1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 17

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 17

The problem was, it didn’t seem to be working that way. Oh, here in the United States of Europe with the Committees of Correspondence ready to introduce guillotines to the back of the neck of any recidivist noble, the United Mine Workers of America and Europe unionizing — not just mine workers but steel workers and factory workers of all sorts — and the Fourth of July Party and the Rams giving them all political cover, it was working out that way. But not in Russia, or the Ottoman Empire. The same serfs who had been putting in fourteen hour days getting in the crop before the Ring of Fire were now putting in fourteen hours a day all winter in Russian factories. The Ottomans were using slaves in their factories, according to Boris Petrov, and it seemed to be working just fine.

That information had caused him to take a closer look at the assumptions about slavery that the up-timers held, and even in the up-timer history they just didn’t hold up. In the up-time USA the antebellum south used slaves in factories and they worked just fine. The Germans used concentration camp inmates to make their V2 rockets. Again, it worked fine.

Vladimir understood slavery and the attitudes that it engendered in a way that no up-timer could, because Vladimir owned, or had owned, hundreds of serfs. He understood the level of codependency, and institutional syndrome, in the serf communities. Masters came to believe that the serfs lacked the capability of living free of bondage because after being born and raised a serf or a slave, a lot of them did lack that ability. And, even more, had grown comfortable with their lot in life. Put to work in factories, they worked in factories. Some were treated well, some treated poorly, but, so far at least, the serfs and slaves in Russia were adapting to factory life as well or better than the free labor. Perhaps because they had no choice but to do so.

It was all quite depressing and had provided both Vladimir and Brandy with many sleepless nights, along with the goal of building an abolitionist movement in Russia. But now Czar Mikhail was in Ufa and trying to build a new structure of government for Russia. That was much of what Vladimir had received in his packet of letters from Ufa. The question was: how do we design the constitution for a constitutional monarchy in Russia . . . no . . . longer . . . how do we evolve one?

“I don’t know. I know that Alexander Hamilton showed up at your constitutional convention with a draft constitution already made up, but didn’t get most of what he wanted. And I have studied your three branch government system, both the up-time version and the USE constitution. But I don’t think that approach will work for Russia. More importantly, I don’t think it will garner the support needed to win the civil war that now seems inevitable in Russia.”

“Why not?”

“Because we have to have the bureaus with us to win,” Vladimir said. “It wasn’t true in Ivan the Terrible’s time, but during the Time of Troubles, the bureaus were the only things holding the nation together. They gained a great deal of power, even if it was a sort of under-the-table type of power. The limitations on Czar Mikhail that were imposed when he was crowned made them even stronger. For Mikhail to do much of anything he had to get the approval of the duma and the zemsky sobor, but the bureaus could implement regulations on their own. They skirted the restriction and that gave them additional clout.”

“Well, come on. It’s not like we didn’t have bureaucrats up-time or like we don’t have them in the USE,” Brandy said.

They had talked about this before, but Brandy hadn’t lived there and didn’t really understand. The term “zemsky sobor” translated as “assembly of the land”. Representatives of Russia’s different social classes could be summoned by the Tsar orders to discuss important political and economic issues. It could be considered the first Russian parliament — allowing for very constipated values of “parliament.” It didn’t really have any independent authority. The duma was a much smaller assembly of high-ranking noblemen, which had a lot more authority than the zemsky sobor but didn’t effectively wield much power on a day-to-day basis. In practice, Russia was run by deals made between the bureaus and the bureaus weren’t going to give that up.

“It’s different,” was all he could come up with. “They have a lot more power than they officially have, and no government that doesn’t bring in the bureau men will survive.”

Brandy shrugged, not so much in agreement as in acceptance. “So how do we bring them in?”

“I don’t know.”

“From what we heard before the escape, Sheremetev hadn’t been treating the bureaus well. That has to help us, right?”

“Some, yes. But bureaucrats tend to like stability. I suspect that a lot will depend on what he does next.”

Petrov House, Moscow

The servant took the sheets of typewritten paper. He didn’t read the address because he couldn’t read. The address read: “From Mariya Petrov, to Boris Petrov, Moscow.”

Some hours later, when Boris Ivanovich Petrov got home, he could read the address. Inside the letter was a section in the family code. After he decoded it, it read:

Boris, I received this from Sofia Gorchakovna. 

Dear Mariya, the ladies of Goritsky Monastery have been following events over the radio. Several messages have been sent and it is the consensus of the sisters that Archangelsk will attempt to revolt if Director-General Sheremetev gives them into the care of his cousin. 

