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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Part I: Nationalism and the Rise of Zachadia

Kienzle

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Hello everyone, and welcome to my first Vicky 2 AAR!

Over the years, I have enjoyed many of the impressive alternate histories presented on this forum, all the while wanting to submit something of my own but feeling that I lacked the wherewithal to see any story to completion. This AAR is an attempt to do just that. However, I'll be cheating a little bit - this story picks up at the turn of the century, during a campaign that I originally had no intention of making into an AAR. Making it to 1936 shouldn't be too difficult at that rate!

I am playing Zachadia, a formable nation uniting the West Slavic people in Savolainen's alternate history mod The Heirs to Acquitània. I have made some minor changes to the mod, which I will try to call out through footnotes as much as I can remember. I also occasionally use the console to fix borders and to help the AI out.

Although our story picks up shortly before the beginning of the First (?) World War, I'll begin by narrating the history of the 19th century. So without further ado, here we go!


Part I: Nationalism and the Rise of Zachadia


Political map of Europe in 1916, shortly before the outbreak of the Great War.

It has been eighty years since the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. The Escherloch house of Bohemia rules one of the most powerful countries in the world, the Federated Kingdom of Zachadia, with mastery over Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

But it almost was not this way.

In the middle of the 19th century, Bohemia struggled with ethnic nationalism that threatened to tear the nation asunder. The Kingdom acquired Hungary in 1821 upon the death of Janos Iszaky-Arpad, the last King of the Magyar. His sole heir Hedvig was married to Ladislaus IV Escherloch, who with Janos’ death became Laszlo I of Hungary, binding Hungarian lands to the Escherlochs in perpetuity - at least in theory. The following two decades did not go smoothly, however. King Ladislaus raised taxes, attempted to circumvent the Hungarian Diet at every opportunity, and forcibly repressed liberal study circles in Budapest. This culminated in Hungarian Revolution in June of 1848, in which nearly half of the Kingdom revolted with the assistance of Austria and pitched the monarchy into an unexpected battle for its life.

Surprisingly, the Kingdom of Poland proved to be Bohemia’s savior.(1) Crowds of citizens in Warsaw, influenced by pan-Slavic intellectuals, demonstrated in front of the parliament waving flags of red and blue, demanding that King Kasimir Francizek Widzowksi intervene on the behalf of “our brother Slavs” before they were subjected to “a Germanic-Magyar yoke.” Though led by the public, King Kasimir saw the chance to earn a debt of gratitude from a long-time competitor and agreed to invade Hungary from the north. Pressed from two sides, the rebellion did not last long, and Bohemian armies were even able to besiege Vienna by December. House Escherloch then moved immediately to shore up its strategic position.


The Hungarian revolutionaries won several victories against Bohemian forces throughout the summer of 1848, but proved unable to hold their ground after Polish intervention.

First, Ladislaus punished Austria for its attempted interference by returning its southern territories to Croatia, who in return became a committed ally. Bohemian diplomats then solidified the nation’s alliance and economic leverage over Silesia, eventually culminating in a royal marriage that finalized Bohemian control over its valuable resources. But it was the internal reforms that would ultimately prove most impactful. As one of his last major acts on the throne, King Ladislaus approved a new constitution in 1850 that enshrined some privileges for the Hungarian Diet, particularly in the areas of education, land taxation and public administration. With the Kingdom secure at last, Ladislaus passed away in his sleep less than five years later at the age of 74. He was succeeded by his son Stephen III, 43 years old, who would expand the Kingdom to a level of greatness even his father could not have fathomed.

Although Bohemia had succeeded in riding its own wave of unrest, nationalism continued to rock Europe during the mid-19th century. In the former Holy Roman Empire, the Germanic and Slavic unification movements became increasingly outspoken during this time. Masterful diplomacy on the part of the Kingdom of Brunswick secured aid from the French and Aenglish to subdue Bavaria and Brandenburg, both of which were claimants for the leadership of Germany. The fractious German states thus united, Brunswick declared the formation of the German Empire under Kaiser Karl Ludwig von Edemissen in 1855.

The western Slavs were less easily accommodated. Both the Bohemian and Polish crowns saw themselves as the cultural and historical bearers of Slavic identity, and though their leaders were on cordial enough terms that war was never a possibility, neither were they disposed to giving up their crowns for the sake of Slavic unity. The Polish-Smolenskii war, however, brought an unexpected resolution to the issue. In 1861, King Ivan Sitnikov of Smolensk expelled a number of prominent Polish advisors and businessmen from court as part of an effort to “Russianize” the Kingdom and reduce perceived “western liberal influence.” Poland, long paranoid over the intentions of the vast land to its west, angrily declared war in response, expecting a quick victory over a mass of untrained Smolenskii levies. It was a conflict for which she was severely underprepared for.

