Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cultures and Ethnicities of the Alkonost Sector

The vast majority of the people who settled the Alkonost Sector came from two origins - intellectuals from southern Russia and the Caucasus, as well from North America, who were dissatisfied with the Mandate's growing cultural and political stagnation back on Earth, and the Neo-Canaanite Revival Movement arising from the deconstruction, and then re-construction, of nationality and religion in Earth's Middle East. The only worlds in the sector settled by the main-stream Mandate culture are Incunablis and Imprimatur, Incunablis being the second oldest colony in the sector after Alkonost itself.

Socio-Cultural History
The people who settled the Coreward-Trailing part of the sector were mostly middle- and upper-class Russians, Georgians and Armenians, typically coming from the intelligentsia, as well as some North American intellectuals. The political, cultural and intellectual atmosphere in 24th century Mandate-member Russia and America was stifling at best, with growing surveillance of the individual and a great pressure to conform. Those who wanted a freer and more creative atmosphere migrated to the new colonies in Alkonost and settled on new worlds, away from the Mandate's conformist atmosphere. There they set up universities and artist colonists, the most famous of which was the Psychic Academy on Chernobog.

Under Terran Mandate rule, the old religious and ethnical divides of the Middle East slowly disintegrated, as the region was incorporated into the standardized pan-Terran society. While a small minority stuck to their old faiths and views, for the most part Jerusalem, Neo-Jaffa and Damascus of the 24th century were growing very similar to New York, London and Beijing. Looking for a new way to hold unto some localized shared identity in this age of hyper-globalization, the Neo-Canaanite Revival Movement (NCRM) grew in what were once Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. These cultural dissidents tried to revive a quasi-historic past of Bronze Age Semitic culture and religion, returning to paganism and synthesizing a new Pan-Semitic language out of Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. This kind of culture could grow well only in the colonies, far away from the stiff social structures of Mother Earth; and, soon enough, these Revivalists colonized the Spinward half of the Alkonost Sector.

For a time, these two cultural regions maintained a certain degree of autonomy from the Mandate, especially in the Mandate's waning years when each was a de-facto independent state. But then came the Scream and changed it all. With most of the Sector, with the exception of Incunablis with its A.I. Maltech, regressed to industrial technology at best, the polities shattered, and, as genetic and cultural drift set in, each world had to find its own way.

Aliens also came, riding on the wake of the Scream: the opportunistic Zuziik took over Pazuzu when this world was brought low by the chaos, and since then are up to no good – peddling merchandize in all starports, preying upon graveyard worlds and engaging in piracy when the opportunity arises.

Cultures of the Alkonost Sector
Ironically, Alkonost and the worlds under its influence, once the bastion of a dissident counter-culture, has grown fond of the memories of the days before the Scream, now remembered as comfortable and almost a Golden Age rather than a time of stifling conformity. The Alkonostans are a very formal people, relatively conservative and steeped in pomp and ritual. This culture is even more pronounced on Chernobog, where the Committee on Psionics carries itself as an almost medieval guild of psychics. Industrial Poludnitsa is somewhat less formal, while the military outpost of Novi Murmansk is as disciplined as ever.

Culture in the Alkonost Republic is of mixed Slavic and American origin, though highly influenced by the founding colonists' refined intellectual tastes; fashion, theatre and opera are celebrated and a broad academic education is considered the cornerstone of a healthy person's life. The Alkonostan military values long-service career officers and NCOs and has strict discipline, fancy uniforms and military traditions running in the family.

The Liberated Worlds are almost the cultural opposite of Alkonost – in fact, their (in)famous informality and roughness of character feed into the Alkonostan counter-culture. The Laanese, having spent many years in guerilla fight against the Incunablis A.I. Cores, are close-knit and tend to treat each other as almost family; the years of struggle have also made them enthusiastically political, usually way too political to the Alkonostan taste.

