1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 37

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 37

Mikhail looked at his wife for a long time, just taking in the bubbling excitement. She fairly glowed with it. Could Petr Nickovich’s assemblage of balloons really produce such a reaction? And if it produced that sort of reaction in the Russian heart, what effect would it have on the Polish heart and the Cossack heart? “Very well. I will support the project. I can make no promises, mind.”

Somehow, as pleasant as his wife’s smile was, it made Mikhail a bit nervous.


Bernie had spent most of the last three days explaining that it was really Vanya, Misha, Filip, Gregorii, Lazar and even Andrei at the Gun Shop who had actually worked out all the improvements. He had just helped a bit. It was becoming increasingly clear not everyone at the Dacha agreed with that assessment, though. Some of the folks who worked here had even said so, though that was less common.

Bernie had been in Russia long enough to know how dog-eat-dog the bureaus were, so he was surprised and impressed that any of them were willing to share credit. But some of them were. Not Andrei, of course. But some were, and not just with Bernie, but with each other. Which was even more impressive.

All of which didn’t make orbital mechanics one whit more interesting. When Gregorii Mikhailovich started explaining orbital mechanics and Newton’s laws of motion, Bernie’s brain started to fry. He just didn’t want to hear it again, not right now.

He was having a beer in the kitchen when the door opened unexpectedly. At first Bernie was afraid that one of the brain cases had come looking for him again. But, no . . . the boss.

“Howdy, Boss.” Bernie snaked out an arm and grabbed a chair. “Have a seat.”

“Thank you,” Natasha said taking the offered chair. “Petr Nickovich is going to be impossible.”

“Why?” Bernie asked.

“Because the czar — and as of this morning, a majority of the Boyar Duma — wish a dirigible or half-dirigible built. They are going to build a facility at Bor on the Volga to build the main ship and others to follow it, but we will be building a test device here. Things are going quite well.”


Bernie thought, but it’s still a pain in the butt. “Glad to hear it.” he said.

Natasha lifted an eyebrow at him and he shrugged.

“I am. It’s still a pain, but I am glad it’s going well. The politics are something I’d just as soon avoid, but I realize that it’s necessary.”

“It is necessary, Bernie, and I’m not sure how much we’re going to be able to avoid them.” She then told him a bit more about the structure of the Russian government. How the bureaus were traditionally non-political — at least how they had remained non-political in the Time of Troubles, working for whichever claimant was holding the throne at the time. How Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov had been a dark horse candidate who didn’t want the throne.

Bernie snorted. Then at Natasha’s look, he elaborated. “Isn’t that the standard line? After working for years to get the throne, the new king or dictator or whatever says ‘I didn’t want it, it was just my duty.'”

“Perhaps that is how it happens in most cases, but my family has known the czar since before he was the czar. And my father was with the delegation that went to him. Mikhail was a teenager, old enough to know that being declared czar was a short step away from being declared dead. His mother and father each had more than their share of ambition, but they passed none on to Mikhail. He was precisely what the Boyar Duma and the Assembly of the Land wanted, a figurehead to move the battle for control of Russia back out of sight. Even so, the Boyar Duma and Assembly tied his hands with a set of restrictions.”

Bernie held up his hands in surrender. “I wasn’t there,” he said, “and I don’t doubt you. It’s just that the king that doesn’t want the throne is a stock item in fairytales, but pretty darn rare in a world of elected officials, where if you don’t want the office you don’t have to run.”

“In any case, the czar is generally quite impressed and so are the patriarch and Prince Cherkasski.”

Bernie knew that Cherkasski was the czar’s cousin and was the boss of three of the bureaus that ran Russia.

“With their support,” Natasha continued, “Sheremetev won’t be able to do anything.”

“What bugs this Sheremetev about the Dacha?” Bernie asked.

“Primarily that he doesn’t own it,” Natasha said. “The Sheremetev family are famous for their corruption, but also very good at politics. They know all about bribery and blackmail, having accepted more bribes than any other great family in Russia. But we’ll be all right here, as long as Patriarch Filaret can keep a leash on Sheremetev. The brain cases will be fine.”


