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ZUYEVO (Empire of)

Location: Continent of Brun, Yalu River Basin. WB

Area: 520,000 sq. mi. (1,346,800 sq. km.).

Population: 1,600,000.

Languages: The Zuyevans speak a derivative of an ancient Antalian language that shares a 45% commonality with Heldannic with a slight hint of Ethengar influence.

Coinage: Dvina (gp), vaska (sp), kiven (cp).

Taxes: 25% tax on the income of peasants (much of which is paid in kind or through servitude) and merchants and 10% on the nobility.

Government Type: Autocratic imperial monarchy.

Industries: Agriculture, hunting, fur trading, logging, conquest, mining (gold, silver, tin, electrum, copper, iron), alcohol production.

Important Figures: Andrei III (Tsar), Vasily Stolbov (Minister of State).

Flora and Fauna: Being a northern land with rich soils, Zuyevo hosts a wide variety of plant life. Towards the south, grasslands and steppes predominate, while in the north, and towards the foothills of the Endworld Line, great forests cover the land, culminating in the immense Tunguska Forest, which is primarily coniferous. Towards the central regions of Zuyevo, the vast stands of evergreens give way to forests of maple, poplar, and aspen. Interspersed with the various mundane plants can be found grab grass (in the steppes), and strangle vines (hanging from branches in the southern forests).

Zuyevo is also home to a wide variety of animal life, including deer, mink, beavers, foxes, and wolves. Various humanoids found within Zuyevo include troglodytes, goblins, gnomes, some elves (in the Tunguska Forest), and a large number of hill and mountain giants in the Endworld Line, as well as the occasional red dragon. Some fey races have been sighted in the forests north of Archangelsk. Centaur tribes live in the south near the Yezchamenid Empire.

Further Reading: None.

Description by Marina Takanitas.

While exploring Bellayne for this year's almanac, I had heard that the far-off nations of Zuyevo and the Yezchamenid Empire. Though I had been warned of the danger in making such a long journey, I had already gone all the way to Bellayne as it was; a couple hundred extra miles would make no difference, now. Besides, there might be something in it for the family business. Though I did not have much time to explore either nation to any great extent, I was able to get a sense of what these places are like.

The Land

Zuyevo is a land of immense steppes and grasslands as well as vast forests. The land is bounded by major natural barriers-the Endworld Mountain Range to the west, the Yalu River to the east, arctic plateaus to the north, and Yalu Bay to the south. It is also a cold and bitter land, especially in the north, and the population works hard to extract a living from the soil. The north of the empire is prone to heavy snowfalls, although the hunting is good in the birch, aspen and conifer forests of the north in the warmer months as bear, deer and other wildlife are plentiful.

The land is most heavily settled along the Yalu River and its numerous tributaries; however, Zuyevan colonisation spreads far beyond these regions, although populations here tend to be much more sparse and clustered in defensible villages along internal routes of communication, and at sites of valuable resources like mines and good hunting regions.

The People

The Zuyevans come from a mixed heritage. The most numerous, from a Yevo background, are largely of Antalian heritage, tall and of light complexion. The Talmavs who make up much of the remainder of the population are of Ethengar stock and tend to be more swarthy and stocky. A significant proportion of the peasantry are serfs-bonded labourers-while there is also a small group of well-off, independent farmers: the kulaks. The merchant/middle classes tend to be relatively small as much of the export trade is dealt with by a handful of trading families. The nobility (the only precondition for entry being the amount of farming land owned) is quite large in comparison to most other dominions (especially ones like Karameikos and Thyatis).

The major cities of Zuyevo are:

Zybirsk (pop. 3,000): Zybirsk is a relatively newly created town following the discovery of silver and gold in nearby hills in AC 989. Zybirsk is the classic frontier town-wild and untamed, although the tsar's troops maintain a presence in the town, ostensibly to make sure that taxes are paid on the metals extracted from the mines. However, corruption is rife, and the tsar's troops and officers often accept kickbacks in return for not levying taxes.

Kishinev (pop. 4,500): Kishinev is the newest of all Zuyevan towns, founded in AC 998. It is Zuyevo's only port that is ice-free year-round, and its only outlet onto Yalu Bay. The small Zuyevo Southern Fleet is headquartered here, and the town is a base for naval explorations of Yalu Bay and beyond. It is also the site of the Renardois embassy. The Kingdom of Renardie and the Empire of Zuyevo are forging a strong trade and military alliance-both hope to profit from this at the expense of Vilaverde and Bellayne.