The Laanese, understandably (after having being slaves of the Incunablis A.I.s for long years) have a love-hate relationship with technology in general and digital technology in particular; the Sicariians (who were only recently freed from the A.I.'s grip) are much closer to the "hate" pole of this relationship and many of them tend towards Neo-Luddite believes, much to the dismay of the Miran administration on Laana, which knows how necessary technology is is for reconstruction and re-terraformation.

The New Terran Mandate centered on Kedesh claims to be a legitimate successor-state to the old Mandate, though it shares the same Neo-Canaanite cultural roots, as well as the Pansemitic language, with its rival the Liberated Worlds. However, the Kedeshian culture looks far more favorably on technology and equates its possession with social status; and in term of military pomp this smaller state surpasses even the Alkonostans. While the Kedeshian regime is quite tyrannical, it does enjoy the support of the majority of Kedesh's population, who are overtly jingoistic and nationalistic. The natives of Kedesh's multiple conquered worlds, however, are far less enthusiastic about their conquerors' regime, though open armed resistance exists mostly on Ashera, with Laanese backing.

Ashera and Chemosh, also originating from the Neo-Canaanite Revival movement of 800 years ago, used to share a similar culture, a sleepy backwater mentality with little regard for progress and technology. Ashera, however, is now under the Kedeshian boot; Chemosh, having deposed of its old corrupt regime a few years ago, is torn in a cold war between the Liberated Worlds and the Kedeshian State. This situation has politicized the once-sleepy fellahin (peasants) of these two worlds and pushed them to start paying attention to interstellar affairs.

Languages of the Alkonost Sector
Except for the Incunablis Machine Empire which speaks proper Mandate English, the rest of the Alkonost Sector speaks in dialects of three languages – Pansemitic, a fusion of Hebrew, Arabic and Aramic on the former Neo-Canaanite worlds, Southern Neo-Russian, a Russian dialect heavily influenced by the languages of the Caucasus, on Alkonost and the worlds influenced by it in the past and present, as well as modified American English on Alkonost itself.

Religions of the Alkonost Sector
The two main faiths in the Alkonost Sector are the Reformed Orthodox Christian Church, which is the majority faith on Alkonost and its colonies, and Canaanite Neo-Paganism, which is common on Chemosh, Ashera and, especially, Kedesh and the worlds to the Coreward from them. The much more secular Liberated Worlds also has a sizable congregation of Canaanite Neo-Pagans, though the Laanese are typically far more political than religious. In the Coreward areas, various types of paganism are common, especially of the Canaanite and Neo-Slavic varieties. Smaller faiths include Orthodox Judaism (changed little in the last two millennia), Judeo-Islam (common on Sicarii on Laana) and Egyptian Neo-Paganism (on Osiris, used by the Incunablis A.I. cores for their own ends, as well as on Laana's recent aquisition, Apep).

Genetic Drift
Alkonostans and the people of their colonies have a darker complexion than most Mandate Terra Russians, having come from the Caucasus and southern Russia rather than from the more northern reaches; they also have a hint of Asian characteristics in their looks.

The Laanese have very dark complexion and curled hair due to genetic drift, but their hair is mostly white; Sicariians, Chemoshans and Asherans have lighter complextion and the Kedeshians are the lightest in complexion. The Asherans have symbiotic bacteria in their hair, giving it a green colour, and earnming them the nickname "Weedheads", which also alludes to their (bastly exaggarated) smoting habits. The Laanese are called "Zebras" as a degratory term, especially by their Kedeshian enemies.

Speaking of recreational drugs and other ways to get yourself intoxicated, Asherans and Chemoshans smoke various variants of cannabis and usually drink alcohol very lightly; Laanese drink Arak and Absinthe (by the way, "Laana" means "wormwood" - one of the ingredients of absinthe - in Hebrew); Alkonostans (and Svarians - the people of Svarog) drink Vodka, Whiskey and various kinds of beer; Kedesh is known for its Fire Wines, which could fetch prices up to Cr2,000 per bottle, or even more.

No comments:

Post a Comment