The history of Barrayar begins with the colonization of the planet of Barrayar.
- 1 The Time of Isolation
- 2 The rediscovery era
- 3 Barrayar changes
- 4 Aral Vorkosigan's rule
- 5 From Independent Counts to the aftermaths of Vorkosigan's Regency
- 6 Emperor Gregor's early rule
- 7 Gregor's late rule
- 8 A intergenerational policy: the Komarran integration policy
- 9 A new Emperor
The Time of Isolation
In the XXII Century Barrayar was first settled by its original 50,000 colonists at this time (the Firsters). Settlers were from Old Earth and were largely Russian in ethnicity, language and culture. Other nationalities included were French, English and Greek. The initial settlement took advantage of the the planet's existing breathable atmosphere and active local biosphere (which although toxic upon ingestion by humans could be easily composted by burning to form a basis for human vegetation): Barrayar was meant from the beginning to be a more simple world with agriculture as opposed to high tech worlds..
Soon after, even before the second colonization wave, its wormhole closed about 2135 A.D., launching the approximately 700 years of the Time of Isolation on Barrayar. The collapse of wormhole was later known as "Abandonment", and the huge astronomic disaster known as "Great Fire" followed and was linked to the Abandonment: a near giant red supernova exploded and painted the sky red and crimson for years. The hard space radiation storm hit the relatively weak Barrayaran magnetic field, and literally fried computers and the other electronics. In immediate afterwards things were very difficult on Barrayar. The modern technology of the Firsters was all lost and thousands people died of cancer illness. The careful and controlled terraforming which had begun also collapsed: imported Earth plant and animal species had escaped everywhere to go wild, as the advanced civilisation collapsed.
The settlers managed to hang on and multiply despite hostile native flora and the constant threat of mutations cropping up among the descendants of the original settlers, caused not only by space radiation but also by the allergens and mutagens and teratogenic poisons of the native Barrayaran. A feudal aristocracy developed among the contentious settlers as factions among them fought for power. Among the many problems tackled by the early colonists was how to aggressively make Barrayar hospitable to Earth-descended agriculture and animal husbandry before they all starved to death. They succeeded, but much of the original planetary ecology was irrevocably lost in cultivated areas.
Varadar Tau established himself as the first Barrayaran Emperor in the mid 23rd Century, creating the Vor noble system. The basic political structure on Barrayar settled down into a single government headed by a hereditary Emperor, supported by an equally hereditary aristocracy known as the Vor.
The Tau successors (the so-called "Early Emperors") ruled the planet during most of the period from the 23rd Century through the 28th Century, although they had to deal with the Independent Counts: following a defeat, Emperor Xian Vorbarra even failed to maintain his Crown Treasury. Emperor Vlad "le Savante" Vorbarra, Dorca's great-great uncle, as ascended to the throne was fought by every Independent Count, and even Vorbarr Sultana was besieged during the Ten-Years' War, although its relief by Emperor Vlad marked the starting point of the early Imperial regaining of authority; Emperor Feodor his youngest niece ascended to the throne after bloodily crushing the "Golden Regency" of Lord Regent Pjotr Vorbarra in 2783, only to die two years later. After a brief but harsh and bloody political turmoil, Emperor Dorca the Just Vorbarra was the first Emperor able to gain the absolute power and control on Barrayar in the last years of the 28th Century, with the help of the Lord Auditor General Count Pierre "le Sanguinaire" Vorrutyer. He reigned between 2789 and 2843 A.D. He ascended to the throne through Salic decent, i.e., though his mother's father's claim on the throne: he completed a secular process started by his predecessors, after he violently ended the "False Regency" of Lord Vorsmythe, ending the power of the Independent Counts and absorbing their armies into Imperial ones.
Although the political level of Time of Isolation could be compared with those of 1,500 years before, the technology was partly retained. Firearms were back well before the end of the Time of Isolation, as was water power. Steam railways was just being re-developed when the Komarran explorers re-discovered Barrayar, with electricity hovering in the wings, and airship and balloon flight was starting to be developed.
A small but significant part of knowledge, however, was retained, such as the most significant literary works, as Shakespeare and Tolstoj, as well as sayings and habits.
During Time of Isolation, cavalry officers and unit commanders came exclusively from the Vor class, while rank-and-file troops and men-at-arms were composed of both Vors and proeles. Vor troops usually came from impoverished or lesser Vor family branches. Within officers, the career advancement happened on a mixed basis, composed of merit, wealth to buy commissions and, mostly, bloodline.
The rediscovery era
The new wormhole to Barrayar was discovered by Komarr in 2821, forcing Barrayar to emerge from its Time of Isolation with the invasion by the Cetagandan Empire, started in 2836, and their expulsion after 20 years, being defeated in the early 2856.
In first years after the rediscovery, Barrayar was economically worth for almost nothing but low-cost labour, with the scarcely relevant exception of hand-made luxury objects. By 2823, labour emigration was regulated by Emperor Dorca, who ensured a steady flow of remittances: these remittances were used by the recently reformed Government of the Empire in order to accumulate monetary reserves strong enough to start to import foreign advanced technology and to start an autochthonous industry. Due to the low level of technical skill and to the need to export labour at all costs, first major plants were founded in 2828 and in 2830, both with Betan aid.
