Ruritania

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brblues
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Ruritania

Post by brblues »

I've started an althist project as home for my a priori conlang Ruritanian, placed at the border of the Balkans region. While I originally wanted to start the althist in the 19th century only, which is then the true major deviations will happen (starting from 1849), I also feel the need to give the Ruritanian people some background history, even more so now that I'm working on the older version of the language and its history from around the year 1000AD on.

Edit: I've switched to "in-world" writing, and therefore revised and expanded everything a bit!


From “Ruritanian History – A Short Introduction”, by Professor August Turner, University of Edinburgh, 1880

1. On the Origin of the Ruritanians, Or: An Introduction to an Introduction

The origin of the Ruritanian people is unknown. Research has suggested a homeland in the vicinity of a high mountain range, but, given the lack of reliable records, even that is uncertain. One hypothesis, espoused by academics such as, Reginald Masters and the humble author of this exposé, postulate an origin near a mountain range in Rumelia, the peninsula in Southeast Europe that used to comprise the European lands of the Ottomans, but which is gradually being reclaimed by Christendom. Candidates for the mountain range would be the Carpathians or the Balkan range.

The fact that is assumed urheimat is quite close to the current homeland of the Ruritanian people, just to the north of the Rumelian Peninsula, where the East meets the West, would explain why the Ruritanians appear to have a unique scientific understanding of their surroundings, as well as why their language is so attuned to its environment, to the point that there are proponents of a theory claiming that there are forms of the Ruritanian language that are imbued with magic power. As this little book does not concern itself with the doubtless fascinating subject of Occult Studies and Analytics, this shall not be discussed herein. Nonetheless, the intersection of Ruritanistics and Occultystics is one of the most fruitful areas of the study. If my esteemed reader takes interest in this, I would encourage perusal of William Williamson’s great and concise introduction to the matter, published under the same imprint as the present book.

Opponents of this Peninsular Hypothesis claim that there is evidence that the Ruritanians at some point in the past migrated to their current domain from further afield. Their theories as to from where this migration is to have taken place are legion – in the author’s opinion, this does not inspire confidence in this position.

2. First Written Records

Since well before the turn of the first millennium Anno Domini, Ruritanians had been inhabiting the area of the Greek Peninsula on both sides of the Dinaric Alps, both on the Adriatic coast and on the Pannonian Plains. Records from the 11th century suggest that most of the coastal settlements had lost their independence by then, and the people there had begun to be assimilated into the surrounding cultures, and only pockets of the Ruritanian people remained. In the northern plains, however, its culture remained distinct, although the Ruritanian nation was split amongst three different political entities. Parts of the area settled by Ruritanians lay in the Kingdom of Hungary – these settlements had converted to the Catholic faith. This was not true for the independent city-states in the borderlands between Hungary and the Eastern Roman Empire; these held on to their ancient pagan beliefs for far longer. Likely the most civilised, modernised and organised – relatively speaking! – part of the Ruritanian lands was the Byzantine Protectorate between the rivers Sava and Drava, referred to as Dipotamia (Greek for “two-river land”). With the Great Schism of 1054, this latter part had become Eastern Orthodox, but – just like in the catholic part belonging to Hungary – there was still a pagan undercurrent present, kept alive and fostered by the interlude of independence that was soon to follow.

3. The Republic of Ruritania

The story of this only Ruritanian nation to ever act fully independently began at the end of the 11th century, with the withdrawal of the Eastern Roman empire from the Balkans, over which they had ruled for centuries. This Byzantine decline in turn made possible autonomy for those rulers with enough confidence and brawn to grab power, and sufficient charisma and brains to hold on to it. The Ruritanian merchant-princes and tribal rulers had not only both, but could also muster strong support amongst the populace, and were not too proud to band together. They were thus successful in defending this newly founded Republic of Ruritania in the Long (or First) Hungarian War, raging for nigh on two decades, but ultimately winning the formerly Hungarian-owned territories for the Republic.
Given the various denominations in the Republic (Catholic, Orthodox, pagan) and the need for unity in the face of a multitude of adversaries, such as Serbs, Bulgarians, Vlachs, and, naturally, the vengeful Hungarians, the leaders promised religious freedom even for pagans, which brought the expected vast popular support.
This period of peace and growth lasted until the middle of the 13th century, when Hungarian forces in the Short (or Second) Hungarian War – it was over in two winters – reconquered their lost lands from a weakened decentralised administration, which had possibly been excessively focussed on external trade and internal unity, to the detriment of military power. The Republic was quick to sign a peace deal, and a large number of refugees resettled in the fertile Dipotamia area of the Ruritanian Republic. Towards the end of the same century, Ruritania also started to experience large-scale Jewish immigration thanks to its policy of religious tolerance, turning the Republic into a veritable melting pot.
Mysteriously, the darkest hour of the European Middle Ages, the deadliest pandemic ever experienced by man, the Black Death, largely spared huge parts of the Ruritanian population during its cruel reign in the middle of the 14th century. The reasons for this have not yet been elucidated. Attempts by researchers have been fruitless, largely due to a lack of cooperation by the Ruritanian governments and population, in particular after the closure of the borders of the United States of Greater Austria in 1876. This book being an exploration of historical facts only, the topic shall not be discussed here; please refer to the relevant Occultyst literature.

What remains certain is that the Ruritanian Republic remained strong throughout this disaster, in which all its neighbours were seriously weakened, and shrewdly made use of the opportunity presenting itself – gaining territory in all directions, from the Kingdom of Hungary, the recently-founded Serbian Empire, the Principality of Wallachia and the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Ruritanian Republic thus reached its largest territorial extent towards the end of the 14th century.

4. Decline of the Republic

Alas, this golden period was short-lived. With the greater territory came greater appeal to the Turkic Terrors from the east, whom the Ruritanian military withstood for around half a century, suffering huge population and manpower losses in the process. But more and more, it was also territory that Ruritania lost.

This concentrated power, largely in the hands of the ruler of Mrusapolis, the largest city of Dipotamia, yet inner turmoil had been brewing for a long time, too. Again, the direct cause of the civil strife is unknown. Indeed, this period constitutes somewhat of a dark age – records appear to have been destroyed or expunged, monuments, such as the large Capital Headstone in Mrusapolis, defaced. The prevailing theory is that there was a struggle for power between different religious factions, likely involving a sect of the pagan persuasion, igniting the powder keg of inner pressure that the co-existence of a multitude of beliefs presented. For a short time, an iconoclastic faction may have held the upper hand, though it is unclear why later not much restoration took place.

Be that as it may be – the last academic word here has not been spoken yet –, the Republic lost more and more land to the Ottoman Empire over the 15th century, ultimately, in 1449, becoming its vassal.

5. Vassal to the Ottomans, and Rebellion

The Ruritanians remained vassals of the Sublime Porte only for just over 75 years. Apart from a fondness for the camel, and a few words that entered the Ruritanian language, the time period gave the people and country their names: the people applied the term “Rumelia” (in the form “Rumella”), then commonly used for the Christian lands and people under the yoke of the Turks, to themselves too, most likely in an attitude of defiance towards their subjugator. Sound laws eroded the name to “Rumrat” or “Rurat”, before it was also adopted as the exonym used by the surrounding peoples in their languages for the Ruritanian people, making its way into our tongue via such further corrupted forms as “Ruritania”, finally. (...)
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