Within a year, Polish armies found themselves bogged down in the marshy borderlands of Byelorussia and their lines of supply slowly choked off. Smolensk, reinforced by the Armenian Caliphate, ground the offensive to a halt and gradually rolled it back. With the Polish army in disarray, nothing stopped Smolensk from crossing the border and subjecting Poland to a brief occupation that lasted through the spring of 1863 while a peace treaty was prepared. Though Poland lost no territory as a result of the war, its outcome was no less a disaster for the Widzowski monarchy, whose legitimacy was shattered by the period of occupation. Under immense popular pressure, King Jan Tomaz abdicated within a matter of weeks in favor of a popular Polish Republic.


King Jan Tomaz Widzowski of Poland, delivering the articles of abdication to the Marshal of the Sejm and the army general staff in June of 1863.

Pan-Slavic sentiment returned with a vengeance. Poles were suddenly aware of their precarious geopolitical situation, sandwiched between the new leviathan of Germany and a rising Smolensk. Bohemia-Hungary, which now occupied a comfortable position in Central Europe, represented security. In August 1863, the Polish Sejm dissolved the short-lived Republic and, in a letter to King Stephen, offered up the crown of a state that could encompass the Western Slavs.

“It is by more than providence that the Slavic people are drawn together. We, the undersigned, bid His Grace King Stephen III Escherloch lift high the sword of Slavdom… For in division there is no strength… In solidarity alone can we trust.” Stephen accepted.

The crown was not free, of course, for while the nationalists sought to furnish their state with a hereditary monarch, they also demanded provisions in its constitution that would cement the liberal values they espoused. Therefore, throughout the second half of 1863, delegates from the Czech, Hungarian, Slovakian, Silesian and Polish peoples deliberated upon the structure of a new, multiethnic state. Hungarians were perhaps the most unwilling to surrender their new representation, but the reminder that their revolt had been quashed less than 20 years prior prevented the grumbling from escalating any further.

The Federated Kingdom of Zachadia was formally declared at midnight on December 31st, 1863 and the flag of the Bohemian-Hungarian Dual Monarchy was lowered in Prague for the last time. In its place arose a banner, one which promised representation to all the people of Central and Eastern Europe. The new state allowed for separate parliaments in each constituent group, though foreign and monetary policy was to be decided by a central parliament in Prague, modeled upon the Polish Sejm, alongside the monarch. Pan-Slavic, or “Slovianski,” would be the language of government and education, though the constitution guaranteed each region the right to continue teaching its own language through secondary school.

The next two decades were a vital time of consolidation for Zachadia. Czech capitalists expanded the railway system throughout Poland and expanded the factories there; the army doubled in size and foreign relations blossomed with Naples and Greece. The explosion of industry in Eastern Europe saw Zachadia vie with Germany for the title of the world’s largest economy, with the port of Zadar - leased to the Bohemian Crown by Croatia since 1852 - becoming the most important commercial hub in Southern Europe. King Stephen required new markets for Zachadia’s burgeoning industry, and was particularly enticed by the promise of the Orient. Seeking to create a route that would open up the Eastern Mediterranean to maritime traffic, he authorized the formation of the Royal Zachadian Survey Company in 1873, which began the process of charting a canal route through the Suez Peninsula.


After its handover to Bohemian administration in 1852, Zadar rapidly transformed from a sleepy fishing community to the bustling entry point of Zachadia’s industrial heartlands.

The fact that no other great power attempted to contest Zachadia’s place in Eastern Europe during this period greatly aided the new Federal Kingdom. The former Roman Empire, whose sphere of influence had long since encompassed the Balkans, entered a long period of stagnation following a succession of brutal civil wars in the 1850s. The Melisurgos dynasty was overthrown during the liberal revolutions of 1848, an event from which the venerable empire never quite recovered from. Reactionary counterrevolutions and ethnic separatism then wracked the new Roman Republic for decades, during which its population actually declined due to widespread starvation and emigration. For Zachadia, Constantinople’s ill fortune was an opportunity to reorder the Balkans while solving two pressing concerns of her own.

The first was that of the South Slavs. In 1868, King Stephen brokered the union of Croatia and Serbia under the banner of greater Slavic unity. With a constitution based upon the Zachadian model, the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia became part of the Zachadian customs territory, sharing elements of its foreign policy and enjoying freedom of movement for its citizens. The King then worked to expand Zachadian influence over the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, finally uniting them as the Kingdom of Volasea in 1875. In exchange for ceding a strip of ethnically Volasean lands to the new state, Stephen placed his cousin Louis Escherloch-Lucanic upon the Volasean throne, thereby wedding it to Zachadia from inception.(2)

Aided by these two new unions, Zachadia followed its ally the Republic of Greece into battle against the Romans in 1881 during the Arbenon War, releasing Bulgaria from Constantinople in the peace agreement. The same alliance then fought the Romans once again during the Makedonian War in 1895, which ended with the defeated Republic losing its Black Sea coastline to Bulgaria.(3) By the turn of the century, the Roman Republic was but a shadow of its former self, having lost nearly all of its Balkan dependencies.


Roman infantry assault Bulgarian lines at the Battle of Burgas during the Makedonian War, known in Bulgaria as “the Brother’s War.'' The fighting in Thrace was particularly brutal due to the area’s large population of ethnically Roman citizens.