Mikhail and his father were already consulting with the “brain cases,” as Bernie called them. Mikhail wanted a way out of the trap the up-time history had put him in. Since the history of that other future had leaked, people with power were not happy. He and his father, as czar and patriarch, had been carefully dancing in the mine field of Russian politics, focusing on the danger of a return to the Time of Troubles to keep the various factions in check. Even so, power was shifting between the factions. The one led by Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev, for instance. Their cousin or not, Sheremetev felt that the information from the up-timers and the actions of Peter the Great really destroyed the Romanov credentials as arch-conservatives.

“Interesting, perhaps.” Sheremetev set his glass on the table. They had been discussing the history of the United States of America and its constitution. “Interesting, but not that impressive. It was their day in the sun, that’s all. The Mongols had theirs and this United States had theirs. They were only two hundred years old. Barely a youth, as nations go.”

Mikhail looked across the table at him. There were only three men at dinner tonight. Filaret, Mikhail and Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev. Mikhail wanted Sheremetev’s support. “I am more concerned with something else,” he said “The general agreement — and I read this over and over again — was that Russia continued to lag behind much of the rest of the world. We can change that, and I believe we should. Right now, we should start. Because right now, everyone is four hundred years behind Grantville. We have Bernie here and Vladimir in Grantville. We can modernize.”

Sheremetev nodded, but Mikhail didn’t think he was listening. Not properly at any rate. “The army, most assuredly. Right away. That I agree with. But this other? This constitution? Why? A firm hand on the reins. That is all that is needed, Mikhail. A firm hand on the reins of Rus.”

Mikhail shook his head. No, Sheremetev wasn’t listening.


Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev left the dinner and considered the evening most of the way home. He understood what Mikhail and Filaret were contemplating. Let every peasant vote. Introduce a constitutional monarchy, then gradually give away the power, not only of the monarchy, but of the great families as well.

He would not, he could not, let that happen. They said it was to prevent the revolution that had come in three hundred years hence in that other history, which they thought would probably happen even sooner in this one if they didn’t act to forestall the causes for it. But to Sheremetev, such reasoning bordered on sheer insanity. Who could predict what might happen in three centuries? In any event, if preventing a revolution was the issue, surely a policy of more severe and consistent maintenance of order would work far more reliably than introducing chaos.

But Sheremetev suspected that the real reason for their schemes, at least for the czar himself, was that Mikhail was afraid of power. When they had offered him the crown he had cried like a babe.

Sheremetev had a lot more sympathy for Joseph Stalin than he had for Nicholas Romanov. And more for Nicholas than for Mikhail. It was God’s whimsy to sometimes put a peasant in the blood line of kings, or a let a king be born in a peasant’s hovel.

Stalin was a king born of base blood. And Mikhail was a peasant borne of some of the noblest blood in Russia. But that whimsy of God’s didn’t invalidate the concept of royalty, any more than the occasional sport in a fine bloodline of hounds or horses invalidated breeding.

Filaret would have made a better czar, except for his fanatical hatred of Poland. Couldn’t they see that the Swede was the danger now?


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29 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 37

  1. vikingted says:

    this story is quite interestingly diverging from the butterflies series…

  2. alfie says:

    How is it diverging from Butterflies?

  3. ET1swaw says:

    Sheremetev is starting to think nasty thoughts, and historically he was one of the “7-Boyars” (who removed a czar from his throne and temporarily ruled during the ‘Time of Troubles’)!!!

    And he is definitely anti-G2A!!!
    Then again G2A did take Swedish Ingria and Swedish Karelia (and draw Lake Peipus and the Narva River as a Russian-Swedish/Russian-PLC boundary(where not already belonging to Swedish Estonia or Swedish Livonia)) from the Russians fully cutting them off from the Baltic by Treaty terms that lasted OTL until Peter the Great and his successors took those territories (and eventually Finland and Vyborg Karelia from the Swedes; and a whole lot of territory from the PLC) back. And his cousin Jacob de La Gardie (now LH Constable of Sweden) did take (and not-quite-sack) Moscow itself less than 25 years ago.