A major obstacle, in the very first years of Dorca's reign, was the track gauges. Since prior the unification there was no possible unified railway construction effort, almost every District which had a railway, also had an its own track gauge, in order to ensure that the tracks did not connect over the district borders and keep the enemy Count from their railway in case of invasion; further, narrow gauge was cheaper to build in mountains, and therefore mountainous areas did not connect well with plain areas within the same District. This obstacle was overcome with the extensive refit of the railways web, imposed by Dorca to now-subjected Counts as war reparation.
The end of Time of Isolation produced some political instability when Counts who had just lost their independence were still maintaining their armies, although somewhat disguised. In early 2836 the Vorloupulous's Treason erupted: despite the ban of the Counts' private armies, Count Vorloupulous tried to evade the ban by equipping 2,000 private soldiers with butcher knives and calling them "cooks". Emperor Dorca as a result sentenced Vorloupulous to death by starvation and exposure by having him placed in a public cage in the capital of Vorbarr Sultana. This rebellion provoked the enactment of one among the most important constitutional laws of Barrayar, the so-called Vorlopoulos's Law, drafted by Count Pierre "le Sanguinaire" Vorrutyer, which strictly limited and still limits Counts to a total armed following of 20 armsmen, and it denies non-Counts and non-Heirs the right to take an armsman's oath.
During the few peaceful years of Dorca's reign, the Barrayaran polity changed significantly: the Emperor strengthened his power, establishing an Imperium-wide Privy Council, later disestablished by Emperor Yuri, with the task of helping him into the modernization process. The Council of Ministers was also established in these years, in order to provide a counterpart to foreign ambassadors and officials. The political relative turmoil was aided also by the declaration of illegality of morganatic marriages.
First Cetagandan War
Barrayar was invaded by Cetagandan Empire in 2836, just fifteen years after the end of Time of Isolation, and expelled invaders from the planet in 2856. The First Cetagandan War lasted twenty years of bloody and ruthless guerilla, during which Barrayaran society crystallized its most war-like features.
Expecting an easy conquest, the Cetagandan Empire persuaded the Komarran ruling oligarchy to allow a Cetagandan invasion fleet passage through Komarr's wormhole connection to poor and newly rediscovered Barrayar.
The Cetagandan Wars took the deaths of five million Barrayarans. Cetagandan military technology gave the invaders a powerful advantage in the initial occupation of the settled areas of Barrayar, but the Barrayaran forces fought a endless and fierce guerilla war of resistance from hidden bases, gradually acquiring a supply of high-tech weapons from off-planet arms smugglers.
The government of Barrayar during its occupation by the Cetagandan Empire lasted 20 years, during which the normal Barrayaran government with its ruling Vorbarra Emperor and Council of Counts was officially disbanded during these two decades: Emperor Dorca the Just did not collaborate with the Cetagandan invaders, but he lead the underground guerilla resistance to the off-world invaders.
The actual Cetagandan occupation regime of Barrayar was staffed by ghem-military officers and collaborationist Barrayaran Vor and even plebes, who found for the first time a way to join the ruling class. Although it had not been established yet as a Satrapy, most Cetagandans called this occupation government as "Ninth Satrapy", willingly to annex the planet to the wider Empire.
During the wars, the young Count Pjotr Vorkosigan distinguished himself as general and guerilla warfare strategist, being able to trap and weaken Cetagandan forces in the rugged Dendarii Mountains of Vorkosigan District. The military leaders at the time were substantially three: the young General Count Vorkosigan, promoted General at the age of 22 (starting from the rank of ensign at the age of 17), Emperor Dorca the Just Vorbarra and the mature and dangerous head of the embryonic security service, General Pierre "le Sanguinaire" Vorrutyer.
Because of the bloody and fierce resistance in Vorkosigan District, Cetagandans first occupied and later, next to the end of their occupation of Barrayar, destroyed the District capital Vorkosigan Vashnoi by an atomic bombing. The nuclear destruction of the Vorkosigan District capital was the act that had galvanized the war-torn and exhausted planet into its final push against the occupation: after twenty years of harsh fighting, the Barrayarans led by Emperor Yuri finally forced Cetaganda to withdraw its forces, after the Peace of Solstice.
The victory against Cetagandans and the necessity of utilizing every native strength provoked a major change into both the society, opening up Barrayar to the idea of service based on merit, rather than bloodlines and the ruling group. The traditional Vor privileges of Imperial Service were no longer reserved for the Vor alone. On instigation of General Vorkosigan, he Imperial military academies were opened to non-Vor applicants based on aptitude, and the military started to serve as an egalitarian force on Barrayar; General Igor Tesslev was the very first non-Vor officer to reach a General officer rank. On the other hand, while General Count Pjotr Vorkosigan emerged as cavalry and guerilla commander, Emperor Yuri Vorbarra was in charge of all Barrayaran ground forces and his half-brother Prince Xav Vorbarra led Barrayaran first great diplomatic efforts.
The planet itself, although ravaged by the war, had some modern infrastructures. In particular, the Vordarian District held four major manufacturing cities, along with military bases, supply depots and the largest military shuttleport on the planet. These facilities allowed Counts Vordarian to play a prominent role in Barrayaran politics.
