"Rhenani eunt domus" - first recorded protest sign in Rheinland history
A long legend has it that while civilization was born in tropical zones, it evolved into civilization on the banks of the River Rhenus (or Rhine in the local language), the mightiest of all Rivers. Rheinlanders claim to be the first to have formed a united empire, with the first lingua franca to be accepted in other states being latin (which later evolved into the Rhenan language after contact with the north). No matter the truth of these legends (and historians from other states dispute it vehemently) it is accepted fact that the Imperatorum Rhenanum was formed around 1200 BC in a city in the temperate climezone where the Rhine meets mountain ridges. (visualization of similar topography here
). From this city, named Rhenania, this group of highly organized people struck out with their triremes, integrating or conquering the neighbouring people with a combination of their navy and highly disciplined infantry formations. Theirs was the first continent-spanning empire (again, other nations dispute this) with the final conquest being achieved in 49 AD. Sadly, the empire disintegrated soon thereafter as energies which were directed outwards released inwards. The following 800 years were called the Steel Age, after the metal which often decided the fate of the multiple powers the empire fractured into. Attempts to reform the Empire, such as the Holy Rhenanian League and Rhenanian alliance were unsuccessful. The 15th century saw Rhenania reduced to being a city state again, a city state living amongst the rubbles of the glorious past.
Rhenania's fortunes changed heavily when the Great Miner, Johannes XIV, acceded to the throne. He was the first to sent out largescale operations to the frozen north, recognizing that with advances in technology previously unsettled areas could be exploited. A discovery of several diamond mines funded the rapid modernization of the city. By the 17th century Rhenania held dominon over the northern third of the continent.
A series of successive wars, marriages and alliances culminated in the annexation of all but the southernmost nations, which had formed an alliance with an island nation. That island nation, colloquially known as Britonia after the main dialect of its people, had become a world leader in maritime trade and fiercely defended that position of power. For the next 150 years an uneasy truce persisted as both nations industrialized.
However, in 1862 the heir to the Rhenanian throne was assassinated when his ship was sunk with all hands by what was believed to be an attack by Britonian agents in the Port of Bretonia Magna (other states historians claim it was instead a coal explosion due to unrefined storage techniques. New studies showed this to be the case). Rheinland demanded special rights to fully investigate the death. Britonia had by that time allied with another maritime nation on the other side of the globe, Nippon, thereby making it independent of Rhenanian food imports. From that position of strength and knowing the combined fleets would be stronger than the Rhenanian Navy, Britonia refused. Thus started what Historians termed the Eighty Years War.
The Eighty Years War - Part I
"They say Rheinland depends on diamonds and steel. I say it depends on trade. Let's see who is right" - Britonian Admiral of the Fleet Jackie Monger
The first phase of the war became a disaster for Rheinland. The Navy was unable to prevent the merger between the two fleets. The Army took several of the southern cities but was unable to make significant progress. After being blockaded for six years, the Rhenanian fleet made a desperate sally but was cornered and decisively defeated by attacks of massed torpedo crafts. The following year, Rhenania sued for peace. The conditions imposed upon it - though they included no territorial losses outside of a few fortresses - nearly wrecked the economy. Even worse, the Diamond monopoly, the pride of the state treasury, was broken with all mines being turned over to Bretonian interests. Britonian businesses were given the right to import and export goods free of taxes and tolls.
Massive strikes by displaced Rheinland workers prompted a reaction from Britonian police. The Miners Strike of 1871 was notorious for its brutality and was put down eventually by the Britonian military with thousands of deaths. Rheinland had no choice but to declare war in response to the tragedy despite the still tragic state of the military. Luckily, Britonia was equally unprepared (and engaged in several colonial disputes) and the peace treaty of 1874 restored the status quo. Over the next decades, Rheinland public opinion became even more heated and in 1902 the monarchy was transformed into a constitutional monarchy. The first Reichskanzler was an old army officer named von Rogge. Luck smiled on Rheinland during the first years of his presidency as the trade with El Dorado and other nations intensified. The Rhein valleys boom - a second wave of hyperindustrialization centered around Rhenania proper - ensured the coffers were finally full again. With rising tensions, another war was inevitable.
The Eighty Years War - Part II
"Ride faster. I want to slice them with my sword" - Oberstleutnant Marius Reinhardt, commander of the last cavalry charge in Rheinland history.
The land war of 1908-14 went even more terrible for Rhenania as well prepared defences and new technologies like the machine gun and gas weapons stopped the vaunted Rheinland Army in its tracks. On the other hand, the new submarine forces more than distinguished itself at sea. Yet, the blockade once again did its work and Rheinland surrendered in 1914 as war materials had run out. Von Rogge was handed over to the Britons and publicly executed for the submarine warfare. Rheinland was split up into three nations, with its citizens having to endure a brutal occupation during which the Nippon troops especially gained a reputation for war crimes.