Zuyganev (pop. 40,000): Capital city of the nation, Zuyganev is a prosperous but rambling collection of stone and wooden buildings, surrounded by thick and strong stone walls. It is home to the principal imperial palace, as well as many other fine examples of the unusual Zuyevan architecture.

Dubyshev (pop. 14,000): Dubyshev is a thriving logging and mining town, and is the key to Aska Pass, the narrow and treacherous route that links Zuyevo to its northern ports on the Sea of Brun. It was originally the power base of the Dubyshev princes, but since the recent time of troubles (i.e. the civil war of AC 984-988), the independence of the region has been crushed by the tsar-who maintains two Talmav Guard regiments in the city.

Krasnavodsk (pop. 6,000): The earliest Zuyevan port that was built, it was settled in AC 594 by Talmav explorers. It is now a thriving sea-port, although the bay on which it is situated (the Vaigach Morye) freezes over for three months of every year and is dangerous to larger ships for another two months due to floating ice sheets and the like.

Archangelsk (pop. 13,000): Archangelsk (archangel in Zuyevan) is the principal port of the empire. However, it faces similar problems as does Krasnavodsk, with the port open to navigation at best seven months of the year. It is the administrative and economic centre of Zuyevo's north. The region (or oblast) is cut of from the outside world for at least four months out of every year with the Aska Pass snowed in and impassable during winter and the shipping lanes similarly impassable. Despite the founding of Kishinev, which is still in its infancy, Archangelsk is the main route for exports to be shipped out of Zuyevo.

Kulikovo Fortress (pop. 6,000 soldiers): Kulikovo is an immense rambling fortification system built on the eastern side of the Yalu River. It features a sizeable wharf/dock area where riverboats ferry troops and supplies to the fortress from Sharya. The fortress is the most major military instillation of note on the eastern side of the river, and is the point from which military expeditions are sent out against the vicious humanoids of the northern Yazak Steppes. It has two satellite fortresses called Kustany and Aktynkidze, which act as buffers against humanoid incursions.

Sharya (pop. 17,000): Strategically positioned in the apex of the mighty Yalu and Rybinskoye Rivers, Sharya is a booming city, and gateway to the east. It is largely a military town, and is constructed as such-neat long streets in a grid pattern. Sharya supplies the troops across the Yalu River at Kulikovo, and is the starting point of military and trading expeditions that strike out eastward across the northern Yazak Steppes.

Vyatka (pop. 9,000): Vyatka has been an integral part of the Zuyevan Empire since it was conquered by the Yevo in AC 179. It sits amongst vast tracts of excellent agricultural lands-wheat, rye and other grains are grown here in abundance. As a result, Vyatka is known as the granary of Zuyevo, exporting its excess produce north and south along the Rybinskoye River.

Kostyn (pop. 10,000): Kostyn sits at the source of the Medyn River, namely Markavey Ozero (Zuyevan for Markavey Lake). Its main industries are fur trapping and fishing. The city has grown rich and prosperous from the fur trade in particular-pelts of beaver, mink, sable and others are sold here by hunters that range hundreds of miles north and east through the forests of the Kostyn Oblast, punctuated only by stockaded forts and villages. The tsar levies a 15% fur tax on all pelts brought into the city, but corruption and overzealous bureaucracy often results in more or less being collected for the imperial coffers.

Kirov (pop. 19,000): Kirov is the second largest city in Zuyevo. Its size is a result of the prosperity of its fur trade and its strategic position at the junction of the Rybinskoye and Tashkent Rivers. Formerly the capital of the powerful Visneskayan Khanate, it was conquered by the Yevo war leader Miska in AC 517. It is also well known for its most famous product, vodka, which is produced here in abundance.

Kharkav (pop. 11,000): Located on the upper reaches of the Rybinskoye River, Kharkav is the traditional home of the Talmav tribesmen who have been a part of the empire for almost 500 years. The Kharkav Oblast is principally wooded steppe, but there are also large plains of feather grass. Horses are common in the region, and many peasants living in the oblast are excellent horsemen. As such, many go on to join the tsar's armies, and vie for positions in the elite Talmav Guards.

Chusqvoi Selo (pop. 3,500): Chusqvoi Selo is a solitary and often snowbound northern outpost for Zuyevo. Connected by roads (little more than muddy and barely passable tracks) to Saratov and Kharkav, it is the centre for those hardy Zuyevans who choose to live in the inhospitable north of the empire. Talmav settlers continue to push the borders of the empire further north and east every year as they expand the fur and the hunting grounds. They leave behind small fortified hamlets and villages along muddy roads that are forged through the wooded Chusqvoi Steppes.