The immediate price of the Cetagandan invasion was terrible, especially for the resistant areas. Cetagandan invasion forces blew the environment with their bio-toxins, and the bombing of Vorkosigan Vashnoi was laced with extra radiation, in order to make it more horrific to a population with a horror of mutations. Consequences of the atomic bombing of Dendarii regions lasted for decades. Although it was caused mainly by native flora and fauna, even thirty years after the end of the War, newborns born in the rural zones had visible mutations, and Vorkosigan Vashnoi's ruins glowed at night for approximately fifty years. This spread a deeply rooted hatred for Cetagandans and off-worlders in general.
Both Yuri's and Ezar's reign were marked by the overall stiff determination to not be any more an apparent easy conquest and to secure definitively their wormhole access point. The whole ruling class was eager to make Barrayar a stronghold, capable to resist and thwart any invasion misguided attempt. The industrialization process was directed only in a minor part to produce consumer goods, and the progressive social militarization was accepted and further encouraged. The scarcity of a privately owned light industry caused the lack of development of a business middle bourgeoisie, while Vor people and some proeles led the heavy industry complex. However, under both Yuri and Ezar the whole heavy industry sector was firmly under the tight State's grip, and no divergent businessmen were allowed to prosper. Komarr was inevitably the first shoal to be encountered and permanently defeated, if not conquered, and he political system shaped itself according the shared belief that war against the merchants' planet was inevitable if the Barrayaran security was to be secured. In order to achieve such a result, a sort of meritocracy was established, and a massive State bureaucratic apparatus replaced the thin structure which resulted from the long war. In 2858, Emperor Yuri transformed the Directorate for Economy Protection into the powerful Ministry of Political Education, which would last until 2900.
Since the very end of the Time of Isolation and the beginning of a more integrated society, the Imperial Military Service (and since some decades later also other social institutions such as certain branches the Imperial Public Service and some of the trade world) has performed as a safety valve. Through the Imperial Service and the heavy meritocratic values system, anyone of talent can proceed regardless his caste origins. Vor class and caste managed to conform all social layers to their own ideal of service and self-sacrifice, renouncing to the monopoly of the power, although at least the High Vor keep a very privileged position.
Yuri "the Mad" Vorbarra was the Dorca's Vorbarra and his first wife Lady Joceline Vorrutyer's first-born son, and reigned from 2848 to 2869. Count Vorrutyer's grandson, he had a sister, Princess Ekaterin Vorbarra. Emperor Yuri had also a step-brother, the Dorca's mistress Lady Eugenia Vortaine's son, Prince Xav Vorbarra: Xav was intermediate between Yuri and Ekaterin Vorbarra, and was legitimated by the Emperor his father when he reached the age of twenty, on the occasion of the wedding of Emperor Dorca and his mother, then titled Princess Consort Eugenia Vortaine Vorbarra. After a short military service, Prince Xav, while Emperor Yuri managed to oust Cetagandan invaders, was the first Barrayaran ambassador sent on Beta Colony, where he met and married a Betan high-ranking diplomatic official, Rachel Mellow, who became Princess Rachel Mellow Vorbarra after she married the Barrayaran aristocrat. The couple had three sons: Prince Son Vorbarra, Princess Olivia Vorbarra and Princess Sonia Vorbarra, all killed during Yuri's Massacre.
Yuri's peace reign saw a strong modernization in both economic and institutional and political features. In 2860 Emperor Yuri defenestrated his Privy Council, which was the toughest and most convinced opposition the modernization of the state. He also built the headquarters of the Imperial Security, which was upgraded and reorganized, guaranteeing to the state and to the Emperor an effective tool to suppress political opposition and discontent. In other words, he weakened Vor supremacy in favour of a police State, which spread to all social classes the learning of Galactic English, a necessary pre-requisite for the assimilation of Nexus technology.
In the late 2867 Emperor Yuri ordered the deaths of all other descendants of Dorca Vorbarra, fearing a possible coup d'etat against him. Not all the targets were killed in the massacre, and in the aftermath, General Pjotr Vorkosigan, widow of Princess Countess Olivia Vorbarra Vorkosigan, and Xav Vorbarra, step-brother of Yuri, put their troops behind Ezar Vorbarra, then a General in the Green Army Regiment. The civil war - conducted also within the mountains - lasted for two years and resulted in the Dismemberment of Emperor Yuri and put Ezar on the throne, ending the direct Dorca's descent's rule in favour of an cadet Vorbarra line descending from Prince Rurik Vorbarra, Dorca's younger brother and Ezar's father.
However, the Dorca's line did not end: Emperor Ezar, then Ezar the Pretender, widow and childless, married Princess Constantia Vorbarra, and Princess Sonia Vorbarra married Lord Ivan Vorpatril, father of Captain Lord Padma Xav Vorpatril and cousin of Count Dmitri Vorpatril.
Ezar Vorbarra reigned in the period from 2869 to 2900: during his reign some civil rights reform were made: for example infanticide was outlawed; in 2884 he repressed and destroyed the Karian mutiny and continued the construction of a modern authoritarian State, as well as the constant struggle with Cetagandans was ongoing: in 2876 a short space war erupted around the control of a jump-point. Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra, Ezar and Ekaterin's son, was born in 2870. Ekaterin Vorbarra, was Ezar's second wife. After Prince Serg was born, she went crazy.