Outside of minor conflicts in the Balkans, the 1880s saw European nations settling into a comfortable peace characterized by continued economic development and colonial expansion. In Egypt, Zachadia fought a brief war against the forces of Sultan Muhammed III after he attempted to raise taxes on traffic through the Suez Canal; Egypt was officially annexed as a protectorate in 1884. In Asia, Zachadia annexed the Kingdoms of Siam and Hongsatawoi after their rulers persecuted Catholic missionaries and denied access to merchants. Alongside Albin and Italian forces, the Navy also helped to force open the Qin Empire at the close of the century and was rewarded with concessions in Hong Kong and Qingdao. Meanwhile at home, Prague grew to be one of the largest cities in the Western World and was recognized as a leading center of science, the arts and philosophy.


King Stephen died of a heart attack at the age of 85, shortly after the conclusion of the Makedonian War. The Kingdom declared an official eight-day mourning period for the Father of Zachadia, and over a hundred thousand citizens traveled to Prague on new steel railways to attend the state funeral. Despite the passage of a great leader, the future for Zachadia looked bright.

_________________

1: I find the Bohemian Civil War a tad too heavily railroaded for my taste - apologies, Savs! - and modified it so that the chance of intervention by other states is heavily weighted by their relations with Bohemia. Bohemia also retains its own allies.
2: Adjusted borders via console.
3: Bulgaria doesn't have cores on the Black Sea, so I also made this change via console.

Hope everyone enjoyed that! The next post will cover the first decade of the 20th century and the seeds of the Great War.
 
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stnylan

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Quite an intriguiing world.
 

mike the knight

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Kienzle

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This is cool. Welcome to the Forums man.
I loved the overall structuring of this AAR and the pictures were nice too.
Looking forward to the next chapter

Btw what is Padan Union?
Thank you very much! The next chapter is mostly complete. The Padan Union is a nation in the mod that forms from the small states of northern Italy due to the threat of Naples, which owns most of the Italian peninsula.

This looks super cool! Will happily try to follow along. Welcome to the Vicky forum! :)
Thanks! Trying to approximate some of your trademark history-book style here.

Quite an intriguiing world.
It is - I would definitely recommend checking out the mod if you're looking for something different.

That's a really interesting world and I enjoy you style of writing aswell :)
Thank you!
 

DensleyBlair

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Thanks! Trying to approximate some of your trademark history-book style here.
You are far too generous, but I am glad something of my work may have sparked the writing urge. :) Any trademark style I might be able to lay claim to is really just the result of years spent trying to imitate a number of really great history book AARs written around 2012-2015. Unfortunately, things are a good deal quieter these days – so it’s extra cool to see a new face!

Best of luck!
 
Part II: A Prelude to War

Kienzle

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You are far too generous, but I am glad something of my work may have sparked the writing urge. :) Any trademark style I might be able to lay claim to is really just the result of years spent trying to imitate a number of really great history book AARs written around 2012-2015. Unfortunately, things are a good deal quieter these days – so it’s extra cool to see a new face!

Best of luck!
Yeah - the glory days are behind us. Opening up EUIV for the first time in a couple years reminded me of how... aged many of the Vicky 2 mechanics are. And yet I keep coming back! This really is my favorite period in history.

Anyway, back to the story.
_________________

Part II: A Prelude to War
Beneath the facade of prosperity, Europe’s balance of power was reaching a breaking point. The first shock was the fall of the Padan Union to militant Communists in 1901. The Republic was only restored six years later through a joint Italo-Zachadian intervention. More concerningly, relations between Zachadia and Germany continued to sour throughout the first decade of the new century, despite the often sincere efforts of diplomats on both sides to halt the slide. The largest sticking point was the “Sorbian question,” which concerned the rights of the Slavic people in Lusatia. The German Empire, in an attempt to better integrate the region at the turn of the century, introduced a series of assimilation policies that included prohibiting schools from teaching in Sorbian or Polish. In return, many prominent Zachadian citizens decried the German oppression and on several occasions set up funding circles to support their “Sorbian brothers.” No solution seemed forthcoming.

Another problem was that of Zachadia’s new King. Charles IV Escherloch was the younger of his father’s sons, and had never planned on becoming King until his brother, the Crown Prince Adalbert, was thrown from a horse and killed in 1892. As a result, Charles spent his life eschewing matters of state in exchange for spending his time - and money - on patronizing the arts. Widely considered a dilettante, he was rumored to have had several relationships with opera singers that went well beyond the bounds of respectability. As King Stephen was rumored to have once confided in a Parliamentarian, “[Charles] is not fit for the crown - but that is why the Lord gave me Adalbert first.” Whispers throughout the courts of Europe suggested the new King would be ill-equipped to handle the diplomatic turbulence that lay ahead.


A portrait of King Charles upon his coronation in 1895, at the age of 36.

