WHumboldt

Banned
Why did the crusaders (and Christians of the time as a whole) dislike jews? Like hey, I’m a good little catholic boy as well but why hate the Jews? I get that killing JC is a pretty bad thing but I never got how you could hate jews and then use the Old Testament and speak highly of the Jews that feature in it.

The thing is that Jesus fulfilled the Old covenant of God to Israel and its Hebrews, that we all be saved in the afterlife forever through him, and such that from that point onwards, "Israel" consisted of the Church and its people, Gentile, or (formerly) Jew.

It stands to reason then, then those Hebrews, who remained Jew, instead of joining with God in the New Covenant of the the Church, salvation through Christ, did so either through ignorance, or direct rejection of the will of God, insofar as a establishing a New Covenant and dispensing with the Old.

Since it had been a millennium since the coming of Christ, it could no longer be through ignorance, so it had to be antagonism to God through him as Christ.

And not only were the rejecting the veracity of God and his promises, but also by affirming the Old Covenant, they were affirming that, they the Jews, were the Chosen People, and Catholics of the spiritual Israel, the Church, were not chosen by God.
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To say nothing of the charges of deicide, and descent from the Pharisees which Christ called the synongauge of Satan .
 
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The thing is that Jesus fulfilled the Old covenant of God to Israel and its Hebrews, that we all be saved in the afterlife forever through him, and such that from that point onwards, "Israel" consisted of the Church and its people, Gentile, or (formerly) Jew.

It stands to reason then, then those Hebrews, who remained Jew, instead of joining with God in the New Covenant of the the Church, salvation through Christ, did so either through ignorance, or direct rejection of the will of God, insofar as a establishing a New Covenant and dispensing with the Old.

Since it had been a millennium since the coming of Christ, it could no longer be through ignorance, so it had to be antagonism to God through him as Christ.

And not only were the rejecting the veracity of God and his promises, but also by affirming the Old Covenant, they were affirming that, they the Jews, were the Chosen People, and Catholics of the spiritual Israel, the Church, were not chosen by God.
.
To say nothing of the charges of deicide, and descent from the Pharisees which Christ called the synongauge of Satan .
I think it's also worth pointing out the economic realities. Because Christians forbade usury (lending with interest), they turned to Jews (who had no such restrictions) to be their bankers and moneylenders. And some of them proved to be extremely good at it and were vital to the economy of Medieval Europe. However, this also meant they were hated by a lot of people, as they considered moneylending a hateful occupation. And while prominent people relied on them for money they hated paying them back. So when things got extra heated against the Jews (like during the Crusades), there was an extra incentive to attack Jews and their property: to get rid of the people they owe money to and/or any proof they owe them any money.
 
57. The Pontiff Between the Empires (1150 - 1155 A.D.)
57. THE PONTIFF BETWEEN TWO EMPIRES



Sem título.jpg


Non-contemporary detail of a fresco depicting Pope Stephen X (Bernard of Clairvaux), c. 1350, Cathedral of Spoleto


I. The New Pope and the Emperor of the Occident


Pope Victor IV, whose reputation has been vindicated by both modern and medieval scholars as a principled and sanctimonious Pontiff, in his final years of life did take ill-advised decisions that jeopardized the relations between the apostolic see and the most powerful kingdoms of the time, which were France and the [Holy] Roman Empire.

Much like various of his predecessors, he was very concerned not only with spiritual and institutional well being of the flock of God, and of the Holy Church, but also with temporal and political questions, firmly believing that the Papacy held (or should hold) supremacy and even suzerainty over the lay crowned princes, and, beyond that, in his capacity as the Primate of Italy, he had to further the interests of the Dominium Ecclesiasticum - the State of the Catholic Church.

While the Investiture Controversy had been more or less solved by the Concordat of Worms, and some Popes accepted the modus vivendi with the Kings of the Romans, during Victor’s pontificate, the Holy See incited contention with the ruling Emperor, *Henry VI [Welf], regarding the ownership of the territories that comprised the “Matildine Lands”. These were the collection of fiefs that had belonged to the long deceased Tuscan noblewoman, Matilda of Canossa, and included the whole of Tuscany and Spoleto, as well as allodial lands and estates in Umbria and in Emilia. Victor claimed that the Gran Condessa, in her deathbed, had granted these lands to Gregory VII, and thus they had been incorporated into the “Patrimony of Saint Peter”. As it happened, however, these fiefs had been enfeoffed by the deceased Emperor Lothair II to Henry “the Proud”, then Duke of Bavaria. The Bavarian prince, even before attaining the Imperial crown, refused their abdication and denied any sort of territorial claim of the Ecclesiastic State upon them, asserting that they had actually been incorporated into his dynasty’s own patrimony because his elder brother and predecessor in the Duchy of Bavaria, Welf II, had been married to Matilda, and outlived her.

The Pope, even if resented from the Welf apparent hegemony in Italy - besides the Matildine Lands, they also controlled the Margraviate of Milan, which had pertained to the Obertenghi, the family of which the Welfs branched from, and had secured by marriage the allegiance of the Aleramici of Montferrat and of the Spanheims in Verona and Carinthia -, had little actual military or political projection, and thus acted through proxies. Soon after the German princes returned to Europe after the Second Crusade, Victor IV made overtures to the recently enthroned Frederick III of Swabia, known as “Red-Beard” [Rotbart]. Pro-Welf sources go as far as claiming that Victor incited the Swabians to rebellion, but this is dubious; in any case, he did support Frederick when he, allied to the disgruntled aristocracy of Lorraine and northern Saxony, led an insurgence against Henry of Bavaria after Emperor Lothair II died, in an attempt to force him to relinquish his inheritance of the Duchy of Saxony - arguing that he could not become Emperor if he held two stem duchies of the realm simultaneously.

This new war in Germany would last two years, but, until the final triumph of the Imperial force, the turbulence inspired another rebellion, this time in Romagna, whose Lombard noblemen resented the German suzerainty over the March of Verona and were favorable to the Pope. They, however, did little military advances, and Pope Victor IV, who had expected to count with the alliance of his nominal vassal, the Norman Duke of Sicily, Roger II, saw himself abandoned, because the Sicilians were all concerned with their recent conquest of Africa, and with the incursions of the Greek navy in Apulia. The Pope dropped his pretenses when a combined German, Milanese and Tuscan force led by Henry of Ravensburg, the Emperor's son, then installed as Imperial Vicar ruling the Margraviate of Milan, marched into Romagna and bloodily quenched the insurgence. Afterwards, Victor IV begrudgingly crowned Henry VI, until then only acknowledged as King of Germany, as [Holy] Roman Emperor.