Around the turn of the 30th Century, Barrayar created the interstellar Barrayaran Imperium with the Komarran Conquest, taken place in 2897 A.D. Gregor the Progressive Vorbarra was born in 2896.
The conquest of Komarr by Barrayar, led by Admiral Lord Aral Edmund Vorkosigan, the only surviving son of Count Pjotr Vorkosigan, marked the beginning of the interplanetary era of the Barrayaran Imperium. The conquest of Komarr was relatively bloodless, with little loss of life on both sides except for the Solstice Massacre where the ruling Komarran Counsellors were brutally executed.
The Komarran Conquest was largely fuelled by fear of the Cetagandan Empire which decades earlier had ruled the Barrayaran home world and also for revenge against the Komarrans for permitting it.
The huge resources which were necessary to the campaign were raised by an exceptional fund raising allowed by the Counts themselves. Betan aids, given to support the newly independent planet, were added to Barrayaran funds, in order to achieve technical knowledge necessary to build a space fleet.
The Solstice Massacre was a war crime that took place during the later phases of Barrayaran conquest of the planet Komarr. The two hundred Komarran Counsellors that made up Komarr's legislature surrendered on terms to Admiral Aral Vorkosigan and were held in a gymnasium in the Komarran capital of Solstice. On the orders of Vorkosigan's Political Officer, the Komarrans were shot by Barrayaran security forces.
In response, Vorkosigan personally killed the man with his own hands. Admiral Vorkosigan was tried for treason for this murder, and eventually demoted to Captain. The incident earned Aral Vorkosigan the name "Butcher of Komarr", and was one of the reasons behind the later Komarr Revolt. Many Komarrans believed that the political officer was ordered by Vorkosigan to commit the massacre, then was killed so Vorkosigan could shift blame to the dead officer. Vorkosigan and others suspected the Council of Ministers of giving the political officer instructions to neutralize the leaders of Komarr, to make the populace easier to control. The Massacre martyred the dead, leading to political unrest for decades, including the Komarr Revolt.
The Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra was a vicious, violent and sadistic, unable to contain his appetite and unable to maintain an autonomous line of government of the Empire. Emperor Ezar came to the conclusion that, after the Chief of Imperial Security Alexandr Negri had presented evidence of the infidelity of his son, the Crown Prince was to be assassinated.
To avoid the political allies of the Crown Prince, including the Minister Grishnov, remained in power after his death and during the regency on behalf of the young Emperor Gregor, the reigning Emperor thought of having to also destroy the Crown Prince's allies (the War Party) in a military campaign designed to fail catastrophically.
For these reasons, Emperor Ezar supported since 2898 the overexcited War Party in the preparation of the campaign against Escobar, but keep carefully concealed at the Imperial Service information about an innovative invention of the military from Beta Colony, an Escobar's close ally.
The invasion of Escobar failed catastrophically, even causing the death of both the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Prince Serg Vorbarra, and the Executive Commander of the invasion force, Admiral Ges Vorrutyer. This allowed Ezar to get rid of the rest of the War Party, using as an excuse his fragile health.
The fact that the Crown Prince was a vicious sadist, and that was deliberately put to death, remains the best kept secret in the Empire. Only three people knew about it: Admiral Lord Vorkosigan, Ezar and Chief of Imperial Security Captain Negri. In the aftermath Prince Serg is viewed as a great hero in battle by most of Barrayar, a martyr who died in combat. The first advanced Barrayaran battleship, the «Prince Serg», was named after him, as was the Barrayaran planetary colony Sergyar, which was named so during the just-postwar period. To the rest of the galaxy, Serg is viewed as a psychotic and sadist.
After the death of the Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra in the failed invasion of Escobar in 2899, the political equilibrium changed a lot. The War Party, which its leaders were the Crown Prince and the Admiral Ges Vorrutyer, had to submit a lot of prestige and power to the Emperor, although the Ministry of Political Education remained too powerful to be openly destroyed an still willing to gain the political prominence over the future Emperor Gregor against the sick Emperor Ezar, the military and aristocracy.
The Captain Negri's response was to orchestrate massive riots against the Ministry, which was both feared and hated by the urban plebs. The "Loyalty Riots", as were called, were bloody clashes, with several casualties, although concentrated around the Ministry. As soon as the Minister Grishnov was killed all the troops the Ministry had called for, all diverted to guard the Imperial Residence, swore loyalty and fealty and suppressed riots by clearing the streets, choking in the blood a few fanatics demonstrations.
The now four years old Crown Prince Gregor Vorbarra saw his grandfather, the ruling Emperor Ezar Vorbarra, appointing Admiral Aral Vorkosigan as Regent of Barrayar in 2900. Ezar died in 2900. Gregor assumed the Imperial throne in 2916 A.D.. In the subsequent months Lord Regent Vorkosigan defeated Count Vordarian the Pretender in the same year of Ezar's death.
