1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 20
“We have a steamboat in from Saratov,” Olga said. “It’s loaded with food stuffs, but they want assurances that the money will be good.”
“That’s an increasing complaint,” Natasha added. “We have steamboats on the river and we can use them to access the products of the Volga River system as long as we can hold it, but we have to regularize the money supply.”
“We know there is gold and silver in the Ural Mountains. We even have a decent idea where to look. We can give them gold if that’s what they want, or at least we will be able to.”
“For as long as we control the river,” Bernie said, looking at the map.
“Can we hold Kazan?” asked Evdokia.
Mikhail listened as the discussion wound about him. All his life he had been a quiet person who was surrounded by powerful and forceful people. In a way, he still was. His quiet wife, out from under the protocols and threats of life in Moscow, was blooming into a forceful person. So were Natasha, Anya, Bernie, Filip, and even Olga, now that she had gotten a little used to the invasion by the imperial court of Russia.
“I’m not sure we could take it in the first place,” said Natasha. “Much less hold it. Besides, it’s on the Volga, and that means Sheremetev would have to take it back.”
Mikhail looked down at the map on the table as he continued to listen. Kazan was a city on the Volga, a major trading port about forty-five miles north of the confluence of the Volga and the Kama rivers and just about as far east as the Volga went before that confluence.
“All the more reason to take it and hold it, if we can. If we held it we would control the lower Volga, all the way to the Caspian Sea. If we can hold it through the harvest, we can get enough food up here to make it through the winter.”
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice,” Natasha said with some asperity. “I just don’t see any way we can do it.”
“Well, I think we should try,” Evdokia insisted. “Mikhail, you’re always talking about how that baker’s boy is such a military genius. Surely he can work out some sort of defense of Kazan that will let us divert enough food to see us through the winter.”
That was a serious problem. Mikhail looked out the window and saw a great deal of forest, but not much in the way of plowed fields. And if they were to build a manufacturing and political center here in Ufa, they would need food and raw materials. “Ivan is a bright young man and I am greatly impressed by Tim’s decisiveness in difficult situations. Both because of what we saw in Murom and General Shein’s private report to my father on the battle of Rzhev.” Mikhail was referring to Tim’s taking the initiative, even as little more than a military cadet, to order splat guns moved to attack the Poles on the flank. It had been a decisive move and one that had saved the day. But it had not been made public, because to do so would have been detrimental to good order and discipline in the Russian Army. An army that had little enough order and discipline to begin with. That report, along with the fact that he hadn’t had anyone else to appoint at the time, had been a big reason that Mikhail had made Tim a general. “But in spite of Tim’s decisiveness, there are only so many bricks you can make with no straw and darn little mud. I don’t want to lose Tim by asking too much of him.”
“Leave it up to Tim,” Bernie suggested.
“You think he’s up to it?” asked Filip Pavlovich Tupikov.
Bernie looked back at Filip, then turned to look at Mikhail. “Your Majesty, I think that if he’s not up to it, we need to find it out now rather than later.”
“That’s hard, Bernie,” said Anya.
“But he’s right,” Mikhail heard himself say. “I may have made a mistake promoting Tim so high so fast. And I admit that I did it simply because I had nothing else to give the boy we were leaving in Bor while we escaped in the dirigible.”
“He knew that, Your Majesty,” said Anya. “He understood.”
“He also survived. At least, he has so far. And that makes his rank much more real. It’s not something we can ignore.”
“Why not?” asked Olga. “I mean, if you . . .” She trailed off.
“The illusion of imperial infallibility,” Mikhail said with a foul taste in his mouth. This, as much as anything, was why he didn’t want to be a ruling monarch. “I can punish Tim for failing to live up to my expectations, but I can never admit publicly that the expectations were in error. Especially since, so far, he has lived up to them. He’s alive, the force we left under his command is still intact and has grown to over five hundred men, mostly streltzi, but some minor nobles. So far, in fact, he’s doing better than we had any right to expect.”
Filip explained, “If Tim had died at Bor or a day or two later, fighting the Nizhny Novgorod streltzi or a force sent by Sheremetev, then everyone would have understood that Czar Mikhail had known it was a forlorn hope and given Tim a great honor. Tim would be remembered much as Ivan Susanin is.”
Not that Mikhail wanted that. He already had the original Ivan Susanin on his conscience and way too many others like him. People he had never met who had died for him or because of his decisions.
