|Title(s)||The Fifth Empire of Ashkera;|
Volzya na Ashkera Zukal;
Great(er) Black Forest Country
|Bloc(s)||Greater Xyanzar Joint Defense Initiative (Founder)|
|Classification (Wiki)||Quasi-Federal Constitutional Elective Monarchy|
|Classification (WA)||Father Knows Best State|
|Head of State||Empress July Zau Lyalyai|
|Head of Government||Central Director Muralkama|
(real name restricted),
Oversight Councillor One
(real name unknown)
|Land Area||4,120,234 km2|
|Major Exports||Electronics, Automobiles, Aircraft, Industrial Equipment, Medical Equipment, Pharmaceuticals, Oil, Wool, Grains|
|Government $ (%GDP)||39.8%|
|Military $ (%GDP)||4.2%|
The Fifth Empire of Ashkera is a mostly forested nation with a variety of climates, split between its own subcontinent and surrounding islands. The nation is known for its technology, risk analysis, dangerous wildlife, and mysterious technocratic government.
Ashkera is effectively a dominant-party state under the National Technocracy Union and its ruling coalition, who control a legislature of organizations somewhere between think tanks and political parties, which bet on the outcomes of legislation. The Central Director is chosen from the Directorate by this legislature with the approval of the enigmatic Oversight Council and its chairman, Oversight Councillor One.
The country, where insurance inspectors sometimes have powers otherwise associated with law enforcement, bureaucrats' retirement savings are tied up in complex bets on their projects' success, and quasi-autonomous government units sue each other in attempts to take over state service contracts, is often poorly understood by outsiders. Foreign cable TV pundits have, at times, described the government as "incomprehensible," "laughably over-complicated," or "subtly terrifying," while overseas intellectuals have sneeringly described the country as a "futuristic dystopia" since 1972.
Markets, intervention, and redistribution are viewed as components of systems of solutions by the dominant ideology. Government policies combine these elements - "housing cooperative estate campus" is considered the 'default' housing type by citizens, members of a growing lower class zip between subsidized microjobs on their mopeds (and on ubiquitous trams), and reactionary political theorists consider the insurance industry a second arm of the state. Proponents claim that the dream of near-European levels of economic security combined with near-American levels of economic growth has been achieved, while detractors argue that the establishment has sacrificed popular rule and propped up immoral foreign regimes.
When the country re-entered the international stage during World War 2, it sided with the Western liberal democracies, and then sided with them again in the Cold War. In the late 1990s, it was thought that there might be a new era of world peace and an "end of history," but Ashkera and its allies gradually split away from the post-war liberal order after the Iraq War, breaking with assumptions that its Greater Xyanzar Joint Development and Defense Initiative (GX/JDI), composed of a mixture of soft authoritarian regimes, illiberal democracies, bureaucratic juntas, and stratocratic republics, would liberalize once the looming threat of global Communism was gone. Instead, they have continued to embrace the principles of "national development" ideology.
The 2016 buyout of Greece (resulting in the reorganization of the European Union) and the partitioning of the western half of Iraq into a second country following the Iraq War, increased tensions just as America was withdrawing support from international institutions, weakening the institutions' power as Ashkeran influence increased in China and Southeast Asia. Since 2024, the international liberal order has slowly been rebuilt, but after 2028, it finds itself facing down a new "cold war" with the "twin forks" of Ashkera-China and China-Russia.
With a religion ostensibly older than most civilizations (its central text sometimes described as reading like a cross between a book of moral allegories and The Art of War), the country has a history stretching back thousands of years, but Ashkera's modern revival dates to the previous government in the late 1700s, when, after reunification, it contested the old European empires for dominion of Earth and became known as "The Terror of the East." This Fourth Empire's spectacular collapse in a continent-spanning civil war in the early 1900s lead to the founding of the contemporary Fifth Empire in 1918, which split off the old imperial overseas territories into new countries intended to be cut on stable lines, out of a combination of ideology and neglect (with priorization for rebuilding Ashkera).
The unusual environment of (Ash)Kerazu, with its vicious wildlife and exotic phytochemicals, has shaped Ashkera into a country where all children are trained to fight and women have always been more numerous than men. The fast-breeding and highly-territorial wallabacks (and other animals) have always made the forests and jungles a dangerous place to travel alone, driving fortification, compact settlements, and an understanding of the necessity for the capability of violence. The dominant cultivated plant since pre-history, the violet bean, evolved chemicals not unlike the phytoestrogens, but along a different path. These phytoandrogens are not obvious from looking at the natives, but they have complex psychological, somatic, and reproductive effects - the most notable being that Ashkera's population is 54.8% female.
Criminal organizations follow careful safety guidelines when dispensing drugs in order to minimize their liability and that of their partners, as well as sticking closely to the rigid feudal codes of honor that allow them to operate in the legal grey. The country's ultra-high-speed central trunk highway is patrolled by turbine-powered "super-interceptor" police cruisers. Mass shooters' identities are erased. Moles report on labor regulations violations. Access to tilt-rotor aircraft is considered the true mark of an elite. State-owned enterprises are known to mysteriously profit from complex geopolitical disruptions, and Oversight Councillor One has replaced the Illuminati in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists the world over.
The ideological pragmatism and party dominance of Singapore.
The isolation and sea focus of Japan.
The scale and age of China.
The ambition and firearms-per-capita of America.
...and a 54% female gender ratio.
Ashkera is an ancient country which was forcibly reunited in the 1700s as the Fourth Empire. In the 1800s, it challenged the industrial Western powers for global dominance, before collapsing into a multi-continent civil war around the end of the century. The subsequent Fifth Empire cut the old imperial colonies loose, and avoided the world stage until World War 2, where it aligned with the Allies, siding again with the Western capitalists during the Cold War, amassing a bloc of ideologically-similar countries.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the fates Ashkera and the West began to diverge, accelerating at the turn of the century with the Iraq War. The nation's National Technocratic leadership had never planned to turn either Ashkera or any of its client states into cosmopolitan liberal democracies. In the eyes of the West, Ashkera now occupies a position not unlike China, as both a valuable trading power and dangerous, undemocratic rival for global power.
An early focus on governmental process improvement, combined with existing ideology and religion, resulted in a runaway process that gradually transformed the Fifth Empire from a country somewhere between an oligarchy and republic into its modern advanced technocratic form. Ashkera's form of governance is generally poorly understood in most other countries, and the Nationalist government prefers it that way.
The country of Ashkera covers most of the small continent of Eastern Xyanzar, part of the larger Xyanzar area in the region of Curumia. It consists of a large, lengthy mainland spanning many latitudes, surrounded by groups of smaller islands. The calm, relatively shallow, flourishing seas and abundant coastline have made ocean-going shipping effective since antiquity. Ashkera spans a variety of climates. Much of central Kerazu, the Ashkeran mainland, has year-round mild temperatures, while the north is subtropical, and the deep south's climate is continental. Thick forest dominates most of the Ashkeran islands, which give the country its native name of "black forest."
Ashkera is best known for its notoriously vicious wildlife, including the wallaback, which has been described as "a badger experiencing roid rage," as well as tigers, drop bears, and rolling spiders the size of dinner plates. Most cities are surrounded by walls, acting as yet another layer to the country's 'greenbelt' environmental policies. Ashkerans mostly live in medium-density urban areas, while even distant rural towns tend to be clustered into handful of walled compounds. Environmental quality is generally quite good, though not better than in nations where the environment is the primary focus.
In 2,804 BCE, the Seven Peaks supervolcano erupted, causing a regional "bronze-age apocalypse" in Curumia. The culture now known as "Ashkera" descends from the ashes. Having observed the futility of prayer to the gods of the time, the monk Kuvoyana Tsaikol founded Shadowism, the national religion of every Empire of Ashkera since. In Shadowism, mankind is descended from a half-devil warrior-philosopher, an officer and soldier in the great multiversal war which burns eternally between good, evil, and multiple kinds of incomprehensible. She was struck down and shattered into ten million pieces, which became the reincarnating souls of humanity, bringing with them the knowledge of civilization. Shadowists are to train over multiple incarnations for the final battle when the seal on Earth is lifted, after which they will triumph over the capricious gods that care only about maximizing their own alien domains, and then rebuild Earth as a paradise.
Shadowism describes a hierarchical, role-based society of reciprocal obligation under the direction of a powerful state. Someone's role can change - the main figure's does several times - and it is considered one's capabilities and ability to stick to the role that justify having power. There is a notable tension in the main texts between individual merit and communal obligations. This is a tension which continues to exist in Ashkeran society to this day.
Though there are regional differences, the overwhelmingly dominant ethnic group are the blue/green-eyed, dark-haired, medium-skinned Kalyon, an ethnic group that unified during the Third Empire as aristocrats and laborers were moved throughout the entire country. In other ways they more greatly resemble their distant Cayunese ancestors.
The population collapse of Senkyol during the Third Interregnum, and following invasion and colonization of Gem Island and northwestern Kerazu by Grand Caradin, left a large population of light-skinned, Erdlish-speaking, Cadechist Dychorians there, displacing most of the native Kalyon. This population was forcibly assimilated by the brutal Fourth Empire using a variety of techniques, including forced intermarriage. Cadechism was banned, and those who refused to convert away from it were deported 'back' to Grand Caradin if they had even one Dychorian ancestor. The subsequent Fifth Empire has recognized the assimilated "Gemese" as a new semi-protected ethnic group who are nevertheless Ashkeran, at about 11% of the population. Racial tension is low.
The primary staple crop is the Ashkeran Violet Bean (though in some ways it is more similar to a grain), going to back into the distant past. Eaten raw, it is a potent abortifacent in many mammals. When soaked and boiled, it is rich in energy and nutrients and has complex effects on humans, including intergenerational, epigenetic, and hormonal effects. As a result, about 54.6% of new births are female. Though not visually obvious, differences in strength and height between the sexes are somewhat reduced. Rates of bisexuality are elevated, particularly among women. Relationships are initiated at about the same frequency in both directions. The situation where agency was shifted off of women and onto men never occurred, and so the idea that women are incapable was largely not seriously considered, as well as the idea that only men can be sexual predators. Hobbies and interests tend to be more evenly distributed across genders, though whether this is cultural or not is hotly disputed internationally.
The violet bean's qualities kept pests away from it - but in doing so, it also deprived the land's highly territorial and aggressive animals of food, particularly during periods of expansion, resulting in increased attacks on humans. The true challenge came not from the difficulty of fighting any particular animal (except for the rare Ashkeran Tiger that turned against humans), but from the frequency of attacks. It became normal for even children to be armed and trained to fight, and a number of rituals (various forms of shouting, motions, and dancing) were designed for scaring the animals.
Traditional housing tended to be clustered in walled compounds to keep the animals out, necessitating an ettiquette for living in relatively close quarters, including cleanliness. Communal resources were often built into the compounds, providing greater efficiency, and large compounds were often built-up over centuries. Stone walls were also often used for fields for similar reasons.
The ancient Third Empire used its naval power to gather useful plants and animals from other parts of the world, including maize, potatoes, quinoa, and spices. Cuisine varies regionally, but is generally spicy. Both seafood and land food are popular, though poultry has always been cheaper and more available than beef. Violet beans are highly subsidized, and remain the basis of many dishes, as well as a large variety of processed foods. Most of the native Kalyon ethnic group are gluten intolerant, and wheat is considered unholy by pronouncement of the Imperial School of Shadowism, though it isn't illegal.
Edgy 'shock art' is not only not popular, but it doesn't receive funds from either public arts funds or the vast majority of the wealthy. Wealthy status competition has shifted to a diverse group of medium-budget art projects, including movies and video games. Downstream from different historical art norms and different gender roles, a different group of genres are popular than those in the West, particularly Action Romance, Shadowist Realism, Cybercop (cyberpunk police procedural), Techwar/Mechwar, and Crime Sitcoms. Martial Arts is so ubiquitous that it isn't considered a genre. Method acting has come to dominate the film industry as a sign of dedication to the craft.
The government of Ashkera is split into three branches, the Cooperative Technocratic State (civil government), the Royal Army (military), and the Imperial Palace (royals). Officially both the military and the civil government are subordinate to the Imperial Palace, but under the terms of the Constitution of 1918, most government functions are delegated to the Technocratic State. The system functions off the three, combined with the people, being balanced against each other. Each has its own parallel intelligence and security apparatus.
The Imperial Palace has two major roles. The first is to promote and preserve the national culture, and thus it owns and maintains the many ancient fortresses, palaces, and temples throughout the country, as well as operating concert halls, exhibitions, and civic events such as festivals and parades. Intended to represent the pride of the nation, only those deemed national hero figures (though this could be cultural, scientific, military, or through other accomplishments) can marry in with their families. Membership ends on the third generation removed from a hero ancestor. The Imperial Palace thus represents a key part of the nation's cultural elite, and aligns their interests with those of the state.
The Imperial Palace's second role is to keep the other two branches in check. It runs the Imperial Court, the highest court in the land, which handles special cases. The Imperial Palace is part of maintaining electoral integrity for the Technocratic State, as well as owning and running competing state-owned enterprises in various state-monopolized strategic industrial and commercial sectors, such as healthcare and energy.
Prior to the official founding of the Fifth Empire, the predecessors to the Royal Army were the most republican of the original GAJRA factions. This carries over in spirit, with the Royal Army charged with both figuratively and literally safeguarding the Constitution of 1918. It is unable to raise taxes on its own to fund itself, or launch a war without the approval of the other two branches. The Royal Army is charged with ensuring every Ashkeran's martial education in addition to the preparation of the nation against invasion. It is popular with patriotic, less-bookish types that don't trust the Technocracy as much. Only honorably discharged veterans are permitted to vote for the Royal Army's board of "M-Reps" ("Military Representatives").
The Cooperative Technocratic State is the dominant political power in Ashkera. Under the lead of the Central Director, whose identity is secret, it relies on relatively exotic decision and prediction mechanisms, such as prediction markets, conditional deferred compensation instruments, grant-based funding allocation blocks, and Autonomous State Organizations that compete for contracts to deliver sovereign services. The internal functioning of the state is generally not well-understood from outside. The Central Director answers to the mysterious Oversight Council and its chairman, Oversight Councillor One, whose identities are highly classified. The Central Director is chosen from the twelve sector directors by the legislature with the approval of the legislature and the Oversight Council.
