Eric Flint: Grantville Gazette.Volume XIII

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Grantville Gazette.Volume XIII: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Now, Judith was looking a little cross-eyed. "How does Argentina figure into this?"

Melissa flashed her a smile. "History's a comparative science, insofar as it's a 'science' at all. It's like a lot of biological study, or even some aspects of astronomy. You can hardly do 'controlled experiments' on history, anymore than you can on the evolution of dinosaurs and trilobites-or stars on the main sequence. Right? So, what you do instead is study the material by comparing it with similar phenomena."

She shrugged. "Of course, that's a lot easier to do with astronomy and even biology than it is with history. Stars are simple things, compared to human societies, and there are trillions of them to compare to each other and against a vastly longer time frame. Still, the principle's the same."

Again, she flashed that quick smile. "So, that's what Poland and the antebellum South and Argentina have in common. In all three cases, societies that started out with lots and lots of potential got crippled by the greed of their elite, and their fixation on a single crop. Most people don't realize it-Americans, anyway-because they think of Argentina as a 'third world' country. But in the late nineteenth century, it wasn't. Measured by almost any important social or economic indices, Argentina was more advanced than most countries in southern Europe. Then, especially during World War I when the price of beef went through the roof, Argentina's upper crust locked the country into monoculture-just like the Poles did with grain in this century and the American slaveowners would do with cotton in the nineteenth. The specifics varied a lot, naturally, but they all resulted in stagnation-and a political structure where an elite of not more than ten percent of the population lorded it over everybody else."

She leaned back in the couch. "So that's it. In our timeline, Poland was hamstrung for centuries, and since it's the center of gravity in eastern Europe it more or less pulled half the continent down with it. Not without lots of help from the Austrian Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns in Prussia, of course, who were no prizes themselves."

Morris had never stopped frowning. "I'd think Russia was more in the way of eastern Europe's 'center of gravity.'"

"Actually, no. Not yet, I should say. There's a misconception among Americans, mostly because of the Cold War, that Russia was always the aggressor against Poland. But here in the early seventeenth century-and for at least two centuries earlier-it's actually the Poles and Lithuanians who've been seizing their neighbors' lands. Besides, it's something of a moot point anyway. I don't see where there's much you or me or anyone could do in October of 1634 to start turning around that mess called 'Russia.'"

Morris grimaced. "Well, thank God for small favors. I've got enough to deal with as it is. Especially since you seem bound and determined to plop Poland into my lap too, right after Wallenstein and Pappenheim dropped everything south of there."

"Sorry, Morris, but there's no way around it. In the long run, nothing you accomplish here or in the Ruthenian lands will be stable if you-or somebody-doesn't transform Poland. Poland and Lithuania, I should say."

Morris finally took a seat himself, looking very tired. "Talk about the labors of Hercules," he muttered.

Melissa started to say something, but Judith interrupted. "You said there were three factors. What's the third one?"

"Huh? Oh. It's implicit in what I just said. Their protestations of always being the victim of history notwithstanding, the fact is that in this time period it's usually the Poles who are aggressing against their neighbors. So, on top of their existing problems, they added the third one that so-called 'Poland' was never coterminous with where Poles actually lived-until Stalin came along. To get back to the monster I started with."

Again, she started counting off her fingers. "First, he destroyed the szlachta. They'd officially been abolished after World War II, but they still had a lot of power. He destroyed them literally, in some cases. A big percentage of the fifteen thousand Polish officers he had massacred in Katyn Forest were noblemen. Mostly, though, he simply destroyed them as a class by expropriating their property. Secondly, he ended serfdom. Brutally, of course, the way he did everything. And stupidly too, in the long run. But, say whatever else you will about his forced collectivization of agriculture, one of the products was the elimination of serfdom. And, finally, for the first time in centuries, he made Poland's boundaries coincide with the actual lands of the Poles. The Poland we knew in the post-World War II period was something like ninety-seven percent ethnically homogenous, which it had certainly never been prior to that. That's the reason that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, nobody actually proposed to change any of the national boundaries Stalin created. Not Poland's, anyway."

Morris wiped his face. "Wonderful. Stalin as my role model."

"Oh, cut it out, Morris," said Melissa impatiently. "I was simply pointing to what Stalin did, not how he did it. Creating a modern Poland-forestalling its decline, I should say, which has only started-can be done by other means, too. It certainly should be. But the prerequisite is that you stop thinking of 'role models' in the first place."

"Meaning…?"

"Forget Hercules and his labors. Meaning no offense, Morris Roth, but you bear as much resemblance to Hercules-or Stalin-as I do to the man in the moon."

"Just what I tried to explain to Wallenstein and Pappenheim!"

"So quit thinking in those terms altogether. The one thing eastern Europe does not need is another damn overlord. Instead, approach the problem like a political organizer. You don't really do anything. You just organize other people to do it."

"Like who? And to do what?" He looked a bit sullen, and more than a bit like a twelve-year-old.

"Stop pouting, Morris," said his wife. "I can figure that much out, and so can you."

She started emulating Melissa's finger-counting. "First, get some people who know something about military affairs, which you don't. Whatever else, you'll need a real army, and you can't call on Pappenheim. He's tied up facing the Austrians to the south and the Saxons to the north, which is the reason Wallenstein handed you the assignment in the first place. Failing anything else, hire somebody. You're rich enough, these days. Europe's got plenty of mercenary officers, many of whom are quite good and some of whom are even loyal to their employer."

Another finger got wiggled. "Second, the Jewish so-called problem runs all through the area. That, you can handle directly insofar as politics goes. But you really need to get a lot of rabbis on your side to handle the rest of it."

She gave him a cool smile. "You do know some rabbis, right? I'd recommend starting with Mordecai Levi and Isaac Gans. And Jason, for that matter, and his fellow students."

She went back to finger-counting. "Third, get the Brethren involved. Fourth-whatever else you do-make sure Red Sybolt's involved."

The thumb got wiggled now. "Fifth-maybe this should actually be first-establish contact with some Polish radicals."

She gave Melissa a querying glance. "I assume there are some in the here and now, yes?"

Melissa made a face. "Hell, my knowledge of Polish history is only general, it doesn't run to details like that. But… I'd say there pretty much have to be. Poland produced almost as many radicals and revolutionaries over the centuries as it did grain and layabout noblemen. For that matter, the nobility itself produced a fair number of them. Remember Count Casimir Pulaski, in the American revolution?"

James looked startled. "Is that who Pulaski Boulevard in Chicago is named after?"

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