Report on Timeline L-843 (II)
File One: A Global Overview (ii)
I must apologize for the abrupt end of yesterday’s transmission. Dr. Rosario had been uploading a scroll of Chinese poetry through the same connection and had neglected to inform me of this. Hence, I did not know to cut down the size of the transmission to prevent a data overflow, which was why the transmission was cut off so abruptly. I’ll try and pick up from where I left off, but some details about the Low Countries may have been cut off.
Central Europe in Timeline L-843 is dominated by the kingdoms of Hungary and Poland, which as in our timeline have risen to the status of regional hegemons. It appears that John Hunyadi was elected King of Hungary in opposition to Ladislaus the Posthumous, and with the powers of the king he was able to repulse the Ottomans from Hungary, reducing Serbia to a subject in personal union and Wallachia and Bosnia to tributaries, forming a series of buffers with the Ottomans. After John’s death in 1467, he was succeded by his son, Ladislaus VI, who died without an heir in 1488. He, in turn, was succeeded by his brother and premier general, Matthew the Raven. Matthew crushed the Habsburgs following a failed attempt on their part to claim the throne, and reduced Styria and Austria proper to vassals, exiling the former emperors south to Carantia. This, along with his successful effort to claim the throne of Bohemia, left Matthew as the head of a great Central European powerhouse. Across the Carpathians, meanwhile, Poland is far less stable than in our timeline. A series of succession disputes have left Jan Olbracht with a difficult time administering outside of Krakow, while many of the local lords have effectively become sovereign rulers. On the far side of Poland, meanwhile, Lithuania is gripped in a civil war between Aleksander Jagellion and the partisans of Olbracht, the latter wanting a strong king to protect them and their lands from increasing Mongol encroachment. This speaks more to Aleksander’s incompetence than it does Jan Olbracht’s ability.
Further north, the State of the Teutonic Order has been expelled from their former holdings in Prussia, being exiled into their Livonian territories. Nonetheless, they are still a force to be reckoned with and have fought off several attempts to conquer them by the Danes and the Swedes. There is a growing movement of those who wish for the Order to transition to a more typical government form, as they feel that their current structure leaves them weak in the face of increasingly aggressive neighbors. The Hanseatic League is also still going strong, their merchants traveling as far afield as Bristol and Novogord, and Lübeck remains one of the power-houses of the north. However, they are far from the uncontested lords of the Baltic that they claim to be. John of Oldenburg still presides over a might Kalmar Union, which controls all of its analogous TL-1 territories as well as the Kola Peninsula, several small ports along the coast of Germany, and the Northern Islands, which were never gambled away in this timeline. His reign has seen an increase in the strength of the domestic economy and the expansion of foreign trade. In recent years, John has begun pushing for the re-opening of the old westward sailing routes, in hopes of establishing colonies to rival New England. However, these plans may soon be shelves, as he is growing old, and the succession of the three thrones is disputed between his sons Ernst, Christian and Jacob.
Further east, on the far shore of the Baltic, Russia is a madhouse. The Great Stand at the Ugra River went badly for the Muscovites, to say the least, and the rising duchy had her capital brutally sacked and then burned to the ground. In the ensuing power vacuum, the Russian principalities struggled for dominance, and after nearly two decades of chaos the dust has finally settled with three dominant powers. The first is a revived Novgorod, which has managed to regain control over much of its former territory and now fields one of the more formidable, albeit heavily mercenary, armies. Novgorod has established itself as the predominant power of northern Russia, with access to the all-important Baltic and White seas, which have made it very rich off its back of trade. To the south is Ryazan, one of the few states to have preserved its independence from the Muscovites, and was thus in a good position to profit from their loss. Anna of Ryazan, regentess of the principality, had spent several years campaigning against her neighboring principalities, which has allowed her to more than double the size of her realm. The Ryazantines also have the backing of the Golden Horde, whose khan, Ahmed Sultan, views them as the most pliable of his Russian vassals. Finally, there is Novgorod-Suzdal, the direct heir of Muscovy. After the sack of Moscow, one of the surviving Muscovite lords, Vasily the Pale, had marshalled the survivors and marched to his own personal fief, Nizhny Novgorod. With his capital here, he was able to reconstitute about half of Muscoy, presenting himself as the legitimate successor. Vasily is by far the most capable successor, but is beset by problems, chiefly that his realm is adjacent to the powerful Kazan Khanate, which means he can never turn his full attention to his domestic enemies. For now, the Russian states are in a period of uneasy detente, but this certainly won’t last.
On the steppe, the Golden Horde is still standing strong, having crushed and reincorporated the Nogai and Crimean Hordes as well as reduced the Russians to their previous thralldom. However, Ahmed Sultan’s prestige was serious damaged in 1495, when his invasion of Georgia ended with the disastrous Great Stand at Aleks’andretsikhe. In spite of this, he has managed to shore up his position, and is now posed to take advantage of the ongoing turmoil in Lithuania. Further north, Kazan is preparing to make inroads into Russia with the ongoing strife, while further to the east the Uzbek Khanate is rushing to fill in the void left by the collapse of the Nogais a few years previous. However, they are troubled by the activities of their breakaway Kazakh Khanate, who threatens their southern border in a way not unlike Novgorod-Suzdal and Kazan. Even further south, the Shaybanid Khanate has formed several years ahead of their TL-1 ethnogenesis, quickly taking control of most of the south-central steppe. They now pose a credible threat to the Timurids, and they may eventually displace them.