The National Delegation is the Technocratic State's legislature. With the exception of certain political appointments (such as mayors), it can only set mechanisms by which the Technocratic State operates, rather than pick specific personnel. The National Delegation is composed of Delegate Candidate Organizations, a kind of voter-delegate think tank that receives its revenue from a mixture of votes times its standing in the legislative outcome prediction market. The most powerful DCO is the legendary National Technocracy Union (NTU), which has ruled with its coalition of parties since 1938. There is considerable debate overseas as to whether the NTU is a left or right-wing political party, with many academics referring to it as center-right. Within Ashkera, DCOs are instead classified by whether they are within the NTU's "government coalition", or within the opposition.
Dubbed "The Ashkeran Tiger" in the late 1980s, as it finally began to overtake the US on a per-capita basis, Ashkera's economy is mixed-market and high-technology. Ashkera is a major exporter of commercial aircraft, advanced industrial machinery, and medical technology, with a significant presence in the automotive sector, heavy industry, and agriculture. It is the world leader in commercial nuclear technology, which, thanks to its STAR (Standard Technology Advanced Reactor) Initiative has remained cost-competitive with renewable energy. A combination of legal barriers and differing hardware standards and technologies have prevented its software and computer chip industries from expanding as greatly outside of the nation's sphere of influence, where they dominate. Three sets of competing state-owned enterprises (one for each branch) control a few strategic industries, particularly energy, telecommunications infrastructure, and the rail system.
In lieu of stiff and complex government safety and reliability regulations, most sectors of the Ashkeran economy are subject to systems of mandatory insurance - not only against industrial accidents, but bundled with the products themselves at time of sale. This has somewhat distorted market incentives in favor of product robustness and safety relative to other countries, leading to a substantial secondary export market of used goods. There are few laws restricting employee mobility, as it has been decided to increase the effectiveness and scale of the social safety net instead. Infrastructure is robust, carefully-planned, and highly-developed. The vast majority of the nation's substantial electricity consumption comes from nuclear power - Ashkera consumes more electricity per capita than the United States.
In the mid 00's, a direct hourly wage income subsidy program (called WISP) was rolled out in a combination with a lowered private minimum wage. The program pays a per-hour amount from the government, which diminishes as the employer pays more, for goods and services for domestic consumption. This program has buoyed the labor force participation rate, consumer confidence, and overall stability, and is quite popular politically. It also removed political opposition to automation, which is now proceeding rapidly throughout the economy.
Ashkera was first settled around 24,000 BCE, and by modern humans around 6,000 BCE. The first evidence of bronze tools dates to around 3,300 BCE, though most historical artifacts were lost in the cataclysm before the emergence of the First Empire in 2,501 BCE, which also marked the popularization of the native Shadow Path religion. In the ancient world, most were familiar with the Third Empire, which reigned from 308 BCE until its collapse in 1180 CE. Its successor, the Fourth Empire, rose from the ashes of the Third Empire's multi-century collapse to challenge the Western colonial powers for the control of Earth, pushing them out of Oceania and southern South America.
The Fifth Empire emerged from the brutal Ashkeran Civil War near the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, after its union of militarists, royalists, social democrats, and others defeated Communists, Fascists, Anarcho-Capitalists, and the Great Heavenly Wave. It was founded with the Constitution of 1918. The war continued into Oceania the 20s and 30s as corruption was tamped down, followed by fighting the Japanese Empire for control of Southeast Asia in World War 2, and then anti-Communist actions in the 60s and 70s and the formation of the Joint Defense Initiative. As the weight of war lifted, the economy prospered in the 1980s and by 1989 had surpassed that of America on a per-capita basis, the two countries neck-and-neck until the 2020s. After the Cold War, Ashkera began to split away from the West, as the government had never intended to embrace Liberal Democracy.
While the Fifth Empire is only one hundred and twelve years old, Ashkera's explicitly Statist religion goes back thousands of years. The body of legal theory formed over time by many centuries of jurisprudence therefore differs from that of many Western nations.
There has been no major Feminist movement, nor major LGBT movement, that have come to dominate the national conversation as they have in the West. Due to different cultural conditions, agency was never massively shifted off of women and onto men in the distant or recent past, and so property rights and other regulations rarely went into matters of gender. LGBT activity was managed differently at different points in time of different empires and kingdoms throughout the nation's history, but often had various systems for managing the legal status of these relationships, many of which were revived under the Fifth Empire. Nonetheless, laws were expanded between the 1990s and 2030.
Alcohol is legal in progressively larger amounts with age. Access to pornography is categorized by age suitability, proceeding from simple stills, through "healthy adult relationships", to harder-core materials. Adultery is illegal, except with a registered prostitute (which is still legal grounds to dissolve a marriage). Drugs, gambling, and prostitution are in a form of "soft illegality" in which only registered member of an obscure feudal-era class of lordless warriors may offer them, resulting in a soft monopoly by the 5Ks (Fifth Kingdom), a variety of organized crime. Fifth Kingdom gangs resolve their competitions through a legal grey area of ritualized honor duels. They can be held financially liable for secondary effects of their actions, and thus tend to be very careful, going so far as to limit the amount of debt gamblers can take on, what drugs they sell to whom, and so on. Deeper organized crime that strays from the path of the 5Ks is purged, in part by 5K competitors.
Wallaback (Most Notorious Animal) - Endemic to the Ashkeran home islands, this species has been described alternatively as "a wolverine on PCP", "a racoon mixed with a rabid dog", and "a living ball of fur, knives, and violence". Fast-breeding and omnivorous, the animal is best known for its exceptional violence. Wallabacks are prone to entering a state of adrenaline-induced fury which makes them resistant to pain, attacking in groups of two or three to take out other animals, with a particular disdain for humans. A typical adult wallaback is roughly the size of a raccoon.
Wallabacks, like other animals in Ashkera, have had a significant impact on Ashkeran culture and architecture. The risk of wild animal attack drove close living arrangements and widespread training in martial arts and ownership of knives (particularly the kukuri), influencing the nation towards social collectivism and martial spirit.
Ashkeran Tiger (National Animal) - Noticeably smaller and thicker-skinned than its mainland cousins, the Ashkeran Tiger exists in a grey zone of being relatively more comfortable around humans than other tigers, but still being a wild animal. For thousands of years, Ashkerans have fed the tigers small pieces of meat to keep them near settlements, where they would prey on wallabacks, fall bears, and other wild species that posed a problem for Ashkerans. Also unlike their mainland cousins, Ashkeran tigers can eat some non-meat foods.
While Ashkeran tigers are not allowed inside city walls, it is illegal to shoot them under normal circumstances. Partly from their legacy as a holy animal, it is customary for Ashkerans travelling through the forest to carry small packaged cuts of meat or salt to give to the tigers. As they still sometimes attack people when kept as pets, it is illegal for most people to own them, though some temples have free-wandering populations that come and go. Ashkeran tigers are very popular with tourists.
Myu - A large, domesticated species of flightless bird, the Myu was bred for a number of purposes, but is most famous for its use as a riding animal. Until the arrival of horses in the year 723, this fast bird was the primary method of travel for couriers and used for light cavalry. Myus remained in use as late as the Ashkeran Civil War in the early 1900s, as they were cheaper than horses. They were also a major source of meat, eggs, feathers, oils, and leather. Myus somewhat resemble emus in appearance, but are larger and have thicker legs from millenia of selective breeding.
Raman - This distant cousin to the llama was bred as not only a pack animal, but also a draft animal. It has a useful coat that can be sheared for wool clothes.
Tumbling Spider - At up to 30cm across, this semi-domesticated species of spider was historically used for pest control by farmers and others, feeding on insects, rodents, and other spiders. According to official records, the first few domesticated tumbling spiders were painstakingly selected from a batch of thousands during the First Empire. Ancient villagers would farm the spiders and keep them in special "spider baskets" for transport and trade. Some Ashkeran idioms around "running out of spiders" originate in this practice.
Tumbling spiders get their English name from their ability to propel themselves by tightening into ball and rolling. Wallabacks are their main predator.
Around 16.5% of GDP is produced by corporations owned by either the Imperial Palace, the Royal Army, or the Cooperative Technocracy, typically in competition with SOEs owned by the other branches. Several key areas are oligopolized, particularly mineral extraction, energy production, telecommunications infrastructure, and core health insurance.
The most powerful state-owned enterprise is the Star Ashkera mega-conglomerate, which has an estimated market capitalization of nearly $1.25 trillion dollars. The majority (58%) of Star Ashkera is owned by the Ashkeran State Employee General Pension Fund ("ASE.GPF"), while 28% is owned by a combination of pension and investment funds owned by Ashkeran citizens, and 14% is owned by various government divisions. It was originally founded as a holding company for several pre-existing joint ventures in 1951.
Star Ashkera has a very diverse portfolio, with divisions in motor vehicles, computer chips and other electronics, commercial aircraft, arms manufacturing, medical technology, entertainment, finance, telecommunications, heavy industry, oil extraction, commercial nuclear technology, and mining.
Since 1986, it has increasingly acted as an integrator of production from private firms across Ashkera, and coordinator of GX standards and global competition, with focuses on process management and logistics. Documents leaked in 2011 indicated that it has deeper ties to government intelligence resources than previously believed, showing that the company used spy satellite footage during the 1990s to make estimates regarding environmental conditions for the sale of forestry products, to engage in price speculation in various commodities, and to estimate the industrial capacity of foreign competitors. It is public knowledge that it uses organizational design technologies derived from restricted-access research conducted by QASOs. Foreign analysts speculate that it has access to the prediction information used by the Cooperative Technocratic State and the National Technocracy Union.
The government is known for convening industrial consortiums in order to enhance the nation's overall competitive strength internationally through formalized intellectual property and research coordination. The most famous is the Tiger Software Consortium (originally the Tiger OS Consortium), formed in 1985 to wrest control of the computer operating system space from Western companies and create a unified platform for application development. While its largest stakeholder is state-owned enterprise and computer chip manufacturer Star Ashkera, it has many private sector companies that vote for control of Tiger OS based on on their contributions to its general fund. Independent developers can also gain access to the codebase for a $400 annual developers' license fee. A new unified standard base for Tiger OS is produced every 5 years (with three five year periods of declining support), and released as a consumer operating system to the general public.
The Tiger Software Consortium also produces an office software suite known as DocuDesk and the popular web browser Surfboard. While it is widely rumored that these products contain backdoors inserted by the Ashkeran government, no evidence of this has ever been found in reviews of the code by third parties. The software itself is used by the Ashkeran state bureaucracy. Tiger OS and its associated software, as well as Star Ashkera's t84 computer architecture, occupy roughly 28% of global marketshare, with most countries using either mostly Western software or mostly Ashkeran software.
The national currency of the Fifth Empire is the Ashkeran Silver Note, which uses the currency symbol ₳ (which it briefly shared with [South Eramia #219]). ₳10 is approximately equal to $1.00 USD as of 2018.
Coins smaller than the half-note (₳0.5) were discontinued in 2010. The Imperial Mint is discussing plans to discontinue coins smaller than the note (₳1) in 2035.
Annual income, including benefits, for a full-time minimum wage worker amounts to about ₳232,400 (~$23,240 US) in 2018, though this includes portions earmarked for savings/equity and healthcare. Government payment of various social benefits amounted to around 13-15% of GDP annually between 2015 and 2030.
The system combines a basic income, a minimum wage, an hourly wage subsidy, a job guarantee, and healthcare vouchers. With a minimum wage of roughly $4.00 US/hr and various systems designed to lubricate the market (including credentialling, job posting, and reputation tracking), basic jobs are relatively easy to come by, and it is socially expected that most people will have some kind of job, even if only for a few hours per week.
The National Benefit was originally conceived in 1970 as an incentive bonus for citizens to be physically fit and ready in the event of an emergency. Trials in the 1980s and 1990s revealed its potential to replace a number of small poverty assistance programs, resulting in a dramatic expansion in the year 2000 coupled with a decrease in the national minimum wage.
The National Benefit is still contingent on a number of physical health, knowledge, and skill tests. Citizens have up to four opportunities (once per quarter) to pass these tests for the year. Medical exemptions are notably easy to come by.
In practice, the program functions similarly to a basic income for Ashkeran citizens. Youths below age 18 receive a smaller amount immediately, while the remainder goes into an interest-bearing account which pays out between ages 16-32, commonly used for savings, education, or payments on home equity.
|Year||National Benefit (Annual)||~$USD||~Wage Equivalent|
The national minimum wage for private employment in Ashkera was first instituted in 1930. It is typically adjusted in five-year periods. The minimum wage was lowered at various stages of implementing the National Benefit and the Wage Income Subsidy Program (WISP).
|Year||Minimum Wage||~$USD||Est. Annual|
|2015||₳40 / hr||$4.00||₳83,200|
|2025||₳42 / hr||-||₳87,360|
Adult citizens are elligible to receive a ₳40/hr (~$4.00 US) direct-to-labor wage subsidy when working at the minimum wage. This payment declines by ₳1 per every ₳2 increase in private wages. Hours exceeding 185 in a given month are not elligible for the payment. A full-time minimum wage worker might then be expected to make about ₳83,200 ($8,320) annually from this subsidy.
Each citizen receives ₳30,000 ($3,000 US) annually for payment towards medical expenses. Any excess can be saved in an approved interest-accruing account. Money from the Medical Benefit may be diverted to spouses or children, or passed down in a will.
State-issued "Guarantee Jobs" are available, though instead of the total of ₳80/hr (~₳97/hr with National Benefit in 2018) offered by private-market minimum wage jobs with WISP subsidy, they uniformly pay a mere ₳60/hr (~₳77/hr with National Benefit).
In practice these jobs generally employ one of three groups - people in economically-depressed areas, persons with significant disabilities, and convicted felons. Guarantee jobs are devised mostly by municipal and regional governments.
Each citizen is required to save 30% of income annually until reaching a total of ₳5,000,000 ($500,000 US). This savings can go towards equity in housing ownership. Savings can be withdrawn for qualifying events such as medical payments, or on retirement.
The government's obsession with requiring insurance on seemingly every product and aspect of life ensures that many negative life circumstances (such as loss of home due to fire) are taken care of without hitting government coffers.
Many aspects of the economy that would be handled directly by government regulations in other countries are handled by systems of mandatory, regulated insurance instead. Insurance company inspectors have broad legal powers and can perform surprise inspections without notification, enlist inside personnel as informants, and sue or fine individuals for non-compliance.