Now, in regards to the Kingdom of France, relations became uneasy by the outcome of the so-called “Toulousain question”, which, as we have described and said in the previous chapter, resulted in the annexation of the commonwealth of Toulouse by the Duke of Aquitaine, William X. While Pope Victor IV never actually endorsed the aggression against Toulouse - he did impose a treaty of trucial pilgrimage in an effort to cement the Christian fraternity between the belligerent princes -, he injudiciously ratified the intervention of the Archbishop of Lyon that recognized the Aquitanian claim, and maintained the premise that the Holy Church could indeed decide over territorial disputes among feudal lords. The Pope desired to reaffirm the papal jurisdiction as being above the royal one, but this incautious policy strained the relations not only with the Parisian Crown, but also with the French church in general, because many Metropolitans, such as the Archbishops of Rheims, of Orléans, of Sens and of Tours, as well as the Provençal ones affiliated to Alfonso-Jordan, like as the Archbishops of Arles and Narbonne, aghast by the act of the Primate of the Gauls and by the voidment of the King’s legal and jurisdictional authority, openly criticized the Pope’s upholding of the latter’s decision. Indeed, the French ecclesiastic doctors maintained that the matters of territorial disputes and inheritance of the lay noblemen were submitted to the authority of the crowned monarch, anointed by God.

Preoccupied with a possible schism, and knowing that King Phillip’s temperament might inspire him to exact retaliation against the ecclesiastic assets and possessions in France, Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter of Montboissier, respectively the Abbots of Citeaux and Cluny, pleaded for the Archbishop of Rheims to propose to the Pope the assembling of another ecumenical council - the third one in Victor’s pontificate - to solve the controversy. And this he did, after receiving a delegation led by Peter and by Phillip’s brother Louis, the Archbishop of Orléans, summoning the Synod of Lyon in 1150 A.D.

In one of these haphazard happenstances of History, however, Pope Victor IV died in Mâcon, while en route, of a fever that he contracted during the descent from the Alps, likely a severe case of pneumonia.

With the synod already underway, and various metropolitans, bishops, monks and dignitaries of France, Brittany, Burgundy, Aquitaine, Toulouse, Provence, and also England, Flanders and both Lorraines, and those who came from Bavaria and from the realms of Italy, decided it was an opportunity good enough for them to elect the new Pontiff among the ones present, with the blessing of the cardinals that had accompanied Victor to France, perhaps believing that in this way they could obtain a victory in detriment of the prelates that deigned to come to the council.

To not a few persons’ surprise, the one elected, not by unanimity, but by an impressive majority, was Bernard of Clairvaux himself, who had been chosen as a spokesman of the monasteries in the synod. While details of the election are obscure, we can infer that Bernard’s election, with a majority of votes from the French clergy, owed no little to the influence of the Archbishop Louis of Orléans, as well as of the Abbots Peters of Montboissier and Norbert of Xanten, who presented Bernard as a satisfactory compromise candidate in between the metropolitans of the Francias - who would not suffer one another as the Pope-elect -, and as a counterpoint to the Roman and Lombard prelates, to further the interests of the French clergy in the Lateran Palace. Bernard was, by all accounts, an accomplished and passionate orator, and might have greatly impressed his contemporaries, even those of the highest echelons of the ecclesiastic hierarchy, and so one might wonder if the churchmen did elect him by inspiration of the Holy Spirit...

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The tenth Successor of the Apostles to adopt the name of “Stephen” - in homage to the first Christian martyr; one particularly revered in Burgundy, where Bernard was born -, his pontificate was fated to be short in years, but very relevant in the history of medieval Christendom, owing to his dedicated attempts of promoting communion between the occidental and oriental churches, an effort that, while ultimately failed, would strengthen the relations between the Papacy and Rhōmanía. In staunch opposition to many of his predecessors, Stephen X reasoned that the Holy Church was an institution situated above the temporal realms, and had to be concerned with the spiritual questions and institutional fabric of the Christian kingdoms, so that they might be united into a single commonwealth, that he commonly called “greges Dei” [flock of God], and not with political issues.

A rare example of election by acclamation, the elevation of Pope Stephen X was perhaps one of the most democratic ones in the recent age, considering that it involved hundreds of clergymen from various distinct nations. The previous Pope to be elected in such a way had been Pope Gregory VII, who was acclaimed by the denizens of the Eternal City not long after the passing of his predecessor.

Nonetheless, the event provoked a serious contention with the Romans of Latium, whose cardinal-bishops and lay aristocrats - especially those who had not participated in the synod - argued that the proceeding had completely disregarded the provisions of the In nomine Domini” bull of 1059 A.D., issued by Pope Nicholas II, that defined various aspects of Papal election, such as the convening of an assembly of the cardinal-bishops. They also argued that the Pope had to be selected with the consent of the clergy and the laity of the Diocese of Rome, as the ancient customs dictated - even if in practice, by the middle of the 12th Century, the Pontiffs had been solely selected by the cardinal-bishops from among their own ranks. That Bernard was French and was not a member of the formal apostolic hierarchy, but rather a territorial abbot, were not formal impeditives to his election, but these circumstances most certainly inspired the Romans to refuse to acknowledge him and to elect their own candidate. It was Gregory of Suburra [Gregorio della Suburra], who adopted the name of Paschal III, nowadays recognized as an antipope. Upon acceding, Paschal denounced Stephen’s accession on various arguments of legal nature, and went as far as denying juridical validity to the synod convened, considering that it had not been presided by the former Pope.

Pope Stephen knew that it would not be sensible to voyage to Italy, considering that Paschal very much likely would secure the control over the city of Rome and of the Lateran Palace. The matter was not only ecclesiastical, but also political, and thus he resolved to find allies to sustain his pretense among the lay princes of the Occident. From Lyon, he immediately went to Paris, and obtained King *Phillip II’s support by formally revoking Archbishop Amadeus’ decision that recognized the Aquitanian claim over Toulouse. This would rekindle the flames of war between the King of the Franks and the Duke of Aquitaine, but, in the long run, it did little to change the status quo, because the Aquitanians would maintain the military occupation over Toulouse for decades to come.

From Paris, the Pope-elect set out to Aachen, where he interviewed with King *Henry VI, and confirmed his coronation as Roman Emperor and even crowned his firstborn son Henry of Ravensburg co-monarch as King of the Romans, thus ensuring his succession. Stephen, while in Germany, convinced Frederick of Swabia to accept a truce, and he was pardoned for his rebellion, but acknowledged the Welf claim to the Imperial Crown. It is true that he would rebel again in a few years, after the death of *Henry VI, but he would this time see a decisive defeat by the hands of his son, known to History as Emperor *Henry VII “the Lion”.

After obtaining the recognition by the crowned princes of France and Germany, as well as of England, Poland, León and other nations, Stephen X finally voyaged to Rome, followed by a large aggregation of metropolitans, bishops and abbots, and also barons and dignitaries, such as Agnes of Babenberg, Duchess of Poland and Silesia, from various kingdoms, and by the heralds and vicars of the Roman Emperor. He was accompanied by a host led by Henry the Lion and Marquis William V of Montferrat [Guglielmo V di Monfrà], who intended to install him in Rome by force of arms, and to oust the usurper Paschal III.

