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Tommy4ever

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Tommy4ever

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Hello everyone, I’ve not been on the AAR forum for years and years now. I’m not sure if there will be may around who will remember my greatest hits from the early years of the previous decade – but I’ve decided to give AARland another whirl.


This story was quite unusual as I didn’t start out in my game planning on doing an AAR. I was playing a fairly standard game down in the Mediterranean as Sardinia in the 867 start when I noticed that AI Poland had converted to Judaism. That sounded like a much more setting than boring Christian Sardinia, so I switched tags and started recording screenshots. I’m a good 200 years on from that point in game, and feel confident there is a fun story to be told. Updates will probably come out roughly weekly, I’ll post a brief ‘pre-history’ (ie how we got to the point before I started playing Poland) below.

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Tommy4ever

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The Beginning - 926-1026

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The origins of the Polish Kingdom, and its conversion to the Jewish faith are shrouded in the region’s Dark Age prehistory. For centuries after their first arrival in the Vistula basin, the Slavs had been divided into a number of distinct tribes with little in the way of political organisation or economic development. These peoples lived in an anarchic state of nature, tormented by unending intertribal conflict and raiding by the neighbouring Norse and Baltic peoples.

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According to Polish tradition, this chaos was brought to an end by a council of tribal chieftains held at Plock, a settlement that would later become Poland’s capital, in 926. There, the tribes offered the crown to King Voislav of Galicia in the hopes that he could bring order to their homeland. Galicia was the southern-most land of the Rus, an East Slavic state centred on the northern foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Whatever the reality of this story, at some point in the early 10th century the Galicians invaded the region and established the Kingdom of Poland.

The Kingdom of Poland and Galicia remained a mostly primitive state throughout the century. With the historical record so bare, little is known of its history other than that which was noted by foreign writers from more developed societies. These observers noted that the Kingdom used a form of elective monarchy in which the realm’s leading nobles assembled in a gathering at Plock, the site where Voislav was first offered the crown. Although the crown remained firmly in the hands of the Lyakhovich dynasty, it did not pass quietly from father to son but tended to gravitate towards older members of the leading family. The Galician invasion also created an ethnic distinction within the elite of Polish society – with an East Slavic upper nobility ruling over Polish-speaking minor nobles and peasantry.

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Most interestingly to outsiders, the realm was Pagan – with Poles and Galicians alike taking part in the worship of traditional Slavic religion. Both the Franks and Greeks expended significant effort in sending missionaries to the region in an effort to Christianise the Slavs. While the Catholic met with little success, the Greeks achieved much more. Following in the footsteps of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who had developed the Cyrillic script during the previous century, the Greeks converted a significant part of the population in Galicia to their branch of Christianity – even as they made little impact in the lands around the Vistula.

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Just as Christian missionaries began to trickle in from East and West, another faith started to make its presence felt in Poland. Following the formation of the Polish Kingdom, the region began to open to international trade. This connected the region to Ashkenazi merchants coming from Germany, and Khazars from the steppe. Both made an imprint on Polish society – with small communities of Ashkenazi settling around Plock as early as the 950s. With the Polish monarchy enthusiastically supportive of the economic opportunities these merchants opened up – larger numbers of settlers were invited into the Kingdom through the rest of the century and into the 1000s. Routine persecutions of Jews, which intensified in Germany following the invasion of Aquitaine by the Moors in the 990s and 1000s, saw these numbers grow.

A number of talented Jewish individuals began to enter the Polish court, bringing more advanced administrative techniques from the West and providing spiritual guidance. The most important of these figures was a Rabbi named David Lior who became a close personal friend of the crown prince of Poland in the first decades of the 1000s and convinced him to secretly convert to Judaism. When King Vyshata succeeded his father in 1026 he openly announced his faith and the conversion of the entire Polish nation to Judaism – marking the beginning of Poland’s Jewish History.

The coincidence of fate that led a large settled Slavic realm with few connections to Judaism prior to the 10th century to embrace the religion are extraordinary. Yet in this, history appeared guided by destiny. The Hebrew word for Poland – Polania – translates as Here Dwells God, and as such he made this land safe for His People. This is the history of this is the history of that land and the nation that protected it for the Jewish faith.
 
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Bullfilter

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This is off to an interesting start. I’ll keep track to see what happens.
 

stnylan

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It is good to see an old name resurface :)

A good introductory post
 

Nikolai

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Very happy to see you back @Tommy4ever ! Intriguing setup!
 

