Rulers: Grand-Prince Oleg Stjurg, Prince Tugomir Bunin of Balgard, Prince Jagiello Sakalauskas of Varcheg
The confederation of small kingdoms that is now the Principality of Sturgia came into being only a century ago. As boomtowns sprung up along the great rivers of the north, the local tribal leaders forged marriage pacts with Jumnish and other adventurers, hiring their swords to subdue their neighbors. Under pressure from the empire, they elected a prince to lead them in war, and eventually the princes became a hereditary office. But the idea of a monarchy has never sat easily with the independence-minded boyars, and the potential for rebellion always lurks under the surface of Sturgian politics.
The Sturgians call their lands home for centuries. From before the Empire and the Sun-god, in the deep woods and rolling snow white fields lived the Sturgians. It is believed that in the first century Jumnish settlers established trading posts arrived on the Pirash River, these spots eventually growing into boomtowns that also saw Battanians, Savramates and Khuzaits immigrating. Curaw quickly became famous for its power and wealth, as well as its Jumnish-Sturgian people that would soon become more common. They called themselves “Ljudi od Rijeka", the Peoples of the River.
The Jumnish would arrive again, in greater number and ferocity in the second century. Pushed from their homelands by increased colds that also bit into Sturgia’s far north, the locals found in them both immigrants and invaders. In the end, the Jumnish influence in Sturgia was undeniable, both as culture-shapers and sea raiders.
Sturgia was once part of the Empire, having gained their independence in the Edict of Eternal Peace, which remains upheld and both peoples enjoy good relations. Most of Sturgia’s people live hugging the Pirash River, where commerce and fishing support a large population of many cities. The Peninsula of Varcheg also enjoys amenable climate facing Argad Bay and protection in its many fjords. The far north plains of Balgard instead sees more often than not poor soil and long, dark winters. As Sturgians inhabit Balgard’s south, its north is home to the Urgu people, a number of tribes known for their extraordinary resilience needed to live in their lands. Although culturally distinct and worshipping different gods, the Sturgians and the Urgu have for most of times called each other friends. The Shamans of the Urgu tribes have pledged allegiance to the Sturgian Boyars for generations in exchange for protection from the nomads of the Taiga.
Religion in Sturgia is as varied as its people. The old gods are strong and alive, sharing a kingdom with Makerism brought by the Empire. Pagans largely do not care if their neighbour worships Lesha, Ylijumala or the Maker, but some Makerist fanatics are known for their intolerance and ambition of converting Sturgia; as such, it is not unfamiliar for blood to be shed. Sturgian and Urgu pagans show no sign of giving in, even as those who convert to the new, solitary Sun-God still tell stories from the old ways.
The Boyars and Chieftains of Sturgia are known for their autonomy just as much as their wealth. Trade from the Pirash is the lifeblood of the powerful Sturgian lords. They boast of mighty fleets of longboats and galleys, and none gets close to that of Curaw, rulers of impressive beasts of wood meant to both protect trade and engage in war between chiefs. And on land they have deep pockets to attract droves of mercenaries to man the thick, Imperial-engineered walls as well as to bring them down.
The Knynaz of Curaw rules all other Boyars for generations, but he knows full well that any mishap, insult or faint whiff of centralization means civil war. Currently, the Knyaz Oleg Stjurg is happy to focus on nothing but military manners. While it seem reasonable to do so, seeing that the Khuzaits knock on Calradia’s edge and threaten to bring down all the kings and peoples under them, the Knyaz’s aloofness on other matters have also caused his country to suffer under poor administration and outright corruption. As Sturgia in the north, the Empire in the south and the Savramates in the east brace as a united front against nomad hordes, there’s only praying for whichever god or gods there are that Sturgia doesn’t crumble on itself.
Radomir the Red (320-360)
The rule of the Knyaz of Curaw is much talked about, both in great ballads and tales of heroics, as well as imagery summoned to spice up a dooming threat. He is known for many tales, including how he ventured to Jumne and killed an albino wolf with his bare hands and use it as a banner, how he lived his 13th year with the Urgu and his 14th on an islet on the Alai Sea alone and how he supposedly became the richest man in Calradia.
Time, as it usually does, exaggerated his original deeds but beyond a doubt the most well-known, warped and probably false story starts when he, as Knyaz of Curaw, set out to quell the revolting Druviniev people. He marched with 5.000 men, defeated the rebellion and returned only to find they had sacked Curaw and killed his wife. That happened before the peace treaty was already signed, but his fury cared not for legal details. He marched his warband back to the Druviniev and demanded the man who murdered his wife step forth. When no man assumed responsibility, he turned his army to the village and ordered his men to slaughter every married woman. Despite much resistance among his troops, the wildest and most unhinged soldiers had no problem in killing innocents, quickly descending into massacring all the other women, children and elders.
At the sight of this, the Druviniev sallied out from the fortress and were joined by most of Radomir’s mutinous men. The rampaging soldiers were quickly defeated and the Knyaz fled. Here tales from the Druviniev diverge, some saying he ran to live in the Taiga while others tell how he turned to live on the streets of Curaw, but all versions paint the picture of a hunched, dark figure wearing the silken rags of what was once the robes of a prince, slurping wild on the blood of a corpse. He is said to have become a vampire, a lunatic driven wild by heartbreak and betrayal. And some say he still lives.