As it happened, however, Stephen entered Rome with only a handful of followers, and, by his sheer presence, virtuousness and oratory, convinced Paschal to capitulate and abdicate, thus resuming his position as cardinal-bishop, without raising arms and even convinced the citizens of Rome to accept him as the legitimate Pope.

He was then crowned and enthroned in Christmas’ Eve of 1150 A.D.


II. The Arbiter of Realms

If before, as a Frenchman and as a shepherd of the French flock, Bernard of Clairvaux was well concerned with the tragedies and calamities that befell his kindred, now that he was the Supreme Pontiff, he saw them with utmost preoccupation.

Indeed, the old Kingdom of France was in a state of violent turmoil ever since the fall of the Carolingians. The grandees of the realm had grown powerful and arrogant, and exsanguinated the pleasurable lands of Gaul with fratricide wars throughout successive generations, and many of them disrespected the authority and the belongings of the Holy Church. In the days of Stephen X, we see that the Angevins, lords of Anjou, Tourainne and Maine, digladiated with the princes of Brittany and with the Dukes of Normandy, who were now also the Kings of England and enemy to the Count of Flanders, who had his own interests in Picardy; the Count of Champagne and Blois often warred with the Dukes of Burgundy and the Counts of Nevers; the Counts of Bourbon and Berry were mutual enemies and constantly warred with Auvergne and Limousin. In the south, the weakness of the Dukes of Aquitaine that had preceded William X had welcomed generations of feudal autarchy between the various counts and viscounts of the lands south of the Loire, and the state of war was perpetual.

Now, King *Phillip II of France, irate by the interference of the Archbishop of Lyon in what he believed to be his royal prerogatives to arbitrate the disputes between the vassals, had marched against the Duke of Aquitaine to oblige him to cede the occupied estates and castles that belonged to the Count of Toulouse, Alfonso-Jordan. In the end, as aforementioned, the campaign would end in a stalemate, but the hostilities between William of Aquitaine and Phillip would remain exacerbated until the death of the former one, but the wars between the dynasts of Poitou and the Capetians would become frequent over for the remainder of the 12th Century.

Although Pope Stephen had recognized the distinction between the ecclesiastical and feudal jurisdictions, and affirmed that they were submitted to specific legal regimes and customs, he did not sanction acts of war or violence between Christians, and thus he denounced King Phillip’s aggressions against Aquitaine, even if they had a valid pretext in solving the Toulousain matter. Indeed, Phillip had marched to war a few seasons after he returned from the Second Crusade, and campaigned in Poitou and the Loire valley, with little result. After Duke William X and Count Alfonso-Jordan went to the Outremer, in a trucial pilgrimage, as we have seen in the previous chapter, the King organized an expedition to the Garonne valley and put Toulouse to siege, but gave it up after a few months, when he found no support among the local aristocrats, and after King William III of England went with an army to Normandy to secure his rights in Vexin. Even worse, for attacking the territory of a nobleman who was committed to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he suffered an interdict from Pope Stephen, and was almost excommunicated - the second time in a few years, which might have infuriated Phillip even more, since he believed that a French Pope would be compliant to royal interests in his own homeland. These circumstances also put him at odds with the Welf Emperor *Henry VI, who felt the campaigns to the south threatened the Imperial dominion over Provence and the Rhone valley. Then, after Duke William returned to Europe from the Outremer, King Phillip issued another formal declaration of war, and this time he marched to Saintes, and razed the Ducal lands with such a violence that even the clergy of France were left appalled, and this tarnished the image of the former Crusader king as a gallant and chivalrous prince.

In the end, the campaigns did little to change what seemed to be a faît accompli. Duke William, by occupying Toulouse and the comital demesne, and securing the allegiance of the Viscountess of Narbonne and of the Bishop of Rodez, Peter II [Péire/Pierre], consolidated his rule over the region, but, having failed to obtain the support of various other nobles of Septimania, such as the Count of Rodez, the Viscount of Carcassone and Béziers, of the House of Trencavel, and the lords of Montpellier and Provence proper - which remained loyal to their lieges, Alfonso-Jordan and Raymond-Berenguer of Barcelona -, did not unleash further military operations.

After the third campaign, Pope Stephen succeeded in bringing the belligerent parts to the table of negotiations in 1155 A.D., and it resulted in the cessation of hostilities. With the blessing and arbitration of a Papal embassy, Duke William X of Aquitaine was confirmed as the ruling Count of Toulouse, and, accordingly, swore fealty to King Phillip, but, on the other hand, Alfonso-Jordan was recognized as the liege-lord over the fiefs of the defunct principality of Gothia. After his passing, in 1160, King Phillip II, seeking to preserve the loyalty of the House of Toulouse, granted Alfonso’s son and heir Raymond the title of Duke of Septimania - to compensate for the loss of Toulouse, thus repristinating a regional name that had mostly faded since the 10th Century A.D., a dignity that would be maintained by King Hugh II of France, Phillip’s successor.

The disputes between the Houses of Poitiers and the dispossessed House of Toulouse would persist for generations to come, as would those between them and the Kings in Paris and them and the Counts of Barcelona, but we will see that the various fiefs of the region of Languedoc, formerly known as Gothia or Septimania, will eventually be coalesced and consolidated under the political fabric of the realms of Aquitaine and of Aragon, fated to become the masters of the western Mediterranean.


III. The (Fifth) Ecumenical Council of Constantinople


In the early years of Stephen’s pontificate, he requested the presence and then welcomed the coming of many ecclesiastic dignitaries associated with the Greek, the Syriac and the Armenian realms of Christendom. At the time, even if it was rare for someone from the intellectual European elites to affirm that Christianity had indeed fragmented in various “Churches”, because there was still a idealized concept of a single and whole Christian community (“ecumene”) - specially in contrast with other religious worldviews, such as the Islamic and the Jewish ones - there were enough differences in doctrinal consensus to justify the acceptance of distinct rites and theological premises. These peculiarities -, all of which orbited around the different interpretations of the “Word of God” and of the nature of Christ’s divinity and humanity, among other aspects of the central doctrine -, were, of course, very much grounded in various mundane aspects of reality, such as culture and linguistics, and politics and social organization. Thus, for example, the roles that the Papacy played in western Christendom during Stephen’s age can only be comprehended in the context of the feudal collapse of the Romano-Germanic monarchies that had carved the corpse of the occidental Roman Empire, and the same can be seen in regards to the Greek Emperor and his relations with the Orthodox Patriarchates, all while the Oriental Christian communities developed in an increasingly Islamic-dominated Asia.

