Within Volchok, two histories have emerged in recent times: the history of the city and the countryside. And how could it not? From around the time of the original Blood Unity, the economic development of Volchok’s cities – and in particular Zimny Dvor – raced onwards, enabling the accretion and concentration of capital in miraculous ways. Dating from this time, the infrastructure of the cities improved quickly, life expectancies increased, and if one were to look simply at the urban populations and their conditions in life, one might be forgiven that a sort of utopia existed in Volchok, a million miles away from the backwards, undeveloped and decaying towns and villages in the regions, which for the most part never saw a penny of the profits and investments being channelled into the metropolises.
Most urban areas received a massive stimulus through Blood Neprev’s trading with and raiding of the southern lands – of the Sakr – which, historians agree, can be traced back to around 200 BU. The profits made from the extraction of the Sakr’s seemingly infinite resources, such as minerals, diamonds and raw materials found their way back to the capital first, and then to other urban centres.
Life in the cities became tolerable, and then good, as money enabled improvements in infrastructure, in accommodation, in health systems, in education, in transportation, so that by around 1500 AU, the life expectancy of a Volchokian living in a city was roughly double that it had been a thousand years before.
But it is the nature of capital to concentrate itself in as few hands as possible, and it was no different in Volchok’s urban history. A class of mercantile traders rose around the time of Blood Neprev’s expulsion from the Sakr, entrepreneurs and leaders of industry who discovered new and alternative ways of keeping the coin flowing at a time when the expropriation of foreign lands looked unreliable. The phenomenon of whale oil gave them the injection of profit they needed. And they weren’t alone. Those in political power gained too, as did the landed gentry who filled their vaults with gold made through leasing their land to factories, processing plants and warehouses engaged in whaling. Everyone was winning, except they were not.
A whaler around 1540 AU made around a thousand times less than the owner of the company whose boats he used. His wages were barely enough to feed his family. It was a tale common throughout the country. The civil war that followed one hundred years later only made matters worse. Factories were destroyed, people lost their jobs, and instead of a promising and prosperous site of profit making the city became synonymous with crime, mass unemployment, and misery. Urban folk protested, of course; the first union in Volchok was founded in 1709 AU. But such movements and organisations were swiftly crushed by an imperial police force and army whose allegiance to the Neprev dynasty made the latter, in the eyes of the masses, nothing more than an enabler of unscrupulous employers and owners of production who treated their workforce like dirt. The entire regime was soon found to be nothing but the puppet of industry, propping them up with regular displays of force against unarmed civilians. Massacres were common. The Obshina sat back and watched, a wry smile on its face – in destabalising the entire country through short sightedness and blatant unconcern for the plight of the common man, Blood Neprev was doing their job for them.
Things never got better, only worse. The war against the homegrown Obshina was never any closer to a successful end. People never stopped dying prematurely, either through the violence or the conditions of their lives. The economy kept tanking. Trading with other lands dried up. Poverty only got worse. By the 1890s, the anger and bitterness which had been transmitted throughout the urban population for hundreds of years had turned into a visceral hatred for the regime itself and the cronies who still propped it up. Something had to change, and increasingly, ordinary folk were willing to put their future in the hands of a radical group proposing radical change: the Obshina.
Things were quieter in the regions. They knew Blood Neprev despised them, and always had. Once dirt, always dirt. They were far more philosophical in their fates than those in the cities who had once enjoyed the good life, only to now be living in a sort of hell.
Significant dates and people
- Rise of Blood Neprev (1500-1000 BU)
- Zimny Dvor established (995 BU)
- Wolf’s Pass started (500 BU)
- Colonising of the Sakr (200-100 AU)
- War with the Sakr (1203-1520 AU)
- Blood Neprev’s defeat in the Sakr (1520)
- Discovery of whale fat as a means of energy (1540 AU)
- Founding of labour unions (1709 AU)
- Gregori Vasilevich Neprev (1806-1841 AU)
- Rise of the Obshina (mid 1800s AU)
- Affanassi Vasilyevich Neprev (1872-1899 AU)