The War of the Aurora (401-403)
One of the most fateful periods in Calradia began on the most unlikely of places - the taiga of the far north. An eruption on the Jumnish volcanic island of Auroraheima caused a mass exodus, as ash not only blanked the island but the Jumnish mainland as well. The Urgu on Balgard's coast were faced with hundreds of frenzied longships. The Shamans of the Urgu people of Fisdnar, Ryvi, Karala, Jarvi and dozens of other tribes found themselves being pressed back further south.
Shaman Urho of Lehto demanded help from the Boyar of Balgard, for they all pledged vassalage to him. The snow fell as the air before the city walls was thick with tension. When Boyar Geralias refused to march in the middle of winter, Urho was enraged and laid siege to Balgard. As this was happening, one Juho of Joutsen found this a perfect opportunity to break off and raid his way east towards Curaw.
News travelled quick to the Kynaz - he was facing a Jumnish invasion, an Urgu uprising and rogue pillagers on his own doorstep. The suddenness and confusion of it all led to Kynaz Valdim grouping the same Urgu raiding his lands and the ones in Balgard together. He grabbed his men from their homes buried in snow and set out to punish the rebels. What happened instead was tragic. Valdim and Urho had never seen each other in their lives, and deciding which man sinned the most was never to be settled peacefully. When the besiegers caught wind of the royal host marching to kill them, they turned and engaged them with their staple guerilla tactics. Thick snow and blizzards only aided their ski-mounted warriors. After picking off foragers and scouts, the main force was easy prey to be massacred in a field of blood, and that was exactly what happened.
How the Urgu infiltrated Curaw, opened its gates and proclaimed their Shaman ruler of all Sturgians can only be guessed, but what is sure of is how, Andrzej, Valdim's son and legitimate Kynaz had little time to flee the city. He sought refuge in the Empire, promising to bend the knee if the Emperor were to reclaim his throne. The legions were quick to press on the Stugian border. Most Sturgian lords welcomed the Empire, for they held Urho unsurprisingly with no regard. Nevertheless Valdim had the fame of a cruel man, and some few lords pledged to serve Urho, and their numbers swelled by independent-minded boyars. They managed to fight the legions off during the winter. Some fortresses mounted and impressive defence. But no man lives without food, and when the spring thaw came the way to Curaw was clear.
The Urgu regrouped and fled into the taiga, where they managed to push back the Jumnish and dodge the Empire. It would take decades for all the Urgu tribes to be brought back under vassalage, and many of these years were spent doing nothing. They were known for their cruelty, above all for the slaughter of Ismirala, where they sacrificed most of the local population to Kuonttalaa, the goddess of Death, Life and War, as reparation for the many lives of their own the Empire took. They impaled most of the men, women and children, placing fir wreaths on their heads - all this only to disappear without a trace into the thick woods.
Elsewhere, it was only a matter of cleaning up anyone who disagreed with being ruled by the Empire. Kynaz of the Sturgians, Andzrej Borisovich was crowned on the founding stones of the Cathedral of Curaw, a monument that would be built during his long rule and as the last stones of the bell towers were placed, would see his body buried in it. Crowds filled the streets to attend his funeral, and whether it was out of respect or fear, the Empire and the Maker were there to stay for 300 years.
The Godly Troubles (710-712)
Following the Treaty of Eternal Peace, granting Sturgia’s independence, not only the Imperial legions left but also their aggressive missionaries. Native Sturgian and Urgu paganism had survived 300 years of harsh Imperial persecution, some faithful having left the main towns in favour of the distant north where the Empire’s influence was tenuous. Many of the converted commoners and nobles practiced Makerism syncretized with pagan aspects or outright worshiping the two religions at once, and when the Empire left many decided to put Lesha above the Maker. This outraged many of the court in Curaw and the Knyaz Jarusz the Wise, announcing that no heresy will be tolerated.
He was met with a coalition of several lords, claiming their freedom from royal intervention. They were brought together and led by Boyaritsa Aive Vitsut. The pagan cause drew more and more men to its banners and even gained financing from the Makerist Pirash trading towns who wished to undermine the Knyaz and gain autonomy. Even if the crown was outnumbered, Jarusz believed in his holy mission and marched to war. The Maker, however, didn’t seem to favour him as he was slain in battle.
Aive Vitsut was declared the Knyaginya and immediately proclaimed the confusingly-named Edict of Perpetual Unity, granting the right to every landowner to decide what faith is practiced in his lands and by his people and how no one may infringe on this, not even his liege. While it was far from granting the people religious freedom, it could be argued that segregating the realm in religious communities was more likely to keep the peace. And indeed, Sturgia would remain free of large religious conflict to the present day.
Aive would rule for 20 more years, eventually dying kicked by a horse. Her rule would be famous Sturgia by always seeking to solve problems peacefully. She would convert to Makerism and, ironically, become a saint for her extensive charity and creation of churches. Other less flattering aspects of her reign include advocating for rulers to favour their daughters in inheritance instead of their sons citing it’d be Mother Lesha’s will, while others claim all children of hers were bastards. As usual, discerning what is true and what is fabrication shall be lost to the past.
Written by Warwick & Wlodoviec