Pope Stephen was acutely aware of this reality. While he dreamed of restoring the Church to the idealized figure of its character in the Apostolic Age, he knew that he ought to assuage the grievances and discrimination of political and cultural nature that prevented full communion. The task would be herculean, he knew, and there were various ecumenical councils across the centuries, ever since Antiquity, to define the core aspects of Christian orthodoxy, but, even then, various doctrines and interpretations became the ones accepted, and, while some of them were universally or majoritarily denounced as heresies, such as Arianism and Nestorianism, others were reciprocally tolerated. Indeed, there were differences enough between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox doctrines, but they both accepted the Chalcedonian premise of dyophysitism, while the Oriental doctrines, such as the Syriac, Armenian and Coptic, rejected that premise, and incorporated myaphysitism (or monophysitism), among other differences related to the rituals and ceremonies, ecclesiastic structure and relations between the clergy and the laity.

In 1153 A.D., an embassy from the Roman See met with Patriarch Theodotus II of Constantinople, and with Emperor John II Komnenos, and proposed the assembling of another ecumenical council, this one involving the prelates from the whole of Christendom - or, at least, those associated with the Latin monarchies and with Rhōmanía. The emissaries brought letters from the highest Catholic eminence himself, and, fortunately for the chroniclers of History, these documents survived. With elegance and eloquence, the Pope bestows particular praise and commendation to the Basileus, describing him as the most stalwart champion of Christendom against the infidel usurpers of the dioceses of Asia. Much as John II enjoyed an universally favorable reputation among his Christian (and even Islamic) contemporaries, superior even to that of the other Komnenoi Emperors, the Lateran missives go to great length to appreciate and acclaim his role in the Crusades and in the reconquest of the holy cities. It seems, however, that while the Rhōmaiōn Basileus is seemingly acknowledged as the paramount temporal authority over the races of Asia, he is implicitly placed below the Pope’s own position as the Vicar of Christ. This, in turn, was a premise strange enough to the Emperor, who was but the last representative of a long lineage of monarchs that, for centuries, had effectively dominated the Bishops of Rome, long before the rise of the Carolingians, and claimed to be the primarchs over the whole of Christendom by their virtues as successors of the ancient Roman heritage.

In any event, by the Pope’s own suggestion, the synod was to be gathered in Nova Roma [Constantinople], and so the Emperor decided to embrace the opportunity, being as concerned with theological controversies as the Pope himself, and, perhaps, seeing a political advantage in presenting himself once again as the overlord above the various Christian communities, notably the Jacobite and Maronite Syriac ones, and the Armenian. He thus agreed to provide the facilities and means for the undertaking to be accomplished.

By the way of his subordinate and friend, Archbishop Suger of Jerusalem, Stephen contacted and invited various prelates politically submitted to the Crusader State, the various Syriac bishops from Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the few Armenian ones living in the Latin Principality. And those living in the boundaries of the Rhōmaîon Empire, mostly Armenians, and fewer Syriacs, were invited by the Patriarch of Constantinople, as were the Bulgarians, the Serbians, the Albanians and the Rus’. In the case of the Syriacs, their position was a very uncomfortable one, because, while they only acknowledged the authority of the (native) Patriarchate of Antioch, be them Jacobites or Maronites, they were politically submitted the Crusaders of Jerusalem and to the Greeks of Constantinople.

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The gathering was held in the spring of 1155 A.D., in Constantinople, in the palace of Magnaura. This massive building, now linked to the complex of buildings that constituted the Great Palace of the Emperors, for centuries had housed the meetings of the Rhōmaîoi senators, but, when the Senate ceased to be a political institution, and more a class of dignitaries, the Magnaura was appropriated by the Emperors to be used as a throne room or as a place of meetings to receive foreign embassies, and also to host religious celebrations such as the Silention - the eve of Lent. Now, its pristine secluded gardens and marble edifices received the reunion of the ecumenical council, attended more than five hundred bishops from various nations of the civilized world.

From the Latin realms, we see the presence of the Pope himself, various cardinal-bishops and metropolitan archbishops, including the Archbishop of the Holy Land and the Patriarch of Aquileia, the Primates of the Gauls (Lyon), of All England (Canterbury), of Hispania (Toledo) and of the Germanies (Mainz), and prelates from the Hispanian monarchies, of Hungary, of Poland, of Denmark and various others, from as far as Scotland and Wales.

From the eastern orthodoxy, affiliated to the Greek rite, we see the Greek Patriarchs of Constantinople, of Antioch and of Jerusalem - representative, thusly, of the majority of the episcopal sees of the ancient “Pentarchy” -, and too the Patriarchs of Bulgaria and Serbia. While they are nominally autocephalous, according to the well-established tradition of the eastern churches, at the time of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, they were politically submitted into the imperial aegis of the Komnenoi, and thus they had to grudgingly accept the paramountcy of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The same was not the case of the primarchs and exarchs of the multiple Ruthenian princedoms, nor of the Armenians, Syriacs and Copts who lived outside Constantinople’s reach, and this perhaps explains why few of them attended to the event.

Over the course of various days, this numerous assembly debated various topics from rites and formulae, principles of clerical discipline and conduct, Biblical canon and doctrine, based on theological investigations. We can see, but the sheer extension and depth of the debates, that while ample common ground was found between the various religious ideologies, such as the admission of infant baptism, and of the veneration of icons, among other statements which served to reinforce the rejection of Iconoclasm, and other older heresies such as Nestorianism and Arianism, there were various topics of irreconcilable disagreement, which prevented the fulfillment of Pontiff Stephen’s dream of a restoration of the “Great Church”.

Among the three main topics that had resulted in a schismatic stance between western and eastern Christendom, only one found an approach of compromise in the Fifth Council of Constantinople, and that was the prohibition of unleavened bread in the ceremony of the Eucharist. Indeed, while the Catholics long since admitted its use in any ceremonies, the eastern rites expressly refused its use, because they regarded it as impure, and thus unfit to serve as symbolic substitute of Christ’s body in the rituals. It must be noted that, while the Latin rite came to formally converge with the Greek one in this point, its actual enforcement by the western ecclesiastic institutions would not be initiated for almost two centuries after the council, until the ratification by the Papal bull of 1389 A.D.

On the other hand, no compromise was found regarding an ancient doctrinal controversy, that was the “filioque clause” of the Roman Catholic canons. Notwithstanding the fact that the traditional Nicene creed, in the diagramation of the relations between the components of the Holy Trinity - an historical theological polemic that resulted in the formation of various schisms and heresies, such as the aforementioned Nestorian and Arian ones -, affirmed that the Holy Spirit derived from God, the Father, alone, the western rituals came to accept that the Holy Spirit came from Christ, the Son, too (filioque meaning “and from the Son”). Beyond a theological controversy, the question had became a political and legal one by the 11th Century, and resulted in the publication of anathemas by the eastern patriarchates against the Catholic rites, which, even in during the council, were not revoked. In spite of some attempts of conciliation, Pope Stephen himself, allied to various primates and archbishops, refused to forsake the filioque formula, arguing that the semantics of Latin language admitted the phrasal construction without any doctrinal affronts. The arguments, however, spiralled in a heated polemic, especially when Patriarch Theodotus reminded about the excommunications issued by his predecessor in the office, Michael Cerularius [Mikhael Keroularios], and the Basileus himself was forced to intervene to pacify the discussions.

