"The Vilayet of Taras. Never heard
of it? Good; neither have I." - Edith Ponsonby.
Four separate empires collapsed at the end of the Great War in 1918; Hohenzollern
Germany, Hapsburg Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey, and Romanov Russia (which
suffered a revolution and resultant civil war beginning in 1917). Winston Churchill put the resulting scramble
among various Eastern European nationalities and nascent nations best when he famously said, "The war of giants has ended, the wars of the
After a series of revolts, revolutions, pogroms and `brush fire' wars, culminating
in the Polish-Russian War of 1920-22, the various borders stabilized and
treaties of varying levels of adherence were negotiated.
Any Grand Tour of the new face of Eastern Europe must begin at the Baltic Sea, with
the new republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Poland's attempt to absorb
Lithuania into a new Commonwealth foundered on the Lithuanian's insistence on
remaining independent. Facing war with the Soviet Union, Marshal Pilsudski did
not press the issue.
Poland was the largest state in the new map, maintaining as it did a watchful eye
on its eastern border with the USSR. It and its government were trying hard to
revive and start up various industries in an effort to keep its independence between
its two larger and better-armed neighbors, Germany and the Soviet Union. In order to avoid the embrace of the Bear,
Pilsudski and his successors were leaning toward an alliance (or at least an
association) with the Germans.
South of Poland is the Western Ukraine People's Republic, with its capital of Lviv.
This state, the second-largest after Poland, was part of Pilsudski's Intermarum (Between the Seas) idea,
where there would be a belt of Polish-oriented states extending from the Baltic
to the Black Seas. The WUPR is still under Polish `protection,' a fact that
irritates many Ukrainian nationalists in their government. However, the support
of the Poles is necessary in order to fend off attempts by the Ukrainian SSR
and the USSR to
extend their hegemony.
The Balkans are still largely as the end of the Great War left them – still staring
daggers at each other and squabbling over small slices of land. Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia and
Greece are all monarchies, with only the Albanians and the Yugoslavs enjoying
domestic dynasties (the others displaying, if nothing else, the fecundity of the various German noble houses).
Hungary invited the twenty-year-old Archduke Otto von Hapsburg to be crowned as
its Apostolic King in 1932. He took as his regnal name Ferenc (his first baptismal
name), and dismissed the Regent Admiral Horthy.
A variety of small Carpathian and Danubian principalities arose or were resurrected
after the Great War, and by and large the Big Four let them be. Geopolitically they were of little
consequence, and had little economic impact apart from tourism and postage
stamps (interestingly, the Spontoons have similar industries; think dirndls
instead of grass skirts). They may not have any armies to speak of, but they do
have some of the best cheeses in Europe.
These small states are:
The Duchy of Teschen;
The Principalities of Anheim, Azieuza, and Kuhk-Mönge;
The Grand Duchy of Ruritania, and
The Vilayet of Taras.
(It is believed that Ruritania was established as a joke on
the League of Nations; perhaps not surprisingly, none of the delegates ever got
The Vilayet of Taras was a former Ottoman governorate, and before its
absorption into the Empire was a very minor state at the mouth of the Danube.
It declared its independence, but hardly anyone noticed apart from the
Rumanians. The Tarasian ruling family claims descent from the original ancient
Greek settlers of the area as well as the Byzantine Lascarid Dynasty, while
glossing over the facts that they are actually one-half Turkish, one-quarter
Hungarian, one-eighth Greek and one-eighth Norwegian (no one can figure this
Taras partly straddles the mouth of the Danube, but is surrounded on three
sides by Rumania; the rulers know better than to try and close the river to
traffic. Its primary exports are stamps,
grain, cheese and dairy products, and occasional court intrigues that mimic the
classic English garden parties, complete with the obligatory murders.