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The Great Conversion 1026-1060

When Vyshata proclaimed Poland a Jewish Kingdom in 1026, Jews remained a small minority in a mostly pagan realm. Although much of the upper nobility had followed their King, and a new clerical elite of Jewish Rabbis quickly began to develop, the common folk held true to their Slavic beliefs. This would quickly begin to change as largescale proselytising efforts produced a popular religious awakening over the course of the following decades. By the middle of the century, Judaism had become a mass religion within the Kingdom.

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It was during this period that the divide that would run through the history of Polish Judaism for centuries would emerge. While the monarchy promoted the Orthodox Judaism that had been brought to them by the Ashkenazi – with its Hebrew liturgy and ancient traditions – another branch of the faith emerged in the Polish forests. These emanated from the preachings of Leopold the Samaritan – an indigenous Pole who had converted to Judaism at some point in the late 10th century and then proceeded to spend the rest of his life spreading his new faith among his people and developing a philosophy of a uniquely Slavic faith. The Samaritans, sought to merge Slavic customs and religious festivals into the Jewish faith. The piety and religious significance of the old beliefs and holy sites were given respect and their worship accept. Importantly, Samaritan Rabbis made use of Old Church Slavonic, a language initially developed by the Greek Christians in their preaching to the Slavs, rather than Hebrew as a liturgical language. During the 11th century conversion Orthodox Judaism was dominant, especially in its heartland along the banks of the Vistula, yet significant communities following this ‘half-pagan’ Jewish religion grew across many parts of the realm during the same period. Even from these earliest moments, the Samaritans were regarded as dangerous heretics by their Orthodox counterparts and were subject to repression.

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Along their northern coastline, the Poles had been suffering from Norse raids for centuries, yet they their impoverished lands had rarely been seen as suitable for conquest by the Vikings. This changed in the 1030s as the Jomsvikings, a Norse military order established on the islands of Rügen seized control of a number of Pomeranian territories and handily kept the Poles at bay. Further south, King Vyshata found greater success as he defeated the Moravians to seize control over Silesia – the homeland of the only Polish tribe that had embraced Catholicism.

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In the east, all but the most northernly Kingdoms of the Rus were destroyed by the Tatar invasions of the early 11th century. The collapse of Rus power allowed Poland to gain new lands in the Galician portion of the realm and emerge as the most senior Slavic power in eastern Europe – giving the Poles a degree of moral authority over their ethnic kin. However the Muslim Tatars would be a source of unending torment for the Poles – launching endless raids into their eastern frontier before launching a full blown invasion of the Kingdom in 1044, crushing Polish army to the west of Plock and forcing the Poles to pay a yearly tribute.

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When Vyshata died in 1050 the election of his successor was hotly disputed. While the fallen King’s aging uncle Yelisey secured the crown, he was rejected by a rebel coalition headed by the Mazovian tribe in favour of a younger claimant – Simeon, the Prince of Silesia – go to war with the Tatars to free the Kingdom from their dominion. With the monarchy straining under the cost of paying tribute, it struggled to muster an army to defeat such a powerful threat – leading to a long, grinding conflict with few decisive engagements. While the rebels capable of laying waste to much of the country and successfully and won a number of engagements, Yelisey was able to keep them at bay from Plock and his heartland along the Vistula.

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During the conflict Yelisey had grown fearful that the Samaritans represented a fifth column that threatened his rule – and launched a brutal campaign to harry the heretics in one of their key powerbases in Pomeralia. This suppression did not cow the community into submission as Yelisey had hoped, but provoked a largescale rebellion in 1054. The Samaritans rose up and seized Gdansk, one of the Baltic’s most important ports. There they attempted to proclaim a third claimant to the throne – the Samaritan nobleman Mieszko Piast. In response to this Yelisey sought to make peace with Simeon and the Mazovians, who were themselves exhausted by years of inconclusive conflict, and together marched on Gdansk. There the Samaritans were crushed, and their forces scattered.

While Poland itself was secured for Orthodox Judaism at the conclusion of civil war, the Samaritan army defeated at Gdansk did not wholly disperse. Instead, Mieszko Piast led the remainder of his forces beyond the borders of the Kingdom and into pagan Lithuania, where he established a small Samaritan realm in Vilnius.

