Friday, 26 March 2021

The Grand Duchy of Kurland!


Positioned on the northeast fringes of Mittelheim, the Grand Duchy of Kurland has been at various times occupied by Balts, Lithanians, Poles, Prussians, Swedes and a quantity of indeterminate folk who, by their beards could have been Livonians but by their dancing might have been Spanish. The original Grand Duchy emerged in the fourteenth century as a commandery of the Teutonic Knights. A series of revolts caused by heavy taxation and the German sense of humour led to a brief period of independence. Tiring of taking their own responsibility for effective governance, the Duchy passed into the hands of the Kingdom of Lithuania, and then, in the 16th century into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A series of revolts followed, caused by heavy taxation and the Polish sense of humour. By the seventeenth century, the Kurlanders had remembered why they didn't like taking responsibility for their own governance, which seemed to involve having to enforce a range of inconvenient restrictions related to such unwlecome initiatives as law, order, and consequent constraints on one's ability to punch whomever one wanted. Vain attempts by the Swedes and Prussians to introduce aspects of modern governence were stymied by more Kurlandian rebellions, an activity which the locals had really begun rather to enjoy. Occupation by the Russians finally gave the Kurlandians more of what they seemed to want from a government: strong alchohol; fur hats; and interesting uses for beetroot. Even the Russian religion seemed preferable, seventeenth century Catholicism and Protestantism being regarded by most Kurlandians as having dangerously restrictive views on the treatment of social inferiors as property. 

The Duchy is a wide land of sparsely inhabited forests and steppes. As any traveller could attest, Kurland has something for everyone: freezing snow and fog for those who like heat; scorching heat and dust for those who are asthmatic or sweat too much; mud and heavy rain, for those that think that they might enjoy some outside travel. For those that like woodlands, Kurlandian has the most foresty of forests - the sort that minors on pleasant glades and restful dells, and that majors instead on impenetrable foliage, surprise bogs, and wildly angry bears. For those that like grasslands, the steppes are more like stumbles, the lack of trees only helping to give the bears a longer run-up. Indeed, as any traveller would finally acknowledge, a visit to Kurland with its wide steppes and dark rolling forests gives one a marvellous uplifting feeling: upon leaving.

The capital of the Duchy is the town of Furbuhlkov. Notable buildings include the Mauseleum of Lyenin, an ancient Kurlandian philosopher. Lyenin was, on his death, preserved for posterity by the very latest of Kurlandian preservation techniques. Sadly, the ice cubes quickly melted away, and the ideologue now, like his political views, stinks and is full of holes. Visitors to the Duchy might also like to visit Lead Square - so-named gruesomely because it is the site of executions by firing squad. It is also often the site of a children's puppetry fair; sometimes, just to lighten the mood, the Kurlandians combine the two. Saint Boris' Cathedral may also be worth a look. It is famous for its onion-shaped domes, a result of the architect leaving some of his shopping lying on the plans. If the onions ended up on the domes, one can only imagine the difficulties caused by the aubergine that obscured the nave, and the carrots that were taken to be schematics for the plumbing. 

Other places of note in the Duchy include Pstov, the main port; Biskov, famous for its bakery products; Bogorovsk, one of the main industrial hubs; and Vodozyno, the site of Kurland's only university.

One can understand much about the Duchy from its national motto - 'Our Refuge is in Punishment'. That cannon feature prominently on the coat of arms is no accident. This is because they are a central feature, indeed perhaps the only feature, of the Kurlandian system of justice. The Duchy's legal framework consists of a rather thin pamphlet, most of which involves diagrams of the best ways in which suspects can be strapped to, and/or fired out of, artillery pieces. Despite this, the local Kurlandians generally are outgoing, jolly, and surprisingly philosophical given that most are serfs, and thus have the same sorts of political rights as borsht soup.  Their positive disposition is due possibly to their faith in God, but also to the large quantities of alchohol that they consume.  Sometimes this is vodka, but the Kurlandians are famous for turning their hand to distilling mostly anything: turnips; bread; beetroots; shoes; rats; or visitors of an appropriate size. When visiting Kurlandians, it is thus always useful to make sure, either that one has an appropriate present of vodka, or that one is large enough that one cannot easily be fermented.

The Kurlandians share their Duchy with a variety of other ethnic groups. The most significant are the cassock tribesmen - these are just like the cossacks, but without the discipline or table manners. The small Bishopric of Berndt-Lippe also sits within the frontiers of Kurland, and is predominantly German in character: a circumstance that explains the quality of their bakery products and the regularity of the coach services. 

The current ruler of Kurland is the young Grand Duchess Catherine. She ascended to the ducal seat upon the death of her husband, Oleg, only a few months previously, in circumstances that were suspicious: if, that is, having him strangled in public at a court breakfast still fits the definition of the word 'suspicious'. By all accounts the new ruler is an ambitious moderniser, hungry for glory and a better quality of palace bathroom. Her efforts, however, have already generated resistance from Kurlandian traditionalists, who take the view that 'modernisation', like fornication, is an unholy act best carried out by other people, and in the dark.

Shockingly for these traditionalists, the Kurlandian army is to be commanded by the Grand Duchess Catherine herself. Known for their bovine qualities of endurance, the Kurlandian troops are always ready to 'Rally to the Colours' and are noted for their 'Steady Lads' approach on the defence. Faithful to the church, the Kurlandians are also accompanied by Orthodox 'Clerics'.

The army comprises of the following units:

Severodvinsky Guard Infantry Regiment (Trained):
Oktyabrsky Infantry Regiment (Trained):
Makhachkalay Infantry Regiment (Trained):
Nalchiki Infantry Regiment (Trained):
Cherkessky Infantry Regiment (Trained):
Sudzhensky Infantry Regiment (Conscript):
Osinniki Infantry Regiment (Conscript):

Nicolayevsk Horse Grenadiers (Trained):
Berndt-Lippe Carabiniers (Trained):
Kropotkin Dragoons (Conscript):

Yeysk Sotnia of Irregular Cavalry:
Noginsk Sotnia of Irregular Cavalry:
Kulabaki Sotnia of Irregular Cavalry:

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Batteries of the Ducal Artillery Regiment 

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