Friday, 10 April 2015
Fezia and Rusland circa. 1935
The eastern border between Fezia and Rusland is a bleak and desolate place. A number of small and nondescript villages either side of the notional boundary, a couple of small mines and the inevitable small holdings largely constitute the entire region. It is an arid and inhospitable landscape, devoid of any major industry or significant human endeavour. Yet the inhabitants manage to eke out a modest living from the parched hills and valleys - sheep and goat herding mainly but with the occasional tea plantation or coal mine - and have done so as far back as anyone can be bothered to remember. Where the land fails to provide sustenance then there are always those hardy souls that exist beyond what passes for the law in those regions - brigands and cutthroats for the most part, freedom fighters on occasion.
It had not always been so. Centuries before the land had been carefully irrigated and garden crops flourished. The area grew prosperous and the two nations coexisted amicably, happy to maintain the status quo. Sadly for both sides covetous eyes from far away turned their attention to the region and so the armies from either side marched. The region has changed ownership on numerous occasions - first being under Fezian rule and then Rusland - with neither party able to maintain exclusive sovereignty for long. To be living in what was almost a constant battlefield shaped the region for the worse as gradually the more prosperous elements of frontier society, no doubt tired of seeing the fruits of their labours destroyed by marauding armies and brigands, moved away and their estates went to ruin.
The geography of the region is such that inevitably large armies starve and small armies get beaten. To the north and south of the whole area lay regions of desert-like wasteland, across which any army must be supplied. The river that flows from the Eastern mountains, effectively the border between the two sides, terminates with an extensive delta upon which both Fezia and Rusland have established harbours. Their close proximity (they face each other directly and both sides have forts in place) means that in the event of war they are easily neutralised meaning that supplies must come overland. Attempts to build railway links on both sides have only been partially successful so long columns of wagons and camel trains with the occasional convoy of lorries is the normal method of supply.
Both Fezia and Rusland have fought over this region largely for reasons of propoganda as there is little of intrinsic value in the region - certainly insufficient to justify an invasion but then prestige and martial pride usually provide the spur. Punitive expeditions to bring the region under either rule tend to be a fairly routine occurrence but are usually short lived. Typically either side realises that the cost of maintaining a viable military presence in such a region far outweighs any territorial or economical advantage and besides, their respective treasuries are perennially short of funds for such adventures. So one side or the other will launch an 'invasion' to restore the region to Fezian/Rusland rule amid great fanfare and public acclaim. There then follows a stubborn defence. This invariably fails to stop the 'invasion' (usually as the defenders, despite ample warning and the lessons of history are woefully inadequate for the task) so the political counteroffensive inevitably brings the fighting to a halt. The 'victors' will then proclaim the territory as now being Fezian/Rusland whilst the politicians argue it out. Whilst this is going on the occupying army begins to lose enthusiasm as supplies dwindle and with a rapidly diminishing treasury until eventually, with as much dignity as it can muster, retires to its original positions. Peace breaks out.
The inhabitants of the region are well used to this sequence of events and for the most part are largely indifferent to whoever is the notional ruler - they just go about their centuries-old business in the same old way, unmoved by the vagaries of fortune or a ruler's occasional itch for conquest.