Bretonia however had suffered horribly in the war as well and did nothing when overwhelming popular majorities among the split Rheinland resulted in the country reforming. An appeasement party allowed Rheinland to rearm. In Rheinland, new, egalitarian policies ensured a steady flow of commerce and immigrants. Autarky was aimed for and mostly achieved. Eventually, an incident at a border post gave Rheinland the pretext it needed.
The Eighty Years War - Part III
"Instructions unclear. Have overrun enemy line three hours ago" - Rheinland war hero General Erwin Kölle, commander of the Tenth panzer division, in response to attack orders.
In 1936, a Britonian guard dishonored a Rheinland women at a border crossing. In response, Rheinland unleashed the new form of warfare called Blitzkrieg. Within less than a year, the south had been completely overrun and most of the Briton army taken prisoner. An evacuation attempt was foiled as the reformed Imperial Navy clashed with the naval forces of the directorate of Britonia and Nippon off the mouth of the River Rhine. In the worlds biggest recorded naval battle, no less than 500 warships, including 52 Rheinland and 67 Allied dreadnoughts clashed, with 32 ships dreadnoughts (14 Rheinland, 18 allied) and over 100 smaller craft being sent to the bottom. With no clear victor, both sides retreated to their respective harbors.
Rheinland, now in clear possession of the south, expected Britonia to sue for peace. Instead, Britonia attempted a blockade again. This proved less effective than in previous wars. In response to climbing sink rates for Rheinland submarines, Britonia unleased its newest weapon in 1941 - the strategic bomber.
The years of slaughter
"The aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive should be unambiguously stated to be the destruction of Rheinland cities, the killing of Rheinland workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Rheinland. The destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories" - concivted Briton war criminal, name struck from civilized memory
Massive swarms, each over thousand four- and six-engined bombers strong, struck at the civilian population of Rheinland. The first attack hit the capital Rhenania. A massive firestorm destroyed 491 of 573 historic buildings and left over 2 million dead as the city burned for days. The planners of Rheinland were completely unprepared for such an occurrence - they had thought of the war in old terms like strategic positions and momentum, in terms of one party suing for peace once at a disadvantage. Instead it turned into a total war - and a slaughter of civilians. Within the year, production levels had fallen to a quarter as most resources were dedicated to building shelters and AA guns. Only the fact that the Army held the entire continent saved Rheinland, as only a token force could be supplied anymore.
The Rheinland Air Force tried to respond, but after a year of terror bombing it was clear that with the current production it would at best prevent some, but not all of the attacks and certainly not enough of them to stop nearly all the cities being flattened. By 1945 Rheinland had turned from a nation of cities into a nation of villages, with some insidious combination of poisonous gasses dropped by the Britons ensuring the ruins remained toxic for much longer.
"We have suffered the ravages of occupation. We have braved the flames. What else can they take besides our honour? And so I say No to surrender. 'Tis more noble to stay free then to become a slave. They want to burn us, we will rise like the Pegasi of old. They want to smother us with gas, we will rise above the fumes like the eagles on our standards. No surrender, no retreat." - Reichskanzler Meier
It was at this time that Chancellor Meier delivered what was quite possible the most famous speech in Rheinland history, exhorting his countrymen to never surrender and declaring that Rheinland would accept nothing less than the unconditional surrender of the allied nations. Meier enacted a series of terrible yet necessary decisions. The south, most in range of the bombers, was evacuated and/or left to its own devices, with all available AA weaponry in the south moved to guard the railways and shipyards/harbours. And he used every reserve of currency to find a supplier of fighter planes. It was luck that a state was willing to take the extra risk - at a hefty bonus, of course.
"Rheinlanders think the whole affair a matter of honour. To us it was Tuesday on the stock exchange. Still, free diamonds are nice I suppose" - unnamed San Dorado company CEO
Planes were carried by San Doradoan freighters to an uninhabited Island in the middle of the ocean which had been transformed into an airstrip by three divisions of Landsknechte. The Island, named Devil's Atoll, became a continous airport as Doradoan mercenaries assemblend and then flew plane after plane to the frozen north, where a succession of primitive airstrips provided enough fuel to make the trip to Rheinland proper. Despite the massive cost of manpower (including all of the 90.000 Landsknechte when Bretonian troops managed to conquer the island less than nine months after the airstrip was established and put the whole garrison to the sword) over 5000 planes were delievered within a year. It is widely accepted that this was what gave the Rheinland Luftstreitkräfte the boost they needed - and the reason why all heads of the companies that provided the planes still receive a gift basket of diamonds on the anniversary of the first plane touching down on Rheinland soil. The Luftbrücke is celebrated each year on the 10th of July.
More and more industries meanwhile had relocated from the south and central part to the north Rhein valley and rebuilt their lines of production. The Rhine river allowed for the transport and assembly of more and more ships while even more of the south was sacrificed in exchange for time. On Black monday - almost four months later - the time for revenge had come. Equipped with Doradoan radar, the Luftstreitkräfte were ready. Three swarms of bombers and escort fighters were annihilated mid air by the reformed Rheinland air force before they ever reached their targets. Similar things happened the following weeks until the bombing campaign turned into a toothless tiger.