Combined Product Safety & Reliability Insurance (CPSR) - The most well-known Ashkeran insurance outside of Ashkera, this is what most foreigners are talking about when they say "everything is insured in Ashkera." In an effort to improve regulatory efficiency in the 1950s, after a spate of low-quality goods had ended up on the market and disappointed consumers, the government created the precursor to the modern CPSR.
CPSR is attached to all consumer and many commercial goods, including imported foreign goods. It is considered negligent in court cases to operate devices which are not covered under CPSR. At time of sale, goods are certified for an amount of time (typically years) based on their category according to functionality. This typically includes the expected cost of repairs for normal use for the duration of this period, thus showing estimated product reliability and more accurately reflecting total cost of ownership.
While the base cost of durable goods has increased an estimated 10-25%, and total cost briefly spiked 50% when CPSR was introduced, it has been estimated that CPSR has increased the product lifespan of Ashkeran durable goods by as much as 50-100%. It has contributed to a global brand reputation for products that seem "almost supernaturally reliable." (Many analysts believe CPSR was a major factor in Ashkera overtaking the U.S. automotive industry in the 1980s.) It tends to favor replaceable parts, long product lifecycles (in concert with the Landfill Deposit), and little in the way of planned obsolescence.
CPSR is sold in "insurance periods" based on forecasted product lifespan. "First Period" goods are typically bought by the middle and upper classes, and have extremely high reliability. When it comes time to renew the insurance, First Period owners often sell off their goods, which are then refurbished and reinsured as Second Period goods. Broken goods start to be cannibalized for parts. In Second and Third Period, goods are often sold off on foreign markets or to those of lower economic standing. Many goods do not make it to the Fourth Insurance Period.
CPSR has been accused of acting as a stealth tariff, as it is also applied to goods not produced in Ashkera. Since there is additional uncertainty, foreign goods tend to have more costly CSPR until Ashkeran insurance firms start operating in those countries.
Environmental Hazard Insurance - In the early 1940s, several corporations storing hazardous wastes went bankrupt. The expense of cleaning up this waste fell on the government. In an effort to ensure those most responsible for pollution were the ones to pay for it, incentivize developing less toxic chemicals, and get the expense of cleaning up toxic waste off government balance sheets, mandatory Environmental Hazard Insurance was introduced.
Businesses must take on sufficiently-well-capitalized Environmental Hazard Insurance to cover the government's potential costs in environmental repair and cleanup of their activities, including possible public health consequences. (Reckless or deliberate failure to purchase adequate insurance may result in criminal charges for individuals.) Generally this results in a pool that is slowly discharged if the company goes bankrupt or which follows the company's assets.
After a rocky start in the late 1940s, Ashkera's insurance industry became notable for banning lead paint, leaded gasoline, and radium paint, as well as significantly restricting the usage of asbestos and a variety of other chemicals.
An EHI equivalent is levied as a tariff on imported goods based on a foreign nation's environmental record. This money is used to fund environmental initiatives in Ashkera and JDI countries.
Workplace Safety Insurance - While there are workplace safety regulations in Ashkera, much of the heavy lifting is done by the Workplace Safety Insurance. The required policies are quite expansive, and are resolved by a special court in which employee legal representation is often provided for free by the state. In practice, this leads managers to be careful in order to keep their monthly or annual insurance bill small.
Data Security Breach Insurance - Introduced in 1992, following some of the first major cases of identity theft and database breaches in the country's history, the Data Security Insurance is required for companies storing personally identifiable information about users that could be used for financial fraud or identity theft. Although it often pays as little as $100 per user in the event of a breach, transforming security from a "cost center" managers could gamble on into a quantified monthly risk dramatically improved computer security in Ashkera, and cut the amount of data companies hold on users.
Landfill/Disposal Deposit - Paid based mostly on the weight and risk category of certain chemicals in a product, the landfill deposit is applied to new products intended for final consumption/use. Part of the principle is used to purchase land for garbage dumps, while interest on the remaining funds is used to pay for their operations. When material from a landfill is recycled into new raw materials or otherwise permanently recovered, money from the landfill deposit fund is paid in compensation. An item's landfill deposit can also be paid out if it's sold as a used good for use in a JDI member nation other than Ashkera.
Manufacturers have right of first refusal for goods recycling, which they can sell to others (such as specialized recycling firms.) This has caused some confusion over the meaning of the term "junk bond" by the uninitiated.
Municipal Infrastructure Deposit - When it was discovered that paying with debt dramatically increased the cost and time of infrastructure projects, this tax/deposit was added to properties in cities. The other purpose was to ensure infrastructure costs are adequately priced to help prevent NIMBYism. Each property pays, usually over 10 or 20 years, into an infrastructure fund, based on the estimated cost the property will incur to the city in infrastructure construction and maintainence. Interest goes towards ongoing operational costs, while larger chunks are used to swiftly do entire infrastructure projects at once to keep costs down.
Ashkera is known for futurist special projects, many of which never go beyond intial stages or limited prototypes. Some of these projects are concessions to the notorious Atom Pact DCO by the ruling National Technocracy Union. Others are created by the Autonomous State Organizations, industrial consortiums, and other large institutional bodies within the country.
Like the United States, the Ashkeran government also considered "peaceful uses" for nuclear explosions, similar to the U.S. Project Plowshare. However, after studying US nuclear tests, the government concluded that the use of nuclear explosions for civil engineering projects would be a waste of nuclear fuel resources. (A smaller faction within the governing body opposed the plan due to risk of radioactive contamination.) As Ashkera also lacked the same level of production of nuclear weapons, the project Nuclear Explosions for Civil Engineering was placed on indefinite hold prior to its first planned detonation.
However, speculative plans for atomic-powered ground vehicles had circulated within the government since 1954. A new project, Project Megalith, conceived of multi-role 'atomic mega-crawlers' - large, flat, tracked vehicles powered by onboard 20-megawatt reactors, which could be reconfigured as a variety of 'mega-scale' construction equipment. It was calculated that a small fleet of these vehicles could move a similar amount of material to a nuclear explosion within a matter of months, with no radioactive soil contamination, and considerably greater control over the location of dirt and other material. Additionally, they would require little on-site infrastructure such as power substations, fuel depots, or rail lines for transport of energy and material.
The first unit was completed in late 1967, with the 12th and final unit completed in early 1972. Used in a variety of construction projects, the fleet was mothballed in 1978 when it was determined that no further earth-moving projects of this scale could be justified. In 1983, 8 units were revived and sent to Tsul-Shal to construct the Tsal-Kam Canal connecting the Kam Sea to the southern Amoenific Ocean. All 12 units were then converted into stationary power facilities.
Intended as a test of the collective construction capabilities of the country, given continued population growth (particularly the post-war baby boom), the Balzan Regional Development Council proposed the development of a new town of 80,000 along a section of mountainous coastline in southern Kerazu. The project called for the demolition of the small mountain of Mt. Anzulka and several other, smaller mountain in its range to flatten the tight coastal area for settlement, and the use of the recovered material to expand the coastline and construct an artificial harbor.
Primary earth-moving operations using atomic mega-crawlers began in early 1968, and were completed by early 1969, having moved 201 cubic kilometers of material. Construction was based on standardized modular systems shipped to the site by train, starting in mid-1969. The Second Autonomous Atomic Combine, responsible for carrying out the project, diverted 28% of the country's agricultural biowaste output to enormous ad-hoc composting plants constructed in the area to furnish new topsoil or replace topsoil destroyed by the operation. The new soil was planted with various fast-growing plants in order to prevent erosion.
Though primary construction was completed by the end of 1971, the project oversight committee wanted to allow an additional year to study the safety and geological conditions of the site. The first residents were moved in by mid-1973. Though the new City of Anzulka proved to be within acceptable limits of geological stability, its location was less economically optimal than expected. As of 2018, the population had stabilized at 68,000 residents, many of them retirees from other areas of Ashkera taking advantage of the city's relatively cheap real estate. The city remains a stronghold of the Atom Pact DCO.
After their role in the construction of the city, the atomic mega-crawlers began the project of clearing a path for the Central Trunk Highway, which spans much of the length of Kerazu.
8 units were refurbished and shipped to Tsul-Shal in 1983 to construct the Tsal-Kam Canal, connecting the inland Kam Sea of South Eramia to the southern Amoenific Ocean. Construction lasted until 1986, and resulting in the movement of over 300 cubic kilometers of material, much of it directed to various side projects around the area of the canal. After completion of the canal, all 8 units were converted to immobile power stations.
Also known as the Eastern Xyanzar Inter-Network, this Ashkeran alternative to the Internet was developed around the same time, but ties identity to state-registered cryptographic keys that the government can associate with identity, but which corporations and other entities (without sufficient tracking and agreements for that tracking) cannot. New keys can be issued regularly, allowing multiple network-facing identities, but cutting down on spam and criminal activity.
The EXINet has relatively few advertisements, as most pages are paid for through a microtransaction currency funded by a mandatory fee on internet connections. Increase in demand for this sector means that heavy net users typically buy more microcurrency through their internet service providers.
The first generation of the Eastern Xyanzar Inter-Network (EXINet) was originally proposed in a whitepaper by the University of Galgatta Computer Data Working Group in 1966. The plan made its way through the state bureaucracy and a working model was operational by late 1969, connecting the eight most major research universities in the Greater Tzaki Metro-Belt.
By 1970, the usefulness of the network was apparent, and it was boosted to the High Priority Projects Development Track under the direction of the newly-formed EXINet Extension Working Group, with the goal of connecting all major research institutions in the country. To manage the complexity of the network, and secure access to information, new protocols were created. This is the time when some core differences in ideology between the EXINet and the Internet emerged.
During the 1980s, the civil government was undergoing the first wave of "ASOization." The Extension Working Group became EXT Autonomous State Organization, and focused on a new, debt-funded, rapid expansion of network capabilities, ultimately paid off by major corporate and industrial clients. By 1989, the EXINet was declared a strategic industry, and opened up to more competition by the Imperial Palace, the Royal Army, and by other working units within the civil government by the functional decomposition of the EXT ASO.
The 4th generation of the EXINet, in the 1990s, saw a focus on "Consumerization," pushed by the National Technocracy Union and the Atom Pact as part of their ideological goals to distribute the gains of technological progress to the population. Standards formation and various initiatives focused on increasing computer ownership and high-speed internet access across the nation's various urban areas, as well as the computerization of various spaced-repetition-based education programs trialled in the 1970s and 1980s. Seeking "market creation," they ordered the creation of a microtransaction currency (the "E-Note," or en) funded by a small monthly fee applied to home EXINet connections. This was intended to facilitate information publishing and the gradual filling of the EXINet with mass access to high-quality information. The 4th generation goals also focused on the development of higher-powered connections to other countries in Xyanzar, and then other parts of the world. Most GX countries had embraced the Ashkeran computer industry during the 1980s, and thus the EXINet architecture.
The 5th generation began in 2001, as the ruling coalition created an initiative to expand next-generation broadband access to most of the country as part of electoral promises. The rapid increase in content drove an increase in the default microtransaction currency fee, leading to even more digital content publishing.
During much of the run of the original UES Apollo Program, the ruling Technocracy opted to instead spend resources and effort on a variety of other engineering projects both throughout Ashkera and as economic development of areas that had been captured during World War 2 and converted into client states, particularly in Tiuncaria, where there was ongoing fighting against Communist insurgents. A one-off project was launched in 1965 to put a man in orbit, and succeeded, but no follow-up had been confirmed.
By 1967, it had become apparent that the Eramians would succeed in their plan to put a man on the Moon, and a new plan was developed for a variety of reasons: to prevent further loss in national pride (the eventual Eramian Moon landing was better received in Ashkera than it was in the UES at the time), for propaganda and national pride purposes within areas incorporated to the Joint Defense Initiative, to prevent the primary exploitation of space by the United Eramian States and the Soviet Union (otherwise allowing them to gain what might be a potentially-insurmountable first-mover advantage), and to boost technological development.
The original plan was long-term and ambitious, and ultimately scaled back into a number of missions in Earth orbit and lunar orbit, including several lunar landings and a few longer-term missions. (Further missions were to be evaluated when more practical data was obtained.) Every country within the Joint Defense Initiative would be called on to contribute, and several would submit top-tier fighter pilots to serve on the missions. What the Americans had done was studied closely for precious information.
On July 1st, 1981, Valyuo Ulsai became the first woman - and first non-American - to set foot on the Moon. (This was declared a national holiday.) Three more landing missions occurred before the closing of the program.
In 1982, after technical evaluation, the decision was made to halt all future JSRO missions until a more cost-effective launch method and infrastructure could be devised.
After the closure of JSRO, a few periodic manned missions were made with the United Eramian States until the beginning of JSRO II.
The Kyishi River Incident in 1962 was a wakeup call for the Ashkeran government. While there were only 5 recorded and perhaps 10 additional estimated casualties from radiation exposure, significant concerns were raised regarding the future of nuclear power in Ashkera. Multiple major issues that allowed the incident to happen were identified:
The embezzling plant managers were turned over to the Imperial Palace by the civil government, who then sentenced them to public execution. Several personnel who had demanded that the military enact a mandatory "emergency evacuation drill", without disclosing the plant status to authorities, were sentenced to several years in prison (representing a significant reduction from their maximum sentence). A number of military personnel received special commendations for their response to the incident.
The development of nuclear power had been a prediction the ruling National Technocracy Union had been counting on as part of their smog reduction initiatives. Its failure reflected poorly on them. To restore public confidence in an atomic-powered future, new laws were passed, all nuclear reactors were put under government control, and the NTU created the Standard Technology Advanced Reactor (STAR) Initiative.
STAR envisioned a new fleet of standardized reactors built across the country, built with standardized parts in a factory, which would both significantly lower the cost of each individual unit, and lower the cost of replacing worn-down components for safety reasons. Standardized plants meant standardized reactor operator training and safety testing, allowing any inspection team to inspect any other reactor across the country - and by surprise, at a moment's notice. Safety planning could work on one plan design, meaning its costs could amortized across the entire plant generation - meaning that the safety planning itself could be higher. Reactor operation would be split between three state-owned entrprises: Star Ashkera Nuclear Energy, Atom Star IPC, and the Royal Atomic Energy Company RAC.