  4. Stan Leghorn says:

    The problem with the “firm hand” method of rule is that it suppresses economic growth. Starving people could overwhelm any military force of this time with sheer numbers, especially if they have allies in that military. Sheremetev has read the words but missed the meaning.

  5. Malchus says:

    @4 And especially if a huge number of said allies in the military are also pretty much just starving peasants in uniform.

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @4 – Stan Leghorn

    “Sheremetev has read the words but missed the meaning.”

    Stan, is Sheremetev so different from how we would be?

    Suppose that a small European town from 300 years in the future was dropped into Ohio tomorrow. I expect that among our bitterly divided, highly partisan politicians of today there would be more than a double handful who would behave very similarly to Shemeretev, and they would come from BOTH major political parties. Shemeretev sees his power base at risk from the future, and he sees opportunity to expand his power base while eliminating potential rivals to that power. He is behaving the way many of our own politicians would behave facing a similar situation.

    Comments and criticisms welcome.

  7. WCG says:

    Re. #6 – “Suppose that a small European town from 300 years in the future was dropped into Ohio tomorrow. I expect that among our bitterly divided, highly partisan politicians of today there would be more than a double handful who would behave very similarly to Shemeretev, and they would come from BOTH major political parties.”

    Not at all. It would depend on what that future was like. You are mistaking the fact that both sides are partisan with the idea that they’re both the same. That couldn’t be farther from the truth (although the mechanics of getting elected encourages similar behavior in some ways).

    If the future had turned their way in “culture war” issues – a Christian theocracy, homophobic, women controlled for their own good, an overwhelmingly white America – the Republican Party would tend to support that future vision. If continued progress had been made in these issues, Republicans would tend to oppose it, but the Democratic Party might be just the reverse.

    Of course, with some issues – if religion had finally faded away, for example – there might be bitter opposition from people on both sides (the entire GOP, but some Democrats, as well). But my point is that it would really depend on the details of what that future was like. Most likely, you’d get support from one side – but not from both.

  8. Mark L says:

    “Suppose that a small European town from 300 years in the future was dropped into Ohio tomorrow. I expect that among our bitterly divided, highly partisan politicians of today there would be more than a double handful who would behave very similarly to Shemeretev, and they would come from BOTH major political parties.”

    Depends upon how many modern-day Americans can understand the dialect of Arabic spoken by the inhabitants of that small European town from 300 years in the future.

  9. vikingted says:

    Did the town from Europe originate just outside Brussels?

  10. ET1swaw says:

    Hey, if this scenario is being spun by MWW or EF not TK or JR what makes it so probable?


  11. dave o says:

    Shermentov thinks Sweden is Russia’s main enemy. Wrong! Bohemia. Poland isn’t even in the running, despite the fact they hold a lot of Russian land. And don’t forget the Turks.

  12. Javahead says:

    Re. #7: BS. You’re setting up a straw man and beating him. And you’re not even being original in your stereotypes.

    There’s a line that I came across years ago: “Democrats think Republicans are evil. Republicans think Democrats are stupid.” Unfortunately, even though it is itself a stereotype it does hold true for the belief of a large number on both sides.

    I suspect that any hypothetical future town would have cause a lot of problems, but I think the real conflict would cut across party lines. I’ll throw out a few cases:

    * The future Europe is fanatically religious – but the religion is Islam, not Christianity(somewhat more likely, per current trends)

    * The future Europe is fanatically religious – but it’s a new religion that requires, as a sacrament, that children participate in group sex as soon as they reach puberty as part of their rite of passage. And the funeral rite is out of “Stranger In a Strange Land” – funeral directors are specialized chefs.

