by Max Barry

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by The People's Federation of South Reinkalistan. . 58 reads.

Chapter 0: To Set the Scene

Our oh-so beautiful world.

South Reinkalistan. It's a nation at war, but not in the way you'd expect. For sure, it is at war with many outside states; though these are interventions, far-flung conflicts that do not necessarily trouble the everyday lives of the citizens at home. No, it is a nation at war with itself more than anything. The iron-fisted National Office for Ideology stands far above yet also among the toiling masses, a brutal behemothic agency dedicated to enforcing the will of the People's Commission for State Affairs. Life is hard, and the country is unstable. The constant Religious-Ideological Renaissance permeates all levels of society, with every act being considered political; every movement another brick paved in the road to socialism, or a perfidious plot to uproot the revolution. Purges are frequent, if not a regular occurrence; many live in fear that each day will be their last. But if one keeps toiling, does their job, and doesn't speak too loudly, they have little to worry for -- but as the machinery of state grinds slower and slower each day, and more human matter needing to be fed into the eternal grinder, many are asking the question: "how long will it all last"?

The average Reinkalistani only really needs three things: his rifle, a bottle of alcohol, and a cigarette. Friends are optional. Self-defense is considered seriously by the state, with mandatory armament for all citizens. Labour is also seen as non-optional; food rations are only afforded to those who meet their quotas, or are unfit to work otherwise. At every moment at one's state assigned job, an Ideological Officer is watching, waiting to apprehend someone traitorous. Yet the stone-faced, callous secret police does not conscript faceless drones into its expansive ranks. They are men too, and freedom and favour can be bought via bribery through luxuries or promises. The totalitarian gears behind the dictatorship cannot turn everywhere at once; many do enjoy a limited number of precious liberties as the country's vastness frustrates attempts to establish permanent authority.

At the top of the byzantine system of hierarchies stands the upper echelons of the
Reinkalistani Communist Party. The government is a one-party state, operating around a Vanguardist Theocracy. The Party serves as a clerical body to ensure the Vanguard Cult is maintained, a dialectical approach to history compounded with metaphysics and ontologically-justified folk religion forming a complex mix-match of various theologies all haphazardly bound into a tenuous religious code. The nature of this religion varies from region to region; in some regions, it is treated conservatively and is used to reinforce the rule of the state. In others, it is more relaxed, a secondary distraction from the harsh realities of life. Everywhere, though, it is law.

At the head of the nation, the People's Commission for State Affairs (or "State Commission" for short) is composed of a handful of varied individuals; six in total. At its head is the President and General Secretary, "Premier" Mozhkin K. Turaniski. Practically red royalty, the General Secretary succeeded his father, having bested his political opponents with guile and intrigue. He's a brutal man, and oversees many degrees of violence exacted upon men who were once his allies mere days ago. Yet he commits himself to his duties -- the years of stressful rulership, the balancing act of statecraft versus intrigue taking its toll on his mind. Many see him begin to slip into insanity, his narcissism and psychopathy devolving into paranoia and an ever-expanding god complex. By his side, the Exterior Commissar Lakerk Turnov sits as his right-hand man. Assuming more and more faculties of state as the Premier declines, Turnov is a more pragmatically-minded politician with a human streak to him. He sees a bright future for Reinkalistan with the right touches, yet his attempts at reform are nonetheless stifled not only by the Premier, but other hardliners such as the Head of the Ideological Office Ivaken Taratysk, and brute-minded War Commissar Jesk Karayov.

Not all is grim, though. The economy chugs along, and with the bounties it yields many do enjoy free healthcare, education, electricity, housing and food provided they work their dues. The quality of these services varies based on where one lives, but they form a lifeline for people who would otherwise be impoverished and miserable. The people themselves are cared for, perhaps, if their freedoms are not. Due to this (and perhaps the terror exacted by the Ideological Office), a significant majority of Reinkalistanis do support their government, or at least consider it a preferable alternative to the North -- a land, they are told, where the poor go hungry, where the homeless are forgotten, all at the expense of the greedy, kleptocratic capitalists at the top.

This is also where South Reinkalistan - officially known as "the People's Federation of Reinkalistan" - orientates itself on the international stage. Following a brutal war with the once-dominant
Iron Republic of Kayastadt in the mid 1980s, during which the Federation allied with its geopolitical adversaries, the continent of Askander was divided. From the ruins of this war, South Reinkalistan found itself as the hegemon of the Fifth International, an organisation dedicated towards furthering the cause of its socialist ideals. With ten other freely "liberated" nations under its stewardship, including one half cannibalised from what remained of the Kayan nation, it has formed a grand alliance of states, many of which do consider it to be a bringer of freedom against centuries of oppression at the hands of Kayastadt. It stands poised against the "Northern World", brought together in an alliance known as the North Askander Defense League (NADL). At the pinnacle of this alliance is the immensely powerful Union of Dhoerian Nations, a continent-wide superpower dedicated to anti-communist causes. Beneath the firm-handed yet popular President Frederick Elias, Dhoeria is considered the antithesis to Reinkalistan in every way, and the principal actor against it in the nearly forty-year old Cold War.

