1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 17

The problem was, it didn’t seem to be working that way. Oh, here in the United States of Europe with the Committees of Correspondence ready to introduce guillotines to the back of the neck of any recidivist noble, the United Mine Workers of America and Europe unionizing — not just mine workers but steel workers and factory workers of all sorts — and the Fourth of July Party and the Rams giving them all political cover, it was working out that way. But not in Russia, or the Ottoman Empire. The same serfs who had been putting in fourteen hour days getting in the crop before the Ring of Fire were now putting in fourteen hours a day all winter in Russian factories. The Ottomans were using slaves in their factories, according to Boris Petrov, and it seemed to be working just fine.

That information had caused him to take a closer look at the assumptions about slavery that the up-timers held, and even in the up-timer history they just didn’t hold up. In the up-time USA the antebellum south used slaves in factories and they worked just fine. The Germans used concentration camp inmates to make their V2 rockets. Again, it worked fine.

Vladimir understood slavery and the attitudes that it engendered in a way that no up-timer could, because Vladimir owned, or had owned, hundreds of serfs. He understood the level of codependency, and institutional syndrome, in the serf communities. Masters came to believe that the serfs lacked the capability of living free of bondage because after being born and raised a serf or a slave, a lot of them did lack that ability. And, even more, had grown comfortable with their lot in life. Put to work in factories, they worked in factories. Some were treated well, some treated poorly, but, so far at least, the serfs and slaves in Russia were adapting to factory life as well or better than the free labor. Perhaps because they had no choice but to do so.

It was all quite depressing and had provided both Vladimir and Brandy with many sleepless nights, along with the goal of building an abolitionist movement in Russia. But now Czar Mikhail was in Ufa and trying to build a new structure of government for Russia. That was much of what Vladimir had received in his packet of letters from Ufa. The question was: how do we design the constitution for a constitutional monarchy in Russia . . . no . . . longer . . . how do we evolve one?

“I don’t know. I know that Alexander Hamilton showed up at your constitutional convention with a draft constitution already made up, but didn’t get most of what he wanted. And I have studied your three branch government system, both the up-time version and the USE constitution. But I don’t think that approach will work for Russia. More importantly, I don’t think it will garner the support needed to win the civil war that now seems inevitable in Russia.”

“Why not?”

“Because we have to have the bureaus with us to win,” Vladimir said. “It wasn’t true in Ivan the Terrible’s time, but during the Time of Troubles, the bureaus were the only things holding the nation together. They gained a great deal of power, even if it was a sort of under-the-table type of power. The limitations on Czar Mikhail that were imposed when he was crowned made them even stronger. For Mikhail to do much of anything he had to get the approval of the duma and the zemsky sobor, but the bureaus could implement regulations on their own. They skirted the restriction and that gave them additional clout.”

“Well, come on. It’s not like we didn’t have bureaucrats up-time or like we don’t have them in the USE,” Brandy said.

They had talked about this before, but Brandy hadn’t lived there and didn’t really understand. The term “zemsky sobor” translated as “assembly of the land”. Representatives of Russia’s different social classes could be summoned by the Tsar orders to discuss important political and economic issues. It could be considered the first Russian parliament — allowing for very constipated values of “parliament.” It didn’t really have any independent authority. The duma was a much smaller assembly of high-ranking noblemen, which had a lot more authority than the zemsky sobor but didn’t effectively wield much power on a day-to-day basis. In practice, Russia was run by deals made between the bureaus and the bureaus weren’t going to give that up.

“It’s different,” was all he could come up with. “They have a lot more power than they officially have, and no government that doesn’t bring in the bureau men will survive.”

Brandy shrugged, not so much in agreement as in acceptance. “So how do we bring them in?”

“I don’t know.”

“From what we heard before the escape, Sheremetev hadn’t been treating the bureaus well. That has to help us, right?”

“Some, yes. But bureaucrats tend to like stability. I suspect that a lot will depend on what he does next.”

Petrov House, Moscow

The servant took the sheets of typewritten paper. He didn’t read the address because he couldn’t read. The address read: “From Mariya Petrov, to Boris Petrov, Moscow.”

Some hours later, when Boris Ivanovich Petrov got home, he could read the address. Inside the letter was a section in the family code. After he decoded it, it read:

Boris, I received this from Sofia Gorchakovna. 

Dear Mariya, the ladies of Goritsky Monastery have been following events over the radio. Several messages have been sent and it is the consensus of the sisters that Archangelsk will attempt to revolt if Director-General Sheremetev gives them into the care of his cousin. 

There followed a fairly detailed description of the politics of Archangelsk, who was being bribed by who and who was getting a rake off from what shipments. Most especially, the realization that with the Swedes controlling access to the Baltic, they controlled all the trade from the rest of the world. It wasn’t a new situation, but the fractures in Russia were being seen as an opportunity to break free, or at least get a better deal.

The consensus is that Sheremetev will be so busy with Mikhail that he will cut any deal he has to with Archangelsk in order to keep it from being a distraction, the letter finished.

Then Mariya continued. I have sent Sofia a pad for encoding messages to me. I think that it would be best if we use me as the conduit. That way messages from her will be chatty letters from one old woman to another, while the letters from me to you will be chatty letters from a wife to her husband.

Boris smiled and nodded. The news about Archangelsk was important if it was true, but even more important was the news about the monastery. It would give him a whole section of analysts that no one would know about. Boris considered and wrote several other letters. He would send one off to a friend of his in Nizhny Novgorod and see if it could be put on a steamboat heading for Ufa. Ivan needed to know about this.

Moscow Kremlin

July 1636

Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev looked up into the sky with rage and hate in his heart. There, above Moscow, very high, though it was impossible for him to tell just how high, was the dirigible Czarina Evdokia, floating above Moscow and raining pamphlets. Sheets of paper poison, encouraging rebellion and sedition in the name of the deposed and possessed Czar Mikhail. Safe in Ufa, Mikhail and his traitors were trying to return Russia to the Time of Troubles. For a brief instant, Sheremetev was ready to turn and order it fired upon. He might have done it, except that it would have just underscored his helplessness in the face of the airship.

It was a still day here on the ground, but there must be a light breeze to the southwest at the airship’s height. The airship was pointing to the northeast and maintaining a position a bit northeast of Moscow. And the fluttering pamphlets were drifting down as a sparse snowfall covering the city. Finally, after several minutes of glaring, Sheremetev turned and went back into the building. Then he sent for Colonel Leontii Shuvalov.


“Director-General.” Colonel Shuvalov bowed.

“Colonel, I want that beast out of the sky.” Sheremetev still felt the rage.

The colonel nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. “I remember that Cass Lowry was always saying that balloons were useless for war in the up-time world because they were so easily brought down. Something about a ‘fifty cal with tracer rounds and that’s all she wrote.’ A fifty cal is a type of gun and a tracer round is one that somehow burns on its track. While I can put some people on it at the Dacha, I doubt we can do a tracer round or even a fifty cal. But something that burns and can be flung or shot at it . . . that we should be able to do. Still, unless it comes down close to the ground, it will be a difficult target to hit.”