1637 – The Polish Maelstrom – Snippet 02

East of “Slovakia,” the proposed new Greater Bohemia started getting fatter, like an anaconda that had just swallowed a pig. The big new belly of the new empire would consist of the southern part of the region that was often called Lesser Poland, a huge territory which comprised close to half of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the future history Morris came from, most of that would eventually become part of Ukraine.

War with Poland. Check.

Being honest, Morris knew that was pretty much a given also, if he was to have any hope of forestalling the Chmielnicki Pogrom. The noble magnates who dominated the political life of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were bound to be hostile to any project which removed the corrosive social tensions in Lesser Poland. Much of their wealth and power came from those tensions.

From there, the map got rather vague. The northern boundary of Wallenstein’s proposed empire was not clearly defined, running somewhere south of Lviv and Kiev until it reached the Dnieper River, at which point it expanded southward to the Black Sea, gobbling up Moldova, Bessarabia and the city of Odessa. The exact boundary on the southeast was not distinct, either, being indicated by a shaded area rather than clear borders, although it generally seemed to follow the Dniester River. Morris suspected that Wallenstein wanted, if possible, to avoid any outright clashes with the Ottoman Empire. He’d take what he could, but stop short of challenging the Turks directly.

Marked in faint pencil lines further east was what amounted to a long tail that stretched into the southern regions of what Morris thought of as “Russia,” although in the seventeenth century the area–this was true of much of Lesser Poland, as well–was very much a borderland thinly inhabited by a wide mix of peoples.

So. War with Russia and the Cossacks. Check. Tatars too, most likely.

Morris let out a slow breath. Maybe war with the Muscovites and Tatars could be avoided. As for the Cossacks…

Mentally, he shrugged his shoulders. Morris had as much sympathy for the Cossacks as any late twentieth century Jew with a good knowledge of history.


Fuck ’em and the horses they rode in on. The same bastards who led the Chmielnicki pogrom–and then served the Tsars as their iron fist in the pogroms at Kiev and Kishinev.

Wallenstein and Pappenheim still weren’t saying anything. Morris leaned back a little and started scrutinizing the map again, west to east.

The plan was… shrewd. Very shrewd, the more he studied the map.

Morris didn’t know exactly where the ethnic and religious lines lay in the here and now. Not everywhere, for sure and certain. But he knew enough to realize that what Wallenstein proposed to do was to gut the soft underbellies of every one of Bohemia’s neighbors.

Silesia, in this era, was not yet really part of Poland, as it would become in later centuries in the universe Morris had come from. Its population was an ethnic mix, drawn from many sources–most of whom, at least in the big towns and cities, were Protestants, not Catholics.

Despite the name, “Royal Hungary” in the seventeenth century was mostly a Slavic area, ruled by the Magyars but with no real attachment to Hungary. Morris wouldn’t be at all surprised if most of its inhabitants would view a Bohemian conquest as something in the way of a liberation. They certainly weren’t likely to rally to the side of their Austrian and Hungarian overlords.

Moving still further east, the same was true again. Parts of “Lesser Poland” had little in the way of a Polish population–and that often consisted mostly of Polish noblemen grinding their Ruthenian serfs under. As for the Ruthenians themselves, the name was not even one that they’d originated, but a Latin label that had been slapped onto them by western European scholars.  In a future time, most of them would eventually become Ukrainians. But, in this day and age, they were a mix of mostly Slavic immigrants with a large minority of Jews living here and there among them.

Most of the Jews lived in the larger towns and were engaged in a wide range of mercantile and manufacturing activities. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth did not maintain in practice the same tight restrictions on Jewish activity that most realms in Europe did. Unfortunately, a number of them had also moved out into rural areas.

“Unfortunately,” from Morris’ viewpoint, because these Jews did not spread into the countryside as farmers. Instead, they spread as rent-collectors and overseers of the large landed estates maintained by mostly-absentee Polish and Lithuanian magnates. They were universally hated by the Ruthenian peasantry–who, in the nature of things, did not make any fine distinctions between the small class of Jews who exploited them and the great majority of the Jewish populations in the towns who were simply going about their business.

Wallenstein’s shrewdness was evident wherever Morris looked on the map. He did not propose to take Krakow, for instance. Looked at from one angle, that was a little silly. At the end of the year 1633, the population of Krakow was also mostly non-Polish. Wallenstein could even advance a threadbare claim to the city, since it had once been under the authority of the kingdom of Bohemia.

But the Poles had an emotional attachment to Krakow, since it had once served as their capital city–and still was, officially, although the real capital was now Warsaw. Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was still Poland’s most prestigious center of learning. So, Wallenstein would seize everything south of the Vistula but did not propose to cross the river and seize Krakow itself. Thereby, he’d avoid as best he could stirring up Polish nationalism, while establishing a defensible border.

Sum it all up and what you had was what amounted to Wallenstein’s pre-emptive strike at every existing realm in Eastern Europe. He would seize all the territories that each of them claimed–but for which none of them had really established any mutual allegiance. The end result, if his plans worked, would be a Bohemian Empire that rivaled in territory and population any of the nations in Europe.

Morris scanned the map again, west to east. With Prague as the capital–it was already one of the great cities of Europe–the rest of Wallenstein’s empire would consist of mostly-rural territory stitched together by a number of cities. Pressburg, and possibly Lviv, Lublin, Kiev–maybe even Pinsk, way to the north, in what would someday become Belarus.

Morris couldn’t help but chuckle. Pinsk, which already had a large Jewish population and would, by the end of the nineteenth century, have a population that was ninety percent Jewish.

There weren’t many Jews in Pressburg. But Lviv, Lublin and Kiev were heavily Jewish.

“You propose to use us as your cannon fodder,” he said. “Jews, I mean.”

“Yes, of course. It’s either that or serve the Cossacks as mincemeat fifteen years from now. Make your choice.”

Idly, Morris wondered where he’d gotten the term “mincemeat,” which Wallenstein had said in English. Probably from Edith Wild.

Make your choice.

Put that way, it was easy enough.

“I’ll need the Brethren,” Morris said.

“Yes, you will. Not a problem.” Wallenstein’s long finger came to rest on Lublin. “There is a very large concentration of the Brethren here, you know. And others, scattered throughout the region.”

Morris hadn’t known the Brethren had a presence in Lublin. The news caused him to relax a little. If the Brethren could also serve as what amounted to Wallenstein’s social garrisons in the major cities of his proposed empire, that would remove some of the tension on the Jews. They were themselves Christians, after all.

So… it might work–assuming Morris had any chance of translating his pitiful military experience into something worth a damn on the battlefield.

It was Pappenheim who crystallized the thought that Morris was groping toward.

“Stop thinking of being a ‘general’ in narrow terms,” said the man who was perhaps the current world’s best exemplar of a general in narrow terms. Pappenheim was a man of the battlefield, with little interest in anything else. “Think of it in broad terms. You simply have to organize the military effort, while you concentrate on political matters. Let others, better suited for the task, lead the troops on the field.”

He grinned again in that savage way he had. Then, jabbed a thumb at Wallenstein. “That’s what he does, mostly, you know.”