Saratov (pop. 8,000): Saratov is Zuyevo's window on the north. It is a large trading centre-many expeditions leave from Saratov for Douzbakjian and Sardjikjian. Its primary industries aside from that are military and fur related. The military are there to secure the routes of communication and to prevent tribesmen (like the Sendarya from the Zdredanyan Forest) and white orcs from the north from disrupting trade. The hunters are there, because wildlife is abundant in the region and the value of a good pelt is often more than worth the risk.

Vyamisgrad (pop. 3,500): Vyamisgrad is but a shadow of its former glory. The town is still recovering from its almost total annihilation by Marshal Steyev in AC 988 when it was the unfortunate site of the largest (and final) battle of the time of troubles. However, the region is rich in farming land and is another major crop-growing area, and will likely bounce back within a few decades. Many of the nobility maintain estates in the region of varying sizes-each populated by anywhere from 10 to 3,000 serfs.

Richland (pop. 10,000): Conquered in AC 1016 by Zuyevo, Richland is Zuyevo's southernmost city. It is a port of considerable renown and possesses and excellent deep-water harbour. It is currently in the process of intense re-fortification as the Zuyevans seek to make the city impregnable against retaliation from Vilaverde and others.

Zablin (pop. 7,000): The capital of the former Yezchamenid Zatrapy of Drazde, it was assimilated by the Zuyevans in AC 1008. It gives them a strong presence on the eastern bank of the Yalu River and on the northern coast of Yalu Bay.

Recent History

Zuyevo's distant beginnings lie in the reign of terror created in Norwold by the vast humanoid army of the Great King Loark. His assault on the Antalians of the area in BC 1722 was savage in the extreme. A large tribe of Antalians known as the Yevo managed to escape the slaughter by migrating west over the Icereach Mountains. Ten years later, another migration began, this time by Ethengars of the Talmav tribe, driven from their country by the southward rampage of King Loark.

Over a period of 650 years the Talmav horde moved slowly westward warring as they did with various humanoid tribes. Around BC 1050 these Talmav tribesmen, having traversed the entire northern expanse of Brun, moved south, down the Yalu River. Skilled horse-archers, they marauded through the declining Yalu River Empire. That empire was finally crushed in BC 1034 with the death in battle of Emperor Dorfin. The Yalu River Empire splintered as various factions vied for whatever power and resources that they could secure. The Talmavs settled around the area that is now Kharkav.

On a separate, and more northerly migration, the Yevo tribes entered the northern Yalu River valley from the Hyborean Steppes around BC 550. Finally finding a place safe from marauding humanoids, they settled in the steppes north of Tunguska on the western bank of the Yalu River. Over a period of several hundred years the Yevo expanded across the northern steppes. In the 2nd century AC, however, a considerable blow splintered their burgeoning civilisation. For several centuries the area became increasingly inhospitable as weather patterns across the lower Hyborean tundra made the area colder and colder. In AC 175 freak snowstorms of bizarre intensity struck the region, resulting in a blizzard that covered the whole region for more than a month. The blizzard was accompanied by attacks from bizarre ice-demons and their cold-loving kin. When the snow finally stopped, the Yevo emerged to find many of their kinsmen dead and their cropland devastated.

Seeing no other option, the Yevo packed their remaining possessions into longships, which they were now adept at sailing, and travelled south down the Yalu River. After failing to find suitable landing sites, in AC 179 the Yevo found and quickly conquered the small but prosperous dominion of Vyatka. From this power base in the rich black earth plains, the fierce Yevo raiders swept over a number of surrounding tribes and villages during the following 200 years. Soon the Yevo found it more profitable to farm the region and grow rich on the tribute levied on subject tribes. They founded their capital, Zuygano, in AC 415, and built the city into both an impressive citadel and a centre for trade and the arts.

Their warlike nature did not abate, however, and the Yevo continued to conquer surrounding peoples. Over a long period these tribes and kingdoms were gradually assimilated. In AC 502, Zuyevo, as the kingdom had come to be called (literally Place of the Yevo), faced one of its biggest tests when it involved itself in a full-scale war with the Kingdom of Visneskaya to the north. The war raged on and off for 15 years, before the Zuyevans, with the help of the former allies of Visneskaya (the Talmavs), finally crushed their opposition. The leader of the Zuyevans, a man known as Miska Gureyivich, had himself crowned tsar-emperor of the united Zuyevan and Visneskayan kingdoms-at Kirov, the site of his greatest victory over the Visneskayan forces.