“But now,” Filip was saying, “since Tim won at Bor and pulled a fair chunk of the Nizhny Novgorod streltzi into his army and has been growing it as he moved south and east along the Volga, it looks like a real appointment. Like Czar Mikhail truly thought that a nineteen-year-old boy was the second coming of Alexander the Great, with the loyalty of Belisarius. If Tim falls it will be tragic, but just one of those things. But if Czar Mikhail demotes him or even just sticks him off in a corner somewhere to age, it will be seen as Czar Mikhail going back on his word. A betrayal of Tim and all the others who might be tempted to come to Czar Mikhail’s colors.”
Mikhail looked at Olga, expecting to see confusion or perhaps disgust, but what he saw was dawning understanding . . . and even approval.
Mikhail still felt like he had when they forced the crown on him when he was seventeen. Like Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane, desperate to have the cup taken from him. Ever since then he had sipped of that dreadful brew as little as possible. Yet here it was, still before him. Over the years since the Ring of Fire and the knowledge of that other history that it brought with it — and especially in the last few weeks as he had run for his life with his wife and children — he had come to accept that the cup could not be taken from him. He would have to drink it to the dregs. Mikhail looked out at the forest again. “Send a message with one of the steamboats. We leave it to General Lebedev’s discretion, but if he feels he can — and for as long as he feels he can — we wish him to take and hold Kazan and deny the lower Volga to Sheremetev.”
On The Volga, near Kazan
Tim’s force didn’t have to signal to get the steamboats to stop this time. After reading the message from Czar Mikhail, Tim wished the boats had just gone on by. “Look at this, Ivan.” He handed the message over.
Ivan read it and said, “Well, he leaves it up to you.”
Tim turned in his saddle with all the grace that might be expected in a Russian of aristocratic lineage. “That makes me feel so much better. I get to lead these men into what is probably a hopeless defense, or I get to leave the Volga open to Sheremetev all the way to the Caspian Sea and cut us off from our best source of food to last out the winter.”
“Well, that’s why you’re the general,” Ivan said, with a smug smile.
For just a second Tim wanted to hit his friend. Then he had a better idea. “That’s right. I am the general, and you are only a captain.” Tim smiled, then waved Marat Davidovich, the commander of Princess Natasha’s guard, over. “Marat, Czar Mikhail has sent us new orders. It’s up to me whether to try and take Kazan and block Sheremetev, but his imperial majesty would really prefer if the food they grow down near the Caspian Sea were to find its way to Ufa to feed all the freed serfs.”
It was clear from Marat’s expression that he didn’t find this a good plan, but he kept his mouth shut.
“I’ve decided to send Captain Ivan Kuzmanovich Maslov here to look over the situation in Kazan and advise me of the practicality of taking and holding the city. I was wondering if you thought you could keep him out of trouble while he’s looking around.”
Marat didn’t say, “Do I have to?” in the whiny tone of a five-year-old told to clean out the chicken coops, but it was clear that he thought it.
“Pick a couple of men and go with him. And do it quickly, please. We will be reaching Kazan in another couple of days. I was planning on bypassing it, but . . .” Tim let his voice trail off, holding up the message from Czar Mikhail.
Marat turned in his saddle. “Dimitri, Yuri, come over here.”
While Ivan and his guards got ready for their trip to Kazan, Tim called the column to a halt. He needed to give them time to scout, so he would stop the army and drill.
â€œWe have a steamboat in from Saratov,â€ Olga said. â€œItâ€™s loaded with food stuffs, but they want assurances that the money will be good.â€
â€œThatâ€™s an increasing complaint,â€ Natasha added. â€œWe have steamboats on the river and we can use them to access the products of the Volga River system as long as we can hold it, but we have to regularize the money supply.â€.â€
Impossible. Back then, Volga and Belaya rivers were not connected via water-locks. If this was indeed a steam boat filled with all sorts of good then dragging it across the land to nearest waterway (first Vyatka, then Kama) was out of question.
â€œâ€œAll the more reason to take it and hold it, if we can. If we held it we would control the lower Volga, all the way to the Caspian Sea.â€
How? No, seriously â€“ how? How does one lead to another?
â€œBut it had not been made public, because to do so would have been detrimental to good order and discipline in the Russian Army. An army that had little enough order and discipline to begin with.â€
Which could not exist in the first place so early on â€“ I must add.
â€œThat report, along with the fact that he hadnâ€™t had anyone else to appoint at the time, had been a big reason that Mikhail had made Tim a general.â€
Only there were no such military rank in Russian military at the period. The command of this or that army was not a permanent position and subject to near constant change (and subject to mestnichestvo).
Can someone explain to me why just in few short years there is this cargo cult here, which calls itself â€œRussian armyâ€?