Now, the topic that prevented ultimate agreement and disrupted full communion was, in any case, the issue of “Papal primacy”, that is, the paramountcy and superiority of the Patriarch of Rome above the other Christian hierarchs. In the Occident, at the time, the ecclesiological doctrine was firmly grounded in Biblical interpretation, based on the “Petrine primacy” - that is, the idea that Christ in the Gospels ascribed to Saint Peter the leadership over the Apostles, and, thus, by apostolic succession, this capacity was invested in the Bishop of Rome - and also in politico-legal frameworks, most notably the Donatio Constantini - the Donation of Constantine, a supposed ancient imperial decree that had transferred the authority of the western Roman realms to the Papacy. The question was indeed an old one, and the authenticity of the document was being contested ever since the early 11th Century; in Rhōmanía it was certainly not taken seriously. Its political implications were inadmissible, but it must be said that, at the time, the policy of the Patriarchs of Constantinople devised to, simultaneously (and contradictorily), recognize formally the autocephaly of the other Patriarchates, but also to enforce a de facto position of superiority of the Constantinopolitan See.

In the end, even if it was not successful in restoring theological communion, we must note that, in what is pertinent to the knowledge of the Crusader Age, the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople produced an interesting result in that it came to formally acknowledge the Basileus of Constantinople as the highest (temporal) potentate of the Crusades, reason by which, in fact, Pope Stephen bestowed to John Komnenos the honorific “Bearer of the Holy Cross” (Vexillarius Sancta Cruce). We do not know how the elder Basileus received the title, likely being unaccustomed with the idea of being granted an honorific by another authority, but the later Komnenoi welcomed the dignity, and, over the time, came to use it to use as a pretext for their claims of suzerainty over the Holy Land.


IV. The Emperor of the Orient


Alexios of the Komnenoi, the great champion of the Crusades, descendant from the Trojan Hector, had vanquished the Turcomans from the heartlands of Asia Minor, restoring the borders of the empire all the way to Cappadocia, up to the Taurus mountains, and including the outer regions of Syria, and made the Armenians in Cilicia vassals to the Empire. Now, his son and heir, had, side by side with the Franks, restored the presence of the legions and magistrates in the whole of western Asia, and expelled the Saracens from the fallen Kingdom of Armenia.

While the most formidable Turcoman princes had been undone, allowing for the resettlement of the fairest countries of Anatolia, and reoccupied its largest metropolises, such as Ancyra, Amorium, Iconium, and then Caesarea, Sebasteia and as far as Colonea, most of the country had been overrun by the Mahomedan barbarians since the defeat in Manzikert, in 1071 A.D., or by a multitude of local tyrants and warlords, from the races of Anatolia or of Armenia, who made themselves the formerly free subjects of the Emperor abject slaves, and their sons and grandsons had been born and lived without ever seeing the Imperial banners. Before the Second Crusade, a lot of resources and manpower had been devoted to the extirpation of the last remnants of the Turkic warbands, which, while much less numerous and malignant than in previous decades, nonetheless did thwart the transport and trading flows of the Empire between Europe and Asia. With the borders expanded as far as Armenia, the situation was far more complicated, and the army became stretched far too thin.

The Basileus knew that any further expansionism might threaten the solidity of the whole edifice that was the Empire, and thus he adopted a policy of perpetual war-readiness and constant attrition against hostile polities, notably the Turcoman principalities of Armenia, Mesopotamia, Jaziria and Syria, not unlike his predecessors in the Imperial throne had done, centuries before, against the still vigorous Arabian Caliphates. The dwindling power of the Seljuqs, if on one hand removed the most formidable existential threat against the Empire, on the other hand, left a power vacuum that was soon enough filled by other dedicated enemies, who referred to themselves as ghazi - champions of the faith, and, thus, a grotesque reflection of the Crusaders -, the most notable of which were the warlords of Mosul, Sinjar and Arbil [Erbil], all of them only nominally submitted to the authority of the Caliph in Baghdad, but nonetheless genuinely devoted to the cause of Islam. To attempt their subjugation was an inexecutable endeavor, and thus the Rhōmaîon soldiers crossed the border to raid and to assault enemy territory - many of them were, in fact, Pechenegs or converted Turcomans, well versed in the art of horse archery -, but, at the time, whole expanses of the border regions had long since become uninhabitable no-man’s-lands. Meanwhile, other resources were invested in the construction of castles and strongholds to preserve the territorial integrity of Anatolia against hostile incursions. In this regard, the Latin-Levantine hosts were particularly helpful; now that Palestine, Lebanon and even Transjordania had been mostly pacified, they were launching incursions against Syria and, in the meantime, often employed their arms in the service of the Empire, expecting to acquire plunder and slaves in eastern Armenia and northern Mesopotamia. With time, some of the more adventurous knights, unaffiliated to the Houses of the Outremer, would go as far as Georgia to seek their fortunes.

For the whole of his reign, John Komnenos had been all too much of a pragmatist, but, late in life, he became seized by the obsession with the supernatural; well beyond the usual concerns of the afterlife that commonly plagued the citizens of Rhōmanía, he was concerned with the mysteries of existence and of the free will, of the netherworld and the heavens, as well as prophecies and presages. Even the Patriarch of Constantinople expressed his unease with the fact that the Porphyrogennētos seemed to consult more often with astrologians and divinators than with the men of the church on the matters of the preternatural, but no one dared question his judgment.

His religious obsessions might explain why, even in his late years, he became so invested in the mission of bringing the Christian faith to the infidels, and demanded whole conversion to the Pechenegs that came to inhabit the Imperial provinces after their demise in the battle of Levounion, as well to the Cumans who came into his service, to the Turcomans who had been allowed to settle into Anatolia, and even to the Armenians in Cilicia, compelled to accept orthodoxy and to abjure miaphysitism.