Then in 1910, real conflicts began as colonial powers ran out of room for expansion. The Albin Empire, supported by the Netherlands, escalated a border dispute with the Kingdom of Acquitania near Lake Chad, and the two nations battled for two months over a square of parched land in Central Africa. Three years later, another crisis ensued as the Empire of Hispania sensed that Acquitania was isolated and tried to seize a portion of her Accran protectorate. This proved a severe misjudgement, as the anticipated support from Zachadia failed to materialize while Germany stepped in to guarantee the Acquitanians. With the assistance of the German war machine, Acquitania smashed through Hispanian defenses in the Pyrenees and captured Barcelona, bringing an end to the war in less than six months. Yet nearly 150,000 Hispanian and Navarran soldiers had perished, and the victors imposed heavy indemnities upon the Iberians in retaliation. Zachadia had chosen to avoid the war, content with the size of her East African dominion and seeing no need to get embroiled in a larger European conflict. As Minister of War Tadeusz Kowalski advised King Charles in July of 1913, “there is no sense in relitigating the borders of African colonies. We would let the best of our young generation run to madness in the jungle and desert.”


German artillery in the Pyrenees mountains, c. 1913. The new steel cannons proved instrumental in breaking Hispanian defenses outside of Barcelona.

When provoked closer to home however, the monarch would find it much harder to demur. The crisis that would ultimately lead to the reshaping of Europe began on April 6 of 1915, in a theatre in Minsk. After a staging of the popular Byellorussian play Daughters of Chelm, the audience marched out of the theatre and staged a demonstration in a central plaza. When local police responded with brutality, the demonstration turned into a three-day riot in which the governor’s mansion was burned and several militia members were killed. Chancellor Fairfax of the Albin Empire, seeing a chance to weaken Smolensk and halt its territorial expansion near Albin India, proposed a conference the following month in London to “settle the Byellorussian and Ruthenian matter.” Germany and the Netherlands quickly applauded the decision.


From Edwin Pressleye's Twilight: Nationalism, Empire, and the Foundations of Modern Europe. (Kent: Republican Press, 1982.)
Pressleye said:
The paradox of the Great War was that at least initially, none of the belligerents intended to fight a war, and yet over the two months of the London Conference, each pursued a course of policy that led inexorably in that direction. In recent years, it has become popular to argue that great power war was inevitable - that the tri-polarity of Germany, Albina and Zachandia was an unstable balance of power.

Recent scholarship, however, has begun to paint a different picture. Kaiser Friedrich and Fairfax, though keen to embarrass their strategic rivals, did not truly believe the cause of Byellorussian Independence worth the cost of fighting a protracted war in mainland Europe. Diplomatic correspondence between the two powers routinely stressed the need not to “convince [Zachadia] that the Smolensk affair will stop well short of ‘the point of no return’.”

The Netherlands, too, were on shaky ground, having barely survived Albesan revolutionaries in 1905. So when King William joined the Occidental Alliance in 1915, he did so “only to signal our alignment with the true hegemons of this continent… Not to join a war we cannot afford.”
Whatever the rulers of the Great Powers may have claimed in private, the London Conference initiated a process that proved difficult to halt. Italy, a staunch Zachadian ally, supported the Kingdom’s position of maintaining Smolenskii integrity as did King Henri of France, who had reason to be concerned about both German and Albin expansion. Together with Smolensk, Zachadia arranged for a four-way defensive alliance. For the sake of convenience, the alliance was quietly negotiated in Paris by the same diplomats attending the London Conference. The Paris Pact was born.

Frustrated by the German and Albin intransigence and emboldened by the entry into force of the Paris Pact, King Charles recalled his ambassador from the London Conference in late August after signaling that “the negotiations are not proceeding in our interest.” The following month, the Roman Republic signed a secret memorandum of understanding with the German Empire guaranteeing the return of its former Balkan territory in exchange for a mutual alliance against Zachadia.


As negotiations failed, Zachadian and German commanders alike began to prepare for the possible outbreak of war. This period, known as “the Defensive Spiral,” stemmed from the Zachadian military’s geographic paranoia. The Royal Army had long been terrified of a theoretical German “knockout blow” in the early stages of a war, in which the Heer might cut off the capital Prague and the Bohemian industrial region before the Federal Kingdom could complete her mobilization. They therefore recommended bringing up additional units to both Bohemia and Moravia, a move which Germany perceived as threatening.

In September, Kaiser Friedrich, on the advice of his ministers, publicly announced the nation’s alliance with the Albin Empire and the Netherlands, an axis of western European power that commentators took to calling the “Occidental Alliance.” Hispania, still smarting from her war with Germany and looking for safety in numbers, joined the Paris Pact. Summer turned to autumn, and as the leaves began to fall, many people throughout Europe relaxed, thinking that the worst was past.

In the cities of Zachadia, attention turned to what was quickly shaping up to be an unusually tense parliamentary election. Splinters within the ruling conservative party and increasing agitation by the labor movement presaged a return to power by the Social Democrats, just as members of the military began agitating for a stiffer response to the Occidental Alliance - often accompanied by an arch-conservative domestic political agenda.


By the end of March, it was clear that the Partia Socjaldemokracja was likely to make serious gains.


