Outer Russia is a Cryptic Nation preserving Czarist Russia. It is headed by a Czar and Czarina, descended from distant exiled relations of Czar Nicholas. They are served (and Sundered) by Orthodox priest-mages, oath-bound to the Crown.
Most of the "nation" lives in a big manor house in the forest, three time-zones east of Moscow, plus a few safe-houses in Moscow, Kiev, and St. Petersburg.
The manor includes a small cathedral for the bishop and a generous monastery, all the monks of which are mages. The monastery is the main production center, especially of luck, generated by austerities.
Transportation is a big issue for Outer Russia, addressed by a stable of black elf-bred horses that do fay-flitting. These were originally obtained for them by Grand Normandy and, when additions are needed, Grand Normandy usually supplies these too. (It is difficult for Outer Russia to get replacements themselves, since the parts of Faerie neighboring Russia are largely hostile and dominated by Unseelie.)
Grand Normandy also supplied the magical Bentleys, kept in Moscow, Kiev and St. Petersberg, and the "Magic Rus Bus" (Grand Norman nickname), an enchanted military transport with a five-gremlin crew and flit capability.
Outer Russia initially sustained itself largely by ripping off the Commies and is not above theft now, but also sells luck (good and bad), and fine and enchanted jewelry, and does search and transport services across inland Asia.
Their numbers are dwindling, both through lack of replacement and through loss to Faerie and Dream.
Outer Russia starts as some surviving Romanovs, their monkish saviors, about two or three families of supporters, and three individuals who will go on to found important families by getting in on the ground floor.
Outer Russia would not have survived if this selection of supporting parties had not had a happy array of talents aiding in the formation of their society. For example:
One family is a band of Russian peasants who are not only ardent monarchists but have generations of magical expertise as peasant hedge-wizards and are also prosaically very, very good at growing food, which neither the Romanovs nor the monks know anything about.
Some of the monks are acquainted with local fays. Their monastery's domovoi was a major support.
Some of the aristocrats know useful occultists, or know people who know people who know occultists.
Other aristocrats just have useful prosaic connections and quantities of money.
At this stage in history, Outer Russia possesses only a manor somewhere out in Siberia, with an attached monastery. It can lay tentative claim to more areas, but is interested in lying low and licking its wounds.
They have now established a successful little community and a successful little underground movement in some circles. The sort of foreign aid that the Romanovs could only dream of receiving in prosaic history came in with abundance on an esoteric level; many Cryptic Nations would gladly intermarry with the Romanovs or make them a vassal st‐ ahem– junior partner.
Outer Russia is xenophobic enough and Slavocentric in the good Russian tradition to see these attempts coming. But its main obsession is to restore the Russian monarchy; once they have that, what does the goodwill of King Whoever of Big Normandy or Whatever matter?
Maybe the monarchy won't return in Moscow or St. Petersberg, but it must SOMEWHERE. And think of the glory of proving Romanov survival and returning spectacularly.
Yes, they've been told about the Sundering. No, they don't entirely believe it is as severe as claimed. This is because they were highly superstitious and occultist even before they were Sundered. (Remember Rasputin.) "Everybody" already knows magic and myth-creatures and such are real, so how big a deal can the Sundering be?
Their magic is now far more proficient, they have made many alliances with supernatural forces, and they have established many links and resources with Russians in the confusion of the early Soviet era. Outer Russia is prospering for such a young community, but does not know how to use this prosperity wisely. They are eagerly acquiring large tracts of Russian esoteric territory as a staging-ground.
They have become, in fact, too ambitious for their own good.
Certain events, including the sudden Nazi invasion, cause them to move against Stalin, and to attempt to assassinate him.
Outer Russia learns the hard way that not only does the attempt fail with absolutely no benefits, but it draws the attention of esoteric Soviet forces: the Committee for Dialectical Extrapolation and, of course, the Committee for Psycho-Physical Unity.
Several of their most talented mages go down in encounters with the Stepmother, the Soviet Union's djinnish "guardian angel." They lose a lot of what they had been building up since the "murder" of the Romanovs, and must retreat from their original manor-monastery sanctuary. Outer Russia is not broken, but has so narrowly escaped being broken that their attitudes change dramatically.
Esoteric allies who said "I told you so" about the Sundering are alienated: "Beginner's luck, my foot. These people are dangerously stupid." Fays in particular are notoriously prickly, and Outer Russia loses a lot of fay good will for ignoring fairy warnings.
This generation believes in a policy of stealth and survival, and sees their holy mission as one of preservation. They lurk around Russia, and infiltrate it—not with a policy towards subverting the state, but of stealing precious artworks and ikons and royal regalia, and everything they consider too Russia-worthy to remain in Soviet hands.
The esoteric world, in this period, is puzzled about where their base is. In fact, they have moved into the Noetic, almost literally dwelling in memories, but emerge often to raid and otherwise take supplies; mortals can't really live in the Noetic. They are keen on retaking what they have lost.