In this regard, John played a significant role in the evangelization of the race of the Cumans, for he sent various embassies, between 1150 and 1160, to their respective monarchs and despots, called khans, to inspire them to convert to Christianity. Before, he was only preoccupied with reaffirming the Rhōmaîon presence in the Tauric peninsula, for it had been lost to these barbarians that they still called “Scythians”, and thus he sent an expedition to occupy Cherson [OTL Sevastopol] and Sougdaia [OTL Sudak], whose people welcomed their reincorporation into the commonwealth, having languished under the tyranny of the nomads. Now, the Theme of Cherson had been restored with a permanent administration, encompassing the whole coastal region, including the ancient citadel of Bosporus [OTL Kerch], now a shadow of its former glory, and the fortress of Tamatarcha [OTL Tmutarakan], after John Komnenos deposed the last of a succession of Slavic client rulers and installed a military force on the region. Seeing no use in a protracted warfare against the Cumans, however, and knowing that their attentions were turned to raiding the Rus’s territories, the Crown of Constantinople devised a careful diplomacy and appeasement towards them, especially to further their commercial interests in the region, especially to harness the trade routes coming from Outer Asia. To counterbalance a potential Cumanian threat, the Rhōmaîoi established treaties of alliance with the Christian Alans that inhabited the realm north of the Caucasus -, prosperous at last, having suffered centuries under the vassalage to the Khazars of old - and reinstated their friendship with the Georgians, who had now become the undisputed masters of eastern Armenia.

The steppe warlords of Cumania would only come to truly accept the Christian faith in the dawning of the 13th Century, scantly a couple generations before their ultimate destruction by the Cathayans, but, due to the efforts of the third Komnenos Emperor, some of them became already more inclined to admit the authority of the “God of the Cross” as early as 1160s, as attested by Niketas Choniates, who witnessed a baptism of a few Cuman noblemen in the outskirts of Constantinople, at the hands of Patriarch Theodotus II.

John Komnenos was fated to die in 1155 A.D., the very year of the aforementioned ecumenical council of Constantinople, shortly before his fortieth cycle of his reign. Archbishop Suger of Jerusalem and Prince Raymond were, at the time, in Constantinople, serving as ambassadors from the Crusader State; they participated of his funeral, and, later in the same month of April, of the coronation of his heir and successor, Manuel [Manouēl I Komnēnos] - John’s fourth son, who unexpectedly outlived his three elder brothers, Alexios, Andronikos and Isaac. The acceding Autokrátōr reaffirmed the commitment of his predecessors of respecting the peculiar autonomy of the Crusader State, and of the “Patriarch of Rome” over the lands of Palestine, in exchange for the respect towards the authority of the Greek Patriarchs of Jerusalem and of Antioch, in the Levant and in Syria, respectively, and even pledged to a joint Crusade against Egypt and against Baghdad.


In next chapter: back to the Outremer. Suger’s death, and the start of the war between the Frankish nobles.



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Notes and comments: In part one, we see how the political landscape of Italy will be shaped in a different way in comparison from OTL, because while the Hohenstaufen did not have a substantial base in the peninsula (until Frederick II), the Welfs do seem to control a powerful one. I believe that they might consolidate their position in Italy, and thus prevent, at least for the time being, the feudal and urban fragmentation that we saw after the 13th Century.

In part two, we see the continuation of the previous chapter, with the solution of the Toulousain Question. I’m not sure if it was a sensible one, but I believe the final result was plausible in the context of the TL, and it is not something that might be more odd than anything that happened in the same time period IOTL. Aquitaine is still far from being independent and a powerhouse in the Mediterranean, but, with time, having secured Toulouse, they might accomplish this. Also, its worth pointing out that elections by acclamation did happen, even more in the Middle Ages, but they were sort of rare. It was, nonetheless, a convenient plot device to explain Bernard’s elevation, considering that he was indeed, according to various contemporary sources, a very skilled orator, who almost single-handedly preached the Second Crusade IOTL. Of his personal character, I figured that he might be exactly the sort of individual that would put the interests of the Church and of the Christian community above those of his own kingdom, as he never demonstrated a particular allegiance to the French Crown, in his position as abbot, I’m not sure that he would do it as Pope.

Louis, Archbishop of Orléans, is OTL King Louis VII of France. Considering that his elder brother Phillip survived to become King in his own right, Louis is given to a Church career, as it was his initial plan.

In part three, I decided to approach a topic that I thought I’d be avoiding in the TL, that is, the theological distinctions between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It was worth studying about, and this will be a theme that will be a recurrent one in the TL, considering that, in spite of their political closeness, the Latin West and the Greek East might become more distinct due to their own cultural, social and linguistic peculiarities, and this was the point I was trying to make in the chapter. For the time being, no full communion; the schism continues.

Finally, part four is a brief conclusion to the arc related to John Komnenos. Considering his role in the TL so far, I figured it would be unfair to mention his death merely en passant, and took the opportunity to give a bit of an insight in his late reign. As you might have noticed, I emphasized the role the Byzantines will have in the future conversion of the Cumans to Christianity, which will happen in different circumstances than IOTL. This will present interesting divergences for us to explore related to the world of the Pontic-Caspian steppes.

As for Manuel Komnenos, he will have a significant role to play too. I was thinking about butterflying his ascension, and putting his elder brother Isaac Komnenos on the throne, just for us to have a blank slate of an Emperor to work upon. However, I did not find sources about Isaac’s death, which happened in an unknown date, so I decided to just skip to Manuel, continuing OTL succession pattern of the Komnenoi dynasty, even more because I imagine it would be interesting to see how a vigorous and dedicated Emperor such as Manuel would relate to a more powerful and formidable Crusader State in the Middle East...
 
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I was silently hoping for Andronikos to become emperor. Knowing in OtL the tragic unlucky deaths(or assassination) for Manuel's siblings.

Manuel was choice of John to takeover even OTL. Probably knows Manuel was more capable than Isaac.

But Manuel is the correct choice for the story. Since the other siblings wont have that same passion to help the Crusader states as Manuel would. Alexious/Andronikos would not be ideal especially Andronikos who would be maybe Basil 2 reincarnate plowing thru the Crusader states and Egypt all by himself. That is the advantage of Manuel being emperor, less capable than Andronikos/but not as incapable as Angelois and very pro Crusader.
 
Hopefully this Manuel is reasonably different from his OTL counterpart, with the almost ADHD-like lack of focus which resulted in him wasting the Empire’s resources on half baked futile endeavours.

Hopefully he can pick an objective and stick to it until it’s fulfilled.
 
Pope Victor IV, who had expected to count with the alliance of his nominal vassal, the Norman Duke of Sicily, Roger II, saw himself abandoned, because the Sicilians were all concerned with their recent conquest of Africa, and with the incursions of the Greek navy in Apulia.
Oh, is that what I think it is?
...the Patriarchs of Bulgaria and Serbia. While they are nominally autocephalous, according to the well-established tradition of the eastern churches, at the time of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, they were politically submitted into the imperial aegis of the Komnenoi, and thus they had to grudgingly accept the paramountcy of the Patriarch of Constantinople... The gathering was held in the spring of 1156 A.D., in Constantinople, in the palace of Magnaura.
Orthodox historians looking at the calendar and finding it is about 79 years early for the OTL Tarnovo patriarchate (being the Archbishopric of All Bulgaria/Ohrid right now, under the juristiction of Constantinople), and about 63-to-160 years early for the OTL Serbian archbishopric/patriarchate (being the Bishoprics/Eparchies of Rhasos and Prizren right now, under Ohrid, and in turn, Constantinople), before bemoaning the lazy Catholic author.
 