The elections, held on April 2nd, confirmed this. After eight years out of power, the Social Democrats, accompanied by a small number of seats from the communists, once again held a narrow mandate in Parliament. The coalition was immediately threatened, however, by an unanticipated surge in support for the Stronnictwo Narodowe, a new and ultranationalist group supported by some younger military officers. Following a political philosophy called “National Hegemonism,” the party argued for an expansion of state authority and pan-Slavism, including the direct integration of Yugoslavia. With the support of the many in the monarchist Konfederacja Targowicka party, the Hegemonists stood to form an even larger coalition if they could form an anti-labor alliance with the Conservatives. Ultimately, however, these ambitions were dashed. Baron Fehér Zsolt, a senior MP in the Str. Narodowo-Demokratyczne from Budapest, came across a Hegemonist treatise calling for eliminating Hungarian language education and delivered an excoriating address on the subject in parliament. Facing a large scale walkout from their Hungarian members, the Conservatives balked.

Still, however, the Social Democrats were aware of their precarious situation. As an olive branch to the Liberals and Conservatives, the Partia Socjaldemokracja nominated the comparatively moderate Bronislav Láska for Prime Minister. Láska was a well-respected politician with impeccable patriotic credentials and strong support from the trade unions. Born into a working class family in Bratislava, he had earned a battlefield commission during the Makedonian War before pursuing a law degree from Charles University. He then served as a barrister in his native Slovakia, where he quickly earned a reputation as an articulate and principled attorney, one who never shied from castigating the forces of industry for neglecting their workers. Elected to Parliament at the age of 33 in 1908, he had maintained his focus on improving labor rights while also becoming known as an adept dealmaker and staunch advocate of Zachadian interests internationally.


Bronislav Láska photographed at home, c. 1915.
During his first two weeks in office, Prime Minister Láska repeatedly met with King Charles, attempting to devise a strategy to repair relations with the Occidental Alliance. “We are pulled in a direction that is not our choice,” he wrote in his diary on April 18. “The choice belongs to the Almighty alone.” While there was some debate in Berlin and London about taking up Láska’s proposal for another attempt to discuss the Smolenskii Crisis, this time in a neutral location, both nations believed that King Charles’ decision to pull from the London Conference would simply be repeated. Regardless, events were soon to force Láska’s hand.

On April 19th, almost exactly a year after the beginning of the Smolenskii Crisis, Consul Iossif Argyrou of the Roman Republic delivered a speech accompanied by figures from the Byellorussian, Ruthenian and Ukrainian overseas independence movements in which he called for Smolensk to recognize the rights of its constituent ethnicities.

“Our nation will not give in to autocrats,” he declared, then announced that within 24 hours, a toll would be imposed on Smolenskii merchant traffic transiting through the Bosporus. It was a bizarre and outrageous demand, and one which King Rodion Sitnikov did not respond to. When the SS Ryazan prepared to make transit through the strait on her way to India the following morning, she was accompanied by one of the Kingdom’s revenue cutters. Without warning (the Roman Republic would later contend that contact had been attempted via semaphore) both vessels were targeted by coastal artillery. While the cutter escaped, the Ryazan was sunk with the loss of all hands.


That same afternoon, King Rodion received permission from the Duma to declare war on Constantinople. He called upon the Kingdom’s alliance with Zachadia while the Roman Republic activated its secret treaty with Germany; Zachadia was in turn followed by the Paris Pact just as Germany fell back upon its Occidental partners the Albin Empire and the Netherlands. On April 21st, the Albin ambassador in Prague, Lord Graham Ainslie, informed King Charles that a state of war now existed between Zachadia and the Albin Empire.

“Your Majesty, I’m sorry it’s come to this,” he said. “We all tried so very hard, didn’t we?”

Europe would never be the same.

 
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DensleyBlair

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Not an easy time to be an Eastern European power – or a European power generally. Here's wishing the Zachad forces good luck as war descends.

Very convincing account of the lead up to the Great War, and I'm loving the ease with which the alt-history of the HtA world comes across. Shame 1936 is only a couple of decades away! Would love to see this carried on after the game's end date. :)
 

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War ... why is it I get the sense of things about to go all wrong?
 

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Very wonderful alt-history AAR going on here. Keep it up! Looking forward to this great coming cataclysm.

Cheers!
 

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Thanks everyone for the feedback!

Oh No!
My favourite Padan Union is gone geez!
;)

Great updates
The great war has started and nothing will ever be the same again!
Looking forward to the next chapter
Oh don't worry - it's still here. Basically what happened was that they got in a war with Acquitania (I can't quite remember over what) that went badly for them and then they had a huge rebellion. Later, Italy and I marched in with the Restore Democracy CB. So the Union is preserved, just maybe under... new management.

Not an easy time to be an Eastern European power – or a European power generally. Here's wishing the Zachad forces good luck as war descends.

Very convincing account of the lead up to the Great War, and I'm loving the ease with which the alt-history of the HtA world comes across. Shame 1936 is only a couple of decades away! Would love to see this carried on after the game's end date. :)
Honestly I'd love to carry this over to HoI4 if the end scenario is good. The main issue for me is that my laptop is 8 years old and can't really run the game. Maybe it's time for an upgrade though...