The first operational STAR-1 reactor came online in 1971. Two years later, the emergence of the global oil crisis confirmed the importance of the program in the minds of the bureaucracy, and a focus on nuclear power became part of a long-term strategic plan for total energy independence.
|STAR-1||1970||808||A standardized pressurized light water reactor system.|
|STAR-2||1982||902||The STAR-2 is in many ways an improvement on the STAR, designed with better economics, more passive safety systems, and integrating a number of lessons learned in the deployment of STAR. It was popular with various JDI nations, though by 2030 most STAR-2 reactors are in the process of being decommissioned.|
|N-STAR||1991||-||"Naval" STAR - a standardized reactor for heavy marine propulsion.|
|STAR-3||1995||518||The STAR-3 attempted to answer four main challenges: environmental impacts and costs of uranium mining and refining, limits to projected global uranium supplies, weapons proliferation, and the "10,000 year question" of waste disposal. It has similar characteristics to the Integral Fast Reactor. STAR-3 is capable of "burning off" longer-lived radioactive wastes, and has a projected waste storage time of 300-400 years.|
|M-STAR||2003||204||"Marine" STAR - a 204MW reactor intended for offshore deployment.|
|STAR-4||2009||354||The STAR-4 is a highly modular, low-maintenance reactor system designed using lessons from the STAR-3. It is safer, more advanced, more flexible, faster to construct, and more economical.|
|N-STAR-2||2012||-||Successor to the N-STAR.|
|M-STAR-2||2018||156||A 156MW reactor intended for offshore deployment in threes.|
|STAR-5||2023||308||At the time of its creation, considered to be the pinnacle of fission reactor development. Future reactors are likely to be fusion reactors.|
|N-STAR-3||2025||-||Successor to the N-STAR-2.|
|STAR-5R2||2027||322||An updated version of the STAR-5.|
The STAR program created institutional and political inertia within the state bureaucracy that has favored nuclear power significantly more heavily than all other electrical power sources, including fossil fuels, and has lead to a weakness in the country's renewable energy industry as state investment in that sector was considered redundant until late 2009. This single-minded focus has kept nuclear power in Ashkera highly cost-competitive with other forms of power generation, and lead Ashkera to become the undisputed leader of commercial nuclear technology world-wide.
Attempts to spread the results of the program outside of developed JDI countries have encountered signficant stumbling blocks, including regulatory and political hurdles. The price of a single STAR plant in America or the Dychoria is several times that of such a plant in Ashkera or one of the Oceanic countries.
A plateau in electrical power demand in Ashkera and several other core Oceanic countries lead to the development of the Marine and Naval reactors as a means to preserve production facilities and staffing. The Naval variant has lead to the construction of a nuclear-powered merchant fleet as global carbon restrictions increase, while the Marine variant has been used to bring power to underdeveloped JDI countries, although many believe it has been used as a form of political leverage.
As the automotive industry developed in the late 1960s and 1970s and household income increased due to economic growth, a growing phenomenon of illegal street racing began to develop, particularly along the sparsely-populated inter-town highways. Political pressure developed to do something about this, but the market for high-performance cars was boosting the Ashkeran automotive industry and its exports. A new project was thus conceived by the NTU.
Instead of using infiltration and subversion to break up the illegal racing rings, as the government might normally do, the NTU ordered the creation of a new ultra-high-speed police interceptor, in preparation for the ultra-high-speed Central Trunk Highway. The theory was that this would calm the public while causing an automotice "arms race" which would boost the car manufacturing industry.
That car was the Star Ashkera VR-786 Super-Interceptor. Designed by a mixed group of aerospace and automotive engineers, the VR-786 was equipped with a heads-up display and twin forward-mounted canons, and powered by a light attack helicopter turbine. It remained the world's fastest police interceptor until 2007. 500 units were produced.
The VR-786 holds a spot in popular culture in Ashkera and in a few movies in America, particularly The Devil Racer (1987).
In 1992, a committee within the Technocratic State composed of various Autonomous State Organizations evaluated the UES space program and the state of available aerospace technology. This set into motion the development of the Unified Launch System (ULS), based on unactualized bid demands from various clients in scientific branches of the government, the military, intelligence agencies, and commercial indutries. (The ULS eventually became part of the 1994 National Technocracy Union DCO's official platform.)
The Unified Launch System would use a standardized Great Hawk rocket, which would separate in the air to allow the recovery of expensive components (such as engines) with less damage, while destroying expendable components (such as fuel tanks). It would operate using liquid rocket fuel obtained by performing electrolysis at night. Atop the rocket would be either an unmanned, computer-controlled heavy lift unit, or the StarHawk orbiter. Smaller than the Space Shuttle, the StarHawk had a crew capacity of 2-5, a smaller cargo bay, and shorter mission duration. These changes, as well as new technologies, were part of what made it less expensive to build and operate than the Space Shuttle. Long-term missions would rely on the construction of a space station instead, so that the size of the StarHawk could be limited for easier launches and maintenance.
The first Great Hawk launched in 1996. The first StarHawk launched in 1998, and was retired in 2008.
JSRO2 aimed for 25-30 missions annually, planned to rely on a supply of standardized parts and multiple verhicles in service to reduce turnaround times. Parts needing more time for repair or recertification could be set aside for later while available replacements could be swapped in. In practice, only an average of 17.5 launches occurred per year.
JSRO2 expanded the clientele for the JSRO program. Not only did fighter pilots from a few JDI countries get selected, but now scientists, military personnel, politicians, and even some billionaires were booked for flight. Getting on JSRO2 was touted as one of the advantages of joining the Joint Defense Initiative by the Ashkeran foreign ministry. Several leaders of new JDI countries since 1995 have taken space flights through JSRO2.
Research into a complete successor to the StarHawk (rather than the mere 2016 update) is ongoing as of 2026. The available flow of replacement parts from mature processes and facilities and relatively low cost per mission are projected to keep the program going without a true replacement until at least 2036.
In the aftermath of the Cataclysm, a local bronze-age apocalypse caused by the eruption of a supervolcano, Ashkerans were searching for a new meaning, and for new answers. They found them in Kuvoyana Tsaikol. A scholar, monk, and warrior, his true origins are shrouded in mystery, with notable records beginning only in 2,740 BCE, when he was reported to have returned from his journey to the peak of Black Mountain. (Modern scholars believe he may have been a surviving advisor from one of the pre-Cataclysm city-states.)
At the time, Ashkerans worshipped various pantheons, and a movement had arisen that argued the Cataclysm had occurred because humanity had not been deferential enough to the gods. They demanded human sacrifice. Some of the few surviving records of the era agree with early Shadowist texts, in that Kuvoyana formed an order of warrior-monks and set out to defeat these human sacrificers. He ultimately proved successful, and his religion was the founding basis for the First Empire in 2,501 BCE.
The core canon of the Shadow Path (also known as Shadowism) consists of three primary books, detailing the teachings of the Great Tiger Beyond the Barrier Kuvoyana was said to have spoken to on Black Mountain, and a number of secondary books.
As a reaction to the Cataclysm, the Shadow Path differs from a number of religions. Though many gods exist in Shadowism, it is the role of humanity, through special human power, to oppose them and remake the world for human needs. Rarely does the core canon issue an explicit directive, with the religious law instead formed from millenia of debate.
The Great Tiger Speaks on the Multiverse and the True Origin of Human Thought
The Great Tiger Speaks presents the basic cosmology of the Shadow Path. Earth and what we can see are but one universe in a multiverse spread between six points, with an unknown number of worlds in between. Four of the points are similar to later moral philosphies, while two are opposites on a central axis. Earth is at the center, known as the Median. As one moves away from it, the worlds become more good, evil, or alien.
The four points - by themselves - are alien, and the Great Tiger says that they are beyond human understanding in their outermost forms. They are defined by morality of Acts, Consequences, Being, and Emotion. The central axis is defined by good and evil. The rotational flow of the four points defines the central axis. Shadowist ethics are about this cycle of moral flow.
Good acts create good consequences. Good consequences create a good state of being. A good state of being creates good emotions. And good emotions bring about good acts. Embracing this virtuous cycle creates positive benefit (positive movement on the central axis of the multiverse), while fighting it creates negative harm. The cycle can be entered or exited at any point.
The Great Tiger tells of a great multiversal war between the Vaotsol of the positive spiral, the alien forces of the four points (the Jelkan), and the Cholsul of the negative spiral. Human reasoning, it is said, comes from the shattered fragments of the soul of a Vaotsol warrior named Viishko. The old gods of Ashkera are said to be Cholsul and Jelkan (and their agents) seeking to use humanity for their own purposes. Original English translations translated Vaotsol as "Demons," Jelkan as "Aliens," and "Cholsul" as "Angels," due to their characteristics, and this has (unfortunately) stuck.
Notably, there is no "up" or "down" in the multiversal space - only relative directions. The Great Tiger Speaks also describes the layout of various worlds and planes of different kinds, though this is not exhaustive.
Viishko, Who Serves The Twelve Demon Kings
In the Shadow Path, humanity's progenitor is a Vaotsol warrior-philosopher known as Viishko. Each of the Vaotsol has a form that in some way reflects the creatures of the Median (Earth), and Viishko's form resembles that of a clawed, six-armed human, with four wings and four horns.
The Great Tiger begins to tell Kuvoyana of Viishko and her life. In relaying the information to Kuvoyana, the Great Tiger tells him that he is greatly simplifying matters for his limited mind, as the full truth would cause Kuvoyana to go mad.
In the multiversal war, Vaotsol forces are organized into a massive hierarchical coalition, made easier by their superior virtue and cooperation. On twelve stable nexus worlds in the multiverse, there are twelve "Demon Kings" who are masters of the Vaotsol's war coalition, being far enough away from pure goodness to wage the required war to preserve it, yet close enough to hold incredible wisdom. Each sends Viishko on twelve tasks to prove her worth and secure their blessing, each task forming a moral allegory. The Great Tiger also goes into several brief asides on Viishko's personal life.
The Vaotsol, particularly high-ranking ones, are said to have enormous power, obtained through a deep understanding of the fundamental nature of the universe that allows them, through both their natural abilities and through their magic devices, to pull strings on the tapestry of fate. Each of the twelve blessings of the twelve Demon Kings granted Viishko enormous power.
The Great Tiger then describes Viishko's campaign against the Cholsul, and how she raised up an army to fight them, defeating her enemies and drinking their magical essence.
As she gained more victories, the Cholsul, usually fragmented, began to fear. A great group of them shunted her army to the Median, where it could more easily be defeated, and the battle lasted for 1,000 days and 1,000 nights. By the end, Viishko was gaining the upper hand, until the Cholsul forces finally united and struck her down with one ultimate attack, the Great Heavenly Wave. Her soul shattered into ten million and its fragments fell to Earth and landed in the animals most similar to her - humans. The Cholsul then created an immensely powerful barrier around the Median to prevent it from being reinforced as a beach head for further Vaotsol invasion.
In one of the very few explicit directives in the Shadow Path, the Great Tiger tells Kuvoyana that one day, the barrier shall lift, and that humanity must prepare over many reincarnations to fight and win the final battle against the Cholsul, after which Earth will be remade as a paradise.
The Great Tiger says that over time, while each individual human is not powerful, humanity itself can gain the full sum of Viishko's power and become worthy as her successor.
The Cosmos Wars for the Median
The Cosmos Wars describes other factions, generals, battles, worlds, and mythical abilities of the multiversal war, as well as more details of the organization of the Vaotsol society. Of particular note are entire worlds with cores of molten bronze which are used to supply the Vaotsol armies, and a peculiar insistence that the Earth is spherical.
The Deeds of Kuvoyana, Prophet of the Great Tiger and the Twelve Kings
A collection of accounts about Kuvoyana, compiled by followers. He is claimed to have various supernatural abilities.
Organized crime was a challenge in post-war Ashkera throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, though for a time, the effects were masked by the "peace dividend" of the end of the civil war. In a bid to get a grip on the effects of organized crime on the country, the Central Committee introduced legislation in 1932 intended to herd the existing gangsters into a system where they would cause less damage. Those who didn't comply would be purged.
This resulted in the creation of the Fifth Kingdom or "5Ks". The new legislation revived an obscure feudal class sub-designation of valusiya, creating special class rules, including "zero enforcement priority" laws intended to give the 5Ks a soft monopoly on drugs, prostitution, and gambling. Registered 5Ks can fight and even kill other 5Ks through ritualized honor duels with relatively little penalty (compared to the normal penalties) - but to harm someone outside of the 5Ks carries stiff penalties. Financial liability can be leveraged against 5K organizations.
The ruling powers had intended to limit the damage of organized crime, keep it out of the public eye, and prevent some of society's most crime-prone individuals from causing trouble, but the laws had a seriously distorting effect. The 5Ks began to develop and practice honor codes to fit the letter of the law and financial liability. In producing gangsters that followed codes of honor, the Central Committee had accidentally romanticized them, and made it politically difficult to advance to the next planned stage where organized crime would be removed from the islands entirely. Instead the 5Ks transformed themselves into a new cultural tradition, borrowing fragments from Ashkera's past.
Over time, the 5K syndicates spread to other nations, replicating some of their patterns and using Ashkera, with its tough security state, as a base from which to organize. Sometimes they adapted to different conditions in foreign countries. Other times, they brought the new old rules with them. When they managed to develop a presence in nearly every major metropolis on the planet, Ashkeran intelligence services noticed and the plan scrap the 5Ks was abandoned entirely, in favor inserting agents for infiltration and logistical support in foreign countries. Spy tricks began to rub off on them. Alignment with expatriate communities increased. The 5Ks are now a major player in the global criminal marketplace, even as they put on a smiling face at home.
The population of Ashkera is roughly 54.8% female, and similar conditions have held for thousands of years, although the nation is down from its peak of 58% female during the mid Third Empire, a situation traced to the common Ashkeran violet bean, a staple food first cultivated some time around 8,000 BCE.
Women are considered the 'default sex,' and generic instructions depict and refer to women. Women in Ashkera are closer in height to men, and close 1/3rd to 1/2 of the upper body strength gap with men, though only the difference in height is particularly obvious. They are more likely to be bisexual than their foreign counterparts, though estimates of incidence vary. Interests also overlap more strongly between genders in Ashkera.