Aral Vorkosigan's rule
During the Regency several major reforms were made. The Ministry of Political Education, which was destroyed by riots orchestrated by Emperor Ezar and Prime Minister Count Vortala, was never reconstituted: the majority of its functions was attributed to the Imperial Security. After the Vordarian's death, the military was reformed, between the late 2901 and late 2903, being transformed from three separate services (and Imperial Security) to an unified service: the various branches did retain no longer their own autonomy. The military reform was intended to ensure an higher level of control over the military hierarchy. However, the unification did not enter in force immediately, also because another brief but harsh space war against Cetagandans, which occurred between 2903 and 2904. The Third Cetagandan War was a Cetagandan aggression war, intended to be coincided with both Vordarian's coup and the Komarran Revolt. However, the Cetagandan attack was delayed after the crushing of the Vordarian's rebellion. The war was won by Barrayar, although it confirmed a stalemate between the two Powers. The first Aral Vorkosigan cabinet was dominated by Ezarian military figures, with the participation of the most prominent Ministers in charge during the reign of Ezar Vorbarra. However, with the stabilization of the social change, military participation declined and interested only the "military" ministries. Count Vortala was Prime Minister until 2916, while Quintillan, Minister of the Interior, was in charge until 2926, when he died in a flyer accident.
In 2904 the Komarran Revolt erupted: it was a conflict between Barrayar and conquered Komarran people, that lasted roughly two years in its official forms, ending in 2906 in its harshest episodes, although terrorist activity occurred both before and well after the official Revolt.
In the early years of the Regency, a major political reform was launched to simplify the transfer of vows of allegiance from one Count to another. This encouraged internal mobility and forced Counts to compete with each other in the improvement of services offered to subjects in order to attract them. Far beyond this success, in following years Aral Vorkosigan was able to liberalize the movement within the Empire; in order to further attract new, loyal and qualified immigration, Barrayar signed and ratified numerous interstellar treaties against slavery and in favour of fleeing slaves. This conducted to a substantial immigrants flow, especially towards Komarr, but also towards Barrayar, where they were sent in the Southern Continent, as well as towards Sergyar, the planet discovered just prior the
The Vorkosigan Regency, although successful and capable to modernize Barrayar, was not able to start a social equalization process: the Vorkosigan proposal for a direct tax on inheritances, which would have primarily affected Vors' finances and supremacy, was a reason of opposition and of support for Vordarian, above all for old Counts. After the defeat of Vordarian Pretendership, the proposal was not renewed.
However, the major political result of the Vorkosigan Regency was the spreading of some galactic values within the upper class, although the previous generation, still holding the large majority of the seats at the Council of Counts and other powerful positions, staunchly opposed to them. The leader, front man and most authoritative and influential figure of the newly formed Conservative Party was Lord Regent's father, Count General Pjotr Vorkosigan. During the Regency, the military began to lose the cultural prominence they had during Ezar's reign, although they still did retain influential political and cultural positions: moreover, the military top ranks began to be accessible to non-Vor people, a trend which would not be ended: the most significant example of this renovation was the opening, in 2911, of the Imperial Military Academy to proeles and plebes.
Aral Vorkosigan was also able to control economic modernization, and under his Regency famines were totally ended for the first time on Barrayar: remote areas suffered starvation every winter until mid 2910s.
In the late Regency, a further military reform was made, establishing Imperial Service Women's Auxiliary, formally founded in 2919, and allowing Komarrans to join Imperial Service, starting from 2921: Komarr Integration Plan allowed Komarrans into upper government and the Imperial Service. Between 2911 and 2916 the Sergyaran ailment known as worm plague erupted, causing several deaths and putting in jeopardy the very future of the new colony: the presence of these "worms" under a person's skin caused severe bloating. In the initial years of the outbreak, the planet was closed to new colonists. At first, victims were treated surgically, but later, an effective oral vermicide was developed, allowing the planet to be re-opened to colonization.
After serving as Regent of Barrayar, in 2916 Lord Vorkosigan turned over peacefully the Imperium to Emperor Gregor Vorbarra. Subsequently, after the defeat of Count Count Vordrozda and Admiral Hessman's conspiracy and the calming down of "Vorkosiganist" sectors of the Imperial Service which were favourable to a coup attempt, Aral Vorkosigan was appointed Prime Minister of Barrayar and thus still held a prominent role in imperial politics, particularly until 2921, although he alternated in office as Prime Minister with the Count Vortala, his close ally since the very last years of the Emperor Ezar's reign. In 2929 he retired from this position after suffering a near-fatal heart attack occurred and later in the year was appointed the Viceroy of Sergyar, a newly settled world that was most recent addition to the Barrayaran empire. Aral appointed his son Miles as his heir during Council of Counts voting sessions of 2918. During his early tenure as Prime Minister, Aral's father, General Count Pjotr Vorkosigan died, thus making Aral Count Vorkosigan in 2918.
In 2921 the Empire broke its diplomatic isolation, lasting since the failed invasion of Escobar, and signed the Alliance of Hagen Hub, a military alliance with Pol, Aslund and Vervain against the Cetagandan Empire. Since that year, Barrayar started to reconstruct diplomatic and interstellar ties with the other near regional powers of the Nexus. The reconstruction of diplomatic ties was accompanied by a strengthening of military, and especially space fleet: in 2920 the massive dreadnought then "Prince Serg" (later "HMS Prince Serg") was launched and began her service in the following year. Since early 2920s the Empire started long and lasting military cruises, in order to "show the colours" and to prepare military escorts provided to Komarran merchant convoys and fleets.