    * The future Europe is prosperous, and mostly peaceful – but it’s turned into an atheist Anararcho-Libertarian wet dream and everyone over the age of 6 goes heavily armed, and dueling (hedged about by limiting social conventions) is accepted

    * Their homes are largely self-supporting in food and energy production, with a very low environmental impact – because they each have a small Mr. Fusion reactor in the basement and they grow extensively gene-modified crops on the roof

    * The people themselves are heavily gene-modified. And their society is very much a meritocracy where everything is allocated by tested ability with little or no sympathy for those who either can’t or won’t perform. As in “He who won’t work doesn’t eat. And anyone who can’t support himself should take himself out of the gene pool”

    I could come up with more. It’s also more than likely that even if people from the future weren’t too different in any one area they the total sum of their differences would look pretty weird to our current sensibilities (weirder than Americans find current European social norms, I mean). This kind of stuff is fun to explore – nobody’s necessarily “right” or “wrong”, but the discussion is fun and any end consensus reached is usually more believable than any one person’s speculation.

    But painting an ugly (and substantially untrue) caricature of people you don’t like politically much more relevance to your political beliefs to the town-from-the-future scenario. So please take the flames to some political discussion forum.

  13. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Good points Javahead.

    I would state that Eric Flint would not like fights about modern politics starting here.

    This area is for discussions about the books snippeted here not about fights about modern politics.

    This is his place so let’s play by his rules.

  14. ET1swaw says:

    @11 dave o: At this point in time even in OTL (much less ATT NTL) much of what we would consider Russia today (or the ex-Soviet Republics) is not part of 163x-verse Russia.

    Baltic and western parts belong to G2A (the Swedish Dominions); major parts (south and west) belong to the PLC (which include Belarus and western Ukraine); southern parts belong to the Ottomans (including Odessa and the Crimean Khanate (eastern Ukraine)); and eastern parts (which includes TransSiberia, the ‘stans, and areas east of the Urals) are either unsettled (by Russia) or belong to others (Safavids, Tibet, Mongolia, etc.)). And the severe northwestern parts a mixture of Finland (Sweden Proper), Kola/White Sea Russia (Pomors/Sami), and Norway (C4’s) with the current title King of the Northlands (encompassing much of Sami/Pomor territories) belonging to C4.

    And most of the Anaconda Project by Greater Bohemia is targeted toward the PLC (and somewhat towards the AHE (Royal Hungary/Slovakia and the OE (Transdanubians and Black Sea(Odessa and Crimean Khanate)))!!

    And in NTL the Smolensk War (against the PLC) never happened, so pretty much the last nation to take land from Russia was G2A himself in the Ingrian War (and as payment prior for De La Gardie’s aid in the Time of Troubles). G2A’s kid brother (Charles Phillip) was also put forward as an alternative to Mikhail Romanov as Czar (though underage ATT) at one time in the process. Besides ceding Swedish Ingria and Swedish Karelia, Stolbovo in 1617 had Russia quit claim to all of Livonia (Inflanty and Courland-Semgallia belonging to the PLC and Swedish Livonia (which included Riga and Dorpat/Tartu) belonging to G2A) and all of Swedish Estonia (which included Narva/Ivangorod, Tallinn, and Pernau); and it only required G2A to acknowledge the Romanovs as the new tsarist dynasty (not foreswear claim to Russian territories and they were holding Novgorod and Gdov at war’s end (but did release them as scheduled))). By contrast the PLC Vasa line did not forswear claim to either the Russian nor Swedish thrones till much later in the 17th century (post-Deluge).

    Also Sheremetev was one of the ‘seven boyars’ who deposed the tsar supported by G2A’s cousin Jacob De La Gardie when he took Moscow in his support (1610; that the Campaign later ended in failure against the PLC forces allied to Sheremetev and the other pro-PLC forces mattered not). He has been as firmly in Russia’s pro-PLC political camp as Filaret is anti-PLC (and after his treatment by Sigismund I can see why). He remained a pro-PLC devotee despite the riot-burning of Moscow by PLC/mercenary forces after the boyars invited them in.


  15. Peter S says:

    The meeting between the Czar and Sherementev and the conflict in their visions of how to deal with the future seems to set the basic dynamics of this story. Bernie is loosing one change after another into Russia, and some of them are essential to the nation’s survival. Sherementev thinks he can pick and choose which to accept, and simply supress the others at little cost. Life is unlikely to oblige him with success, but tht’s not the dynamic of the story – it is whether he kills/damages any of the other characters in a vain attempt to have his way. I look forward to the answer!