With few historical exceptions, responsibility and agency were not shifted from women to men. While it was sometimes considered more convenient for women to stay in the home (or simply more physically defensible), the idea that women couldn't be merchants, warriors, or artisans rarely gained much traction outside of fringe groups and some rural villages that were rarely in contact with the Empire. Womens' involvement in trades, religion, and government in ancient Ashkera was generally an inverse function of child mortality, peaking with the economic peaks of the historical Empires, and troughing in the violent and wild interregnums.
For millenia, social norms have not favored highly promiscuous behavior. Current norms fairly strongly limit sex to relationships, something the government is keen to encourage. Adultery is a crime punishable by a fine and a short jail time, except with a registered prostitute (in which case, there is a small optional fine). Having a high number of partners is considered to make one unacceptable for marriage, with the exception of sex workers by some individuals. Foreign men are considered unusually promiscuous, which is thought to reflect poorly on their character.
About 60% of adult Ashkerans are married - a number which was once lower than that of other countries, but which has now surpassed them by remaining steady. Marriage law in the Fifth Empire is based on a combination of various customs throughout Ashkeran history, particularly the late Third Empire. As there are, on average, roughly 12 women for every 10 men, a form of limited polygamy has been legalized. Marriage offers significant tax benefits if any partner in the marriage makes significantly less than the others, or there are any children - each adult member is treated as making the average of the income in the marriage, with one child per each adult counting as 0.5. Child marriages are not permitted, and foreign child marriages are not recognized.
While it is ordinary for women in their early 20s to marry men in their late 20s who are more established, unlike in many foreign countries, women in their late 20s exploit this gap to date and marry (and thus obtain control of) men in their early 20s.
Traditional Couple (WM) - By far the most common kind of marriage in Ashkera, this is the typical one man, one woman marriage.
Traditional Tuple (WWM) - This is more common in two groups. In rural areas, "TradTup" is more common due to an even more imbalanced gender ratio (a result of male migration to cities and dietary differences). In urban areas, "Power Tuples" of two high-powered income earners with one stay-at-home parent (very often female) are relatively common among elites. Outside of these two cases, a Traditional Tuple is usually the result of an older wife bullying her husband into marrying another, younger woman to make it easier for her to have and raise children.
Alternate Tuple (WMM) - Also breaks into two broad categories. The first is one wealthy or high-status woman showing off just how wealthy and high-status she is. This may be a "patronage" type relationship, which is noted historically with artists in ancient Ashkera. The second is typically among three relatively low-status people.
Alternate Couple (WW) - This has existed out of practical necessity at various times in Ashkeran history, frequently enough that it's considered an "alternate tradition" and not modern. Uncommonly, attaches to a man and becomes a Traditional Tuple, but is more typically just female-female.
New Couple (MM) - Sometimes male homosexuality has been legal and even legally-recognized in Ashkeran history. Other times it has not, mostly due to influence of women on the political system who felt that it cheated them out of a husband to support them. Changing attitudes lead to the legalization of male-male marriage in 1976, with the Oakheart DCO against and the Iron Valor DCO in favor.
Plus One - Extracted by the Oakheart DCO in exchange for the legalization of male-male marriage in 1976; allows widows and widowers to exceed the normal limit of three persons in a marriage by marrying a surviving family member of their lost spouse.
Vow of Martial & Marital Service - One of the few legally-recognized marriages types that has an explicit directed power relationship, it appears in fiction (where it is considered "romantic") far more often than it does in reality. This is a two-person marriage type where one person vows to be the subordinate and bodyguard of the other, in accordance with certain ancient principles as outlined during the Third Interregnum. Notable in that, under the law, it renders the protectee immune to drafting unless the protector has been drafted first, and can be leveraged (if both are to be pressed into service) into putting them into the same military unit. Other additional legal protections are in place. Made headlines internationally when, in 2014, a woman whose husband had been killed by a bank robber won a court case to challenge that bank robber to a fight to the death.
Fertility has gradually decreased over time, but since the year 2010, has stabilized at around 1.8 births per woman, which given the number of women in Ashkera, is near replacement rate.
The Ashkeran violet bean, also known as "devilbean" as it was named in Grand Caradin in the 1800s, is responsible for a significant amount of the gender condition in Ashkera. Raw, it is a latent abortifacent for many mammals (including the infamous wallaback), as well as inducing a variety of other, unpleasant symptoms. It is also resistant to many kinds of insects, and stores well under dry conditions. This makes it relatively easy to farm in a country where wildlife is aggressive, like Ashkera.
Cooked, violet bean is rich in nutrients and a relatively complete form of food. The soaking and boiling process significantly reduces the various poisons and hormonal disruptors in the bean, and also changes their chemical structures. Their impacts are not entirely neutralized. Likelihood of survival from conception to birth for a female somewhat increases, while that for a male decreases. Hormonal balance in various areas of the body during key development windows is altered. The result is a population that tilts female and (particularly, though not only, among women) bisexual.
The complex mix of chemicals in violet bean is still not fully understood. Effects build both over the short-term, in as little as hours, and the long-term, from years to inter-generationally. The Ashkeran-native Kalyon ethnicity are the most adapted, though even Gemese that have been eating violet bean their whole lives may find that they go through withdrawal symptoms without it. Symptoms from eating too much violet bean in foreigners can include headaches, cramps, and worse.
Production of violet bean occurs mostly in Ashkera and Xyanzar, where it is only mildly poisonous to wildlife. Although limited production has historically occurred abroad, large-scale production efforts in other areas, where it is signficiantly more poisonous to wildlife, resulted in wildlife die-off and ecological destabilization even where the climate was suitable. Most violet bean grown outside of Xyanzar is thus grown hydroponically. Prices for violet bean abroad are similar to quinoa, making it more of a niche product mostly for expatriates.
Statistically, women in Ashkera commit more sex crimes than men, both on an absolute and per-capita basis. On average, men who do commit sex crimes commit more serious ones than women.
About 76% of Ashkerans live in the cities.
As most Ashkerans live in the cities and have access to robust public transportation, car ownership is lower than it is in the United States. Many Ashkerans only borrow cars infrequently from their housing cooperatives, for moving large objects or trips outside city boundaries. Otherwise, Ashkerans may own smaller cars than their U.S. counterparts.
There are four major categories of consumer cars in Ashkera.
Super-Cruisers (SC) - Cars longer than 5.5 meters. Comparatively rare in consumer (rather than commercial) hands.
Cruisers (C) - Cars ranging from 4.2 meters to 5.5 meters, accounting for about 30% of consumer autos. Cruisers are intended for inter-city journeys, which is where they get their class name from. As it's best not to get stuck in the wilderness, these cars exhibit the expected Ashkeran rugged durability, though in practice the category also covers most luxury automobiles. There is a market for high performance, as a number of inter-regional highways, particularly the Central Trunk Highway, have maximum allowed speeds of up to 200 kmph (about 124 mph). Cruisers can only use standard road lanes, and are prohibited from using smaller ones.
Commuters (M) - Cars ranging from 3 meters to 4.2 meters, similar to the "subcompact" class in other countries. Ubiquitous, comprising around 60% of consumer autos in Ashkera. Ashkeran Class M cars come in a variety of form factors, from hatchbacks to pick-ups, and sell relatively well overseas. Class M cars have their own dedicated lanes in many cities.
Minis (I) - Cars under 3 meters in length, about 10% of consumer autos. For safety reasons, they are prohibited from having more than three seats, though most only have two or even one. Like Class M, minis have their own dedicated lanes, and they can use Commuter-class lanes, though they are prohibited from using standard-size lanes in most circumstances - including highways. Minilanes are prevalent in certain corporate, academic, and residential campuses. As they are very cheap, minis are popular with "kickjobbers" - people getting by through the national emergency readiness payments and doing subsidized labor. Minis also come in a variety of forms, with single-seat minitrucks being popular.
Ashkera has a number of state-owned news outlets. The quirk is that unlike independent media, these companies are not subject to the Imperial Commission on Cognitive Risk Management. Therefore, while often reasonably accurate, these news outlets are used by the various government branches partly to inform, and partly to politically manuever against each other.
Royal Broadcasting Company - Owned by the Imperial Palace, funded by an annual culture fee as part of the tax code, the RBC's mission is to produce a solid base of cultural content for the nation. The RBC Guidance Committee has decided that this includes news, in the form of the RBC News, which is free for all Ashkeran subjects and is generally well-regarded outside of Ashkera.
Brightside Times - Known for its fiercely pro-market, pro-capitalism stance.
The Ashkera Dove - Tends to lean social democratic economically and pro-democracy politically. Popular in the Rain Island Domain.
“She’s all out of spiders.” - Someone has exhausted their ideas, expendable resources, or productive capital. The metaphor of spiders as capital comes from the ancient practice of using Ashkera’s large species of Tumbling Spider as a form of pest control. Animals would sometimes prey on the spiders, posing issues for farmers when there were few enough spiders to rebuild their spider population and protect their crops.
Pact, Pactwork - Excellent, of high quality. Comes from an ancient religious ritual of making pacts based on small sacrifices with supposed supernatural entities, with the intent of getting better quality work.
Surfer - A pervert. From the name of “SurfTube.ash”, an early pornographic website on the EXINet. The ordinary sport itself is referred to as “surfboarding” and its practicers as “surfboarders”.
Blighted - Bad, rotten, no good.
“Lost his basket” - Originally meaning a vagrant, this now refers to someone that is misplaced in the social context, or “isn’t where they belong.” It originally referred to not having a spider basket to keep a tumbling spider in, from the spider's perspective.
Blooded - Vibrant, strong, having exceptional willpower. Ties into the native religion, where those thought to be particularly close to the central figure were thought to be more powerful. Can be used for most any noun.
“Bite it” - A generic cuss.
Lay scorn - Originally from “to layer scorn on,” now simplified to just “laying scorn on” people.
Slat, slattern - Though it fell out of use in common English, it is still used in Ashkera as a derogatory term for promiscuous people. “Slat” is mostly used for men, and “slattern” for women, though this distinction has been fading over time.
Honey - Used very frequently by women in Ashkera. "Babe" or "baby," which would sometimes be used for adult lovers in America, are used only to refer to infants.
Following the victory of the Greater Ashkera Joint Reconstruction Authority (GAJRA) in the Ashkeran Civil War, and the formation of the Fifth Empire with the Constitution of 1918, the ad-hoc legislative structure that had been created to govern GAJRA-controlled territory during the War was ported over on a temporary basis. It was made up of 288 representatives from key industrial units, government agencies, and cities.
The post-war reconstruction, however, called for the dismantling of the wartime power structures in favor of a new permanent government - a task to be carried out by the Central Committee and overseen by the Oversight Council.
Many Committee members feared the risks of direct popular voting - they feared illiteracy, charismatic charlatans, political machines, bribery, and various incentive problems. They feared conventional politicians. The committee decided that instead of a legislature composed of individual politicians, with number of seats scaled to population sizes, they would create a legislature composed of organizations.
The new invention of the Central Committee was the Delegate Organization (DO), at this time similar to a political party. To prevent bribery, delegate organizations were only allowed two sources of funding - a small amount on a per-vote basis, supplied by the government, and a membership due which was to be uniform for all members. Each was required to have a charter describing its structure, and how it would reach decisions.
Notably, the Central Committee added a section for bonus per-vote government funding, up to an additional 100%, if a slate of predictions about a piece of legislation was deemed accurate at an eigth-year review by an expert panel. Predictions would only count for the slate if they were disputed by another DO when the slates were codified. By law, the experts had to have actual expertise in the subject area, and a final clause allowed for the creation of a civil lawsuit between DOs to dispute the expert status.
The first National Delegation was to be composed of the top 20 DOs with the most votes, delegated at two year intervals. Lesser seats up for election were to be picked by the DOs in cities and regions.
Class C1 citizens would receive one vote. Class C2 (high school graduate) citizens would receive two votes. Class C3 citizens, who had completed their National Service, would receive 3. Members of the Imperial Palace could vote, but were required to recuse themselves from their privileges in the Imperial Palace in order to hold public office.
Explicitly Communist, Socialist, or Fourth Empire Revivalist parties were banned until the year 1950, due to the aftermath of the war.
|National Federal Union||32||22||-||-|
|National Technocracy Union||12||20||35||59|
|Liberal Development Party||8||10||15||-|
National Federal Union (Defunct, 1929-1938) - The NFU signalled its credibility to farmers and others by building its policy positions - which included farming land reforms and a switch away from commodity-backed currency, as well as other issues relevant at the time - directly into its charter. It held about 20-40% of the vote during its run, until it was disbanded in 1938 following the completion of its legislative agenda. During this time it formed a coalition with the National Technocracy Union.
Liberal Development Party (Defunct, 1929-1940) - A party supporting social and economic liberalization, human rights, and national development. Split in 1940 into the Liberal Party and the short-lived Development Party. The latter merged with the National Technocracy Union in 1942.
Social Labor (Defunct, 1929-1958) - The government may have banned Socialist parties, but that didn't eliminate the concerns that drove them. The Social Labor DO was in the opposition from the start, eventually joining with several other DOs to form the Democratic Union in 1958.
National Technocracy Union - The NTU was originally formed by select members of the Central Committee, some experts, and others who believed in continuing the vision of the original Oversight Councillor One, who had been the chairman and initiator of the Oversight Council during the GAJRA years. To do this, they analyzed the writings of many Nationalist and "expert-rule" theorists from the time period, distilling them down to five general principles, and founded an academy to propagate their newly-formed ideology on (what was then) the outskirts of the new capital at Galgatta.
The five founding principles are as follows:
Under NTU ideology, the justification for rule is not democratic consent, but the effectiveness of the state at meeting goals beneficial to the population, in line with the model of the transfers of power under the original Constitution of 1918. The overall focus of the party is described as "National Development with Ashkeran Characteristics."
During the first election of the First Period, in late 1928, the NTU achieved only 12% of the vote. By 1946, it held 59% of the vote, having absorbed much of the National Federal Union and defectors from the Liberal Development Party.
In contemporary times, the NTU is generally considered a centre-right party, and is fairly controversial outside of Ashkera. As the political core of the Fifth Empire's government, the NTU has developed an international reputation and is often protested by many groups, including left-wing activists, hardcore conservative Christians that believe it to be an arm of the Antichrist, and various foreign civil rights groups. In fact, the reputation of the NTU is such that politically aware foreigners sometimes use it as a point of reference or in jokes. ("That sounds like some sort of NTU program.")
