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Horn and Ivory

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Arsenal of the East: A Smolensk AAR

I've had this basic idea for an AAR around for ages (though not specifically with Smolensk), and it seems like I might have the time to do it finally. This is my first venture into actually writing one!

Setup
We released all of Lithuania's vassals on day 1, and we're playing Smolensk. For better or worse, it's an ironman save.

Me and You
Why does an EUIV nation always expand and win endlessly without setbacks or periods of disaster? Because it's being ruled, or at least helped along by a competent immortal, of course. Let's formalise this tendency for this AAR: Smolensk has a guardian angel! Specifically, it's this guy: The Holy Martyr Mercurius of Smolensk.



According to the legend, Mercurius was a soldier in the 1200s who secretly led an ascetic life, fasting and praying to prepare himself to suffer for Christ. A horde of Mongols arrived near Smolensk, and everyone feared the city would be destroyed. A church warden, praying for deliverance in the Smolensk cathedral before a wonderworking icon of Mary, heard her voice commanding him to find the holy warrior and say to him: “Mercurius, go forth into battle, for the Sovereign Lady summons you.” The soldier went himself to the cathedral where Mary's ghostly voice promised him divine assistance.

He led a night-raid into the Mongol army, and killed their leader, a giant of great strength. Men wielding lightning and the radiant figure of a woman fought alongside him. The Mongols were routed – though Mercurius died in the fighting.

The inhabitants of Smolensk had saved by a miracle! Soon after his death, Mercurius appeared in a vision to the church warden and ordered that his armour be hung over his grave, promising the Smolensk people constant help and intervention in every sorrow and struggle. Even today the sandals of the holy Martyr Mercurius are still preserved in the Smolensk cathedral church.

So: I'll be playing Saint Mercurius, the guardian angel of Smolensk, using my divine influence to nudge the souls of men, send the occasional dream or vision, intervene in battles, and in general do my level best to keep Smolensk alive and thriving and defend the Orthodox faith. But an angel can only do so much by himself – day-to-day, Smolensk will of course be run and guided by that mixed and fallible bunch of human beings who remain on earth. This is where you lot come in.

At the end of each chapter, I'll give a quick run-down of all the major players in the nation at that moment – rulers, generals, estates, whoever seems to have the most power and leverage, whether a group or an individual. You, the commenters, tell me what they're up to. Each commenter can give me details on the goals and/or personality of one of the nation's major players – the first commenter to stage-direct a person or faction carries them. These descriptions can be as detailed or as sketchy as you like; in either case I'll try to follow them as closely as I can. The aims of different people in the nation can be contradictory, or mad, or extremely unwise. If you cause chaos, all the better. I'll do my best to go for as many as I can – though of course, people might die or lose power before they can really get their agenda rolling, especially if they're at loggerheads with each other. If factions clash, the events of the game will determine who comes out on top. If some people or factions are left without descriptions, that's fine and will probably be easier to write – I'm not expecting a half-dozen commenters chipping in every time.

Meanwhile, I'll be trying to steer Smolensk through the winds of fate as best I can with the limited resources available to me as the city's angel.


Chapter 1: The League of St Stephen

1. The Prelude.



On 27 October 1430 Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania, suddenly died without leaving an heir or a will. His only grandson, Vasily II, was an Orthodox believer and would not be accepted by the nobility of Catholic Lithuania. Thus, two leading Catholic candidates, Vytautas' borhter Sigismund, and his cousin Švitrigaila, launched into a brutal civil war for the Lithuanian throne. Coup followed coup, the Teutonic Knights, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Hussites all intervened. Amidst the chaos, neither side was able to maintain control over the far-reaching Lithuanian lands. The five Ruthenian boyars of Polotsk, Smolensk, Chernigov, Kiev, and Galicia formed a bloc and sought concessions from the candidates for Grand Duke. By promising extensive privileges, Sigismund was able to muster their support and claim the throne – but at a steep cost. By 1444, the princes are laws unto themselves, with the Grand Duke able to assert only the barest control over their lands.


2. The League of St Stephen

24th December 1449. The princes have been invited to spend Christmas in Smolensk.

In the darkness before sunrise, the five princes, dressed in the humble clothes of provincial boyars, preceded by lantern-bearers, slip from a side-door of the Kniaz's residence to walk the streets of the city. A light snowfall makes the thatch and cobbles of the city glitter in the grey early light, and crunches beneath the feet of the five. They are out to perform the first duty of a Christian, which is charity; everyone they meet receives silver in their palm to help pay for the day's feast. Prisoners are pardoned, children are given sweets and copper kopecs, and an old priest, known through the city for his gentle kindness, is summoned on to the street, still in his bedclothes, and given a bishopric.



The days' state is followed by the Vespers. The princes, now in robes of fur and gold, stand outside the Kniaz's private chapel, waiting for the first star to show itself in the deep of the sky. The choir of the cathedral carols in the courtyard, and their strong Russian voices drift over the rooftops. The Prince of Chernigov sends them gifts of honey and silver and kvass.

In the great cathedral, Kniaz Rostislav III takes a moment to pray at the shrine of St Mercurius. After a moment of deliberation, he kisses the blessed, rusting armour with reverent lips. At midnight, all the bells of the city ring for the birth of Christ.

After this, there will be feasting, gifts will be given and received, children blessed, churchmen and lords will mingle. There will be jesters and dwarves, musicians will play the gusli and the fiddle.