South Reinkalistan itself emerged from the Reinkalistani Civil War in 1964, where the Revolutionary Father Kaszar Turaniski and his ally Horath Devask fought against the anarchists of Joreyu Lethk, and the monarchical regime of King Anathi I Tosdoda. After a stalemate at the Kaskian Mountains, and with the Communists having crushed the anarchists, the war slowly ground to a halt, despite never truly ending. With the majority of the country under his rule, Turaniski declared the revolution victorious, and the Civil War won in his favour. While he was consolidating power, a brief alliance with the more secularly-minded Devask ended with the latter's exile in the 1970 Coup. He collectivised industry and agriculture, as well as instituting mandatory "Religious-Ideological Education". In 1983, he oversaw the successful invasion of Kayastadt and the victory in the Great War of Askander, but soon had to deal with a disastrous famine - partly due to wartime shortages - in 1986. This period of time was marked by great hardship for the people, and tales of cannibalism were widespread. After a period of martial law, Turaniski resolved to institute more market-orientated, democratic reforms. But then, the brief period of relatively cordial relations with the Northern World ended in 1992 under his ambitious son's influence. The "D'ailloustre Line" between Vanguardism and Capitalism clamped down overnight, and he proclaimed a speech against the Northern Powers and their "imperialist exploitation of Reinkalistani goodwill".

Kaszar died in 2001, leaving his son Mozhkin to take over the reins of power. The new leadership was immediately marked by a large amount of nigh-anarchy in what was soon termed by observers the
2002 Sea of Blood, a violent, far-reaching purge that left no part of Reinkalistani society untouched. All systems of government were broken down as Turaniski let loose his rabidly ideological "Student Militias" on the "People of Old", and much instability and slaughter resumed as he swiftly appointed new and ideologically-loyal leaders to key posts and flooded the legislature with his supporters. A cult of ultra-violence ensued, with "the rise of the youth" seeing the Student Militias rage through the country, obliterating all "Enemies of the Revolution" they could find. This chaos came to a stop in early 2003, as the process ended and Turaniski's power was secured. This display of his violent, radical ideology sent a message to all else: that the new Reinkalistani government was uncompromising. This wave also swept across the Fifth International, with many governments toppled by New Vanguardists aided by Red Army elements stationed there, and others scrambling to conform to the new line. As the dust rose, an entirely new society had found its form.

The new Reinkalistani state structure is a strange thing. The State Commission rises above all, with the Ideological Office its principal form of all-encompassing enforcement, yet the scars of 2002 have left the rest of the government a broad alliance of military commanders, collective farm chairmen, industrial leaders, clerics, and regional governors, all kept under close watch. This is cemented by Turaniski's principle of "Adhocracy" -- that things should be done to be flexible, that entrenched systems and instituted bureaucracies should be done away with. This has led the Reinkalistani state to have a very chaotic structure, but one that surprisingly still manages to work, bound together with the Ideological Office like one would patch a leaking pipe with duct tape. It functions for now.

The Communist Party itself is full of factionalist divides. The
Hardliners make up the fringe of the National Congress of the Reinkalistani People, their position secured by alliance with the Centralists. These two factions are generally committed towards further development of the ideology to more radical extents and some even call for a second "Sea of Blood"; the Centralists even desire to completely ditch the Federal state structure and reinforce total state authority. The Conservatives occupy the most seats of the Congress, their leadership backed by Turaniski himself and maintaining the general status quo. They are opposed by the second-largest faction, the Reformists, desiring to restructure the economy around markets while maintaining one-party rule. They broadly associate with the Devaskites, who wish to instate a secular administration and ditch Vanguard Theocracy. And, on the very edge of the Congress, the Neo-Vanguardists advocate total nuclear war as a revolutionary method, an advocacy which makes even the Hardliners uncomfortable. Not many are sure how the Party copes with this, other than the total, all-dominant leadership of Turaniski. Without him, many believe the Party would split entirely.

The only active resistance to Reinkalistan worth noting is the Kaskian Rekkutomel, formed from the elite military units left in the monarchist force after the Great Retreat. With the deposition of the monarchy in North Reinkalistan, they were weakened before a resurgence under the unifier Duke Sarkos, who with Dhoerian aid managed to fix the deep factionalism in the rogue units and now presents a united front against the Communist Party. Many Red Army units are tied up fighting his guerilla bands, even after his nominal abdication in favour of his daughter Naranya in 2021. He continues to lead what many see as a noble struggle against tyranny, and he enjoys support from disenfranchised ruralites who see the expansion of urbanism and exportation of communist values to their communities a threat to their way of life, even today.

Cities in Reinkalistan are generally large, the foremost of which being the metropolitan capital
Turaniskidak, renamed in honour of the Revolutionary Father. It has a distinctly neon aesthetic, with regular events seeing large propagandistic holograms projected onto clouds of vapour displaying the faces of key leaders and revolutionary slogans. Most urban dwellers live in state-built apartments, which are generally prefabricated, though many are rather pleasant depending on one's area. They range from spacious to cramped. The most active portion of the city is Turaniskidak Central (TC), which is affluent and features a surprisingly liberal nightlife.

And so, life in Reinkalistan is difficult. You have many enemies. Outside of your country, you are threatened with the stories of the dreadful existence outside of the Motherland. Inside, a wrong glance at a particularly sadistic Ideological Officer could ruin your life. But nevertheless, the day goes on. Many live and die, yet good times are had. The State Commission postures with boastful pride, and the party propagandists shout mantras, yet the average Reinkalistani moves on regardless. It's not pretty, but for some it's home. And no matter how dire things get, that won't change.