Ashkera's victory in second World War, on the backs of NTU policy support and values, granted the National Technocracy Union and its ruling coalition the electoral supermajority it needed to fundamentally alter the legislature. With the approval of the Oversight Council, it implemented a large package of reforms that favored its method of policy-making, prepared by their researchers over the course of the previous decade.
Political party funding, as a percentage of GDP, tripled. The scope and timing of legislative predictions was greatly widened, decoupled from the eight-year legislative review, and a dedicated court system and dispute resolution mechanisms were created for the purpose of evaluating predictions. Half of government delegate organization funding, which was now quite significant, would now be allocated from a pool by order of weighted running average accuracy.
Class C2 and class C3 citizens could now split their delegated votes by 12 categories. Legislation would have to pass on all categories it was considered to cover before it could become law.
Delegate Organizations (DOs) became known as Delegate Candidate Organizations (DCOs).
Iron Valor (1948) - Founded by veterans returning from the war, who met many others outside the immediate Ashkeran and Xyanzarese culture, Iron Valor are a Civic Nationalist DCO that favor a multi-racial, multi-ethnic polity and high military spending and readiness. They are far closer to the idea of popular sovereignty than the reigning National Technocracy Union DCO, but have generally remained within the government coalition since the DCO's formation.
Iron Valor supports hunting, ecological conservationism, greater levels of immigration, the Ashkeran (and GX) Foreign Legions, and the "Youth Development Assistance Program" - a compromise made with Great Army of the North during the GAJRA years where youths could run away from their parents to be raised by the army.
Atom Pact (1956) - A techno-utopian DCO founded to push for the peaceful use of atomic power after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Daniwan at the end of World War 2. Enthusiastic about the potential of a wide variety of disruptive technologies, by 1988 it had become openly Transhumanist. A long-time member of the government coalition, trading the construction of arcologies and funding of various scientific research projects and megaprojects for its legislative support.
Democratic Union (1958) - A combination of multiple prior opposition DCOs with a strong social democratic bent. A perennial threat to the National Technocracy Union, its agenda calls for abolishing the citizenship class system and opening up more posts to direct popular vote.
Peace and Plenty Party (1962) - A rival techno-utopian party calling for the use of solar power, the pursuit of an "ecological future" for mankind, the dissolution of the Army and of GX, and the banning of conventional small arms in Ashkera. Due to initial drama in the founding groups that later split into the Atom Pact and the Peace and Plenty Party, the two have been bitter enemies since the '60s.
Reforms worked out during the 1950s and 1960s paved the way for "virtual monetization," where instead of a running weighted average, the weighting would come from the betting of a virtual currency, with payment based on percentile standing in the legislative prediction market, among numerous other procedural reforms. The government coalition did not need an overwhelming supermajority, as a number of the opposition DCOs supported the reform package. Greater controls were placed on the gathering - and against the manipulation of - statistical data.
Voting was split into two groups, which would vote during alternate years.
Oakheart (1972) - A socially conservative party - according to Ashkeran understanding of "socially conservative," which differ from those in many other parts of the world. Oakheart is behind the legal consequences of adultery. It generally supports the aristocracy system and a hierarchical society, as well as various means by which women might secure a man and prevent him from leaving. Despite its membership consisting of 74% women, maintaining Ashkera's current gender balance (or even slightly elevating the existing imbalance) is part of their agenda, as they believe that an equal gender balance would make Ashkeran women "weak and promiscuous like foreign women." Oakheart joined the government coalition in 1978.
Oakheart is almost single-handedly responsible for killing the 1960s trend of male toplessness that was imported from abroad, restoring the traditional requirement for men to cover their chests.
Heritage League (1973) - The Heritage League are racial nationalists and want to end all foreign immigration to Ashkera whatsoever, limiting the home islands to the possession of the Kalyon only. They have a small following of Gemese separatists, as their plan calls for the splitting of Gem Island into a separate polity in order to meet their racial segregation goals. As of 2030, no other DCO has yet included the Heritage League in its coalition. Their original leader was arrested during World War 2 for covert support of the Nazis, in violation of national law, but had been pardoned by the Imperial Court.
Freedom Party (1976) - A right-libertarian DCO. It has not attracted strong support, as cultural conditions aren't suitable for it, though it is a member of the opposition coalition with the Liberal Democratic Pact.
The third reform package focused on expanding the range of bets and their granularity using new networked computer technology, allowing the fast construction and modelling of complex "probability wager molecules" by the highly trained data analysts now hired by most DCOs. Additional tools were made available to other government bureaucracies, which began to use legislative market data to help update strategic forecasts. New methods were devised to deal with incentive issues present in the previous National Delegation systems. Funding was now 40% standard by votes, 20% based on general prediction quality times votes, and 40% based on percentile standing in the legislative prediction markets times votes.
Voting was split quarterly, on a four year rotation, with a different 1/16th of the voting population voting every 3 months.
Liberal Democratic Pact (1992) - Formed from the combination of the Liberal Party with several other DCOs. More capitalist than the Democratic Union, and somewhat more socially conservative. Together with the Democratic Union, it forms the core of the post-1992 Opposition.
Thornbush (1998) - A Democratic Socialist party, it has voted for a handful of the government's initiatives over the years, but remains opposed to "Nationalist Imperialism."
The fourth reform package is poorly understood by most people who aren't directly involved with the system, or who don't study economics or applied mathematics, relying on various mathematical models researched since the 1970s. Studies reveal that increasing shares of funding are going to in-depth policy research and experimentation across many DCOs, using up most of the additional funding most DCOs have obtained in this period. Campaigning time has been limited in order to conserve campaign funds.
Greater Xyanzar Unity League (2016) - Notable less for its legislative pull (it holds <1% of the vote) than the media splash it made. GXUL calls for the unification of the Greater Xyanzar Joint Development and Defense Initiative into one massive country. The media noted anonymous reports that some at the top of the Ashkeran hierarchy were questioning whether the decision to make English the shared second language of all of GX had been the right call.
|Delegate Candidate Organization||Ideology||Coalition||% Vote||Cred. Score|
|National Technocracy Union||National Technocracy||Government||45.1||86|
|Liberal Democratic Pact||Liberal Democracy||Opposition||11.5||77|
|Democratic Union||Social Democracy||Opposition||9.3||70|
|Oakheart||Ashkeran Social Conservatism||Government||8.6||57|
|Iron Valour||Civic National Militarist||Government||7.4||76|
|Atom Pact||Utopian Futurism||Government||4.2||78|
|Freedom Party||Right Libertarianism||Opposition||3.8||70|
|Peace & Plenty Party||"Eco-Socialism"||Opposition||2.4||48|
|National Action League||National Populism||Government||1.8||61|
|Heritage League||Racial Nationalism||-||<1%||31|
With the vote-weighting of the citizenship class system, the government coalition has 67.2% of delegated votes to the opposition's 31.8%. Without the vote-weighting, the coalition has 63.7% to the opposition's 35.3%. A hypothetical unweighted alternate opposition coalition of all current opposition plus the Atom Pact and Iron Valour reaches 49.4%, but talks of creating a broader opposition coalition have always failed to reach a consensus.
The Oversight Council are a group of twelve shadowy administrators whose identities are highly-classified state secret, with one member of the Imperial Palace and one member of the Royal Army. They are lead by the legendary Oversight Councillor One, who, it is widely believed, must have previously served on the Council.
The original Oversight Councillor One brokered the formation of GAJRA and the subsequent founding of the Fifth Empire. The office holds a great deal of mystique in Ashkera, and is technically the superior to the more public-facing office of Central Director.
In addition to their very significant compensation, the Oversight Council has a number of powers:
The Council also has a variety of powers not listed above. In addition, each member of the Oversight Council also receives $100 million in annual funding with which to initiate government projects at their discretion. It is generally believed that all Oversight Councillors serve a term of five years, with the exception of Oversight Councillor One, who is selected by the other Councillors and has no term limits.
The Central Director reports directly to the Oversight Council.
Following the wave of ASOization in the 1980s, the roles of the twelve core sector agencies are largely to set the framework within which the Autonomous State Organizations act, gather metrics, police their behavior, and so on.
The government uses three layers of the so-called "Golden Door" Policy - once having become hired at a new level of agency, it is prohibited to return to work for one the entities an employee regulated for ten years after leaving their new job. This covers the transition from private sector to ASOs, from ASOs to Sectors, and from any other Sector to Sector Zero.
Sector 01: State Security Services - The Constitution of 1918 specifies that the Royal Army is to work largely against threats outside of Ashkera, and only against certain classes of threats inside it, such as a full-scale rebellion, or at the request of the civil government. The state security services are thus allowed certain classes of military-grade hardware, and Sector 01 oversees many of the Heavy Threat Response ("Heat") ASOs. They are also to bring other armed components of the Ashkeran civil government in line, if necessary, and investigate in more dangerous threats against the state itself.
In practice, this concentration of military hardware has been a point of contention between the civil government, the military, and the Imperial Palace, as it includes a number of nuclear-powered armed vessels operated by the coast guard within Ashkeran territorial waters.
Sector 02: Revenue Services - Responsible for the administration of taxation. Deliberately separate from the Economic Services branch so as not to antagonize the business community.
Sector 03: Law Enforcement Services
Sector 04: Judicial Services
Sector 05: Intelligence Services
Sector 06: Diplomatic Services
Sector 07: Economic Services - Forecasting, and economic and industrial policy.
Sector 08: Educational Services
Sector 09: Health Services
Sector 10: Research Services
Sector 11: Welfare Services
Sector 12: Infrastructure & Environmental Services
Sector 13/00: Command
The Greater Xyanzar Joint Economic Development and Defense Initiative, commonly known as GX or JDI, is an international military and economic bloc centered around the Fifth Empire of Ashkera. Its members include bureaucratic military juntas, soft authoritarian regimes, stratocratic republics, and illiberal democracies, as well as a handful of liberal democracies.
GX membership imposes a number of requirements for government functioning, human rights / obligations, and economic policy. The shared language of GX is English, but all GX governments are required to simultaneously teach the local national language.
GX developed from an earlier alliance for the development and securing of Xyanzar in the 1920s and 1930s in the aftermath of the collapse of the Fourth Empire, known as the Xyanzar Development League (XDL). The XDL had a similar system of advancement through development, though with a greater focus on the development of autonomy over time.
GX membership is built around a tier system to assess engagement with the bloc and level of development. It has a legislature (the GX Rules Committee) and a ruling council (the GX Guidance Committee). Voting power is based on a combination of population, wealth, and land area, multiplied by a nation's tier in the system.
It is only possible to change tiers following a change in the national leadership, with a minimum of ten years between tier advancements. An advancement attempt may be made every five years, essentially involving a national audit. While each advancement in tier brings with it more rules and requirements, GX tier advancement is generally considered matter of national pride.
Lower tier GX nations are the subject of significant development funding by upper tier GX nations.
GX-1 - Core GX - Countries in this category are generally all high-functioning technocratic governments with legal systems significantly harmonized with those of Ashkera.
GX-2 - Developed GX - About as high as a conventional liberal democracy can rise under GX, due to the GX-1 requirement for additional means of rewarding or punishing policymakers according to their policy results. Imposes fewer rules than GX-1 status.
GX-3 - Developing GX - This is actually the most common GX status. Countries in this status are generally safe and have reasonably-functioning governments that are largely free of corruption. Most GX-3 governments are interested in economic development. Reaching GX-3 typically comes with a substantial rise in tourism, in part due widespread knowledge of English.
GX-4 - Emerging GX - Considered a crucial period in development, GX-4 generally comes after the initial leader that arranged for the nation to join GX leaves power. Some governments are admitted directly to GX-4 status.
GX-5 - Stabilizing GX - Most countries, during their period in this status, are in active combat against forces against the current state.
GX-6 - Preliminary Status - When a nation is admitted to GX, an initial audit is conducted. During this time, it is ranked as GX-6. A leadership change is not necessary to advance from GX-6 to GX-5.
United Eramian States - Relations with the United States were strong post-World War 2, as Ashkera had sided against the Axis and then, in the Cold War, against the Communists, investing a great deal of resources to defeat Communism in nations throughout the world, particularly with economic development and internal security within its own bloc.
That began to change in the 1990s. While many Leftists had already been aligned against the regime due to its opposition to Communism, liberals gradually began to realize that the powers in Galgatta had no intention of transforming the JDI into a series of liberal democracies. While some Eramian conservatives had long been suspicious due to Ashkera's Shadowist religion, many began to turn against the regime in the mid 00s when Ashkera resolved to split Tellura in two during the Telluran War, culimating in the eventual formation of West Telluria some two decades later.
After the 2016 breakaway of Ucarinia from the Dychorian Union and into JDI, the Eramian establishment, news media, and many of the public have begun to view Ashkera as a rival for global power, even more dangerous than Cayuna. New legislation was introduced in 2017 to interfere with the entry of the Ashkeran commercial nuclear industry into Eramia.
This did not stop Donald Trump from simultaneously praising and denouncing Oversight Councillor One in equal measure.
Dychorian Confederation - In 2016, the Ucarinian Dawn Party, a group of Ucarinian hard nationalists, took power in an election in the debt-ridden nation of Ucarinia. When Dychorian lenders made good on a threat to refuse credit, the government of Ucarinia shut down for five days, with only partisan militias maintaining a semblance of order, until on the fifth day, the government of Ashkera arranged to pay off Ucarinia's debt in full.
The new government then granted itself emergency powers to "restore the Ucarinian nation." When the courts of the Dychorian Union objected, the new Ucarinia unilaterally left both the Dychorian Union and the Dycho. The new Ucarinia is rebuilding its industry and has rapidly militarized under the Ucarinian Dawn, adopting JDI-style mandatory civil service periods.
This extremely worrying series of events contributed to the reformation of the Dychorian Union as the Dychorian Confederation, and has shaped relations ever since. While within Ashkera and the Joint Defense Initiative countries, the move is portrayed as "giving Ucarinia the chance Dychoria never gave it" and "liberation of the Ucarinian people and revitalization of its national will to survive", many Dychorians viewed it as a sudden and frightening step just short of invasion, and most of the Dychorian press has not been kind.
Ashkera's combination of nuclear missiles with extreme civil defense measures, which had once been a safeguard against Soviet invasion into Western Dychoria, now seem far more ominous.