  16. ET1swaw says:

    @15 Peter S: IMO there is a multi-faceted dynamic (Sherementev; Mikhail; Filaret; the old-school bureaucracy (service-families and military); the moribund Boyarate, the juene ecole at the Dacha; and the new up-and-comers (all of which probably included pro- and anti- PLC/G2A/ROF/Ottoman factions).

    I also eagerly await the answer (especially as nearly none of them are anti-second-serfdom/anti-slavery)!!!! (Though re-instituted within this century IIRC; second-serfdom/slavery has a growing hold on Russia comparable to that in the PLC IMO.)


  17. Stan Leghorn says:

    It was that serfdom that condemned Russia to Second Class status until post WW2. The Czar sees this dimly, Sherementov not at all. When you cannot have an economy when most are unable to participate, things will stagnate until outside forces act. The Third Division of 1636 could probably conquor Russia if it could get there and stay supplied in food and ammo. The winter gear would protect them from the fate of the Grand Armee and the Whermacht. And Stearns could convince them they were liberating the people of Russia which would give them a CAUSE to FIGHT for.

    One could hope…

  18. dave o says:

    #14 ET!swaw: As I see it, the Anaconda project will lead to the conquest of 1) parts of southern Poland, 2) the Slovak parts of Hungary, 3) the Ukraine, 4) White Russia. Expansion into the Danubian principalities is a possibility, but unlikely because the Ottomans seem to be even stronger in alternate history than in the real thing. Its possible that they will control all of Hungary that the Ottomans don’t after the second siege of Vienna. This assumes that Bohemia is competently ruled. I expect PLC to become weaker even faster: it was a considerable, though feckless power until the end of the 17th century but the situation has changed enough that its weaknesses will sink it during the latter half of the century. Swedish ambitions will likely re-orient toward Germany. Unless they decide to colonize the new world, which they are well placed and well equipped to do.

  19. If Eric can be persuaded to add a new series “2015”, in which people from the future descend on us, I am sure that he will make them very different from us in ways that will dismay Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians and Greens and everyone else. Congress being replaced with the “House of Workers”, representatives of working men and women, and the “House of Labor” comprised of the elected heads of 100 labor unions, comes to mind. After all, requiring only a 30 year delay, what would Chairman Mao say if he were told that in 2010 “Communism with a Chinese interpretation’ had the then-party-head proposing to reserve a seat on the Politburo for the representative of the millionaires? Perhaps the visitor appears with his sailboat, one of the ships from YachtIslandDesign.com.

  20. Charlie C says:

    Slightly off topic, but why is the United States of Europe called that and not the United States of Germany. And what has been the impact of the RoF on Sweden? Have CoCs been established in Stockholm?

  21. ET1swaw says:

    @18 dave o: I agree. But with the caveat that ATT White Russia still belongs to a mixture reporting to either the Ottomans and/or the PLC.

    Russia ATT is basically: Muscovy, Karelia/White-Sea, Novgorod, and east to not far past the Urals (the western and southern border with the PLC/OE is very heavily weighted towards the PLC/OE (Belarus, Ukraine, etc. (much of what we consider p/o Russia today) does not belong to Russia!!) (and the Swedish Dominions cover a great deal also)).
    ( http://www.reformation.org/en-1648-poland.jpg )

    @20 Charlie C: The USE was a follow-on to the CPE (Confederated Principalities of Europe) (Breakpoint: Battle of Wismar). And though both were composed of states within the Germanies ATT, the ‘of Europe’ was used by choice of G2A (Grantville and environs also changed from NUS to SoT/SoTF ATT).
    G2A also chose the ‘Kalmar Union/Union of Kalmar’ for his deal with C4 at the Copenhagen Conference in 1634. Just as Fernando’s new kingdom is variously ‘the Netherlands’ or KLC (Kingdom of the Low Countries), Wallenstein’s is ‘Greater Bohemia’, and Bernard’s is GDB (Grand Duchy of Burgundy).