â€œEspecially since, so far, he has lived up to them. Heâ€™s alive, the force we left under his command is still intact and has grown to over five hundred men, mostly streltzi, but some minor nobles. So far, in fact, heâ€™s doing better than we had any right to expect.â€â€
500? What kind of troops? How much horses? How does he plan to pay them? How does he plan to supply them with everything he is obliged to supply to nobles and streltzi for their military service?
â€œNot that Mikhail wanted that. He already had the original Ivan Susanin on his conscience and way too many others like him. People he had never met who had died for him or because of his decisions.â€
Who are you trying to portray here? A moral wreck with no spine and up-time sentiments or the highest member of the military aristocracy, brought up in the most violent time of the Times of Troubles? This portrayal of Mikhail Romanov has nothing to do with any semblance to reality. Real Mikhail would not like to rule the country not because he disliked the power, but because he was afraid of becoming a target of intrigues and assassination attempts. Besides this one oft cited espidoe of him (a teenager back then) â€œcryingâ€, there is no indication that he ever loathed the â€œburdenâ€ of the crown. Stop kidding yourself thinking otherwise.
â€œâ€¦But if Czar Mikhail demotes him or even just sticks him off in a corner somewhere to age, it will be seen as Czar Mikhail going back on his word. A betrayal of Tim and all the others who might be tempted to come to Czar Mikhailâ€™s colors.â€
This whole argument does not make any sense. At all. Mikhail has the legitimacy both as the elected monarch and as anointed by God sovereign. He is the supreme liege. Sheremetev has nothing of this. The smart thing for him back then in the previous book (with its moronic finale) was to run away East without making stupid proclamations, thus securing the trust of the nobility â€“ the only force that mattered back then. Once in safety, he could start moving along the rivers, forcing city voivodes (appointed by czarâ€™s government to their posts) to either open the gates or come out as oath-breakers. There might not be even a need for sieges if the authors claim of Mikailâ€™s popularity are true. And even if not â€“ the ruling elites would surely prefer him back on the throne to the heavy-handed Sheremetev. With Philaret gone now other families of boyars can vie for power and influence at the court. Thatâ€™s â€œAbsolutism 101â€ to fight not the monarch, but for monarchâ€™s attention.
And â€œTimâ€? He has duty. Simple as that. In fact â€“ if heâ€™d be gone it might be even better for the mestnichestvo conscious nobles.
You know, Iâ€™m spending most of my comments launching criticism on the â€œpower duoâ€ of our esteemed authors. I think itâ€™s time for me to say big â€œTHANK YOUâ€ to Huff&Goodlett for their third bad book in the row. No, Iâ€™m serious â€“ thank you, guys! Without your atrocious writing and glaring plotholes, without cardboard two-dimensional characters (whose fate, death or deeds are not interesting in the slightest) and, most of all, without a mounting heap of the historic inaccuracies I wouldnâ€™t have a â€œkickstartâ€ impulse to start digging and discover â€“ how it was in reality?
So I asked myself â€“ what about logistics involving in supplying so-called â€œTimâ€™sâ€ (who remembers his real first and last name anyway?) band of misfits, now tasked with, ha-ha, capturing Kazan? First relevant quotes from already available snippets:
â€œThe staff of the dirigible works were going to be needed in Ufa and so was a lot of the equipment. The steamboats were already overloaded, and Ivan didn’t think that the city fathers of Nizhny Novgorod were going to be in any mood to provide them with extra riverboats. Ivan took inventory of what they were going to need and realized that they weren’t going to have room. He pared down his list to things they had to haveâ€¦and it was still way too much. Some of the equipment on the boats would have to come off.â€
– Chapter I.
â€œ”Well, General, what happens next?” Ivan Maslov asked. They were still in sight of Nizhny Novgorod and had picked up some streltzi to swell their ranks. They also had quite a few techs from the dirigible works at Bor.
â€œâ€¦It’s six hundred miles to Ufa. We’ll probably be safely dead before anyone asks us what to do.â€
– Chapter II.