Turning back to Europe, the Balkans are quite interesting. In the 1460s, a successful crusade caused serious damage to the Ottomans, nearly succeeding in driving them out of Europe. However, entropy and a lack of coordination gave the Sublime Porte enough time to recover some of their ground, and they now are once again posed to invade Europe. However, a brewing conflict between the grand vizier, Mahmud Angelović Paşa, who is credited by many for the survival of their European territory, and the young and headstrong sultan, Mehmed III, may derail them into civil war once again. The primary enemy of the Ottomans are the Hungarians, who have absorbed Serbia, (Did I already say that? Eh, better safe than sorry) having defeated the Venetians in the 1480s. However, the Venetians still cling on in the Aegean, holding their Moreote ports, Crete, and many of the islands. Most of the southern mainland, i.e. the Peloponnese and Boeotia, is held by the Empire of the Morea, a Byzantine rump state that is ruled by the descendants of Thomas Palaiologos. I should note that in TL-843, Constantine XI died in the 1440s and instead Demetrios Palaiologos was killed with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Anyway, there are also a handful of surviving states in the Balkans. The Despotate of Thessaly is ruled by Mikhael Angelos, the half-brother of Angelović Paşa, and so he has been allowed to remain somewhat independent, albeit as a fairly loyal tributary. There are also the unstable and civil-war prone states of Epirus and Albania, which can barely be considered functioning states. Leonardo III Tocco is by now an exhausted and senile old man, but he failed to name a regent, and so the court factions of Arta are left to feud over who aught to rule for him until his death. None of these factions are able to exert control over the highlanders, either. The Albanians, meanwhile, are a schizophrenic mess. Skanderbeg died in 1486 without an heir, and since then there has never been a single, undisputed ruler. These have given the Ottomans the perfect opportunity to make inroads into the region, and neither state is likely to last.
Across the straits, Anatolia looks radically different. Some bad timing and foolish mistakes during the 1460s caused the collapse of Ottoman territory in Anatolia. The Karamanid Beyliks are now the chief Anatolian powers, dominating the plateau and everything east of the coastal mountains, making the Ottomans and ironic echo of the Komnenian Empire. The Karamanids are fairly powerful states, but remain decentralized and are thus unable to reach their full potential. There was formerly the Chandarid Beylik, but after double-crossing the Ottomans in the 1480s, they were unceremoniously destroyed and fled into exile in Mesopotamia. That leaves the only other state on the peninsula, the Trapezuntine Empire. A series of surprising victories since the 1440s have revitalized the Trapezuntine state, carving out a sizeable niche for themselves along the southern coast of the Black Sea. In the 1480s, a nearly-disastrous war with the Ottomans saw a siege of Trebizond itself and almost caused the destruction of the Empire, but the Trapezuntines were able to rally and managed to secure a white peace. Now, they are a fairly prosperous trading empire with allies in Georgia and Mesopotamia, but the emperor, Alexandros II, has begun to reach middle age, and issues of family and succession are becoming increasingly daunting.
In the Caucasus, things are almost identical to TL-1. The Georgians dominate the western half of the mountains, forming a strong bulwark of Orthodox Christendom in the region alongside the Trapezuntines, but they have little interest in expanding and are perfectly content sitting tight. This is because the rest of the region is dominated by the Qutlughid Empire, the successors of the Aq Qoyunlu horde. The Qutlughids extend from the Greater Caucasus all the way down to the Persian Gulf, as well as a good chunk of Persia and Mazandaran. They are a force to be reckoned with, the first self-proclaimed Persian Empire since the collapse of the Sassanians. While they are definitely a first-rate power, they are plagued with internal troubles, most notably religious difference between the intensely Sunni rulers and the religious mix that they rule over, as well as disputes between the remaining Turkmen nobles and the sedentary Arabs and Persians who make up the bulk of the population. However, they have strong leadership in the form of Arlsan II and his lieutenants, and the likelihood of these problems boiling over into civil war is unlikely.
The only independent state in Syria is the Third Chandarid Beylik, which is allowed to exist as a buffer zone between the Egyptian Mamluks and the Qutlughids. The Chandarids form a ruling class above the native Syrians, although the constant threat of being destroyed by their neighbors forces them to remain at least somewhat merciful towards their subjects.
In Africa, things are more or less as in our timeline. The Mamluks are still a major power, holding control over Libya, Egypt, Lower Syria and the Hejaz. Further west, the Hafsid ‘Caliphate’ rules over Tunisia and western Algeria, forming a regional power that is most notable for its patronage of the barbary corsairs. The Zayyanids are also a goodly-sized state, although they are unable to obtain the success of their eastern neighbors. Finally, there is Morocco, which is currently in the grasp of a civil war between the Wattasids and their various vassals, which does little but help the Iberians make inroads into the region.
I’m going to cut the transmission here, so I don’t cause another overflow. Hold on, please….