Next episode is almost up - just doing a bit of polishing.
 
Part III: Opening Moves

Kienzle

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Part III: Opening Moves



Europe at the dawn of the Great War, May 1916.
The Great War began with a series of offensives along the length of the German border. The German Heer, relying on war plans prepared well in advance, mobilized rapidly for what was intended to be a series of stunning strikes that would put its more numerous foes on their back feet. The Eastern Front, with its flat plains and well-developed transportation infrastructure, was the first priority. Striking east from Pomerania, the German 3rd Army advanced towards the city of Poznan and Wroclaw, hoping to cut off the Zachad Baltic coastline while forming a salient around Bohemia. As expected, probing attacks along the front outside Prague encountered stiff resistance, with the Zachad 6th Army relying on pre-sighted artillery and heavy fortifications to throw back the Germans with ease.

Still though, the casualties in the first week were staggering. As both sides were still marshalling reserves, professional soldiers waged their craft with grim efficiency. Zachadia had her first experience on the offense when General Safranek’s 3rd Corps launched a diversionary attack near Bratislava. Though outnumbering his enemy two-to-one, the 3rd Corps took heavy casualties assaulting German machine gun nests nestled amidst the rugged, Alpine terrain.


By the end of the first week of war, it was clear that Prague, while in no immediate danger, was still too close for comfort to the frontlines. Citizens gathered on their rooftops in the evening to watch the flash of heavy artillery in the distance, in some cases less than 100 kilometers away. After an enterprising German aviator flew past the front lines and attempted to bomb Prague Castle with a satchel of hand grenades on the 30th, Láska decided enough was enough. He ordered the General Staff to go on the offensive against the lightly-armed reserve divisions forming up across the border. Though King Charles was concerned that leaving defensive positions might be dangerous, the Prime Minister responded that “in war, death is unavoidable.” The attack went forward.

Within days, Zachad troops had succeeded not only in pushing the front lines back over the German border, but in some cases had pushed well beyond it. Attacking units that in some cases were still waiting to link up with their equipment, the Zachad army routed several German divisions before the attack lost momentum outside of Dresden.


For a public that was still wary over the war and the new government, the Bohemian Offensive proved to be a major morale boost. It was clear that Prime Minister Láska’s leadership would carry the country through the storm, even if King Charles was prone to dithering.


More importantly, the offensive demonstrated that Zachad Army was every bit a match for the Heer. Until this point, the Russian Empire and the Padanese Republic had been under pressure from both Berlin and Prague to join their respective sides in the war. The Bohemian Offensive made a strong case for joining the alliance that held numerical superiority and had proven itself in the field. While Russia had long standing disputes with its southern neighbor Smolensk, it was also home to fractious minority groups and was hesitant to give credence to these demands by joining with the Occidental Alliance. The Padanese, on the other hand, had relied upon the Italian and Zachad governments ever since the two had propped up the Republic in 1907, and their decision to enter the war on the side of the Paris Pact was never seriously in doubt. Both nations declared war upon the Occidental Alliance by mid-May.

Although the Western Front occupied the most attention in Zachadia, it was far from the only theater of importance during the war. Several other areas of importance around the globe saw fierce fighting begin in the spring of 1916. The first was the Balkans. Greece and Bulgaria had been quick to follow Zachadia into war against the old foe of the Roman Republic, and the two joined the Zachad satellite states of Yugoslavia and Romania in assaulting Roman positions in Thrace by late May. Though the Romans were well prepared for the allied attack, the Paris Pact forces had the weight of numbers and reached the Aegean coastline by mid May. Roman forces withdrew in good order towards Constantinople, where both sides expected a siege would be forthcoming.


As Rome concentrated on defending her capital, Consul Argyrou also demanded that the Republic’s Middle Eastern satellite states of Syria, Iraq and Arabia mobilize to join the war. Two tempting targets appeared within striking distance of their forces. The Trucial States, a Zachad protectorate, were a valuable source of oil left lightly defended at the outbreak of war. More importantly, capturing the Suez Canal would cut off the Indian and Southeast Asian colonies of the Paris Pact from the support of the metropole. At the same time, Argyrou hoped to open a path for his eventual reinforcement from India, where Albin colonial forces outnumbered Smolensk and Hispania. However, doing so would require bringing the Republic of Iran into the Occidental Alliance. This would prove no easy feat.

Iran, which had recently modernized after overthrowing the reactionary Zand dynasty, was keen to regain its honor - and territory - ever since the Roman Republic had “intervened” in the Arab Revolt of 1891 and stripped away the western territories of the former Persian Empire.[1] This recent humiliation, coupled with Persia’s long history of enmity with Rome, seemed to preclude any chance of alliance. Yet Rome was not the only state holding stolen Iranian territory. The Russian Empire had annexed Khuzestan as a colony during the Arab Revolt in order to gain a port in the Middle East, and while the loss of the Arab territories stung, Khuzestan was even more important, populated mostly by Persians and considered part of the Iranian patrimony. Iran was desperate to have it back. Capitalizing on this, the Albin Empire stepped in to negotiate a treaty with Tehran. Chancellor Fairfax promised the annexation of Smolenskii Balochistan in exchange for entering the war, as well as the return of Khuzestan. Though the situation in India was balanced on a knife’s edge, a better chance to knock down Russia might never come, and so Iran agreed to join the Occidental Alliance - which was now appearing decidedly less Occidental.