There followed a fairly detailed description of the politics of Archangelsk, who was being bribed by who and who was getting a rake off from what shipments. Most especially, the realization that with the Swedes controlling access to the Baltic, they controlled all the trade from the rest of the world. It wasn’t a new situation, but the fractures in Russia were being seen as an opportunity to break free, or at least get a better deal.

The consensus is that Sheremetev will be so busy with Mikhail that he will cut any deal he has to with Archangelsk in order to keep it from being a distraction, the letter finished.

Then Mariya continued. I have sent Sofia a pad for encoding messages to me. I think that it would be best if we use me as the conduit. That way messages from her will be chatty letters from one old woman to another, while the letters from me to you will be chatty letters from a wife to her husband.

Boris smiled and nodded. The news about Archangelsk was important if it was true, but even more important was the news about the monastery. It would give him a whole section of analysts that no one would know about. Boris considered and wrote several other letters. He would send one off to a friend of his in Nizhny Novgorod and see if it could be put on a steamboat heading for Ufa. Ivan needed to know about this.

Moscow Kremlin

July 1636

Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev looked up into the sky with rage and hate in his heart. There, above Moscow, very high, though it was impossible for him to tell just how high, was the dirigible Czarina Evdokia, floating above Moscow and raining pamphlets. Sheets of paper poison, encouraging rebellion and sedition in the name of the deposed and possessed Czar Mikhail. Safe in Ufa, Mikhail and his traitors were trying to return Russia to the Time of Troubles. For a brief instant, Sheremetev was ready to turn and order it fired upon. He might have done it, except that it would have just underscored his helplessness in the face of the airship.

It was a still day here on the ground, but there must be a light breeze to the southwest at the airship’s height. The airship was pointing to the northeast and maintaining a position a bit northeast of Moscow. And the fluttering pamphlets were drifting down as a sparse snowfall covering the city. Finally, after several minutes of glaring, Sheremetev turned and went back into the building. Then he sent for Colonel Leontii Shuvalov.

***

“Director-General.” Colonel Shuvalov bowed.

“Colonel, I want that beast out of the sky.” Sheremetev still felt the rage.

The colonel nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. “I remember that Cass Lowry was always saying that balloons were useless for war in the up-time world because they were so easily brought down. Something about a ‘fifty cal with tracer rounds and that’s all she wrote.’ A fifty cal is a type of gun and a tracer round is one that somehow burns on its track. While I can put some people on it at the Dacha, I doubt we can do a tracer round or even a fifty cal. But something that burns and can be flung or shot at it . . . that we should be able to do. Still, unless it comes down close to the ground, it will be a difficult target to hit.”

 

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7 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 17

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    “That information had caused him to take a closer look at the assumptions about slavery that the up-timers held, and even in the up-timer history they just didn’t hold up. In the up-time USA the antebellum south used slaves in factories and they worked just fine. The Germans used concentration camp inmates to make their V2 rockets. Again, it worked fine.”

    Apples and oranges. Yes, pushing the tech level up does not result in the immediate liberalization of the society. No, the Nazi system with the slave workers did not “work just fine”.

    “Vladimir understood slavery and the attitudes that it engendered in a way that no up-timer could, because Vladimir owned, or had owned, hundreds of serfs.”

    Again – apples and oranges. No matter how bad, the serfdom of the 17 c. was not the same (equally bad) thing as the slavery. It were Petrine reforms which aimed to both Westernize and modernize (technically) Russia which worsened the status of the serfs and made them virtually slaves.

    “The question was: how do we design the constitution for a constitutional monarchy in Russia . . . no . . . longer . . . how do we evolve one?”

    Why should they strive for the constitutional monarchy, if they still didn’t defeat the old feudal elements in the country? How do they plan to do that without transforming the monarchy into an absolutist one?

    “There, above Moscow, very high, though it was impossible for him to tell just how high, was the dirigible Czarina Evdokia, floating above Moscow and raining pamphlets. Sheets of paper poison, encouraging rebellion and sedition in the name of the deposed and possessed Czar Mikhail.”

    Oh, yes! What better way to encourage the rebellion among mostly illiterate population than through pamphlets! /s

    “For a brief instant, Sheremetev was ready to turn and order it fired upon.”

    [Sigh] Just… just how many did we have these “Angry Retrograde Antagonist” clichés in the series already? Why these dumb kind of evil? Oh, how I miss Richelieu – at least with him different authors were not allowed to play “dumb”.

    Given that the vast majority of the population is illiterate, instead of chasing the airship dropping leaflets, chase all those literate people, who might start reading them aloud and in public. Those who would read them privately are secondary targets but could also be contained and disabled pretty soon – Moscow of 1600 wasn’t that big.