One year later, on 6th July 1944 the newly formed carrier arm defeated the Allied Navy decisively, with a last charge by the Nippon dreadnoughts being stopped by Rheinland dreadnoughts. Now it was Britonias time to be blockaded though the lack of strategic bombers for Rheinland meant that hunger had to do the trick. A rescue fleet sent by Nippon was met mid-way by the carrier arm of Rheinland and utterly annihilated. IN 1946, after two years of hunger rations, Britonia surrendered unconditionally.
The Great Armada
With the collapse of Britonia in 1946, Rheinland demanded the surrender of Nippon. Confident in their safety of distance, Nippon refused. In response, Rheinland launched the Grand Armada, scraping together every ship they had while begging and borrowing what they could. A total of over 5000 ships set out for the greatest expedition in Rheinland history. Though only ~4200 actually made the journey, they contained enough troops to conquer the smallest of the three islands adjacent to Nippon. After a year of buildup and successful convoy battles - the submarine experience serving Rheinland commanders well - Rheinland launched the main invasion of Nippon, where the most ferocious fighting of the war took place. Nevertheless, the outcome was never in doubt, even if it took five years and 8 millions of casualties to subdue Nippon. In 1952, the God-King of Nippon died defending his throne, thereby ending his line, his nation and the eighty years war.
By now, many in Rheinland were wondering what all the fighting was worth for.
1953 - the Empire of Blood
"It is a good old Rheinland tradition that convicted murderers get one chance to try and cross the river. Which is more than the victims of bombers ever had." - Reichskanzler Meier
The Eighty-Years war had caused immense destruction and suffering in Rheinland. Of the total population of over 210 million, only 100 remained. The unprecedented and unexpected slaughter of the bombing campaigns was seen as a crime against the rules of war and even worse, against humanity itself. Additionally, Rheinland authorities carried out a thorough campaign of arrests against Britonia (and less against Nippon, who had fielded far less bombers). In total, nearly all of the 1 million men and women that had made up Bomber command were put before tribunals. After it had been pointed out that membership had been voluntary and the campaign had the stated aim to kill as many civilians as possible, all those who had been part of a bomber crew were sentenced to death unless it could be proved that they did not take part in missions.
This caused massive international outrage, especially among those nations who had just started building their strategic bomber force. Eventually, a weary Chancellor Meier commuted all death sentences to lifelong prison except for 300 planners, high ranking officers and politicians. On the first of Decemnber, all 300 were tossed into the freezing river Rhine, making a mockery of the old Rhenan ritual called "Eiswette". Most of the other convicted were released after serving on average five years, while the massive diaspora of Britons protested against the Empire of Blood. The black gang however are reputed to have carried out a series of assassinations on the most heinous of bombardiers.
The Tragedy of Meier
"Sic semper Tyrannis" - old Rheinland saying
Although the execution of 300 self-admitted war criminals did cause less outrage than his original plans to execute 1 million, Reichskanzler Meier started to see enemies everywhere. Riding a wave of popular support, he postponed elections and was allegedly planning to deport the surviving populations of Nippon and Britonia to the north. After he had shouted down a parliament inquiry, a member of one of the oldest Rheinland families, one Julius Longinus, decided to use his ancient right and challenge the chancellor to a duel. Meier, when given the choice of weapons or chamipon, promptly named the champion of the last fencing olympics his champion. Longinus then chose the bow as his weapon. The contest lasted exactly five seconds.
After Meier's forced exit (and eventual descent into full-blown madness, being caught in his memories from the firestorms of Rhenania) the assembly chose Longinus as successor. He dedicated his life to mending the wounds of the war but served less than two years in office before dieing of a heart attack. Historians later claimed that he had not slept in days before collapsing.
Decades of progress - and turmoil
The war had thoroughly changed Rheinland, which was at the crossroads of becoming a full-blown apartheid state or trying to pick up the pieces and move on. In the 1962 special election, sanity prevailed. A constitutional committee was appointed. It was Generalfeldmarschall Kölle who eventually would emerge as the leader the country needed. His plans included constitutional reform, full voting rights for the newly conquered territories and a general program of economic recovery. It is often said that without Kölle - and the newly appointed foreign minister, the former citizen of the nation that will not be named, the Countess of Oiseau - the country would have fallen apart. Sadly, the Countess disappeared after Kölle was killed by malfunctioning explosive during field tests.
However, the general election of 1968 confirmed the structure of the nation - a federal, constitutional monarchy. It also transformed the nation into what some call the liberal sodom.
The big issues:
- What is the direction of the country? Rheinland is a militaristic nation shocked by warfare. Old honour codes clash with new forms of living. What happens with the ruins?
- Seperatism abounds in Ost- and Westrheinland (as if that were a shocker). Many question the need to keep Ostrheinland as it forces a global presence on Rheinland. Others argue for an abandonment and resettlement of those living there to Rheinland proper.
- And most importantly: What is Rheinland's Place in the world?
TBD, but will feature at least one leopard.