This decision, however, had consequences that opened up an entire new front of the war. To the west of the Republic of Iran, the Armenian Caliphate was gradually moving into the orbit of the Paris Pact. As a long time enemy of both Rome and Iran, the war appeared to offer Armenia the chance to take on both of its rivals with the backing of foreign troops. When Prime Minister Láska sent feelers to the Caliphate, originally to determine whether it would be open to allowing Smolenskii troops to be supplied over its territory, the response was swift: not only could Smolenskii troops pass through Armenia, but it would also enter the war as a full participant.



Armenia joined the Paris Pact on June 7, 1916.


With the entry of Iran and Armenia to the war, combatants now stretched uninterrupted across the Eurasian continent, from the trenches of Western Europe to the jungles of South Asia. In India, Smolensk and Hispania invaded Albin India from both directions. Though outnumbered by the Albin colonial regiments, the Paris Pact was able to make initial headway due to the Albin Empire having to contend with a lack of supplies reaching the subcontinent in the early days of the war.[2]


Combat even took place as far away from Europe as the Straits of Malacca, where Dutch and Albin colonial forces tried an unsuccessful amphibious assault against Italian Malaya. After several days of fighting, the Zachad Asiatic Squadron arrived in the Strait of Johore, trapping Albin forces on the island of Batam across from Singapore. Cut off from reinforcement, the Dutch forces on the peninsula surrendered to the Italian garrison.


But it was Africa that saw some of the fiercest colonial fighting in the war. The Emirate of Kanem-Bornu, one of the few developed African nations that had resisted the tide of colonization at the turn of the century, agreed to join the war on the side of the Paris Pact in order to reclaim its southern lands, taken by the Albin Empire in 1885. Though far outmatched by the Albin forces, Emir Garbai hoped that the fighting in Zachad East Africa might draw the majority of the Albin away and allow him to achieve local superiority. It was not to be, however. Upon the wide plains near Yola, Albin native infantry, supported by Aenglish Guards, routed the Emirate’s forces with massed artillery that devastated the Emir’s irregulars and paved the way for a complete occupation of the small country. Zachad forces were still months away from being able to reinforce.


In early July, another piece of bad news came when the Zachad Baltic Fleet sortied in an attempt to break the German-Albin blockade. Built at great expense during the last decade, the Baltic Fleet represented Zachadia’s best attempt to expand its meagre battleship force. Admiral Vratislav Moravec had originally proposed it to the Stronnictwo Patriotcyzne as a measure to safeguard Zachadia’s colonial empire against the predations of the far more established navies belonging to the German and Albin empires. Though some of its ships were more modern than the vessels of the German Imperial Navy’s Heimatsflotte, the battle groups of the Baltic Fleet were separated by fog on the morning of July 10 and made separate contact with the Germans. Ultimately, though the Heimatsflotte suffered greater losses, losing several pre-dreadnoughts and light cruisers, the Zachad Navy was forced back to port, disorganized and heavily damaged.



ZKN Ladislaus IV sinks after being hit with a torpedo off the Baltic Coast, July 1916.


Despite these setbacks, throughout the early summer the war appeared to be trending firmly in the direction of the Paris Pact as Germany struggled to defend a front that stretched along nearly its entire border. Its early major offensives into Zachadia had been turned back after several bloody weeks of fighting. Italian and Zachad forces launched a counteroffensive near Brno that pushed the Heer out of Moravia entirely, though at a terrible cost: nearly 90,000 men were lost in massed infantry charges against razor wire and machine guns. Zachad soldiers soon spoke disparagingly of the Italian general Giovanni Torlonia, who as one captain Jan Krumlov wrote in his diary, “ordered our men into battle like a butcher feeds scraps to the grinder.”


The failure of the German attempt to create a Bohemian salient allowed for Zachadia to push deeper into the German Empire. The city of Dresden lay tantalizingly close to the frontlines, and by early July the army was pushing into the suburbs. Rather than declaring the city open, Dresden’s mayor ordered citizens to evacuate while the Heer turned the streets into kill zones. Doggedly, however, the Zachad Army pushed through to the core of the city. Veteran NCOs were able to rely on their hard-earned experience fighting socialist revolutionaries in the urban areas of the Padan Union, but the combat was nonetheless chaotic and brutal. On the night of July 11th, an artillery bombardment ignited a fire that burned out of control for two days, reducing much of the city to cinders. When the morning of July 14th dawned however, the Germans began to withdraw from the city.

