The cartography, writing, and ramblings of one crazy winter lover who likes to blog about the fun and inconsequential.

In At the Death

Full size here.

What started as a simple map turned into a one-month slog...anyway, here it is.

The world this map takes place in diverges from our own on August 6, 1914, at the siege of Liege in Belgium. There, rather than escape unharmed from the fighting, Erich Ludendorff is hit by stray shrapnel, wounding him and forcing him to move away from Liege and to a field hospital, where the wound ultimately becomes infected and forces an amputation, resulting in Ludendorff's effective retirement from field command. Meanwhile, in the East, the Russian armies invading East Prussia are met with mixed resistance. In particular, while General von Francois makes great progress against the Russians, his aggressive attacks cause him to outrun his supply lines, leading his army to an ultimate defeat when the combined Russian armies encircle and destroy von Francois' army. It is from this point on that Germany is truly on the defensive, and will remain so for the rest of the war.

German troops are rushed from the Western Front, essentially halting the advance to Paris under the Schlieffen Plan, and forcing the Germans to dig in to their positions in France early. This allows for the greater reinforcement of French and British soldiers on the western front, who begin to pour in and prepare assaults on the German lines. Meanwhile, in the east, Russian soldiers begin arriving in earnest, as a Russian army under General Samsonov takes Konigsberg while another, under General Paul von Rennenkampf, takes Danzig, allowing the Russian Navy a vital sea port. Without disastrous defeats on the Eastern Front, the Russian economy kicks into a wartime frenzy, beginning to produce mass amounts of goods in quantities unseen in Europe. Despite massive hiccups due to leadership, the Russian war machine carries on, swiftly invading Austrian Galicia and holding back against German counterattacks.

Heavy resistance by German soldiers in the west causes British and French soldiers and politicians to take a greater dislike to the German menace, as more lives are lost attempting to make a breakout and split Germany in two with help from their Russian allies. However, much of 1915 in the west, as well as early 1916, is spent bogged down in France and Belgium, though with considerably more land in Allied hands than in our world. However, by late 1916 and through 1917, the German defenses falter as the collapse of Austria-Hungary and Russian victories in eastern Germany allow French and British soldiers to overwhelm German defenses. Casualties are high among allied soldiers, with crossing the Rhine costing the French and British nearly 150,000 men in a single month, but the Allied powers, determined to take down Germany now at all cost, continue to advance.

The only victories that last in this stage of the war come from General Paul von Hindenberg, who, against all odds, manages to hold Seelow Heights against repeated Russian assaults in late 1917, keeping the Russians out of Berlin for good. The Russians, instead, are forced to focus on taking more of Austria-Hungary, whatever is left by then, and focusing on Prussian Poland. Meanwhile, the Western Allies reach the Ruhr Valley in late 1917, bleeding all the way there, and it is there that the war will eventually end, on December 8, 1917. The so-called "Christmas Truce" is established due to Allied exhaustion at grinding down the German war machine, and at German exhaustion of fighting an essentially unwinnable conflict for 3 years, much to their despair. Reluctantly, Germany surrenders to Russia, Great Britain, and France.

The peace made afterwards, signed in Cologne, is a harsh one to Germany. Rather than allow a German state to continue existing, out of fear that they would one day rise again, the Allied powers ultimately decide to split Germany between themselves, based on their own ambitions and not the will of the German people.

Prussia, and many of the smaller states in norther Germany, are formed into a new Kingdom of Prussia, minus territory taken by France, Belgium, and Russia. Despite the name, the King of Prussia has very little power over the nation, with much of the power going to the (more liberally-aligned) Landtag, the Prussian Legislature. It is done so the Landtag, and Landtag President, will generally toe the line of the British and French due to much of the country's leftist leanings, particularly in the industrial areas of West Prussia after the war, which left many Prussians thoroughly agitated against war and conservatism. The only real conservative position of power is that of Chancellor, appointed by the king, which was only gained by a loophole in the system. Paul von Hindenberg becomes the new kingdom's first Chancellor, though knows well enough to avoid war for the time after the Great War.