    Few GG stories have so far been set in Sweden or her Dominions (Kymi Mills stories, ‘Diving Belle’, etc.), or even outside the USE. If you have an idea for one, write it and post it to 1632 Slush on BaensBar (the GG seems to be always looking for good ones to purchase). So impact on Sweden and CoC penetration is not much codified. The only canon I recall is a statement that CoC penetration into Swedish territories is not as great due to G2A’s massive popularity wih his subjects. That is not to say there are no problems there (just that the Hochadel/Adel in the Germanies were such a blatant PITA). And do not forget there are opposite political organizations in Scaglia’s ‘Soft Landing’ networks as well as the knee-jerk reactionaries.


  22. vikingted says:

    @21 Rob, How does ESSEN figure in to this Greater Europe that is evolving? I barely (or really can not remember any) see any references to Essen in the mainline series of books. I have read some Essen stories in the “Slush Pile”. I see there are probably the same stories in the GG (a bit refined perhaps). Is Essen just too small an entity to be of interest in the mainline?

  23. Stan Leghorn says:

    If the stories about Essen hold up, that state could be a powerful deal maker between France, Netherland and USE because of it’s weapons. Or, it could negotiate a good position for itself if it does get absorbed into one of those three.
    There were hints of a deal between Russia and the Ottomans that are allowing the attack on Austria to go forward. This is foolish because the winner on either side will turn on Russia afterwards. Rather like WW2 where the German-soviet Pact got Stalin 2 years before Russia was invaded. Personally, I doubt Eric wants the Turks to over-run Europe, but we shall see.

  24. ET1swaw says:

    @22 vikingted: Essen:
    occupies the Ruhr Valley (one of the most resource-rich (especially coal/iron) areas of Europe;
    their technology exceeds/is-on-par-with the USE and France (Sharps clone, chemical industry, modern steel industry, etc.);
    they are a technology-channel to the OE;
    they have binding long-term treaties with both the USE and Netherlands (KLC);
    they have an efficient modern armed forces (see previews (in Slush) for ‘Wars on the Rhine’ storylines);
    and their ruler (Louis De Geers) was OTL: a patrician in the United Provinces, an extremely wealthy landowner/merchant/industrialist in Scandinavia and Europe, a Swedish Baron(IIRC, high noble at least), and held Adel (possibly Hochadel) status in the Germanies (NTL he outright bought the land comprising Essen from the requisite nobles and was a Swedish industrial giant (a good potion of iron/copper mining/manufacture in Sweden was under his purview)).

    Oldenburg and Nurnberg (the other independents of like size) are more in your imagined vein.

    And Bernard’s Grand Duchy of Burgundy, Wallenstein’s Greater Bohemia, Fernando’s Netherlands (KLC), and the Swiss Confederacy (NTM the Italian States (both independent and Spanish/French allied/held)) are all of interest to the mainline as well IMO.


  25. ET1swaw says:

    Addition to @24:
    Louis De Geer (not De Geers, sorry) is also partner with Richeliu’s family and Lord Baltimore to explore/settle/exploit the Maryland area (source of some required resouces for aluminum production and has fingers in many other high-priority ventures (i.e. main source outside the USE for chloram and DDT).


  26. vikingted says:

    @25 another question is will they ever constitute a significant role or part in the “Main Thread”?

  27. ET1swaw says:

    @26 vikingted: AFAIK Italy (Galileo, Cannon Law, etc.), Russia (this book and the possible sequel as case in point), and upcoming: the New World, United Kingdom, Spain, France, and Greater Bohemia (among others); all have main-threads of their own. (That is if you consider a full-length novel/anthology co-authored by Eric Flint as a main-thread (which I do))

    If you only consider Mike Stearns/Gretchen stories as main-thread; then possibly NO.

    And if you discount all GGs (electronic and dead-tree), ROF Anthologies, and stand-apart (like Iver’s upcoming or Virginia’s) novels/anthologies; then probably not.


  28. vikingted says:

    @27 Rob, we might see Essen being blamed in the Mike Stearns/Gretchen stories main-thread due to their weapons supplies connection to OE.

  29. ET1swaw says:

    @28 vikingted: NTM they are part of the upcoming ‘Wars on the Rhine’ thread/novels.


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