Cayuna - In the modern era, Ashkera has been one of the greatest problems for Cayunese regional dominance within Tiuncaria. Ashkeran ambitions to limit the enormous nation of one billion people go back to World War 2, when Ashkeran military forecasters planned an advance into Cayuna that would push back the Daniwanese Army and then, in the post-war period, divide the country into multiple independent countries with their own national identities in order to limit its geopolitical power. They were ultimately stopped by the U.S. invasion of Daniwan and the subsequent Amoenific Peace Treaty, in which they were granted the rights (and obligations) to the post-war reconstruction of Kwaa, Lukri, Krasachea, Gundang, and Chakru - and in exchange all outside factions were to cease interference in Cayuna.
Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, there were various Communist uprisings throughout southern Tiuncaria - many covertly supported by Cayuna. The Ashkeran Royal Army and civil government, operating on the principles of National Technocracy, raised up Nationalist governments and armies in these territories, backed by enormous amounts of infrastructure spending and national development intended to force them to enter into the modern era and develop coherent national consciousness.
These efforts were eventually relatively successful, and these countries remain far more under the influence of Ashkera than neighboring Cayuna.
Daminh - Daminh remained relatively free of Ashkeran influence, and was the site of a major war by the United Eramian States during roughly the same time period. In 2018, however, the nominally Socialist government switched allegiance to Ashkera's Greater Xyanzar Joint Defense Initiative in a bid to preserve its relative independence, and joined the Southern Tiuncaria Economic Development Zone, a subsidiary organization of GX. Under its new economic direction, primarily synthesized by economists at Galgatta University, it has been accused of abandoning Socialism.
North Jinchung - Following the threat of North Jinchung to "rain nuclear fire" down on Ashkera at the next provocation, a highly-detailed environmental impact study into the nuclear depopulation of North Jinchung was accidentally (or "accidentally") leaked to media in Eramia and Daniwan. Various meta-data about the document indicated that it was part of a much larger report, and implied that action was linked to a "probability front" that was part of a complex bureaucratic instrument within the Cooperative Technocratic State. The government has repeatedly refused to comment on the matter.
Red-striped territories are Communist or Socialist. Blue-striped territories are aligned with NEATO and the United States. White striped territories are neutral. All other territories are members of the Joint Defense Initiative.
The Constitution of 1918 guarantees every adult Ashkeran citizen the right to own weapons for the purpose of individual self defense, in line with historic norms in the country that were suppressed under the late Fourth Empire. In tandem with this right, there is an obligation to repay the state for damages caused when using these weapons. Current gun control laws developed after the 1950s in accordance with these principles. It is estimated that there are 12 guns in the country for every Ashkeran.
Firearms are broken into several categories, with low-powered revolvers on one end, and fully-automatic military-style light machine guns on the other. Each requires a form of insurance to possess, but not to own. The insurance insures the user against mechanical defects in the gun, but also, more critically, insures the state against medical or other costs incurred through crime or accident that happens to someone other than the user.
Light Arms (Category I) include low-powered, small-caliber weapons with low ammunition capacities, such as small revolvers and single-shot or double-shot handguns. Light Arms only require a certified gun safe for storage, and generally carry less paperwork and other requirements than other guns. A light arms insurance policy caps out at $200,000, and thus is easily affordable to most people. Light arms are commonly known as "pea shooters."
Personal Arms (Category II) include most pistols and semi-automatic (though not fully-automatic) handguns. They carry insurance of $500,000. Like Light Arms, they may be stored in a gun safe.
Rural Arms (Category III) include many long guns (rifles, shotguns), including bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles. Inside of a city, when not being carried, it is typically required that they are stored in a private armory that is not owned or operated by the owner of the weapon. Often these armories will be in the same block, or even the same building, as the owner's residence. Outside of a city, they may be stored in gun safes, as the weapons are popular with farmers and others at risk from Ashkeran wildlife. Must carry $1,000,000 insurance policy.
Military Arms (Category IV) include fully-automatic weapons. They cannot be removed by the owner from the premises of a storage facility under normal conditions. (Conditions under which they can be removed include various national emergencies and some kinds of filming.) The weapons are shuttled between sites by the armory companies, and many sites for Category IV guns have recreational shooting ranges. Must carry $2,000,000 insurance policy.
During some honor duels between members of rival Fifth Kingdom syndicates, automatic weapons are brought to the site in locked, handcuffed cases by armory company personnel prior to the duel. This is what the weapons category system is most known for overseas.
Archaelogists believe the first settlement of Ashkera occurred sometime between 25,000 and 12,000 BCE, by a migrating human subspecies distinct from homo sapiens sapiens. The first modern humans are believed to have arrived some time between 10,000 BCE and 8,000 BCE, with multiple migrating groups arriving from different areas over the course of several thousand years. Genetic evidence indicates that they interbred with the original subspecies (similar to some modern humans and neanderthals), which eventually went extinct some time between 7,000 and 6,000 BCE. While estimated genetic crossover is limited, it is thought that this may be the source of the native Kalyons' widespread intolerance of gluten.
Scholars during the Second Empire attributed a "Golden Empire" spanning the Ashkeran archipelago and Xyanzar to this time period. Said to have followed a reawakening of the deep knowledge of Viishko, the central figure of Ashkeran mythology, the Empire was claimed to have had "wealth and wisdom beyond the wildest imaginings of men." These estimates were in part driven by the discovery of ancient stone carvings, statues, and temples.
Modern archaelogists believe that the Golden Era represented the emergence of agriculture in Ashkera, as well as some early civilizations with systems of proto-writing. However, artifacts from this era are hard to come by due to damage from both the Cataclysm and the Silver Era. There are examples of several horned figures, but little is known about them. The sole site reliably dated to this era is a small pyramid in a remote jungle in northern Kerazu, discovered by aerial reconaissance in 2004.
Scholars of the Second Empire claimed that the Golden Empire was followed by a Silver Empire that was tempted away from ancestral memory of Viishko towards the worship of the gods. This empire, too, prospered, but was thrown aside as soon as it was in the interests of the gods to do so.
Ashkera's earliest bronze tools date from this era. There is evidence that more elaborate systems of writing were developed, and that competing city-states emerged, mostly along Kerazu. The city-states are believed to have participated in wars and trade, leading to the emergence of some shared language, but like with the Golden Era, records from the Silver Era remain rare. Much that remains was recorded as fragmented word of mouth by the scholars of the First Empire, bordering on mythology.
What happened next is better understood. A shift of the Western Amoeific tectonic plate caused a once in one hundred thousand year series of magnitude 9.4 earthquakes. This contributed to the eruption of the Seven Peaks supervolcano, as well as a tsunami of such great magnitude that it swept salt water into Lake Tsaki in central Kerazu. The tsunami was followed by a firestorm in some areas as ash rained down from the volcano. Civilization in Ashkera was nearly destroyed.
It is believed that a cult founded in 2,780 BCE in central Ashkera by a scholar and monk known as Kuvoyana Tsaikol became the origin of the current Shadow Path religion. The Order of the Shadow Path is believed to have destroyed another religion which advocated the idea that Ashkerans had done too little to appease the gods, and thus demanded human sacrifice to prevent another apocalypse. By 2,530 BCE it had become dominant in the area around lake Tsaki.
Around three hundred years after the Cataclysm, populations had started to recover. Elements of the few city-states that survived, or their successors, began to expand as the desolation had waned and plant and animal life had returned. On the southern shore of Lake Tsaki was the city of Karal Kaan, which had become a bastion of Shadowist strength. In 2,501 BCE, it conquered the rival city-states of Mul-Kal and Muar, obtaining control of the entire perimeter of Lake Tsaki, and the First Empire was declared, marking the re-emergence of Ashkera's historical record. The religion of Mul-Kal, which practiced human sacrifice in the hopes of appeasing the gods into avoiding another Cataclysm, was purged, and the first emperor, Zai, is recorded as ordering their priests executed and their temples burned.
The First Empire gradually expanded north and south until encountering rival kingdoms that emerged later, spreading Shadowism where it went. Using Shadowism as its basis, the Empire practiced an ideal of what would later come to be known as "Total Mobilization," where every imperial subject was considered part of the Empire's military, even peasants were trained to fight, and entire villages could be called up as armies. To support its mission to conquer Kerazu, the First Empire developed a unified system of writing based on simplifications of earlier writing systems, unified spoken language, and unified currency. The earliest available transcriptions of Shadowist texts come this period.
While it had many wars on its borders and also civil wars internally, the First Empire finally collapsed for good in 1,704 BCE (797 years) due to a war of succession which resulted in it being split into multiple kingdoms. The period from 1,704 BCE to 1,207 BCE (497 years) is known as the First Interregnum.
While many attempts at conquest had been made in the nearly five hundred years between the fall of the First Empire and 1,218 BCE, none of the factions had managed to hold the entirety of the shore of Lake Tsaki, including multiple claimed successors. In 1,218 BCE, however, the surviving kingdoms around Lake Tsaki had been devastated by the combination of a ruinuous war and year of poor farm yields. In an effort to avoid a repeat of the war and strengthen their future hold on the area, the ruling families of the five largest kingdoms agreed to a series of complicated joint marriages, and in 1,207 BCE, the Second Empire was declared.
Lasting until 544 BCE (663 years), the Second Empire was controlled by a caste system and scholastic bureaucracy, where only those descended from the founding five families could form the government. A complicated set of laws regarding inter-marriage between the families, designed to prevent any one family from gaining enough power to permanently control the throne, was put into effect. The throne itself rotated between the five families every twelve years. This did not stop wars of succession, rebellions, and civil strife, although as a matter of general principle, it did manage to preserve the main body of the Empire.
The Second Empire was a period of development and expansion, gradually growing to encompass all of Kerazu. It saw the creation of crossbows, paper, and woodblock printing, as well as the Imperial School of the Shadow Path. Both art and record-keeping flourished in the mid and late Second Empire as those related to the ruling class grew. Just before it fell, a simplified writing system for easier woodblock printing was developed, reducing the total number of unique blocks required from 36,000 under the previous system to a mere 1,200.
As the Second Empire aged, it gradually became more top-heavy, putting greater and greater weight on the lower castes and struggling with increasing bureaucratic inertia as court intrigues and byzantine laws intended for the aristocracy began to waste more and more resources. Assassinations and feuds became common. What truly broke the Second Empire, however, was a program of animal extermination. A campaign to cull all dangerous wildlife in the plentiful year of 549 BCE resulted in five years of famine, followed by civil war as desperate militias attempted to control whatever food production they could. In 544 BCE, the capital at Hilohyan was sacked, and the last Empress of the Second Empire was killed and thrown into the waters of Lake Tsaki. The 236 year Second Interregnum would last until 308 BCE.
The Third Empire was founded by the so-called "Bloodless Queen," Empress Vu the First, in the year 308 BCE. A ruthless and cunning commander, she had conquered all major rivals in central Kerazu area, bringing the former capital at Galgatta under her control. In turn, her rivals had destroyed her lineage, leaving no relation within four degrees of her alive, hoping a lack of successors would destroy her empire within one generation.
Instead, Vu decided that the state itself would act as her legacy, and vowed to destroy the power of the aristocratic clans, conceiving and implementing the "Iron Mountain" system. The nobility was broken into a system of formalized ranks. One could be promoted or demoted in rank, but could only marry within two ranks of one's own rank. In a marriage, only one child received the highest rank of the parents - the others received a rank below that, and had to depend on promotion. At the very bottom, commoners could potentially marry in to the lowest rank of the nobility, and children of the lowest-ranking nobility eventually became commoners. Additional rules against marrying relatives interfered with the ability to form clans.
Vu, who despised weakness and incompetence in those of high blood, also formed an even more merit-based scholastic bureaucracy, in which only a fixed number of positions relative to the total population were available, and thus offered only to the highest-scoring across a wide variety of tests. The resulting system was, though more stable, fiercely competitive, quickly outpacing the neighboring kingdoms, which were merely shattered remnants of the Second Empire. By 33 BCE, the Third Empire controlled all of the Ashkeran archipelago. By 804 CE, it controlled all of Oceania.
To tighten their grip on controlled territories, leadership early within the Empire ordered not only a standardization of writing with a new system that could be taught more widely and written more quickly, but the formation of various workshops which existed solely to quickly copy books. Statues and even other works of art would be copied and distributed throughout the Empire. In the early days, longer-lasting standard documents were distributed on clay tablets. By the year 404, woodblock printing had begun to take off, and the Imperial government began to commission artistic works for distribution. A close precursor to the printing press was created in 980, and is believed to have contributed to the collapse of the Third Empire.
The Third Empire was also a time of cultural and spiritual flourishing. Song, dance, and theater moved along the prosperous and secured routes of the Empire, between its urban hubs, following the almost-mandated movement of the noble classes across the country. Hundreds of schools of alternative Shadowism emerged, some of which became large enough to cause some of the civil wars that occured during the Third Era.
The Third Empire undertook enormous civil engineering projects and advanced scientifically. In addition to the construction of aqueducts, sewers, rutways, and roads, an expanding network of canals were built in many areas of the country to allow faster flow of bulk trade goods, monitored by outposts. The capital at Galgatta had so many bureaucrats that a specialized covered cart track was developed to move them to and from the Imperial Palace each day. A wave of proto-scientific rationalism flooded over the Empire with the Dalshou Revival. The "living spirits" theory of disease was developed, and while not entirely accurate, its practices reduced the duration and magnitude of plagues. New methods of agriculture dramatically increased crop yields.
Some scholars believe that within the decades prior to its collapse, the Empire was on the verge of switching to State Capitalism and undergoing an industrial revolution, but this is disputed.
Leaders within the Third Empire longed for prestige, and for famous projects that would outlast them, as the power of clans to effectively carry on legacies had been obliterated. The way to do this, in the middle of the hierarchy, was to commission art. Those at the top, however, wanted projects that were set in stone - aqueducts, roads, rutways, and grand temples - and to get the full benefit in terms of fame, it was always necessary to build bigger, longer, or taller than the last Emperor had. As the Empire had been growing dramatically, both in terms of its relative economic activity and absolute size, for a time, this was manageable. The new projects did eventually generate more revenue and development.