In the lull, badly mauled Zachad regiments began to transition back from the frontlines. In their place, Yugoslavian reserves began to take up positions throughout Dresden, garrisoning the burnt-out factories and homes throughout in preparation for the inevitable counterattack. Dutch troops began an assault on the 15th, but lacked effective artillery support and made little progress. By July 16th, it was clear that Dresden had fallen to the Paris Pact.



The Battle of Dresden marked one of the first major incidents of urban combat between conventional militaries in the 20th century. The fighting displaced or made homeless more than 40,000 German citizens.
_________________

1: This is a custom event I added.
2: Actually was my bad. I tag-switched to them to call in some of their allies (the AI is sometimes not so great at this) and forgot to restart the game.
 
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mad orc

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Wow. From the borders of Prussia to the straits of Malaya to the trucial states, this is indeed a massive world war.
I really love how you made the second image of the book cover peeling off from above the battle. Looks cool and shows your hard work to make this a really great AAR.
I also extremely loved the whole description of the war and the negotiations in between.
Really great updates and thrilling!

I have a question. How to write descriptions of war like this in such a professional manner?
The Great War began with a series of offensives along the length of the German border. The German Heer, relying on war plans prepared well in advance, mobilized rapidly for what was intended to be a series of stunning strikes that would put its more numerous foes on their back feet. The Eastern Front, with its flat plains and well-developed transportation infrastructure, was the first priority. Striking east from Pomerania, the German 3rd Army advanced towards the city of Poznan and Wroclaw, hoping to cut off the Zachad Baltic coastline while forming a salient around Bohemia. As expected, probing attacks along the front outside Prague encountered stiff resistance, with the Zachad 6th Army relying on pre-sighted artillery and heavy fortifications to throw back the Germans with ease.

Still though, the casualties in the first week were staggering. As both sides were still marshalling reserves, professional soldiers waged their craft with grim efficiency. Zachadia had her first experience on the offense when General Safranek’s 3rd Corps launched a diversionary attack near Bratislava. Though outnumbering his enemy two-to-one, the 3rd Corps took heavy casualties assaulting German machine gun nests nestled amidst the rugged, Alpine terrain.
 

DensleyBlair

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Really really great stuff. The alt-Great War reads fantastically, and I like the inclusion of dissenting views over the number of war dead within your account. The sort of light-touch history book style works really well; keeps the pace going enjoyably while adding a great deal of flavour.

Things seem to be going pretty well for Zachadia and her allies at the moment. I wonder whether there will come a turning point.
 

mike the knight

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stnylan

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Truly a "Great" War, if only teh scale of death and suffering
 

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Wow. From the borders of Prussia to the straits of Malaya to the trucial states, this is indeed a massive world war.
I really love how you made the second image of the book cover peeling off from above the battle. Looks cool and shows your hard work to make this a really great AAR.
I also extremely loved the whole description of the war and the negotiations in between.
Really great updates and thrilling!
Thank you - I'm trying different ways to make the world feel alive. There are so many fantastic photos and paintings from the period that I keep wanting to include, but also not in a way that feels forced.

I have a question. How to write descriptions of war like this in such a professional manner?
Wow! High praise indeed, especially given I found a typo of mine just in the paragraph you quoted! :oops: One of the reasons I'm doing this is actually to improve my writing. I think how you write stems from what you read. I read and write a lot on modern international relations and security, which at least in the US is a field that tends to prefer a very straightforward tone, with short sentences and unemotional language, so that may come across in my writing. At the same time though, I'm also trying for a style that is not as stiff and better for readability. It may change as the AAR continues.

Really really great stuff. The alt-Great War reads fantastically, and I like the inclusion of dissenting views over the number of war dead within your account. The sort of light-touch history book style works really well; keeps the pace going enjoyably while adding a great deal of flavour.

Things seem to be going pretty well for Zachadia and her allies at the moment. I wonder whether there will come a turning point.
Thank you! And yeah - although it's still early, Germany is basically overwhelmed. However, Perfidious Albion Albin is going to be a much harder nut to crack. They are winning in the colonies and have an overwhelming naval advantage everywhere other than the Mediterranean. It's a pity that the effects of the blockade and the breakdown of supply chains dependent upon colonial goods aren't modeled better in-game.

That's truly a gruesome war which will change the face of the world
Truly a "Great" War, if only teh scale of death and suffering
At a little over a year in-game, there have been almost 9 million military casualties, not including naval combat, in which 272 ships have sunk, or attrition. There's also another massive war in Asia happening right now which I'll talk about in later chapters that has killed about 900,000 people in about the same amount of time.

So yeah, the world is probably gonna get shaken up.
 

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Lovely stuff @Kienzle. I normally find it difficult to get into AARs with such a 'strange' set-up compared to real history but you've done a great job of setting the world up. A true world war, with a continuous battle zone from Dunkirk to Da Nang(!!!), I dare say you might end up putting our WW1 to shame.

The meatgrinder at Brno was brutal 100,000+ casualties. I don't blame your troops for looking sideways at Italian generals going forward. The loss at sea is interesting, for a global war the naval side is very important. However its nice to see roadblocks thrown up for the human player ;)

Will be following, very much looking forward to more.