insisted on it, Patriarch. I think he was a bit afraid that once we got him here we’d lock him in a dungeon and use whips and tongs to get him to work.”


          “Certainly an option worth considering,” Filaret said, and Boris knew very well that the patriarch wasn’t joking. Not even a little bit.


          Boris nodded. “Hence the contract and a share of the money to be paid into an account in Grantville. The contract helps assuage his fears and the fact that we have to send some of the money to Grantville anyway helps even more. We need him enough to make it worthwhile to pamper him a bit before we attempt harsher methods.


          “It’s hard to explain unless you have seen what they can do and how freely they give out their knowledge. Prince Vladimir is convinced that if we don’t have someone like Bernie, if we don’t gain this knowledge and do it now while the door is opened –” He paused and took a deep breath. “Russia, without the knowledge — the up-time knowledge — facing a Europe with that knowledge, will not survive more than a few decades.”


          “Why is Vladimir paying for this?” The patriarch was nodding. Good, Boris thought. He understood why Bernie was needed.


          “He wants to set up a think tank.” Boris spoke entirely in Russian but the concept didn’t translate well.


          Boris tried again at Filaret’s expression. “A gathering of minds, also a research center. A place where concepts and devices from the books and notes he is sending can be tried. Tests can be done to see what will and will not work. A place where the knowledge from the future can be combined with the talents of Russians to make both the things he sends us designs for and new designs of our own.”


          The patriarch nodded, his mind jumping ahead of Boris’ explanation. “Where?”


          “The Gorchakov family has a large and comfortable dacha and hunting park a day’s ride from Moscow. Close enough to Moscow for convenience, yet far enough away so that it can be kept fairly private. He promises not only its use but money for the materials needed for the experimentation. Some thousands of rubles a year.”


          “That explains what he wants to do, Boris Ivanovich Petrov. It does not explain why the contract with this Bernard Zeppi is with Vladimir Petrovich Gorchakov, not Mikhail Fedorivich Romanov, Czar of all Russia.”


          “Vladimir is willing to commit the Gorchakov family to the primary funding of the project.”


          “And he wants what in exchange?”


          “The exclusive rights to produce and sell the products of the dacha.” This was common. One family might have exclusive rights to mine iron ore in a certain area, rights they had purchased from the government. Another might have exclusive rights to sell the furs of another area. Filaret was hardly a novice when it came to that type of negotiation.


          “No, that won’t work,” Filaret said. “The Gorchakov family is rich but not that rich.”


          “He plans to sell the rights to produce individual products,” Boris explained. “The research center will make a working model of, say, a reaping machine, and designs for the parts to it, then sell the rights to make the reaping machines to another clan or to a set of villages.”


          The patriarch nodded and considered. “Exclusive except for the government. I’ll not have the government giving the Gorchakov family the rights, then paying for the research as well.” That too was standard. The government of Russia maintained first call on everything. If a family gained exclusive control of a mine, what that family got was what came out of the mine beyond the government’s share.


          “Of course, Patriarch.” Boris nodded. As each new device was made both the government and the Gorchakov family would have the right to produce it if they chose. In the case of the reaping machine, the government would be able to either make reaping machines itself or have them made; so would the Gorchakov family. The Gorchakov family might want to sell its rights to make the product but that would not affect the government’s rights. “Of course, the research center will need experts from some of the bureaus.”


          Filaret nodded thoughtfully. “That can be arranged. And the church?”


          “Vladimir would prefer not to make an open grant to the church.” Boris’ answer was delicate. “There have been abuses of such grants in the past. I am very much afraid the bureaus would not like such a blanket grant either.” The Russian Orthodox Church was neither monolithic nor free from corruption. Monasteries vied for power and wealth with the great families and each other.


          The patriarch grinned rather sardonically and nodded. “The patriarch’s office, then.” He laughed at Boris’ expression. “Not even that?”


          Boris steeled himself. “Who will be the next patriarch?”


          Filaret nodded, but lost his smile.


          “Vladimir did wish me to convey his warmest personal regards to you, Patriarch Filaret. His concern, and frankly mine, is that the next patriarch may not share your concern for the czar or for Holy Rus. Do you remember mention of Patriarch Nikon from the histories we sent?” Boris really wished he could avoid this part of the conversation. He was used to bureaucratic infighting but not at this level.


          Filaret grimaced but nodded. “However, I am patriarch now.”


          “As long as that happy situation remains, the patriarch’s office will receive anything the dacha can provide.”


          Filaret’s fingers made a drum roll on the desk as he thought about it. “It is a great risk for young Vladimir. He could ruin his family if it doesn’t work.” Then he stared at Boris. “What about you, Boris? What do you gain in this? What do you risk?”


          “It has been suggested that I would make an excellent candidate for the head of the Grantville section of the embassy bureau.” He shrugged. “That is both the reward and the risk. If it doesn’t work, well, my position in the bureau would become untenable.”


          “Yes, it would.” Another pause while the patriarch’s fingers continued to tap out a strange beat on the desk. “Very well. I will talk to Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev, then. I’ll even do what I can to get the appropriate people assigned to your section and loaned to the Gorchakov dacha.”


          He gave Boris a hard look, his eyes seeming to glitter for a moment. “You understand what you’re risking?”


          “I think so, Patriarch.”



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13 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 08

  1. dave o says:

    Vladimar comes up with the idea of founding a think tank. Does anyone else think that this is a little unlikely? A Manhattan Project in Moscow??? Grantville isn’t Washington and I don’t see the idea of one floating around there for him to pick it up. Especially not so quickly. Plus, it’s hard for me to believe that a Russian of this period is open to such a idea. Specific things, yes, but not a research body. Think tanks are a 20th century notion, and not a 17th century one.

