Friday, 8 April 2016

Syldavia and Borduria in the 18th century

History tells us that Syldavia resisted the Ottoman yoke in the Middle Ages and, apart from a period when it fell under Bordurian rule, remained an independent kingdom. What it does not say is that both Syldavia and Borduria were both effectively dominated by the Sublime Porte, with Borduria being directly ruled by Phanariot Greek Hospodars and the Syldavian Royal House paying tribute to remain a semi-separate vassal state.

Despite this subordinate status, Syldavia was able to form a trading relationship across the Adriatic with Venice and there was significant Venetian influence at court. Nothing much changed until the later years of the 17th century, following the 1683 Siege of Vienna and the subsequent Ottoman withdrawal.

After the Second Battle of Mohács in 1687, Syldavia was freed from Ottoman rule and the current head of the House of Almaszout, King Muskar V (1662-1731) forged a new alliance with the Austrian Habsburgs and Habsburg influence gradually replaced that of the Venetians across the country. The Syldavian infantry were reorganised along Habsburg lines in the first decades of the 18th century, with the Austrian Graf von Seltzer, appointed Captain-General of Syldavia in 1699 playing a key role.

Muskar V was succeeded by his grandson Ottokar IX (1715-1776) on his death. Until he came of age in 1735, Syldavia was ruled by the Queen Dowager Elizabeth Augusta and her favourite Count Sszsenyhawkz. Ottokar married the French princess Octavie de Bourbon in 1734.  The de Bourbon Dragoon regiment is named after her, and they are a distinctive sight in their pale brown and sky blue French-style uniforms. French and Austrian influence held sway throughout the 18th century.

Syldavia, as a border kingdom, soon began to attract soldiers of fortune and some of these achieved wealth and fame in the service of the Black Pelican. Ercole di Grissini, a political exile from the Papal States fought several campaigns along the Military Border with Borduria in the 1750s and 60s, eventually being granted estates in the region of the town of Splitz in 1771. Fifty-one years later, a grand-daughter of his, Lucrezia di Grissini became Queen of Syldavia when she married Crown Prince Johannes, who became king in 1822.

The most famous Syldavian soldier of fortune of this period was probably Wilhelm Tischdecke, who claimed to be an illegitimate son of Frederick Augustus II, the Elector of Saxony, but was in reality the son of a humble pastry chef from Linz. Tischdecke enlisted in a Syldavian Pandur regiment in 1747 when he was 18 years old. Within three years he had been promoted to sergeant and two years after that became a lieutenant and by the age of 26, captain and commander of the regimental jäger company. Shortly afterwards, He transferred to the fashionable Strelec Regiment of Jägers, which was based in the city of Klow. His dashing good looks and almost insane bravery brought him to the attention of Marie Sophie von Sprudel, the daughter of General Graf von Sprudel, the Commandant of the Royal Life Brigade, and before long he found himself promoted to Major in the Royal Jäger regiment. Being both cunning and politically alert, Tischdecke soon managed to become Colonel of the regiment, following the disgrace of the previous colonel, who was found in fragrante delicto with the wife of the Ritter von Sportz, the cousin of Queen Octavie. Military glory followed at the Third Battle of Lake Pollishoff in 1762, when the Syldavian army defeated a much larger Bordurian one, largely due to Tischdecke, who took command of the Life Guards Brigade following the battlefield death of Graf von Sprudel and led a counter-attack that routed the Bordurian centre.

Tischdecke, created Margraf von Schornstein-Aufsatz, was given permanent command of the Life Guards and later became Inspector of Light Troops and finally Marshal of Syldavia in 1778. His later victories included the Battle of Treppenteppich in 1774, where he routed a combined Bordurian and Ottoman invasion force and the Relief of Gepäckträger, a border city which was under siege from the Bordurians. Wilhelm Tischdecke died in 1811, aged 82, the richest man in the kingdom and bearer of the title of Saviour of the Nation.

Borduria was freed from Ottoman control after the Battle of Zenta in 1697 when the Ottoman garrisons fled and the Phanariot Hospodar Demetrios Mavrocordatos was deposed. The following interregnum ended in 1705 when the Duma (formerly the Divan) elected Constantine Cantacuzene (1672-1747), Boyar of Kardouk, as Voivode of Szohôd, effectively the ruler of the whole country. After a short campaign against the boyars of southern Borduria, Cantacuzene assumed the title of Autocrat of the Bordurian Realm in addition to his existing titles. He abolished the Duma and replaced it with a council of appointed boyars, known as the Samovar.

Borduria looked northwards and eastwards for protection. The rising power of the Kingdom of Prussia attracted the Autocrat, but he also sought alliances with the Tsar of Russia. Constantine's son, Constantine II (1714-1798) married a minor Hohenzollen margravine, Anne-Sophie von Schtupp in 1742. Constantine succeeded his father in 1747. Prussian and Russian influences continued to struggle to dominate at the Bordurian court but Constantine II was a wily politician and neither side managed to gain dominance.

With a largely Orthodox Slavic population, Borduria naturally looked eastwards but Constantine was enamoured with the military prowess of Frederick the Great and appointed August Wilhelm von Schmodt, Landgraf of Blotten-Papen as Grand Marshal of Borduria in 1750. As a counter balance, he also appointed a Russian nobleman, Baron Fyodor Tchestikov as his Master of Horse.

Another famous Bordurian military leader was the Flemish soldier of fortune Frans Schtroumpf. He led a volunteer Hussar regiment named after him. They wear blue and white uniforms.

Although there is a strong Prussian influence on the Bordurian military, there is still a lingering influence from the days of the Ottomans, mainly seen in the use of light lancers in the cavalry and in certain military terms. Infantry are still known as Sekban in the south of the country, a common slang name for the artillery is the Topcu and irregular forces are generally known as Bashi-Bazouks. These last often present a distinctly Ottoman appearance in their dress.


  1. Ah, good old Tchestikov. I believe he was related to the Dreykov, Kronikov Tykelikov and Produktikov families.

    I really do look forward to seeing the Schtroumpfhusaren in full dress uniform!

    Regrettably the von Schmodt regiment (for surely such a one exists) are unlikely to be quite so well turned-out.

    1. Ah, but what about the Modisch Grenadiers?

    2. I can just imagine the regimental march: left hand on hip, pelvis thrust forward ... "By the left, quiiiiiiick STRUT!"

      I feel there should also be some Karajanabiniere somewhere amongst the Horse, renowned for their mounted band of course.

    3. Not sure I want to paint up a mounted band, but I will be doing some dragoons from the De Bourbon regiment, in their brown uniforms.