â€œGeneral Boris Timofeyevich Lebedev, known to his friends as Tim, looked out at his army and concluded that an army did not in fact march on its stomach. It slithered on its stomach like a snake. A particularly lazy snake. Not that what Tim commanded could within reason be called an army. Mob was closer. Aside from the core of troops that were Gorchakov retainers, Tim and Ivan Maslov had been picking up odds and sods since they left Bor after Czar Mikhail escaped.â€
â€œâ€¦The Gorchakov retainers were good troops, well trained, well supplied, and disciplined. To an extent that was rubbing off on the odds and sods. Especially the small contingent from Bor that had come with Ivan. They were soldiers, at least, though a large number of them were more technician than soldier. They were the people who had built the dirigible, Czarina Evdokia, some of them, anyway.â€
â€œTim and Ivan watched as a family passed them on the road, walking beside a wagon. It was the family of a streltzi from Nizhny Novgorod. After the battle, Tim’s force had gained a good chunk of the garrison, partly out of fear of Sheremetev’s response to their defeat. The streltzi, a man of about forty, tipped his cap as he went by. Tim nodded encouragement. The streltzi of Nizhny Novgorod had brought their families because it wasn’t safe to leave them, and the other groups they had picked up on the road had done the same. The camp followers outnumbered the camp by a considerable margin.
On a good day they would make five miles. On a bad day, twoâ€¦or none. â€
– Chapter IV.
â€œThe steamboat Danilov was tied up at the dock and its paperwork said it was owned by a merchant from Samaraâ€¦ [T]he men on the boat sold furs and bought grain, cabbage, and beets.â€
â€œWhile they were stopped, Ivan got a chance to read most of the unencoded messages that the captain had bought. The army also managed to get a couple of wagon loads of beets.â€
â€œâ€¦He’s alive, the force we left under his command is still intact and has grown to over five hundred men, mostly streltzi, but some minor noblesâ€¦.â€
– Chapter V.
Here you go â€“ all relevant quotes. So, we have a fighting force of about 500 â€œsoldiersâ€ (understood broadly) and a number of non-combatants that greatly exceeds them â€“ say, 1500+ in total. They are moving atrociously slow â€“ if 5 miles per day is the best they can, well, there is no excuse for them. Peter the Greatâ€™s newly minted Russian army was capable of covering 14-16 miles per day. The Second Volunteer Army under Minin and Pozharsky covered in their march from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow distance of c. 9-10 miles per day (the same was true for other armies during the Times of Troubles). For â€œTimâ€™sâ€ force to move less than that there must be some incredibly good explanation!
Next â€“ food. Daily ration per trooper (word â€œsoldierâ€ is inappropriate here) in armies of Russia amounted to 4000-4500 kcal (more for the nobles, of course). The staple foodstuffs for the military men of the Russian armies during the time period were (by category):
Bread: either in the form of dry biscuits (â€œsukhariâ€) or flour (millet or rye) plus cereals (buckwheat or oatmeal).
Meat: Bacon (basic unit â€“ â€œhalf-carcassâ€ for 10 people) or mutton (basic unit â€“ one lamb for 10 people).
Fish: Most of the time â€“ pickled herring by barrels, rarer â€“ fresh river fish (especially during the Lent).
Vegetables: Onions, garlic, peas. Not cabbage as per the book â€“ their â€œharvestâ€ was tied to the holy Feast of the Cross (mid to late September) followed by a two week long festival when the people had a chance to eat fresh cabbage and dishes with it. Afterwards â€“ mass production of the sauerkraut. So â€“ no (fresh) cabbage before that. Beets wonâ€™t reach Russia till 18 c. No
soupborscht for you!
Misc: Cheese, eggs, butter, vinegar, edible berries and nuts. Salt (a must have!) and honey.
Beverages: Mostly malt beer/ale. Russian trademark â€œgingerbread aleâ€ â€“ kvas. Rarely â€“ â€œbread wineâ€ (which was *not* vodka). Mead.
That was a normal diet for Russian military men expected to march daily at great distance and be ready to engage in combat in the process. The â€œcivviesâ€ wouldnâ€™t hope to get even a fraction of that. The daily norm for an adult male peasant was 2100-2400 kcal. Now imagine the amount of food required to be transported with â€œGeneral Timâ€™sâ€ motley crew of misfits.
Wait â€“ thatâ€™s not all! What about horsies? We know for sure they ought to have some â€“ they have nobles among them, they have wagons â€“ even â€œgeneral Timâ€ himself is riding a horse! Itâ€™s summer time, so supplying grass is slightly easier. Key word here â€“ â€œslightlyâ€. For even moving at such slow pace, their horses still have to eat (daily!) 20-30 pounds of good, fresh grass â€“ each. Either that, or they have to carry with them lots of oats on a separate wagon.
Why the authors did nothing to explain how they managed to survived so far during this â€œeternal Julyâ€ of 1636? Why they also wonâ€™t explain the logistic component of the â€œSiberian Trailâ€ of our â€œcharmingâ€ (not really, no) runaways from â€œRuzukaâ€, who ought to run in the similar problems? Questions, questionsâ€¦ and so little logic!