Yelisey himself was already in his 60s when he had first been crowned King in 1050, and was only able to enjoy a few precious years of peace before dying in 1060. Poland might have been in danger of slipping into another bout of internal conflict at the election of its new King. However, the realm was fortunate in that Yelisey’s son, Sudislav, was able to bring together his father’s allies and many of those who had sided with the Mazovians in the previous civil war with his promise to protect the Kingdom’s Orthodox Jewish faith and throw off the shackles of Tatar domination.
 
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Tommy4ever

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This is off to an interesting start. I’ll keep track to see what happens.
It is good to see an old name resurface :)

A good introductory post
Nice, a jewish aar. Don't see many of these.
Very happy to see you back @Tommy4ever ! Intriguing setup!
This looks exciting!
Nice to see some old faces I recognise from my previous times on AARland, and some new ones too. I hope we can all go on an interesting adventure together! :)
 
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Ebanu8

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Nice to see some old faces I recognise from my previous times on AARland, and some new ones too. I hope we can all go on an interesting adventure together! :)
That I hope as well.
 

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Seems like the worst is over - for now. ;)
 

stnylan

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Poland is in a tought spot still, but far from impossible.
 

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The Eagle Must Be Free – 1060-1093

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Sudislav had united the nobility of Poland and Galicia around himself through the promise of war with the Tatars and an end to their domination over the Kingdom. With great celebration he assembled an army and marched against the powerful Emirate of Minsk, ruling lands stretching from the Baltic to the Ukrainian Steppe. Seeking to liberation the great city of Kiev, once the capital of the Kievan Rus, the Poles stormed with foolhardy enthusiasm into enemy territory. They were stunned to discover the scale of the threat the faced, as the Tatars had called upon their allies to the east to assemble a force many times larger than that of the Poles and crushed them utterly. Sudislav himself barely escaped with his life, and much of the cream of Poland’s warrior elite was lost. Sudislav promptly surrendered – agreeing to a significantly increased tribute to the Tatars that drove the crown’s coffers deep into debt, and the brink of bankruptcy.

Worse was still to come. To the south the Hungarians, a Greek Orthodox kingdom that had embraced Christianity around the same time as the Poles had taken to Judaism, moved to take advantage of their neighbour’s woes by invaded Poland’s mountainous Slovakian borderlands. With its armies shattered by the Tatars, and its finances in ruin, the Kingdom had no hope of defeating the Hungarians in battle.

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Poland’s salvation came from an unexpected source – epidemic disease. The Dark Plague had its origins in the Far East at some point in the late 1050s. Causing mass mortality, particularly in more densely populated regions, it swept westward along trading routes into the Middle East and thereafter Europe. It was in early 1062 that areas near Poland’s southern borders began to suffer, with parts of Galicia being affected. When an outbreak hit the Hungarian army, the invaders were forced to abandon their hopes of conquest. As it cursed through the continent, the Dark Plague may have killed as much as a quarter of Europe’s population – an even higher number in more urbanised societies in the Mediterranean. Remarkably, Poland was almost entirely spared. While its Baltic coastline and parts of Galicia suffered comparatively minor epidemics, there were few reports of outbreaks in Plock or the upper Vistula valley.

This event had a tremendous impact on the nation. Religiously, the Poles came to believe that God had granted them protection from the Plague that ravaged their neighbours – leading to an intensification of Jewish religious fervour within the Kingdom. Economically and demographically, Poland’s prominence relative to its devastated neighbours rose – allowing the Kingdom to assert itself as a regional power.

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As the Plague’s grip of Europe eased with the end of the 1060s, Sudislav eyed an opportunity to avenge his humiliation at Kiev – once more invading the Emirate of Minsk in 1072. The Tatars were not the force they had been a decade before. The Plague had devastated their realms and sparked a wave of instability that had cut off the westerly Russian-based rulers from their allies in the east. In just two short years, Sudislav conquered Kiev, bested the Tatars numerous times on the field of battle and even sacked Minsk itself. When peace was agreed in 1074 Poland seized Kiev and brought an end to their tribute to the Tatars. The Eagle was free once more!

Flush with confidence, the Sudislav’s nobles were eager for further conquests and called upon their liege to lead a campaign against the Jomsvikings to liberate the Jewish population of Pomerania. The King obliged in 1077. The campaign was to be a disaster. Sudislav’s invading army was forced into headlong retreat within months, and the Norsemen retaliated by plundering Poland’s Baltic coastline before sailing up the Vistula to besiege Plock itself. Clearly beaten, Sudislav agreed to pay a large annual sum to the Jomsvikings in exchange for peace. The tribute to the Tatars had been replaced by a Danegeld for the lords of Rügen.