    • Johnny says:

      I think you’re conflating “works as well as a liberal democracy with free, well-trained labor” and “works a lot better than the cottage industry that was the only thing the entire world had known up to that point”.

      Early factory conditions in Britain were… not all that dissimilar from slavery, when you look at the details, and the Russians and the Ottomans don’t have a first world economy to compare to. For that matter, they don’t really care how wealthy their peasants are, as long as the nation increases its production. What does it matter that it takes 3 serfs to do the work that 1 well-trained German could do? The solution is get more serfs, obviously, because “train the serfs more” would upset the power structure.

      However… I am very dubious about the factories. The industrial revolution happened in Britain in parallel with an agricultural revolution. Food production had increased enormously per person, to the point that there was surplus labor to kickstart the industrial revolution. Once it kicked off… productivity stayed ahead of the food production curve to this day. However, we’re not hearing much about food production increases. Unless that changes, these nations are going to only be able to bend ~10% of their workforce to industry.

      • hank says:

        Don’t confuse the Agricultural revolution with modern farming. The AR consited of improvments in techniques and a few simple machines which, together, greatly improved productivity. These things, and some later developments, have been introduced in this series. As far back as the first book, there heve been mentions of organizing to produce pamphlets on methods and simple machines for sale.
        A good example is a threshing machine. In pre-2oth century times these were often owned by an entire village or, in NA at least, by someone who took them around to various farms and threshed the grain for a percentage thereof.
        Tractors and such are a *much* later thing. My dad (b 1922, Jasper Co., Iowa) remembered the first tractor his father bought that could be used when a crop was in the field. That tractor arrived when Dad was a teenager. Before that the only tractor they had, a 1920’s Ford, could only be used for plowing and hauling and such. Dad had a very low opinion of horses, btw.
        Even in my teenage years there was a guy who went around (usually in June & July) with a corn sheller for those, like Dad, who still put corn (maize) up in the ear in cribs in the fall. That sort of thing is now pretty much history now.
        Relating specifically to this book, I do remember some comments about ag improvment being distributed via the Dacha. What I can’t remember is if I’m recalling the previous book or the original Gazette stories it grew from (there is some difference) but it was mentioned. The real problem will always be to get farmers (serfs or peasants) to try the new ways. People living on the land tend to be very conservative in their ways, since they are always aware of how easily things can go to pot. But they aren’t stupid, once somebody tries it out and gets a good result their neighbors will try it out too.
        I expect the ag stuff hasn’t gotten as much coverage in the series as the industrial stuff because most of the people writing for (and reading) the series are most likely not used to thinking about such things in their daily life, but it has been there right along.
        hank

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “Relating specifically to this book, I do remember some comments about ag improvment being distributed via the Dacha…”

          The agricultural yield in Russia has always been extremely low – 1:3 as opposed to, say in France. There is an absolute must read Russian Plowman and Special Aspects of Russian Historical Process (1998) by late professor L.V. Milov, which explains all “hows” and “whys” of 16-17 Russians peasantry life, work and formation of the serfdom.

          Any such meaningful “improvement” thanks to technical innovations wouldn’t kick in any time soon. The preferred method for years had remained extensive, not intensive agriculture. New plows and reapers won’t magic(k)ally change the whole way of life of 17th. c Russia. Thinking otherwise is cargo cultism.

  2. Bret Hooper says:

    No, the Nazi system with the slave workers did not “work just fine”.

    The authors are not saying that the Nazi system worked just fine. They are saying that Vladimir was thinking that the Nazi system worked just fine, which is not the same thing at all. It is not unreasonable that Vladimir could have been thinking in error; people actually do that on occasion.

  3. A Russian Jew says:

    What better way to encourage the rebellion among mostly illiterate population than through pamphlets!
    Well, the operative word is Lubok. A traditional (and REALLY popular in Mother Russia) form of comic book (except that they were not books but separate sheets with graphic images and very little accompanying text). Make a picture of a crowned figure which drags a boyar (who just lost his signature top fur hat) by his hair while surrounded by armed lowborns (in their characteristic headdress) on a picture, and it will be immediately understood by general populace. “Good Czar fighting bad boyars to protect his ordinary subjects”. Let the message spread, and Sheremetev got a super-serious problem.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Make a picture of a crowned figure which drags a boyar (who just lost his signature top fur hat) by his hair while surrounded by armed lowborns (in their characteristic headdress) on a picture, and it will be immediately understood by general populace. “Good Czar fighting bad boyars to protect his ordinary subjects”. Let the message spread, and Sheremetev got a super-serious problem.”

      Actually – this kind of visual propaganda would be awesome and time-appropriate! Thank you, ARJ! Unfortunately, given who are our authors – I won’t expect them to do anything even half that good and historically accurate.

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