But what is of greatest importance happens in the gaps between the merriments, the spaces left over in the schedule. The five princes and their most trusted confidants – brothers, wives, childhood friends – meet and talk in whispers. Messages are passed from hand to hand and swiftly burned.

On St Stephen's Day, four princes swear a covenant of rebellion, each one kissing the holy cross to seal their oath. Only the brave Prince of Polotsk, loyal to the last, refuses to plunge the knife into his overlord. Having heard enough, he flies with his retinue toward Vilnius, to warn the Grand Duke of what is coming; and the game is on.


3. The War

As well as the four princes, the Cossaks of Zaporizhia saw their chance for independence, and the Sich Rada voted to fight with the Leage. Cossack cavalry would prove a great advantage in several battles to come.

With all sides rushing to gather and consolidate forces, the first battle of the war was joined in late March 1450, with a small Polotskian force caught out by Smolensk's army. Several similar quick skirmishes, some won by each side, preceded the first real battle of the war.



Finally, however, League forces confronted and routed a major Lithuanian army at Volhynia. The advantage won at Volhynia was pressed hard. Smolenskian troops kept hard on the heels of the Lithuanian army, and forced them to battle outside the walls of their capital. The Lithuanians here outnumbered the brave men of Smolensk by almost two to one, but the Holy Martyr gave strength to their sword-arms, and the disorganised and demoralised Lithuanians were routed once again.





These twin battles were won in great part through the brilliance of the Smolenskian general Nikolai Beznosov, who at Volhynia led his cavalry to drive off the enemy's horse and flank the Lithuanian line. These battles would cement him in his previously tenuous position as one of the main League commanders. Beznosov came from a minor noble family whose greatest contribution to history had so far been to produce a string of undistinguished provincial administrators; he came to the attention of the Kniaz not through the usual lines of personal noble connection, but through victory in a jousting tournament. Dashing, handsome, a masterful horseman, deadly with lance and sabre, and with a skill as a cavalry commander rivalled only by his flair for self-promotion, Beznosov was quick to begin building his own legend. His tally of scalps and prisoners taken in the war (exaggerated? would you like to say that to his face?) reads like a survey of the era's greatest Lithuanian noble families.




The influence of the army's master of training and logistics was also felt in these two battles. Igor Satin, a powerful nobleman in his own right, rose to prominence in the war as the army's organiser. A great disciplinarian, Satin is feared rather than liked by his men; he very successfully kept Smolensk's troops in line throughout the war. Though less famous that Beznosov, his efforts played, if anything, a greater part in ultimate military victory.



Meanwhile at home, the Rostislav III, the Kniaz of Smolensk, worked equally hard to keep the realm from fracturing under the strain of the rebellion. To launch into a war against one's rightful overlord is no small thing, and many nobles, often linked by blood or friendship to Lithuanian families, dragged their feet in supporting the war, withheld levies, misdirected taxes, and in a few cases even began their own local rebellions for Lithuania. Such dissent was stamped out harshly and decisively.



The final major battle of the war took place at Smolensk in April 1452, shortly after the fall of Vilnius, which capitulated after a year-long siege. Holdout garrisons, especially in Polotsk, and promises of support from Aragon—which never came—would keep Lithuania in the war for two more years. Finally, however, the League would claim victory, with Galicia, Kiev and Smolensk all gaining land, and their independence.





4. The Peace – The Present

The most powerful figures and factions in Smolensk right now:

Kniaz Rostislav III Demidov: the young Prince of Smolensk has just led his principality to independence, but faces a crisis of legitimacy at home. What kind of a ruler is he, and where will he take his nation next?



Igor Satin: the dour and fearsome drillmaster is the most prominent figure at court after the Kniaz, and has a strong base of support amongst the nobility.

Nikolai Beznosov: the jouster and glory-hound lacks a real power-base of his own, but has his celebrity to trade on. After this glorious victory, he's everybody's darling.

The Burgers: To fund the war, the Kniaz was forced to take out loans from the Burgers of Smolensk. They could certainly use this financial leverage to push their own agenda on the Kniaz.

The situation:

Almost at once, cracks show in the League: Chernigov had ended its alliance with Smolensk, feeling sidelined by the latter's position of primacy and their lack of gains in the war. Smolenk's alliances with Kiev, Galicia, and the Cossack Host still stand.

We have claims on Novgorod – most obviously the nearby city of Luki; but we could also ally them, seeking a check against Muscovy. Muscovy is massive and scary and borders us.



https://i.imgur.com/bqrJxoe.jpg[/img[/URL]]

So, what does the court desire? what's next for Smolensk?
 

HistoryDude

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Sounds interesting!

Subbed!

Also, did you get permission from a mod to run an iAAR?
 

quicksabre

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Oooh, good stuff! How can I not follow this? :)

I've never played Smolensk but I like their flag!

But yeah, as HistoryDude says you need permission from a mod to run an AAR with interactive elements. If you have permission you should note it in the first post. Once we get that clarified I am excited to participate!
 
Last edited:

Horn and Ivory

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Also, did you get permission from a mod to run an iAAR?
as HistoryDude says you need permission from a mod to run an AAR with interactive elements. If you have permission you should note it in the first post.
Oh dear; I should have started off by reading the rules thread (which I now see is prominently placed at the top), shouldn't I. That explains somet things. Obvious in retrospect that the AAR area has its own law and custom, but I was too caught up in thinking about Smolensk... Time to throw myself on the mercy of the Mods I guess, will update with whether I make or mar.