A superb chapter, so full of various interesting points bringing anything specific out is difficult. It's fascinating to see how one pope dieing of pneumonia quite randomly could lead to this charismatic borderline-living-saint figure coming to the Holy See, yet it did not break immersion of disbelief even a little. The clear distinction between schismatic and heretic which is becoming apparent here is also interesting. In an ideal scenario, if the Catholics do grow corrupt at some point in this timeline, this could mean a more amicable reformation.

Basileus Manuel is only in his early 40s unless I am very much mistaken, so he should definitely be experienced enough to avoid grievous mistakes, but still hale enough to reign properly himself.
 
Answering the posts before the latest chapter:

@dunHozzie - good point. The plans I mentioned are just ideas, I don't have anything consolidated yet. My general concept is to have a more dynamic and distinctive geopolitical panorama in places of Europe and Asia that were historically united under a single regime, and sometimes to "give a chance" to individuals, peoples or nations that failed to grow or develop. As always, though, as long as this is within the ground of plausibility.

@Icedaemon - I do want to explore the possibility of some surviving Finno-Ugric political communities. I'm not sure they would have much impact or relevance in the grand scheme of European geopolitics, but they would be nonetheless interesting to see a world that diverged so far from our own. You might have noticed that in the latest chapter I mentioned the Ruthenians, which is a Latin/Western denomination for the Rus' of the Kievan principality. And, beyond that, if we butterfly the exact circumstances of Muscovy's ascension, the region of the Rus' lands and Pontic-Caspian Steppe will by default be a very different one, provided that we never see the formation of Russia as a political entity.

Surviving Asian Khanates is a strong contender in this mish-mash of ideas for the region, too. I'm interested in seeing how they would develop, and possibily westernize (or not!).

@galileo-034 - about the HRE, I understand and agree with your statement, there isn't much grounds to compare the HRE and Medieval France.

Your mention about Brittany is also an interesting one. I have some ideas for her, but still nothing very much detailed.

I don't intend for the formation of the Crown of Aragon (former Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona) to be changed at all. This happening, they will be a strong contender to check the overarching ambitions of a rising Aquitanian monarchy.

@Talus I of Dixie - I have plans for the Baltic, yes. While my initial purpose was just to explore the alternate Kingdom of Jerusalem, I've been thinking a lot ever since we began this TL, that I could really delve into the scenarios of alternate religious warfare movements. I intend to discuss in bigger detail the Iberian Reconquista, the Baltic Crusades, and the Northern Crusades too.

The Baltic is a fascinating and little explored region (barring Augenis' Silver Knight of Lithuania TL, I can't really remember others that tackled on the topic of the Medieval Baltic), and I believe there is nothing so far in the this TL here that justifies butterflying away the formation of the Teutonic and Livonian States, but once we get to see how they develop, we can experiment with various divergence possibilities. I want to see more about Novgorod, the Livonian order, the native polytheistic Baltic peoples, the Finns and Sweden and Denmark.

@WHumboldt and @Rhaegar - thanks for the input! I'll be trying to devote a chapter someday to see a bit more in detail the relations between Catholics and Jews in Europe, and, more likely, in the Crusader State.
 
Don't think Khanates in Central Azia can survive the advent of gun powder tbh; the Finno-Ugric peoples outside of Hungary didn't have the numbers to stay independent (you'd need a much earlier POD to have them replaxe the Volga Bulgars or easternmost Slavs imo)
 
Don't think Khanates in Central Azia can survive the advent of gun powder tbh; the Finno-Ugric peoples outside of Hungary didn't have the numbers to stay independent (you'd need a much earlier POD to have them replaxe the Volga Bulgars or easternmost Slavs imo)
I don't think so, and IMO you're cruelly oversimplifying the situation here. The Central Asian Khanates IOTL lasted all the way to the Mid-19th Century just being conquered because of a giant Russia that already went all the way to Alaska. While the Tatars in the Volga just were conquered because of the fragmentation of the Golden Horde happening at the same time of the unification of Russia, the advent of gunpowder had its effects but in no way was like people seems to see the situation, isn't like Gunpowder = R.I.P Khanates, even with gunpowder, a lot of khanates remained well and alive all the way to the 18th Century (the Nogays and Crimeans come to mind), with the crimeans remaining a credible militar threat to the russians for a lot of time after the introduction of gunpowder.

The same thing applies for the Finno-Ugrics, but it's a lot more complex, because the majority of the Volga Finns were voluntarily part of the Kievan Rus', and it's far about being settled by slavs, they weren't still assimilated as far as the 15th Century what makes me thing that yeah, they certainly had the population to be independent, they just didn't push to be so (because well, in a part the upper class was germanic so there wasn't much "oh man these goddamn slavs that rule us :(", although they were pretty slavicized), the thing is, you can get the Volga Finns to be independent quite easily, you just need to, well, make widespread ruling-class-collapser tier of chaos in the Kievan Rus', and then just have a finnic noble to unify the finnic lands and wow you have your own independent Volga Finn State, the Volga Finns, (And, well, the Baltic Finnic [Finnish, Livonian and Estonian] tribes as well but idk if you was including them) have quite the population to maintain themselves independent, the other Finno-Ugric peoples i don't know much about but the majority of their land isn't much desirable i think, so yeah.
 
The Crimeans had the backing of the powerful Ottoman state; the Nogai and other Central Asian khanates were stuck on the periphery of all three/four gunpowder empires (Russia, Qing, Safavids, and the Mughals), which allowed them to escape the fate of the khanates in Kazan and the Volga for a long time. I don't even think we can qualify Russia's expansion into Siberia as "giant Russia" -- the amount of land is impressive, but even now most of it is empty. Their presence on the ground until the trans-Siberian railroad was even thinner than that, and they filled a vacuum as a part of expanding the fur trade eastwards (and had the potential to capitalize on the journeys of men like Afanasy Nikitin).

And the Finnic part is basically "WI centuries of economic and political trends towards being absorbed by more populous Russian polities is undone by authorial fiat Great Man". The Russian states, even after the Kievan Rus are shattered, are still going to have a major economic interest in dominating the Volga, and an interest in unifying the post-Kievan states as they did IOTL; you'd have to jury-rig total Balkanization on purpose to give the Volga Finns room to breathe, and at that point they'd probably just face pressures from the Volga khanates instead.
 
The northernmost Finno-Ugric peoples in what today is Russia were the majority in their homelands until quite recently. I believe the Enets and Nenets as well as the Komi are still a majority in the countryside, but outnumbered by russophone city-dwellers, today. If it weren't for the soviet collectivisation and repression, the Kola peninsula would also likely be majority Sami today. Of course, those areas are very sparsely populated, but they are also rather undesirable to conquerors, so absent a space-filling empire they very well could remain marginal territories not really officially claimed by nearby states for a long while.