From Independent Counts to the aftermaths of Vorkosigan's Regency
Within a little less than a century, the Barrayaran institutional system changed deeply: from a proper feudal polity to a modern centralized and a bit impersonal state, although with oath and fealty ties and bounds. The Barrayaran feudal reality was, as for its Earth counterpart, an institution-wide violation of standing mores and feudal rules: thus, enforcing feudal laws on an eye-for-an-eye basis have would quickly resulted in a ruling population of blind men. The treacherous behaviours were compensated by the element of mercy and pardon.
This mercy and the pardon present in the Vor honour system, which is the backbone of Barrayaran polity, was removed by both Dorca and Ezar Vorbarra: during Independent Counts age, a Lord could rise up in arms against his own father, and still hope in the father's mercy and pardon. Aral Vorkosigan continued Dorca's and Ezar's lack of forgiveness policies, and this both outraged and enraged his fellow High Vor lords and concurred to make them rising up in arms, supporting the Vordarian Pretendership.
This feature is the essential basis for an authoritarian state, and the merciless treatment was enforced by the coming up Gregor Vorbarra's rule.
If Vor honour and fealty system was weakened by both the Emperors and the Regent, the balance of power under Yuri's and Ezar's rule was very different from that during Aral Vorkosigan's Regency. Yuri's and Ezar's Barrayar were mere police states, with the civilian secret police had an huge amount of power, while the Counts had no power independent from the Emperor's, and were a weak and disorganized faction. At the end of the long Ezar's reign, the Counts were completely cowed to Emperor's will, while the Minister Grishnov had enough power to impose his own surveillance to every military command and to launch multiple assassination attempts on Vor elite, with the military Imperial Security being a minor agency. The Aral Vorkosigan's Regency was marked by the full resurgence of Vor prominence. Again, Emperor Gregor continued Aral Vorkosigan's policies, and let the Counts guard jealously their power, regained a generation before.
These "new Vors" are therefore powerful figures in a merciless polity: they retain a consistent amount of power, but they are no more permitted to pursue their own interests against Law and, overall, Imperial interests.
Emperor Gregor's early rule
In 2929 the Former-Lord Regent Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan stepped down from the Prime Ministership for serious health reasons, although his political near absolute rule actually had ended in 2921, following the complete Gregor's accession to power. However, Aral Vorkosigan left aside several high ranking officials and military officers who shared the Vorkosigan's strategic opinions and views. After Aral Vorkosigan's retirement, Emperor Gregor appointed in 2930 as new Prime Minister the famed retired General Alexandr Racozy, a fair and staunch moderate, although in some ways opposed to Aral Vorkosigan. Prime Minister Racozy lasted in office until early months of 2945. After Racozy's retirement, Emperor Gregor did not appoint a Prime Minister until 2967, in a completely changed political context.
One of the first acts signed by the Gregor's new deal was designed in order to return to Komarran shareholders some local government powers. At the end of 2929, Emperor Gregor signed the "Komarran traditions local government act", which resulted in lowering tensions and Komarran nationalist wishes, whose last backlashes were in mid 2930s.
In 2931 Gregor Vorbarra married Laisa Toscane, a member of a prominent Komarran family, and their first son, Serg Vorbarra, was born two years later. During the 2930s several changes happened into Barrayaran political elite, such as some new, progressive and Gregor-partisans Counts rising to power: from Counts Vorrutyer and Vorbretten, in 2931, to other Counts spread over the decade. In late 2940, Count Admiral, Former Lord Regent of Barrayar, Former Prime Minister of the Empire and Viceroy of Sergyar Aral Vorkosigan died in his sleep of a brain aneurysm.
In 2946 a major crisis invested the Cetagandan Empire, threatening the existence itself of the Empire: because Barrayar would be far more threatened by relatively small independent haut-ruled States than by the whole Empire, Imperial Service, and most notably Imperial Security, co-operated extensively with Cetagandan loyalist forces, being able to defeat haut-separatists for the second time after the 2933 Barrayaran-Cetagandan crisis. This led to a détente between the Empire of Barrayar and the huge Cetagandan Empire, which flowed into a non-aggression treaty, the "Prince Serg Agreements" after the ship where the treaties were signed.
In 2950 Crown Prince Serg was admitted at the Imperial Military Academy at the age of 17, with a starting score of 94/100. Three years later he was commissioned Ensign, as weapons officer aboard the battleship HMS Prince Serg, assigned to a long range diplomatic cruise, finished only in the late 2955. The diplomatic cruise allowed the Crown Prince to develop the basic diplomatic skills, as well as make friends with Ensign Dredd, the future Chief of Imperial Security, at the time in charge of Service Security on board.