  2. Matt says:

    @2 – Yes, but the idea to set up a think tank came from Vladimir and Bernie and Vladimir’s time studying history in the library. A lot of off-camera planning and arrangements went on to get the contract set up, a place chosen for a project site and how to keep Russia from becoming a poor second in the first world nations. Flying is also a 20th Century notions and nearly every nation that has heard of the Ring of Fire wants to fly a plane, blimp or a balloon of some kind.

  3. Matt says:

    @2 – Yes, but the idea to set up a think tank came from Vladimir and Bernie and Vladimir’s time studying history in the library. A lot of off-camera planning and arrangements went on to get the contract set up, a place chosen for a project site and how to keep Russia from becoming a poor second among the first world nations. Flying is also a 20th Century notion and nearly every nation that has heard of the Ring of Fire wants to fly a plane, blimp or a balloon of some kind.

  4. Jack says:

    Obviously the name for it came out of Grantville so presumably the idea did too. Certainly small scale think tanks are operating too. Not pure research, this is more classical research, and then experimentation to find out how something they know exists works. Not even as much research as in Edison’s workshop at Menlo Park and that was 19th century.

  5. Stan Leghorn says:

    I would believe that the writers have done some research on this. While I would find such forward thinking people difficult to believe, else why did Russia/Muscovy stay so backward, one only needs to look at both China and the Middle east today. Each in its time was the leader of the world technologically, but both allowed hard line “conservatives” to halt all technological progress. which resulted in them becoming victims to those who did not. The efforts of a few can be ground to a halt by closed minded people with bombs in their hands. Iraq and ESPECIALLY Afghanistan are prime example of how a few can destroy the dreams and hopes and ultimately the lives of the majority.

  6. Steve says:

    The term “Think Tank” is a 20th century idea. The idea of “get some smart people together to think about the problem. is probably older than agriculture.

    It’s snobbery to think that we’re much much smarter than our ancestors. Just because the times called for peoples smarts to be used in ruthless infighting instead of technological advancement doesn’t make them dumb.

  7. Doug Lampert says:

    IIRC Hiero of Syracus is credited with the first military R&D facility intended to invent new weapons. The Museum (temple of the Muses) at Alexandria was of course older and included a research staff, moderns tend to call it the Library at Alexandria since we don’t think of either a museum or a temple as an R&D institute, but they funded researchers and IIRC they invented locks for dams and the screw pump design still used in parts of the world. (Moderns also tend when talking about the “library” to include the copiests and the like who weren’t officially part of the museum).

    Various western monastaries ran R&D (especially on agriculture) pretty well throughout the middle ages and into the 17th century and the development of the printing press was a substantial effort funded by people who were quite well aware that there was a substantial amount of R&D to be done to develope a way to mass produce type (most notably the local bishop IIRC).

    There were universities with research groups in 1632. There just weren’t any in Russia, and there was nothing in our timeline to convince the Russians they needed one.

    So the idea of an R&D group isn’t all that new and an educated Russian may be familiar with the concept. Putting one in Russia in the 17th century and using “think tank” as the name rather than something the locals would be familiar with is a bit odd, but can be put down to Grantville influence.

    Now, whether anyone will pay attention to their conclusions is another matter!

  8. hank says:

    @6 “smarter than our ancestors”
    When I was in the 4th grade, many moons ago, I remember our class being taken out to a nearby quarry where we spent most of an afternoon “learning” to chip/flake tools/weapons out of flint. Several bruised & battered thumbs & fingers later, not to mention watching my mis-placed blows totally destroy what little progress I had made, pretty much totally killed off the idea that “Boy, they must have been dumb, they didn’t even have TV!” that so many people seem to have.
    Chariots Of The Gods, my A**!!

  9. robert says:

    From Wikipedia:
    “While the term “think tank” originated in the 1950s, such organizations date to the 19th century. The Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) was founded in 1831 in London. The Fabian Society in Britain dates from 1884. The Brookings Institution began in Washington in 1916.”

    And that does not even take the research activities carried out in academic institutions ever since academic institutions existed, nor in whatever passed for garages and basements in “olden times.” Even corporations carried out R&D activities since there were corporations. Giving Edison his due, General Electric was THE place where virtually all the research on electric power generation and transmission was done until the 1970s or so and never forget Bell Labs. Throw a smart bunch of engineers and scientists in a room together or a bunch of really smart thinkers in any field(s) and you have a “think tank.”

  10. dave o says:

    Other nations in Western Europe seem to be interested in things of immediate, or at least short term benefit. How to make a breech loader, how to make an airplane. Vladimir and co seem to be interested in everything. Thus I question the think tank idea. I don’t believe that Russians are stupider than anyone else. I also don’t believe that they are brighter.

  11. Kurt Winn says:

    I purchased the “1636 The Kremlin Games” ARC last week and read it over the weekend. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Of the 83 chapters the first 68 were a rehash from the Grantville Gazette. Yes there were some minor changes, the most noticeable being that Anya and Natasha were buds and Natasha had the hots for Bernie. The next four chapters had a few more changes and some additions, but again, a lot carried over from GG. Only the last 11 chapters truly added anything to what has already been published. All in all I can’t help feeling that I was short changed on this one. I hope the book dealing with Bohemia and the anaconda project is better.

  12. dave o says:

    #11 Kurt: I’m not surprised. I expect I’ll have the same reaction. Or worse.

  13. Ed says:

    #10 No one is claiming the Russian are brighter. But Vladimir et. al. seem to realize that Russia is behind in **everything** and they are in fact behind 17c Western Europe, not just Grantville. So to me it’s not really too unbelievable that the Russians would be interested in everything, while the western countries are more intrested in specific things they can use right away.

    Now the way Eric will portray the structural barriers to progress will be . . . intersting.

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