Meanwhile, the other German states are split up in various ways. While Prussia ultimately becomes a product of British desire to control a powerful German state, the southern, smaller German states fall under French influence, who do not wish for Germans to have any real power. Their only consolidation to the southern Germans is the artificial South German Confederation, made up of the Kingdom of Bavaria, Kingdom of Hesse, Kingdom of Wurttemberg, and Grand Duchy of Baden. Though intended to be a fair and open confederation of German nations, the French intentions fall flat when Bavaria grabs all the real power in the Confederation, moving the capital from Stuttgart to Munich and paying only lip service to the French while plotting to move away from the French and Prussians both, and more toward their own path.

The remaining two German states, Thuringia and Saxony, are unfortunately forced to become nations of their own, due to an unwillingness by any of the Allied powers to let them join either major power. Both nations will ultimately stabilize, with Thuringia focusing on light manufacturing and agriculture and Saxony putting its money towards heavy industry and manufacturing, but the early years are full of tumult, strife, and violence. Also in the French sphere are Austria and Bohemia, two nations carved out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that nonetheless managed to have ridden out the war in relative ease, and thus became the richest Central European states until well into the 1920s.

In the east, Russia took from Prussia the provinces of West Prussia and Posen, stripping Prussia of its Polish territories, and took Galicia from the dead Austro-Hungarian Empire. Unlike Britain and France, who sought to establish a series of puppet states in Central Europe, Russia annexed the territory outright, growing Congress Poland and creating a new Duchy of Galicia to fit within the Russian Empire. Though, Russia was not completely above creating puppet states, as Russia supports the new Kingdom of Hungary, funneling them money to rebuild from the war and weapons to rearm and fight off the hungry Serbs, Romanians, Austrians, and Slovaks who wanted to carve up Hungary after the war. To the south, Serbia manages to establish its Kingdom of Yugoslavia under Russian guidance, further projecting Russian power. With Russian ships able to dock freely in Danzig, Istanbul (following a favorable alliance with the new Republic of Turkey), and Trieste, Russian naval and economic power can be projected deep into Europe.

It is the dichotomy of Russia's slice of postwar Europe and the slice of the Western European powers that creates what can only be described as an early Cold War between the great world powers. Russia, in the east, had the advantage of a roaring wartime economy that carried over into peacetime with a rise of high-wage jobs and consumerism in Tsarist Russia, staving off any real chance of revolution. Britain and France, meanwhile, grew their Entente to include many of the new Central European states to offset Russian power, and began to rely more heavily on the development of their overseas colonies to balance the power on the European continent.

The year is now 1941, and the Cold War rages on as it has for the past 24 years. Both sides continue to both wearily arm themselves for the next Great War while simultaneously praying that there is not another, as one between the greatest alliances in the world would surely doom Europe. The United States stands away from Britain and France across its vast ocean, forcing the Western Powers to continually consolidate their power and rely on their German "allies" for help. This reliance, however, has begun to enable the rise of the German people once more to the world stage.

Far from the chaotic and poverty-stricken postwar years, the powerful German states, particularly Prussia and the South German Confederation, have rebuilt their economies and war machines, enough that they are well within power to seek autonomy. Prussia in particular has seen its devastated lands rebuilt, and once more challenges the rest of Europe for industrial supremacy. Despite the continued dominance of western, working class Prussians in the Landtag, Prussian politics in general have shifted more in favor of autonomy from the Entente, and seeking their own future. The eastern Prussians in particular watch the border wearily and believe that choosing to stand with Britain and France, the declining imperial powers, may not be the best idea.

Meanwhile, the other Central European states, aflush with money from both sides, has helped make the region one of the richest in Europe, if also the most heavily-armed. Hungary and Yugoslavia stand as powerful examples of Russian consumerism turned to massive amounts of cash for the once-struggling countries. Even smaller nations such as Austria and Romania have significant armed forces as a result of their richer benefactors. While it is certainly a period of prosperity, the price of the prolonged growth has begun to stack up.

For now, the world rests in peace, but few doubt that it can last forever. Chinese insurrections in Manchuria threaten to reignite hostilities there, the British Raj pines for Independence, French colonies are often in open rebellion, and the Russian economy has begun to rapidly outpace France and Britain both, approaching USA levels of power. It is both a time of growth and prosperity and a time of fear and worry, about a looming disaster just over the horizon. It is a time that has lasted for 27 years, but one that no one believes can last forever.


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