Those who can write, those who can’t criticize.
This truism in your comment is nice. It sounds really nice. One can even assume that you are clever, because you use such witty truism.
It is also patently wrong. Want some examples?
You: â€œHey, doc! Why did you cut both of my ears, liver, half of a right lung and two fingers of the left arm?! I was diagnosed with common flu!â€
Doc: â€œBah, everyone is a critic! Next time â€“ heal yourself!â€
Actually, pretty much anyone possesses the capability to write. Most, but not all, possess the capability to criticize. Thos who can write with a demonstrated ability (i.e. with talent and training, possessing the relevant knowledge needed for that) are few and far between. Those who can criticize others with a demonstrated ability (i.e. with talent and training, possessing the relevant knowledge needed for that) are also few and far between. Just writing primitive, illogical, boring, sloppy fiction does not mean that you know how to write and that you should be beyond reproach simply because you did something. Responding with short, obscene, unsupported critique (e.g. limiting your critique to â€œyou suck!â€ or â€œyour writing is bad and you should feel bad!â€ (c)) does not mean they are really criticizing and not just dissing people.
I thought the aim of this site was to garner the feedback from the intended readership of the novel, which snippets we can read here. Ergo â€“ the comment section. Apparently, you, Daryl, disagree with the notion that any kind of criticism is permissible. At all. Or am I wrong in interpreting your comment?
But given this particular example of yours and why it is not true â€“ thinkâ€¦ monkeys! Put a monkey behind a typewriter/keyboard and, lo and behold â€“ you might see it typing! There is some (abysmal) chance that the â€œtextâ€ of this particular monkey will make â€œsenseâ€. Well, at least monkey can definitely â€œwriteâ€! Are you familiar, Daryl, with the â€œinfinite monkey theoremâ€? It states, that, given an infinite length of time, a monkey punching at random on a typewriter would almost surely type out all of Shakespeare’s plays. Such great people like Jorge Luis Borges, Ã‰mile Borel and Arthur Eddington and others popularized this metaphor.
Sometimes, reading another snippet courtesy of Huff&Goodlett Iâ€™m reminded of that theorem. Granted â€“ what they produce is not even close to Shakespeareâ€™s works.
But, tell me, Daryl, can a monkey offer a critique of the literary work in the concise, meaningful way?
“Can a monkey offer a critique of the literary work in the concise, meaningful way?”
You apparently can’t.
And bad fiction isn’t equivalent to bad surgery. I can still breathe, despite the existence of Battlefield Earth. I can still see, despite the existence of the Star Wars Christmas Special. I can still eat my dinner with both hands, despite the existence of “‘Manos’ The Hands of Fate”. This is because declaring them equivalent is nothing more than extreme hyperbole. More to the point, no one has forced me to watch any of these movies.
“You apparently canâ€™t.”
I’m not a monkey ;) Stay classy, Terranovan â€“ resort to personal attacks!
But, pray tell, in what way is my critique is meaningless and wrong?
“And bad fiction isnâ€™t equivalent to bad surgery.”
People with extremely low self-esteem or demands can live even with less. Should someone drop on you a bucketload of garbage (or worse…) you won’t die on the spot. But is this something to seek actively, something to be “proud” of and something to defend against the detractors?
Are you saying that people â€œshouldâ€ have bucketloads of refuse heaped upon them and no one can criticize the fact?
By saying â€You apparently canâ€™tâ€, Iâ€™m saying that you value concision while criticizing at great length.
And if you have a problem with personal attacks, then why did you turn around and do the same to me? â€œPeople with extremely low self-esteem or demands.â€
â€œBy saying â€You apparently canâ€™tâ€, Iâ€™m saying that you value concision while criticizing at great length.â€
Aww! Someone is backtracking!
“And if you have a problem with personal attacks, then why did you turn around and do the same to me?”
I didn’t mean you, Terranovan. You chose to interpret it this way and feel offended.
That’s what makes personal attacks personal – you reference the person in question. I did nothing of the sort. Should I choose to resort to the personal attacks (and I surely possess the capability for that) I won’t hide it. See? I have no problem with personal attacks – they entertain me ;)
Also, no oneâ€™s forcing you to read any more of the 1632 series.
â€œAlso, no oneâ€™s forcing you to read any more of the 1632 seriesâ€
The same is true for you, Terranovan. Why do you keep reading the series? Can you explain this to me? Why?
We have a saying in our country, that with some people you should offer them a flash light (torch) so they can find their way, as they are so up them selves that they can’t find their way out.