The Zuyevan program of assimilation continued for a further 200 years until they were masters of the entire Yalu Steppes. Only a handful of unimportant tribes in the Tunguska River region remained outside the control of the tsar. During this period, the Zuyevan nobility grew greatly, as nobility was based on land control, and warriors and others who had grown rich on the conquests of surrounding peoples soon began to acquire vast estates. This led to a growing class of peasants with no access to land. In AC 696, Tsar Alekseyev, later known as Alekseyev the Brutal, instituted a system of serfdom for landless peasants-a form of indenture, whereby these serfs worked hard on the lands of the nobility in return for the right to own and farm their own little plot in their "days off."

The dawning of the 8th century AC saw a series of border skirmishes along the southern frontier of Zuyevo with the Yezchamenid Empire. The expansion of the empire had stalled in the north, as the Zuyevans became bogged down in conflicts with the tribesmen of the Tunguska Forest. As a result, Zuyevan interests had turned south to the wide Koltenyi Steppes. More critically though, Zuyevo desperately wanted an ice-free port at the mouth of the Yalu River. In AC 706, concerned at the Zuyevan intransigence to its north, the Yezchamenid Empire sent an expeditionary force to teach the upstart Zuyevans a lesson. Tsar Alekseyev led Zuyevan forces to a monumental victory over the invaders at the battle of Akmolinsk. The Yezchamenid force was outmanoeuvred by the skilful Talmav Guard cavalry and pulverised by the onslaught of wave after wave of Zuyevan infantry. Out of a force of 13,000 Yezchamenid troops, 7,000 were killed outright and the remainder surrendered. Alekseyev accepted their surrender, disarmed the soldiers and then massacred them.

Although Tsar Alekseyev had been a brilliant leader since his crowning in AC 687, the Yezchamenid invasion appeared to trigger a complete personality change. He grew brutal, perceiving enemies at every turn. Alekseyev abandoned his plans to push the Zuyevan Empire to the brink of Yalu Bay and instead turned inwards, conducting a campaign of terror within Zuyevo itself, killing all those who opposed him. A daring assassination attempt, with the connivance of some Zuyevan military officers, finally ended his life in AC 716.

For the remainder of the 8th and the whole of the 9th centuries AC, the Zuyevan Empire pushed northwards into the Severnaya Novay (the new north). The catalyst for this expansion was the fur trade-on which the empire grew rich. Furs and pelts of all kinds were traded to Douzbakjian and other countries of the Midlands as well as Hule, the Yezchamenid Empire and even Gombar and Suma'a. With Talmavs pushing deep into the Tunguska region, conflict with the local tribes was inevitable. However, the superior weapons and technology of the Talmavs proved far superior, and Tunguska tribes were quickly conquered. This was reinforced by the tsar's armies, always plodding along behind the Talmav frontiersmen, enforcing the will of the tsar through the force of arms and the building of stockaded forts and villages along the rivers and trade routes. The late 9th century also saw the discovery of large veins of gold in the western mountains around Dubyshev. This led to the local nobility, and the princes of Dubyshev in particular, growing rich on the taxes levied on the miners.

The beginning of the 10th century AC saw the Zuyevan Empire again expanding southwards after easy gains had been made in the north. Zuyevan settlers overran the Koltenyi Steppes and armed conflict between Zuyevan and Yezchamenid farmers were common. This increasing tension exploded in AC 913 when a group of Yezchameni slaughtered a camp of Zuyevan settlers, including many women and children. Regardless of the fact that the Yezchameni were responding to the burning of their farms by militant Zuyevan settlers, Tsar Turgay declared war on the Yezchamenid Empire, sending his large serf armies southwards. The Yezchameni responded by sending a force of infantry and chariots to meet this threat. After a series of skirmishes the two forces met in the battle of Dasht-i-Kavar. Bloody losses were sustained on both sides, but the sheer size of the Zuyevan army eventually carried the day, and the Yezchameni were routed. The Zuyevan war machine continued to rumble south until it was halted with heavy casualties at Qesun. A formal truce was negotiated within weeks that gave the northern two-thirds of the Koltenyi Steppes to the Zuyevans. Surprisingly, both sides observed the new borders in a peace that lasted 84 years.

The Zuyevans made the most of this peaceful situation to strengthen their foothold on the eastern side of the Yalu River. Constructing a string of fortresses that radiated out from the giant fortifications at Kulikovo, the Zuyevan army concentrated its efforts on subduing the humanoid tribes of the northern Yazak Steppes. This policy was designed to remove the threat of humanoid invasion from the east as well as to open up the possibility of contesting with Hule for the mineral-rich Bylot Hills, and even the Converted Lands.

