Played as Russia on hard/aggressive 1.08/1.09IGC
I've heard some complaints that Russia was too weak in the new version of Improved Grand Campaign. Land military tech level 1, Khanates are strengthened, etc. I made myself a mental note to prove those people wrong, and here I go.
Part I. The Bear Awakens
In year 1492 Russia is still a sleeping bear, thought weak and harmless by nations around it. Its economy isn't the richest in Europe, while its soldiers are armed with outdated weapons. However, Russia does boast an army of 76,000 infantry (streltsi corps) and 54,000 cavalry, mostly recruited from loyal Cossacks and Tatars. The army is led by many able commanders, among whom Danylo Kholmskiy is judged to be the best, being expirienced in siege warfare . Russian treasury only has 150,000 golden roubles in it. As it was said, Russia isn't the richest country in Europe, but cheap cost of its infantry should compensate its relatively low cash resources.
On Feb 1492 the news reach the Czar that the infidel nation of Granada is annexed by Spain. Ivan III dreams of his own conquests. After the fall of Constantinople, captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Moscow was given the title of Thrid Rome, the successor of the Byzantine Empire. By marrying Sophia Palaeologus, a relative and, in a sense, successor of the Byzantine emperors, Ivan III further cemented his claim on the heritage of Byzantine empire. Byzantine two-headed eagle was adopted as a symbol of new Russia and Moscow Patriarh became the head of the Orthodox Church.
Ambitious and restless, Ivan III is not content with the present size of Russia. He lays the claim to all territores of old Kievan State and all lands where Russians are known to live. Since the majority of those lands are held by rulers of different than Orthodox religion there is no hope to annex them diplomatically. Thus Russia's only option of expansion is through military means. The sword, not the pen, will decide the future of the Bear.
Khanates seem to be the obvious target for Russian armies, but Czar is worried of growing power of newly created Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The banners of the Commonwealth fly high over the cities of Small and White Rus, and Polish-Russian border runs too close to the city of Moscow. The low cost of Polish cavalry enables it to recruit large and mobile armies and it is very likely they will turn their attention to Russia as soon as Russian armies are commited to war in the east. Czars understands that if he is ever to fulfill his ambitions, Poland has to be broken as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Meanwhile, Russia has to stregthen its diplomatic position. In March King of Denmark is offered to join our alliance with Princes of Pskov and Ryazan and Khan of Crimea. King gladly accepts the offer, hoping to secure his eastern borders against his unreliable Swedish vassal.
On July of 1492, Russia declares war on Kazan, decling the offer of help from its allies. Danylo Khomlskiy leads the army 38,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry into Lipetsk, where 18,000 Tatars, mostly cavalry, attack Russian forces outside the walls of the city. In a short and bloody encounter enemy army is annihilated with Russian losses reaching 6,000 dead and wounded. Main Tatar army of 40,000 marches on Vladimir. Lipetsk is assaulted and taken in August. Tambow falls in September and Kazan itself is sacked two months later.
In November of 1492, Kazan Khan surrenders his state to Russia and Tatar army in Vladimir joins our victories forces. Its numbers total 10,000 infantry and 18,000 cavalry, while total Russian losses in this war are 19,000 infantry and 3,5 cavalry (only 4,000 infantry and 500 cavalry lost in combat).
In January 1493 Turkey declares war on Mamelukes. What Russians don't know yet is that war will change the future of their Motherland forever.
After giving his armies 6 months of rest, Czar orders them again to prepare for war. In June of 1493 the war is declared on Golden Horde and this time Russian allies are called on for help. In July 28,000 Tatars led by the Khan himself and 30,000 Russians led by Danylo Kholmskiy clash near the city of Kuybyshev. After the dust settles, only 2,000 Russians are left standing. Enemy army is annihilated.
This war proves to be unlike the lighting campaing in Kazan. As winter strikes, Russian forces keep on fighting, desperate to finish the war before Polish King decides to take advantage of the situation. Czar keeps 60,000 troops in reserve to counter potential attack by Commonwealth.