The Cuban Missile Crisis doesn't take them by surprise—they were expecting this ever since they almost experienced their personal near-apocalypse at Stalinist hands.
They're more surprised that World War Three fails to happen.
They think they can rebuild Tsarist Russia in a post-apocalyptic sense—emerging in the nuclear wastelands, rescuing as many survivors (of the right sort) that they can. "God's plan for us was never to overthrow the Soviets, but to outlive them."
They are culturally unprepared for the real breakup of the Soviet Union, just like everyone else was.
Glasnost, perestroika, and the invasion of Afghanistan gives Outer Russia's current generation hope—hope fueled by the sickened feeling of having spent two decades skulking and saving. It's time for a change.
The current generation dares to mix and match the dreams of their predecessors, most of whom are still alive and able to complain.
Heck, they might be complaining even if they're not alive.
Communism has mostly lost the loyalty of the masses. They itch for a change, too. But it seems improbable that they would accept a returning Romanov dynasty, and the events of the Stalin era make the Outer Russians wary of even experimenting with the notion.
The downfall of the Soviet Union is surely not going to happen soon. And it is, at least, a very large and powerful empire, dominated by Russians.
A compromise solution seems desirable, a new direction: become the Soviet Union's hidden masters. Infiltrate them in this time of openness, and start calling the shots. A secret Romanov monarchy shall tell them what to do, backed up by magic and power, and institute reforms and suitable changes. Gradual transitions to prosaic acceptability can be figured out later. The important thing is to be in charge again—from behind the scenes, the Romanovs shall yet again save Russia. Nobody else could do it!
Aaaaaaand they lock horns again with the Committee for Dialectical Extrapolation and the Committee for Psycho-Physical Unity.
Then the Soviet Union collapses. So much for subverting that.
Outer Russia is starting to face esoteric reality, having had so many of its assumptions and wistful theories pulled out from under its feet. Most importantly, it is convinced, reluctantly, that its focus on the complex esoteric world of Russia has been a mistake. Depressed at the situation of post-Soviet Russia, it is easy for the latest policy-setters of the family/dynasty to decide they need to look abroad. What's happening in China is a little inspirational, but that's not abroad enough.
The latest generation is no longer interested in compromise solutions that blend the best of their old goals and directives—Tsar Nicholas is still alive (!) though sleeping, and he's revered, but they regard it as a mistake to actually try to put him back on the throne of Russia. And it's nice that they occasionally hear from Anastasia, now bride of Koschei the Deathless, but nothing really useful ever seems to come from that quarter.
The family now feels that if they ever want to really regain influence in Russia (and they have some), it might be time to start looking abroad.
This is the internationalist phase of Outer Russia society, not as a recipient of foreign aid (which dried up long ago), but as a means of exploring the esoteric world, trying to gain more esoteric power and influence and supporters, and globetrotting-for-profit. The family is more willing to imitate Grand Normandy than it was before, but overall this means being more capitalist, corporate, and otherwise business-oriented that the dynasty has ever been before.
The elder Outer Russians fear that by the time of their nation's centennial comes along, royalty will be more of a name than anything meaningful. And the example of King Stephen does not appeal to their elder generations at all. He's better than a figurehead monarch like the prosaic European royals, but so is being King of Fools.
Meanwhile, the younger royals are out and about. Yes, the agents of Outer Russia are actually members of the royal family, in large part. The family is large and straggly, Outer Russia is very small in proportion, and anyway, who else can you trust with such things as seeking out Shambhala? And if royals have to (ugh) work, adventuring is surely the most acceptable way. More suitable than hawking wines and cars and guns, like the Grand Normans.
King Stephen of Grand Normandy probably finds the younger royals more sympatico than their crusty elders. But they are also more in the way of being business rivals. In return, the Romanovs feel very conflicted about the Plantagenets. Almost undoubtedly, they would not have survived if the Cryptic superpower had not taken them on as an ... ally. Or client. The Romanovs are, of course, pushing for "ally" over "client."
Thus, for instance, Grand Normandy's famous exploratory expeditions may often include one or two minor Out-Russian royals. But the Romanovs won't do that unless they have some of their own (tiny) expeditions roving out there too.
And, on their own initiative, and sometimes to the annoyance of Grand Normandy, they are looking for places to set up their own bases and enclaves (like a warmwater port—finally). Outer Russia is quite willing to interfere, to turn up now, in places where historically Tsarist Russians have had no real interests. Out-Russians are now as likely to appear in Bolivia as they are to appear in New Zealand.
The ambitions of Outer Russia are on the rise. By the time of its centennial, it might be a serious contender for Grand Normandy's standing in society, depending on how successful any of its risky explorations are. Or it might fall into the extinction of many Cryptic Nations.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2017, 2019