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In the decades after the Great Conversion in 1026 the Polish realm was affected by a number of key cultural changes. In the West, in the more thoroughly Judaised lands of the crown of Poland, the upper nobility moved away from their traditional East Slavic, Russian, language and culture and adopt to customs of their Polish subjects. It was during this period that Polish replaced Russian as the courtly culture in Plock. In the eastern Kingdom of Galicia, the same shift did not occur. There, the Jewish revolution had had a lesser impact and the nobility remained more closely attached to their religiously diverse people by their Russian ethnicity than through faith. The two halves of the realm appeared to be drifting apart.

It was partly in response to this cultural divide that Sudislav embarked in a series of important legal reforms. He took a hammer to the power of the traditional tribal councils of Plock – drastically limited their ability to constrain the monarchy. Most importantly, he abolished the Kingdom’s elective succession and created a royal dynasty that would flow through his descendants. However, he also called for the partition of his Kingdom – with the Polish lands going to his first son Vladimir, and Galicia to his younger son Konrad.

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If Sudislav had thought his reforms would bring peace he was sorely mistaken. Within weeks of his death in 1084 the realm had descended into civil war. The origins of the conflict were in Kiev. The new King of Poland, Vladimir, was deeply unhappy at the division of the realm, and when the Prince of Kiev decided to reject Konrad and instead swear allegiance to Plock – the eastern Kingdom had no choice but to go to war. This battle between brothers quickly developed into a three-way conflict as their cousin, Putia of Pomerania rallied a number of lords in the western territories in favour of a restoration of the old constitution. While the resulting conflict ravaged the country for three years, Vladimir’s control over the economic heart of the Polish world along the Vistula guaranteed his dominance. Konrad’s lands were simply too poor to support an army capable of defeating his brother, while Putia failed to rally the nobility in sufficient numbers.

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Having united the Polish realm and crushed his internal enemies, Vladimir sought to win glory abroad by following in his father’s footsteps and invading Norse-ruled Pomerania in 1088. The ensuring Jomsviking Wars would last for the next 5 years. Vladimir’s initial invasion force was handily defeated in less than a year – with the two sides agreeing to a truce in 1089. However, mere months later the Norsemen crossed into Polish territory with a vast army – threatening to destroy the Kingdom entirely. Vladimir retreated back to Plock – and won a great victory on the outskirts of his capital, routing a number of smaller Norse armies over the course of the following two years. With the Jomsviking armies destroyed, Vladimir sensed the opportunity to push home his advantage to once again march into Pomerania.

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With Vladimir advancing into Norse lands, the Swedes moved to intervene in the conflict. In 1093 Vladimir was captured in battle by Kettil ‘the Monster’ of Sweden. After the King’s councillors failed to produce a sufficiently large tribute, King Kettil killed the King of the Poles in the most brutal and terrible way – making a blood eagle out of him and displaying his body for days near the Polish frontier.

With the King dead, the Jomsviking Wars were over. Yet a new conflict was brewing in Poland itself. Vladimir’s son, Sudislav II, was only 9 years old leaving the realm under the control of a regency council incapable of providing Poland with the leadership it needed. His ascension was contested by two other claimants – Putia of Pomerania, seeking to seize the throne for a second time, and Briachislav Dregovich who led a coalition of Samaritans determined to bring religious renewal to the Kingdom.
 
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Tommy4ever

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Seems like the worst is over - for now. ;)
In CK2 - the worst is always right round the corner! :p

Its always the early part of the game that is most fun, when you are still liable to lose as often as you win.

Poland is in a tought spot still, but far from impossible.
We've had a tough time in the past few years - losing a King to the Norsemen, lots of internal instability and losing a bunch of wars. But the realm is bigger now than it was in 1060, and Kiev is quite the prize!

Lets see what this next civil war holds :eek:

Well, this certainly has an intriguing premise. Definitely going to keep an eye on this tale :)

Thanks, glad to have you on board!
 

stnylan

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I do believe the correct term is "ouch" :D
 

Specialist290

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I do believe the correct term is "ouch" :D
Took the words (well, word) right out of my mouth. Certainly a brutal few decades for the Poles there -- besieged on all sides by superior foes, and having to fight desperately just to keep their heads above water.
 

Nikolai

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Ouch indeed. That stings.