"WI centuries of economic and political trends towards being absorbed by more populous Russian polities is undone by authorial fiat Great Man"

This is a timeline currently in the 12th century, not the 15th or 16th. The trends are definitely already there, but they are comparatively recent and not nearly as strong as you seem to indicate.
 
Undoubtably those trends are weaker in the 12th and 13th century, but the Abbasid Caliphate started the slow economic consolidation of the Volga centuries before where we are ITTL. Hell, that Volga trade is why the Rus are the Rus, because of trade. When one considers the population and state complexity disparities between the Russians and the Finno-Uralic peoples, it definitely seems more likely that they'd be absorbed into an eventual Russian polity.

If Russia is perma-balkanized or otherwise focused West by a Kievan/Lithuanian/etc. state, there is still the Volga Bulgarians to deal with, who also had more cities, more people, and more state-level complexity.
 
The Crimeans had the backing of the powerful Ottoman state; the Nogai and other Central Asian khanates were stuck on the periphery of all three/four gunpowder empires (Russia, Qing, Safavids, and the Mughals), which allowed them to escape the fate of the khanates in Kazan and the Volga for a long time. I don't even think we can qualify Russia's expansion into Siberia as "giant Russia" -- the amount of land is impressive, but even now most of it is empty. Their presence on the ground until the trans-Siberian railroad was even thinner than that, and they filled a vacuum as a part of expanding the fur trade eastwards (and had the potential to capitalize on the journeys of men like Afanasy Nikitin).

And the Finnic part is basically "WI centuries of economic and political trends towards being absorbed by more populous Russian polities is undone by authorial fiat Great Man". The Russian states, even after the Kievan Rus are shattered, are still going to have a major economic interest in dominating the Volga, and an interest in unifying the post-Kievan states as they did IOTL; you'd have to jury-rig total Balkanization on purpose to give the Volga Finns room to breathe, and at that point they'd probably just face pressures from the Volga khanates instead.
Undoubtably those trends are weaker in the 12th and 13th century, but the Abbasid Caliphate started the slow economic consolidation of the Volga centuries before where we are ITTL. Hell, that Volga trade is why the Rus are the Rus, because of trade. When one considers the population and state complexity disparities between the Russians and the Finno-Uralic peoples, it definitely seems more likely that they'd be absorbed into an eventual Russian polity.

If Russia is perma-balkanized or otherwise focused West by a Kievan/Lithuanian/etc. state, there is still the Volga Bulgarians to deal with, who also had more cities, more people, and more state-level complexity.
I caught the point for the other central asian khanates, but tbh the Nogays were hardly in the periphery (and because of that and the fact that they were quite weaker, they ended up being conquered earlier than their crimean counterparts), what really delayed the conquest of the Nogays was the desestabilization of Russia in the Early 17th century what puts the Nogays together with the Volga Khanates (i.e died because, united Russia = too strong for them), even if we remove Russia's expansion in Siberia, its population is indeed giant during the period in question, especially comparing the amount of land that other surrounding regions have.

And about the finnic part, hell no, especially because, before the Kievan Rus', the slavs (in general) were literally the less-populous people (in terms of density ofc) in Europe, with a population boom after the establishment of the Rus' state (what consequently makes the boom affect the finnic peoples as well), and the assimilation occurring gradually because of the population being under slavicized princes (and this has less to do with slavs being more populous, and more because they were slavicized since their starting centres of power were in slavic lands). As @Icedaemon said, the trends (that exists) are recent enough that they can be changed and make lasting effects into the region, you probably (it's possible but i wouldn't gamble at that) will not see an forever independent Volga-Finnic state but due to the overturning of the trends you might just see the Volga Finns remaining a (present in considerably numbers) thing, it's really not so hard since they still are a thing in present-day, they just are a minority in various areas (but IINM they are populous enough that they have their own republic!). And you're taking the wrong conclusions here, the Volga Finns would hardly be any less complex state-wise than the slavic russians in this case, since they would inherit the Rus' apparatus of statecrafting (other Finno-Ungrians, more specifically the Komi, did it IOTL), and as you said about the Volga trade route, the volga finns were just as advanced city-wise as the neighbouring slavs, in fact, a lot of the present-day cities in the Upper Volga and other surrounding areas started as Finnic trade cities (similarly to Novgorod, Kiev and others) that were used by the Rus', Moscow was initially a Finnic settlement (the proper etymology of the name itself is Finno-Ungrian), what you said about the complexity disparities only applies to the northern Uralic peoples, which i don't disagree about (from early IOTL the Nenets paid tribute to Novgorod), and thus the Volga Bulgarians are made of another similar threat, they aren't in anyway more complex than your alternate average Volga-Finnic state.

Clearing things up, a possible Volga-Finnic state (or states, probably two or three, at least initially) would obviously suffer various threats (but hey, every state suffer from surrounding threats so isn't like having a possible threat is immediate doom), as we possibly have nomadic invaders from the south and southeast, and russian princedoms in the north that i'm certain the finns would wage war with, it's far from being an unsustainable position, as the russians will be divided for quite a long time and if a nomadic invader comes in you can always play it good and pay tribute.

But well, although i would find interesting the volga finns being independent eternally after their state is formed, i think that the most lasting impact that it can have is cultural. You see, a lot of "Core Russia" would be, well, finnic, but any Volga-Finnic state would 100% identify itself as part of "Russia" and "russian" (because of the Rus' common ancestry), quite identical as the way Great Perm and its people was self-identified and recognized by the slavs themselves as part of Russia and, "russians", even though they were Uralic in ethnicity, this would be sidelined quite rapidly because of the sheer peripheric position of Permia, but with the Volga Finns there, it wouldn't be sidelined in any way since the (disputably, but IMO with no Volga = no Russia) proper core of Russia would be finnic, what can simply shape all things related to the identity of being "russian", with an lasting finnic population, "Russia" would be quite similar to Persia in its identity (with the exception that there wouldn't be an "proper persian" equivalent since the varangians turned into slavs so...), a lot of ethnically different peoples who although different identify themselves as part of one broad cultural common ancestor (the Rus'). "So yeah you might be finnic, uralic, novgorodian (regionalism in Russia can have more force in any ATL, i'm quite surprised by the lack of it in OTL's Russia) or kievan but you're above all things a good old russian part of the russian culture unified by the Rus' Vikings 1.XXX years ago."
 
@St. Just, @Talus I of Dixie and @Icedaemon - about the Finno-Ugric peoples and Russia. First of all, I'm not really knowledgeable about the subject, so I'll concede to all the points raised and, well, learn more from it. In any case, considering the focus, the scope, and the purpose of the TL, the situation of the Finno-Ugric peoples in-TL will be relatively negligible. While I do intend to explore in some other opportunity the Northern Crusades they will be focused on the Baltic and in Scandinavia, and not on the region of the White Sea or the Volga.
 
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