In April of 1494 Crimean Khan makes a separate peace with the Horde, receiving Lugansk and Donetsk. Czar is pleased with the support the Crimeans had provided, and welcomes their expansion. After all, it provides him with a permanent Casus Beli on his southern neighbor...Yes, this is right - neighbor. In August Samara falls and the territory of the Golden Horde is incorporated into Russian empire. Samara's golden mines greatly increase Russia's income and enable the recruitment of new troops. The war costed Russia 85,000 troops, and even the taste of victory cannot heal the suffering of the mothers. However, as those who deserted the army or simply were lost in the struggle, return for homes, the number of complaints dramatically decreases.
Kholmsky is called to Moscow and receives a hero's welcome. In two years he doubled the size of the state and increased the orestige of the Russian army. The money received from the new provinces were spent on the research of land military technology and soon enough Russian army was brought up to the standards of its European foes.
In February Sibir declares war on Uzbeks, which prove to be a fatal mistake as they loose two provinces and forced to pay war indemnities.
In July of 1495 Czar is informed that Polish armies left their positions in the northern part of the Commonwealth and are marching south toward the Turkish border. Two weeks later our Crimean allies inform us that Poland with its Persian and Moldovan allies is now at war with Ottoman empire. Ivan III orders his troops to move closer to the Polish border.
In October the court in Kremlin receives sad news, as Danylo Kholmskiy, hero of Kazan and Samara, dies of the old age. Neither enemy bullets nor enemy sabres could end his brilliant career, but he could do nothing against the time, this invisible foe of mankind.
Danylo Shenja is ordered to take command of Kholmskiy's veterans in Bogutjar and proceed with the war preparations.
After two wars Russian forces numbered 57,000 infantry and 44,000 cavalry - hardly a force to bring down Polish Commonwealth. Czar ordered the recruitment of 30,000 infantry. Many of the veterans of the war against Golden Horde were recruited for a second time, many of them looking forward for a first winter to leave the army.
In December 1495 Spain declares war on France. As all their allies join the war, the conflict spreads wide across Western Europe, Italy being the main battlefield.
In April of 1496, as Polish armies are pursuit of defeated Turks, the declarion of war is delievered to the Polish King. He immideately dispatches the envoy to Turkey, which is only happy to make peace after its recent defeats. After that Poland pleas to its allies not to desert it in that difficult hour, and more honor to them that they comply with the terms of their alliance.
Russian allies are called to arms too, Crimeans are first to engage the enemy. They do a wonderful job of slowing down returng Polish forces and bringing to a halt the armies of Persia. Pskov armies besiege the cities close the them, while Ryazan and Denmark take their time to reach the battlefields of Lithunia and Small Russia. Russian commanders face difficult decision. The numerous Russian cavalry is hardly suited for the assault of enemy city and only assaults can bring Russia a victory over Poles. Czar Ivan makes it clear that this will be a war of total conquest, so that Poland will not be able to threaten Russia in the future. Thus, the army has to capture as many provinces as possible in the start of the war to cripple Polish economy. And so, Russian cavalry is sacrificed, thrown on the city walls alongside the infantry, to prevent Poles from mustering huge cavalry armies of their own and counter-attacking widely spread Russian forces. The heroism of our patriots alone was enough to break the will of many Polish defenders, but after every successful assualt the walls of the fortresses were covered with Russian blood.
The result of this heroic effort was such that when Polish troops had returned from Turkey, at least the third of their country was already in the hands of Russian soldiers.
The struggle, however, went on, all Polish offers of peace were rejected, regardless of terms. However, the war was slowing down, as Russian treasury was emptied to the bottom. In October of 1496, Czar decides to take a loan. 40,000 infantry is raised. In addition, all monthly income is set to go straight to the treasury.
The war itsef is hell. The first winter, thought by many to be the end of all, is followed by the second and then the third. As Russian armies move deeper into the enemy territory, they are unabled to return to their bases in winter. Attrition is high and desertions are common. New troops are raised, but even recruitment soon becomes a problem. In January 1497, for the first time Russia reaches its limit in manpower resources.
For awhile, the war spreads to the east, Polish and Persians are able to make a breakthrough in unfortified province of Voronezh. Soon. however, the activities shift back to the west.