The humanoids were driven further and further back after successful campaigns by Tsar Berezov the Great (AC 935-967) and Tsar Andrei II (AC 967-976). However, during the reign of Tsar Alekseyev II, the Zuyevan army suffered a series of reverses in the campaign of AC 979-981. The humanoids had finally united under a strong leader, Vacek Jawbreaker, an orc of exceptional cunning. With dissension at home rising at these continued failures, Tsar Alekseyev II personally took command of the war. This proved to be a disastrous step. The reverses continued and Vacek even succeeded in sacking Kulikovo's two satellite fortresses of Kustany and Aktynkidze in AC 983. The blame for these losses fell squarely on the tsar, where before it had been falling on his generals. After a series of riots in AC 984, the Dubyshev princes led an uprising against the tsar. Initially the rebel forces made considerable incursions into imperial territory, assisted by military equipment and financial assistance from the Yezchamenid Empire. Vyamisgrad and Kirov fell to the rebels in AC 985, and in AC 986 rebel troops from Anzhero and Krasnavodsk captured holdout imperial forces in Archangelsk. Also in AC 986, Ryazan was sacked by rebel forces and even Kharkav fell under siege by rebel troops from Surgut and Dubyshev.

The summer of AC 987 saw a turning in the tide of the war however. Imperial forces under the leadership of one of the greatest Zuyevan generals of all time, Marshal Steyev, began to beat back the Dubyshev forces. Kirov was liberated and the imperial forces pressed north to break the siege at Kharkav. In so doing, they allowed Talmav units to move southwards to assist the imperial forces. With Dubyshev forces holding impenetrable positions in the Tashkent Khrebet, imperial troops were forced to swing south along the Vyamis River. In AC 988 the rebellion was finally broken with the defeat of rebel forces at the epic battle of Vyamisgrad. The rebellion quickly fell apart as imperial forces had clearly gained the upper hand. Rebel troops in Anzhero saw the way the war was turning and sided with Marshal Steyev. This support was critical, as Anzheran troops held the strategic Aska Pass, preventing rebel reinforcements from Archangelsk from reaching Dubyshev in time to save it from the imperial army.

Despite his victory, Tsar Alekseyev II was politically disgraced, and much of the empire's economy was in ruins. The nobility forced his abdication in favour of his young son, Andrei III. While only a young man of 19, this was a most fortunate move for the Zuyevan Empire, for Andrei III was energetic and dynamic, and a gifted leader. Tsar Andrei revitalised the empire, crushed internal dissent, and focused the empire on expansion once again. This led to colonising drives to the south of the empire-fortuitously establishing the town of Zybirsk in the southwestern hinterlands. This is a particularly mineral-rich area, and soon gold, silver, electrum and other metals were winging their way back to the centre of the empire.

Of far more significance however, was Tsar Andrei's financing of insurgency within the Yezchamenid Empire, a technique he learned from the Yezchameni themselves. With the death of Shah-an-shah Mayzar Yezchamenid in AC 997 in a "hunting accident," and the crowning of his four year-old son, Andrei seized the chance to capture the Yalu River Delta. Launching a lightning attack, the Zuyevans seized a large swathe of Yezchamenid territory, effectively cutting the Zatrapy of Drazde off from the rest of the empire. Most importantly, the Zuyevans finally had access to Yalu Bay. Tsar Andrei immediately founded the naval base of Kishinev at the mouth of the Yalu River, and established a bastion of forts around the Yalu River estuary. The Zatrapy of Drazde became de facto independent of the Yezchamenid Empire in AC 999, but the authorities in Dravya, the capital city, were divided between the supporters of Zuyevo and those still loyal to their old motherland and the then seven year old shah-an-shah.

In AC 1008 the Zatrapy of Drazde was absorbed by the Zuyevan Empire as the Zuyevan faction gained ascendancy there. The Yezchameni were still too weak to do more than diplomatically protest the action. The Zuyevan expansion continued and in AC 1016 the Zuyevans conquered the Cimarron trading colony of Richland. Vilaverdan and Cimarron troops were unable to prevent the takeover, and now the tsar plots a way to remove the Vilaverdan scourge from Yalu Bay. Meanwhile, the Master of Hule is plotting to keep Zuyevo in check, through infiltrated agents that disrupt the government; he also arranged to have a third party attack Zuyevo's eastern border.