Starting from the late 2940s, the Barrayaran society progressively came into a major change, due to the gradual spread of the progressive and "galactic" social values, originating by the Countess Cordelia Vorkosigan's policies and the Emperor Gregor's aptitudes: the female part of society started to request some forms of emancipation, while the traditionalist resistance was weakened and fought by slow but constant admission of Komarran officials into the government, who brought less traditional social values and government practices; at the same time, a moderate democratic movement, composed of bourgeois and business men rose up in major cities, aspiring to gain a census-based oligarchy, like Komarr. Several moderately Progressive or "Cordelist" Counts succeeded in the decade and gained the Seats at the Council of Counts.
At first time Emperor Gregor did not take any measure to fight or even contrast these political and social movements: not only he did not discourage them, but also between 2951 and 2955 opened five excellency social studies centres and invited several Betan professors, to further spread democratic and progressive values, appointing Count Miles Vorkosigan as Chairman of Modernization Committee. These initiatives encountered staunch resistance, although not open opposition, by the weak Conservative Party in the Council of Counts. The pace of modernization continued its way to the end of the Fifties: in the decade continued and increased demands of the democratic movements, ranging from "Union for Constitutional Monarchy" to "Proletarian League". The population knew, starting from the 2950s, an impetuous growth, favoured by several factors: the abundance of space, the nearly-total safety of the pregnancy, a steady immigration flow and by a further lengthening of life expectancy. All areas within the Empire of Barrayar enjoyed of this situation.
Between 2959 and 2963 Pol came under a major political change, which led to a transition from a parliamentary republic to a presidential system. In order to calm down the protesters, a Polian military faction started suddenly an aggression war on Komarr, quickly rejected. The unexpected defeat led to another turning point into Polian political system, confirming the newly established presidential republic. The Peace Treaty was signed in 2962, renewing the military cooperation between Pol and Barrayar.
Gregor's late rule
In 2963 a severe financial crisis broke out, caused by excessive speculation by "enlightened" Barrayaran-Komarran oligarchy, which led to a drastic reduction of the welfare state. Protests erupted violently in 2966, causing hundreds of deaths. The political situation was becoming more unstable, as the movements of popular protest on Barrayar connected to popular movements on Komarr, demanding major large policy reforms and even a federal republic, but not independence, due to the strong social end economic connections between the three planets. On Sergyar, only a weak protest erupted, quickly destroyed by the Imperial Service, also due to the massive energies employed into terraforming and colonization. Under feminist pressure, plans were made to admit women in the Barrayaran civil service by 2969, and in the military by the 2975, while first plans were made to introduce local democratic elections by 2985.
The climate of severe political instability led to a progressive faction of the military to plan, in the beginning of 2967, a military coup to proclaim the republic: the conspiracy was discovered and destroyed by Imperial Security, who also took the opportunity to reduce to powerlessness the reactionary military faction.
In the late 2967 the first heart attack occurred to Emperor Gregor, who shortly after decided to start to train his 34 years-old first-born, Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra, to rule an Empire, allowing him to openly intervene in planetary politics and policies.
In 2969 protests and riots became increasingly violent, especially in the southern continent. There, the settlers demanded democracy and public funding, which were flatly rejected. In the second half of 2969, a group of criminals and political opponents fled to the Black Mountains and proclaimed a «Socialist and Egalitarian Republic», demanding democracy, demilitarization, republic, nationalization of industries, the abolition of Counts and the persecution of the Vors. The Imperial Service strongly intervened, beginning a bloody counter-insurgency operation, defeating the rebels in two years. In the campaign were also deployed the Imperial Rangers, under the command of Colonel Lord Vortaine.
Prince Serg rises to power
The shock caused to the middle class and bourgeois allowed Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra, appointed in 2970 as Prime Minister, to lead a political restoration between the late 2960s and early 2970s, reducing the financial power of the oligarchy of both planets, providing a limited empowerment of women but shrinking the welfare state to traditional families. Between 2973 and 2975 the centres of social studies established twenty-five years before were closed and the Betan professors repatriated, despite of the staunch opposition by the Progressive Counts, led by Count Miles Vorkosigan: the Betan professors were followed by a relatively small flow of indigenous progressives. The Progressive Party of the Council of Counts had to digest this measure because of the threat posed by the rapid spread of subversive ideals among the people, which were thwarted by an organized propaganda and by a more spread censorship. In 2976, at the age of 43, Crown Prince resigned as Prime Minister; Emperor Gregor, his father, did not appoint a new Prime Minister and held up the government directly.
However, Emperor Gregor imposed continuation of opening to galactic qualified immigration, although in 2980 was inserted the criterion of the political reliability due to the still delicate political situation: immigrants from Beta Colony and other democratic planets, like Escobar, have since slipped down the list.
The crisis ends
In order to reassure at the same time the Komarran oligarchy and the High Vor aristocracy, in 2975 Crown Prince Serg and Emperor Gregor jointly planned a marriage policy: the Crown Prince's younger brother, Prince Ivan Vorbarra, between 2976 and 2978 assiduously courted Lady Alys Vortugalov, daughter of a Komarran oligarch and of the younger brother of the Count Vortugalov, a fair moderate, while the Crown Prince in 2976 met and in 2977 married Lady Eloise Vorpatril, heir to a Komarran business dynasty and to a cadet branch of the House Vorpatril, related to Lord Ivan Vorpatril, Emperor Gregor's first cousin. The marriages, although blessed by true love, were determined in order to unite the faction less favourable to the new policies of the Monarch, choosing in that families of medium importance, to remain in a High Vor sphere, choosing in families connected with the Counts, and to open to oligarchs, choosing families related with them.