In June 1497 there are almost no Polish armies in sight, which gives great hope to Russian military commanders that there war is close to the end. However, these hopes are brought to an end, as Crimean Khan decides to pull out of the war, demanding and receiving from Polish King two provinces of Bessarabia and Kremenchug. France annexes Milan.
In September of 1497 Spain annexes Helvetia. Apparently both countries are using this war as an excuse to annex smaller countries around them.
As victory seems so close, Poles introduce artillery to the battlefields of the Eastern Europe. All the fortresses remaining in their hands are reinforced with guns, making it almost impossible for our weakened armies to take them by assualts. In addition, Russian manpower resources are exhausted once again, and Polish King receives long-desired break to strengthen his army. He uses this chance to the fullest extent. Supported by artillery, Poles go on the offensive, re-taking some fortresses and inflicting defeat after defeat on smaller Russian armies. Pskov, seeing no end to this war, makes peace, Prince being bribed by Polish money. Denmark is happy to get out of the war as well, especially since they are in position to demand Danzig, captured with the help of Russian forces.
War draggs on, the primary theatre shifting to Polish provinces, giving our armies a break during winter. Polish armies continue their offensive in Ukraine, re-taking some provinces there. This situation lasts until 1502, when Russia finally makes peace with Moldova. In the same time, Russians start making more use of artillery themselves, finally resuming their offensive.
In August of 1503 Czar makes a review of his army, Its numbers, greatly diminished by years of non-stop warfare, stand at 33,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry and 89 guns. Only 6 Polish provinces are left unconquered. However, Polish army is at its highest in the last 5 years. Some 60,000 brave Poles are still waging a war on Russia, a possibility of defeat never even crossing their minds. Polish King repeatedly asks for peace and Czar worries that if the war is to last longer the peasants may find the burden of taxes and recruitment too heavy and revolt against his authority. This would mean the end of his dreams, and furthermore, it would mean that all Russia's losses in this war were as meaningless as their peasants' lives.
In April of 1504 Teutons attack Pskov and we decide to stay out of the struggle. However, Czar soon re-enters the alliance with Ryazan', while Crimea throws its lot with Astrakhan'.
In 1505 Vasiliy, heir to the throne of Russia, takes command of the army in Poland. He proves to be an able commander, knowledgable of siege warfare. He is welcome with open arms by Russian generals, who are quite tired by the war and see him as the only hope to end it.
The war draggs on for yet another 3 years. Polish army desperately tries to keep control of at least one province, while Russians are as desperate to deliver their coup-de-grace. At one time, Poles defeat the 30,000 strong Russian army, and Czar Ivan, not being able to recover from these sad news, dies in Kremlin, leaving to his son the country completely exhausted by war. However, a year later, Vasiliy delivers a victory Russians long yearned for. As defeated Polish armies lay siege to Posen, Vasiliy captures last Polish city in Lithuania. Polish King at last surrenders his country to the Russian Bear, and entire Polish army, at this point made mostly of mercinary Cossacks, is transfered under the command of Michail Glinskiy (4/4/4/1). As Russian officials replace Poles in the conquered territory, young Czar only hopes are to hold on to his conquests and to bring peace to his country. Persian Shah still refuses to end the war, even though he is completely unable to reach Russia by land.
The conquest of Poland brought many Catholic people in the Empire, and the religious tolerance to the Catholics has to be set higher...At least for now. Poland is on the break of rebellion, and almost all Russian forces concentrate there, anticipating the upcoming struggle. Russian army numbers 44,500 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and 89 guns. Russian commanders, all heroes of Twelve Years War, as the War of Polish Conquest is called in the Western Europe, parade in the streets of Warsaw. They are Andrey Chelyadin(2/1/3), hero of Lithuania, Dmytro Shenja(4/3/4), conqueror of Warsaw, Michail Glinskiy (4/4/4/1), Czar's best military advisor in siege warfare and Vasiliy Repnin (3/2/2).
As Poland is conquered, Russian Bear is awaken. Europe witnesses the rise of the new power in the East and its rulers gather their ranks and plan for the defense of their own domains. And the offense, as too many people know, is the best defense in all times.