Thursday, November 15, 2012

Velikye Byelgorodniya - An Introduction

The Principality of Velikye (Greater) Byelgorodniya was once a backward and inward-looking land, described by one commentator as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in a cabbage leaf with a greasy minced lamb and onion stuffing”.

But times change, and Velikye Byelgorodniya is now a dynamic and modern nation-state, where a merchant may prosper as long as he displays due deference to his betters and to the tax collector, and where the serfs may breathe free, at least until tax rates for air are calculated.

Greater Byelgorodniya is ruled by Grand Prince Dmitry IV Dmitrovich of the House of Mikhailov, Duke of Kapusta Zemlya, Count of Novi Byelgorod, Hereditary Hetman of the Cassock Horde, and Grand Master of the Order of the Golden Cockerel.

The House of Mikhailov ascended the throne 77 years ago, when Grand Prince Boris VI Alexeyevich (known to history as 'The Mad') caused a succession crisis by nominating a sable fur hat as his successor.

The Hetman Dmitry, Captain of the Cassock Guard (these horsemen of the steppe were known for their ferocity in battle and their long coats, whence they derived their name), seized power from the insane and incompetent Grand Prince Boris in a palace coup in 1683. It had become apparent that Boris’ decision would have meant utter chaos, if only because every hat shop contained a potential army of pretenders.

Hetman Dmitry, now installed as Grand Prince, solved the succession crisis by outlawing sable hats, and decided to engage more closely with the outside world, if only to ensure a reliable supply of fine wines for his table. He is regarded as the father of his country in every possible sense of the word, emphatically ensuring the succession through legitimate and illegitimate means. Dmitry I built a new capital on the seacoast, Novi Byelgorod, and offered incentives for immigration of technical specialists from the more developed nations of Europe. The old capital, Staraya Byelgorod, is still the seat of the ecclesiastical authorities.

The economy of Velikye Byelgorodniya is firmly tied to the soil, as are the peasantry, although a substantial merchant class has now arisen in the larger towns and cities. It was the policy of Dmitry III to encourage the immigration of foreign merchants to nominated centres, and it is this perhaps overly-generous initiative which has led indirectly to the present crisis in Nizhny Bublik. The provincial capital, Blechnya, has become a hotbed of sedition, where the ungrateful and rebellious Saxe-Coburnski mercantile community has instigated a revolt.

The placement of a sable hat atop a flagpole in the market place is an unendurable insult to the House of Mikhailov; since the reign of Dmitry I, the sable hat has operated as a kind of seditionary shorthand for "anyone but the Mikhailovs".

To rub further salt into the wound, an exiled collateral relative of Mad Prince Boris VI, Markgraf Boris Ivanovich, is rumoured to be installed as ruler of Nizhny Bublik by his shadowy Saxe-Coburnski masters. This affront to the dignity of the Grand Prince will not stand, and a formal protest has been lodged with the Saxe-Coburnski ambassador.

Unless Saxe-Coburn und Buchholz keeps its spoon out of Velikye Byelgorodniya's borscht pot, the saucepan of turmoil will boil over into the spillage of war and besmirch the kitchen floor of peace, leaving generations as yet unborn to scrape off the burnt bits and dispose of them sensibly so as not to encourage houshold vermin.

In the words of Velikye Byelgorodniya's most illustrious folk poet, Yevgeny Semyonovich the Wise,

Whither Velikye Byelgorodniya?
And how, when and with whom?
The lamps are going out all over the borderlands.
We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime,
unless one of us goes down to the shops
to fetch more oil,
or at least buy a candle or something.
No, you go,
I went last time.

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