In 2976 Crown Prince Captain (Naval) Serg Vorbarra was readmitted to the active military service, and was assigned to the battleship HMS Admiral Kanzian, as Chief of Staff in an escort cruise. During the mission he encountered again then-Major Lucas Dredd, in charge for general security duties among the fleet. The two officers were able, working in conjunction with the ImpSec fleet officer, to foil a dangerous mutiny in the cradle, under the astonished Marilac's eyes. When the fleet returned to Barrayar, in the late 2778, congratulations were unanimous, and the consideration of the two officers increased greatly: Major Dredd was promoted to Colonel and transferred to ImpSec, and Captain Vorbarra was assigned to General Staff duties. Following the assignment to the General Staff, his career was as rapid as an Imperial Family member is generally expected: he was promoted to Commodore in 2780, to Rear Admiral in 2984 and to Vice Admiral in 2987.
The Polian War was followed by three decades of relative diplomatic calm, until 2991, when the legitimate Aslund government was overthrown by a military coup d'etat: this led to a diplomatic isolation, inspired by Beta Colony. The military government reacted signing a military co-operation treaty with the Cetagandan Empire, leading to a military crisis to which the Hagen Hub Alliance responded by blocking the Aslundian entrance to Hagen Hub. Eventually, opponents to military government were aided and supported by the other regional powers, and were able to overthrown responsible high ranking officers, receding from the Cetagandan aid. By the very last years of the century, another military reform was made, between 2998 and 3000.
A period of relative calm and diplomatic détente followed the Aslund Crisis. Since them, there have not been major crisis or armed conflicts. The financial power, following the 2960s, has been harnessed in favour of industrial and trade elites, which in turn are more easily controlled by political ruling class.
On Barrayar, the last decades of XXX Century were marked by further integration between the Komarran oligarchy and the Barrayaran aristocracy, with a prevalence of aristocratic values. The two groups have been progressively integrated, especially in the uppermost layer. The integration between the two planets, benefited from the presence of Sergyar and advances in terraforming, reached a good level.
A intergenerational policy: the Komarran integration policy
The Komarr integration scheme is a movement firstly born within the Barrayaran progressive elite, but then spread also in most influential Komarran circles. The ultimate aim of the scheme, which later evolved into a formalized (albeit initially classified) government plan, to transform the relationship between Barrayar and Komarr from a conqueror-conquered one to equal partners of a wider and centralized polity.
The movement was first founded and spearheaded by then-Regent Lord Aral Vorkosigan, during the late period of his regency. This gradual equalization process was adversed by both Barrayaran and Komarran nationalist factions, as well as by some independent circle not fully convinced of the long-range viability. When the Plan became a public policy, the main supporters were to be found among high military ranks (which counted also some Komarran members) and the powerful Vor-Komarran business oligarchy; both supporter factions sought to rationalize resources and/or manpower. The Komarr Integration Plan has been partially adopted also by new Emperor Serg Vorbarra, with some modifications and adjustments. According to most influential scholars, the Plan - 96 years after its development and 50 years after its official adoption - is at a good point, although it is not nearly completed.
A new Emperor
In early 3001, Emperor Gregor fell ill and his condition rapidly declined. The Crown Prince retired from active duty, with the rank of Vice Admiral at the age of 68, to assume informally the role of Regent. The seventh day of the third month Emperor Gregor died and Emperor Serg ascended to the throne the next day.
In the three-planet Empire common society and culture are slowly emerging, produced by the mutual contamination, although still only within the upper class: military service is increasingly common and well-considered also on Komarr, while the Barrayaran status of women is beginning to develop in a major role recognized to women and to Barrayaran widow mothers. However, this change, alongside the development and integration of new, minor ethnic communities, is slowing becoming to be able to affect political equilibrium and stability. In this scenario, although the population growth has slowly declined since late 2980s, it still remains significant.
On Komarr, troop levels are quite down from the early years, and active Komarran resistance is very low and fairly rejected by the large majority of population. However there are still areas - both areas in domes and whole domes - where the Barrayaran presence is suffered (most because it is the face of the repressive power), and keeping secure and safe Komarran space system is still a strategic goal for the Imperium, and around the planet are garrisoned about two thirds quarters of Imperial Service, plus several military jump-stations located in the system. The Komarr Terraforming Project had in 2999 the first of its planned turning points, achieving the spontaneous growth of some grass species in the warmest areas.
Barrayar is experiencing a renewed dynamic phase in the Nexus politics, and its foreign policy is oriented towards the creation of a solid net of alliances able to defeat or prevent destabilization efforts carried out by foreign democracies. especially during a adjustment phase of its political life; internally, alongside major calls for government reforms, a new middle class is slowly emerging, and it is bringing calls for a more opened and individual-oriented participation system, albeit the official ideology is still strongly anti-individualistic, anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian. In major industrial centres, on all three planets, labour organizations are slowly being integrated within the grassroot para-democracy system.