However, thanks to the highly detailed records of the Empire, scholars have determined that the Third Empire managed to hit a 100% debt-to-GDP ratio in the year 904, with internal concerns about the growing share of public debt expressed since the year 840. In the year 1179, at a ratio of 376% debt-to-GDP, the government became unable to pay the interest on its debt. As new investment stopped coming in, it soon became unable to pay its regular expenses, and then its army.
Rebellion began in the summer of 1180, with a garrison in southern Kerazu, and then spread as military units became unable to purchase food and other key supplies. An efficient pipeline for mining, refining, and transforming metals had given Ashkera an advantage, as it was able to field more heavily-armored troops than its rivals, but now it became a problem. The shear amount of arms and armor present in the country from centuries of arms manufacturing made it infeasible for the few armies that remained under the control of the central government to bring the rogue military units - some with popular support, and some without it - back under their command.
In the resulting war that followed, the careful balance of trade, infrstructure, and argiculture that the cities of the Empire had come to depend on was disrupted. Famines and desperation followed, as well as total mobilization in cities and towns as the country fell into civil war and formed competing leagues of city-states. It is estimated that between 25-40% of the population died. All overseas territories broke away, and the nation went through a period of technological regression.
By 1508, leagues of city-states formed in the aftermath of the civilizational collapse of the Third Empire had coalesced into five feuding countries which had their own emerging cultural differences:
Senkyol occupied the northwest, including Gem Island, its center of power. It would later fall to Caradin invasion.
Ulyan-Baol occupied much of the Eastern Barrier Islands.
Jyolshion held much of the northeast and northern center of the country.
Kovokaran held the southern islands of the main archipelago.
Maral-Mai held the southern portions of Kerazu (the main island), and was highly militaristic and borderline theocratic.
Fourth Empire historians considered the Five Nations Era part of the Third Interregnum for political reasons.
With the pressure from the wars, as well as an outbreak of plague, Senkyol collapsed under invasion from Grand Caradin in 1689, and Gem Island became a colony of the Caradin Empire.
From around 1606 to the mid 1700s, Jyolshion, Kovokaran, Ulyan-Baol, and Maral-Mai all practiced competing colonization in the southwest of South Eramia. Warring over colonized territory was common during this time.
The Gunpowder Wars were a series of conflicts that developed from earlier skirmishes, as muskets and rifles became more common in Ashkera. The forces of Maral-Mai gradually pushed out all opponents, and would one day become the Fourth Empire.
On July 1st, 1772, the forces of the nation of Maral-Mai received word of the final surrender of the last holdouts cities of the nation of Kovokaran, and with it, the total unification of the Ashkeran home islands. On July 2nd, 1772, the Fourth Empire of Ashkera was declared. Two months later, a lavish coronation, attended by over 120,000 people, was held in the city of Maral-Mai, renamed "Dal Ulshan."
In the new Fourth Empire, the emperor was little more than a puppet. True power resided in the hands of the Emperor's Supreme Commander in the Total War Against the Heavens. More commonly known as simply the Daol-Zaishan ("supreme commander"), the new leader, Zyanzen Zai, was a devout follower of the militant Lightning Sword school of the Shadow Path. He had far grander ambitions than merely reuniting and reawakening the ancient empire of Ashkera, as his father did.
In July of 1781, Zyanzen Zai sent a letter to the Queen of Ardland demanding the immediate return of Gem Island to the Empire of Ashkera - an entity that, until 1772, hadn't existed in over five hundred years. By January of 1782, when he hadn't gotten the answer he wanted, he launched a full-scale invasion. After ten years of rebuilding following his victory in the Gunpowder Wars, the armies of the Empire were once again ready to fight, taking the lightly-defended island within one year.
Considering that much of Gem Island's population had been replaced by Caradins following the plague that contributed to the collapse of Senkyol, the Daol-Zaishan's orders were not that the Caradin settlers should be exterminated, but that they should be forcibly culturally assimilated, with limitations on marriages, religious practices, architecture, behavior, and many other rules. This would be a model for his intended later assimilation of the Dychorian homelands. Those who would not leave Cadechism were forced into exile, sent back to Ardland by ship. This also marked the origin of Shadow-Cadechist Syncretism, which emerged as the ordinary Cadechist Church of Ardland lost its grasp on the island, and which was ultimately allowed by the new government.
The other subcontinents of Xyanzar, to the west of Ashkera, had been carved up by the Dychorian powers. Through a series of military campaigns from lasting 1790 to 1852, Dychorian control was pushed back to the areas of modern Wright and Gyajom. As in the case of Gem Island, Dychorian settlers were forced to either assimilate, or go into exile. Many fled west towards Wright before Fourth Imperial forces could arrive, which ultimately bolstered Wright's ability to hold against Ashkeran invasion.
The Fourth Empire also reasserted control of all South Eramian territories held by Ashkeran city-state leagues during the Five Nations Era. From 1812, all the way until 1880, it fought wars to expand its holdings in the area.
In 1863, the Fourth Empire invaded the present area of Ahlub in Quaciria, expanding into (roughly) the present areas of Risakia, Kokedo, and Bolonar between 1874 and 1882.
To hold on to the territories, and out of an ideological conviction, the ruling government adopted a law of strict monogamy in marriage. The "extra" surplus women of Ashkera were sent to the colonies, where it was intended that they would displace native women and produce a new generation of subjects who, rejected by the natives, would be loyal to the Fourth Empire out of necessity.
Ashkera had already begun to industrialize in the late 1700s. In the mid 1800s, however, the military dictatorship government enacted a number of policies, including land reforms, intended to improve its grasp on all resources in the economy. Restrictions on workers became greater, environmental conditions degraded, and the wealth generated by the new factories was hoarded by the wealthy and those at the top. Around this same time, the military government began to reject more and more "traditional" elements of the Ashkeran culture, and experiment with ideas later associated with Fascism.
In 1898, this boiled over into the "One Mind, One Body" rebellion, which later came to identify as Communist. Ideas of total collectivism and equality in Ashkera had occurred in the past, based on the philosophy of all human beings as parts of Viishko, of one mind and one body. As the movement shifted in identification, however, it cast off most of its religious trappings and decided to purge religion on the grounds that it was an unscientific oppressor of the masses.
The National Army of the Fourth Empire of Ashkera (1602-1912) - The forces of the military dictatorship, technically different from the Royal Guard and reporting directly to Regent Talaval Byokul. Known for brutal tactics to attempt to stomp out resistance, it was ultimately disbanded after his death in 1912.
The People's Revolutionary Army (1898-1912) - The PRA started out far more gently than it ended, quickly transitioning from mere 'liberation' to literal class warfare, mass execution of 'class enemies', destruction of traditional buildings and artifacts, execution of the clergy, forced redistribution of land, brainwashing tactics including mass public humiliation such as 'struggle sessions', and vigilante death squads. The last main army of the PRA was defeated in 1912, but guerrila fighting continued until 1916. Communist writings were banned by GAJRA in 1910.
Great Army of the North (1901-1909) - As the Fourth Empire lost its grip on northern Ashkera, the popular General Milsuo Gyojaru went into open rebellion rather than enforce Regent Talaval's order for the torching of an entire village. General Milsuo did not intend to rule indefinitely. The Great Army of the North joined GAJRA in 1909, where the General lead the primary military campaign, and then retired. He is lionized by current Nationalists, and his face appears on T-shirts, both as photographs and caricatures.
Democratic Army of Ashkera (1898-1906) - As the measures of Zimohei Vyo became more brutal, Social Democrats split off from the Communists in order to form the Democratic Army. They were joined by liberals of various kinds. However, under pressure from two fronts, they were barely able to maintain their independence, and became dependent on the Great Army of the North, joining GAJRA in 1909. A particular sticking point between the Social Democrats and the Communists was religious tolerance.
Kuvoyana Restoration Army (1901-1909) - The emergence of a Royalist army in southern Ashkera was somewhat of a surprise, but the declining importance of tradition and royalty to the military government, combined with its increased brutal oppression, caused a call for the return to the traditions of the Third Empire. While many of its leaders were members of Ashkera's various royal families, the intent was ultimately to restore indirect rule over which the royal families would have final veto authority. Exactly which form of government would be installed was unclear - some favored the restoration of the scholastic bureaucracy, while others favored a constitutional oligarchy. The KRA had the backing of many of the clergy, and merged with GAJRA in 1909.
Great Heavenly Wave (1904-1910) - A faction lead by Tsyuko Kazyo that made a strategic alliance with the radical New Awakening sect of the Shadow Path. Advocated constant struggle and a gradual dissolution of the state, to be replaced by "Great Men" wielding similar power. Kazyo believed that only through struggle and overcoming challenge could meaning come to life. According to Kazyo's "Path of Struggle", only by constant conflict could both society and individuals become stronger. The weak would be discarded along the way. He was captured and executed in 1909, and the faction collapsed in 1910 from internal conflict. The writings of Kazyo and his associates were banned by GAJRA in 1910.
Free Men of Ashkera (1907-1910) - A group of mostly urban market elites lead an army of mostly rural farmers in an uprising, on the grounds that Anarcho-Capitalism was the ultimate freedom from government and was the best alternative to the oppressive Shogunate and the Communists (which scared both groups). They had a strong focus on voluntarism and individual rights, but were ultimately crushed by GAJRA and Kazyo's Heavenly Wave in 1910 due to massive internal political conflict and poor organization. Anarcho-Capitalist writings were banned by GAJRA in 1910.
Greater Ashkera Joint Resconstruction Authority (G.A.J.R.A., 1909-1918) - A union of three major factions and two minor ones, GAJRA brought together the Great Army of the North, the Democratic Army, and the Kuvoyana Restoration Army into one faction. To prevent inter-factional strife, GAJRA Central Committee was ruled by an Oversight Council consisting of twelve representatives whose identities were protected. At its head was Oversight Councillor One, the mysterious man who brokered the alliance.
The Greater Ashkera Joint Reconstruction Authority started off as a rather rocky alliance. To negotiate the terms, the man later known as Oversight Councillor One arranged a series of secret meetings, with two representives from each of the major factions, and one from each of the five minor ones. The identities of the members were kept secret, even from each other, in order to prevent reprisals. Although contentious, the group managed to come to an agreement on a broad range of issues which would later form the basis for the new government. The alliance was formally ratified in 1909.
By 1911, GAJRA controlled enough territory that it became more difficult to govern informally through the factions, particularly in the temporary capital at the base of the Eastern Mountains. To remedy this, the GAJRA Central Committee was formed, composed of representatives from each faction, in order to handle law-making and day-to-day tasks of government, as well as decide on overall strategy. Each faction selected their representatives in a different way. Based on the earlier secret meetings, the Oversight Council of the Central Committee was formed to act as the executive committee of the civilian government. The man who brokered the alliance and meetings was made Oversight Councillor One, chairman of the Council.
During the war, the Central Committee gradually came to a broader and broader consensus over governance of the country, guided by Oversight Councillor One's plans for a Fifth Empire based on a meritocratic scholar-bureaucracy, under the weak rule of an oligarchic government, with a semi-independent military and regulated Welfare Capitalist economy. Councillor One and his followers used the power of the legislature to gradually erode the legal and political distinctions between the factions in the government, using this to grow the power of their Technocratic faction in the legislature, which had no army in the field. This ultimately lead to the Constitution of 1918, the founding document of the current government of Ashkera. Further cementing GAJRA as the rightful successor government of Ashkera, they sought out whatever forms of legitimacy they could, from blessings of the clergy to long-lost ancient artifacts.
By 1914, GAJRA began sending expeditionary forces to deal with Fourth Empire remnants and Communist armies in western Xyanzar. By the 1920s, this process was in full swing. With less destruction of infrastructure, the economy began to improve rapidly. Corruption and organized crime remained an issue at the beginning of the decade, but gradually came under control by the late 20s.
With the 1929 formation of the National Delegation, the National Technocracy Union was formed, and shifted efforts in western Xyanzar from military ones focused on the eradication of Communist armies, to economic development with the intent to hold what territories had been captured by remaking them under the principles of National Technocracy.
Somewhat isolated from the global economy, Ashkera did not experience a major economic blow during the Great Depression.
With the military's efforts in western Xyanzar underfunded in the late 1930s, and new research only funded in secret, the Empire of Daniwan decided to invade neighboring Zairun in order to prevent future Ashkeran expansion and establish a greater hold on its conquered territories. Daniwan's later attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor was a resounding success.
With this, Ashkera entered World War 2 on the side of the Allies. By 1944, it had captured most of southern Tiuncaria from the the Daniwanese Empire, worrying United States military planners, who ordered an invasion of the Daniwanese home islands and a treaty to keep all factions out of Cayuna.
Throughout the 1950s to the 1970s, Ashkera held the captured territory in southern Tiuncaria against Communist insurrections with foreign backing, reorganizing the ST countries into allied states under the principles of National Technocracy, and spending quite a bit of money on economic development both to foster loyalty and undermine Communists.
In 1952, the Joint Defense Initiative was formed as an economic development and military bloc. Some of the South Eramian countries that had been colonized under the Fourth Empire, and which had split off during its collapse, joined, in addition to a number of Xyanzarese countries and the newly-reformed countries in southern Tiuncaria.
With the burden of war and foreign economic development no longer slowing down the economy, Ashkera spent the first half of the 1980s at near-parity with the United States in per-capita GDP. By 1986, it surpassed US per-capita GDP as its automotive exports began to overtake US markets, much like Daniwanese cars.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Ashkera and the United States start to drift apart. Some Liberals in the US begin to express concern over the lack of a move towards liberal democracy within the Joint Defense Initiative. Foreign Leftists, some of whom had opposed Ashkera the entire time for its anti-Communism, become even more doubtful of the Fifth Empire.
In the early 10s, Ashkera flips Cuson under Duviente from alignment with the Global Strategic Treaty Alliance (GSTA) to the Joint Defense Initiative. In the late 10s, it flips Ucarinia from the Dychorian Union to JDI, contributing to the DU's reformation as the Dychorian Confederation. The Western political establishment, media, and a number of citizens grow concerned that Ashkera may be a rival for global power.
ASO - Autonomous State Organization, a kind of semi-independent government agency which competes with other ASOs to take on contracts to fulfill various functions of government.
DCO - Delegate Candidate Organization, a hybrid between think-tank and political party that is paid based on a combination of its popularity and bets on legislative outcomes.
Heat/HTR - Heavy Threat Response, a kind of ASO subcontracted for security by other ASOs, which is permitted to own military-grade weapons.