1915 – With massive desertion and retreat along the Eastern Front of WWI, the Tsar begins negotiating a peace and focuses his attentions on the brewing political crisis at home. Disaffected war veterans and starving serfs begin to fill the streets of the major cities, clamoring for political representation and the right to a basic standard of living. Leon Trotsky, head of the Moscow guild of the Qigong, accuses the Tsaritsa’s associate Fyodor Rasputin of being a vampire in the employ of the Collegium and is arrested for sedition. While in a labor camp, he pens the famous Cries from the Gulags, a manifesto calling for revolution in Russia and the end of the Collegium’s influence in Russian politics – in favor, of course, of the Qigong. The result is an official ban on the guild, and anyone associated with the Qigong is watched closely by the Tsar’s secret police. The Russian Parliament (Duma) issues a warning to Nicholas II that he must institute a Constitution, or public unrest would grow. Nicholas ignores them and instead begins to crack down further on dissenters.
1916 – As German forces continue to advance, public unrest reaches a fever pitch. Trotsky and others escape from the gulags as starving guards abandon their posts; he returns to Moscow where he is united with Vladimir Lenin, who had been studying in Paris while exiled by the Tsar. Both men travel at the behest of Josef Stalin to Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad) where they support striking Dwarves who walked off a weaponry plant due to lack of pay. Russian Army units, supported by Collegium wizards, are called in to break up the strike, but Trotsky’s Qigong help the Dwarves fight back and the already war-weary troops are routed. Magical battle causes massive damage to the city and many of the strikers are killed. Still, the victory is highly touted by the growing Socialist movement, and it reveals the tenuous grasp the Tsar has on power. Meanwhile, Rasputin begins to beg aid from other Collegium locations, and foreign wizards begin pouring into St. Petersburg, home of the Collegium in Russia. Nicholas II, worried about the health of his hemophiliac son Alexei, convinces him to join the Collegium, and rumors spread that the Tsarevich has become an undead. The rumors are founded – Rasputin has promised the support of the Collegium as the last reliable backing of the monarchy, in exchange for Alexei becoming a vampire. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin return together to Moscow and are declared Heroes of the Socialist cause – with Lenin becoming the leader of the National Soviet. The Caucusus region is now essentially in open revolt, with a dwarf-led Soviet overthrowing the regional government.
1917 – The Russian military collapse is essentially complete – the only thing between the Germans and St. Petersburg is a few hundred miles of road. The Tsar recalls his forces from Siberia to protect St. Petersburg, leaving the Eastern provinces essentially in anarchy. Gnomish serfs begin to form collectivist groups in the East that quickly become affiliated with the Soviets, who now have control over most of Russia’s land mass but few population centers. Trotsky begins raising the Red Army mostly from Dwarf and Gnome volunteers in the East and South, supported by the Russian Qigong, which renames itself the Soviet People’s Magical Defense Union. Demonstrations begin in Moscow and St. Petersburg, demanding food. Demonstrators are at times shot en masse by Tsarist army units, though in some cases the troops put down their weapons and defect to the demonstrators. The demonstrations lead Russian nobles to encourage the Tsar to abdicate, but Rasputin and the Collegium – now essentially rulers of Russia – forbid him from doing so. German advances stall the oncoming revolution as the public fears a German victory. Under pressure from both the Bolsheviks and the Collegium, the Tsar negotiates a humiliating peace with the Germans, in which large swaths of western Russia are ceded. German occupiers in the Ukraine face massive resistance from Soviet agitators and never successfully take control. The peace treaty further undermines public confidence in the monarchy and encourages new revolts, which turn into open revolution when the Red Army walks into Moscow to flowers and parades – the Tsarist army has retreated north and offers no resistance. Lenin declares himself the People’s leader and sets up the Council of People’s Commisars in the Kremlin. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin – an Elf, a Human, and a Dwarf, respectively – portray themselves as the ultimate example of both class and racial unity in the new Socialist state. The French and British governments, wary of this new government system and worried about revolutions in their own war-torn countries, give monetary and material aid to the Tsar (now sequestered in the northwest) but are limited by the Great War.
1918 – Red Army and SPMDU (CCNMD) units engage Collegium/Tsarist units near St. Petersburg, starting the Russian Civil War. Both sides are war-weary, and neither makes significant progress during the course of the year. The Great War ends in Europe, and France, America, and Britain send military units to St. Petersburg to support the Tsar. The Allied Northern Expeditionary Force provides the necessary muscle to drive Soviet forces south towards Moscow, but this advance stalls out as well. Lenin and Trotsky decide on a policy of containment towards the end of the year, and attempts at advancing end. Both sides are content to solidify their bases and lick their considerable wounds.
1919-1929 – The stalemate drags on as repeated attempts by both sides to enter the others’ territory fail. French forces withdraw from the Expeditionary Force in 1921 due to domestic troubles, weakening the Tsarist army. Nicholas II attempts to lead a charge on Soviet forces in 1923, only to be killed by an opportunistic strike from Andrei Ilych Popov, a Gnomish shoe factory worker from Stalingrad. Popov is made a Hero of the Soviet Union and appears in several propaganda films. Alexei Romanov, now 19 and in the full throes of vampirism, becomes Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias. It is widely known that the young man is essentially a puppet of the Collegium, who now have de facto power over the Tsarist state. In 1925, King George V of England comes to visit his troops near the border and dines with Alexei and Rasputin; the Soviet propaganda machine spreads rumors that the King has been infected with vampirism, which the British strongly deny, though the King is rarely seen in daylight again. Al Mushtamir agents, wary of the notion of a Collegium-controlled state, make overtures to Lenin to provide the USSR with aid against the Tsarists. Al Mushtamir schools begin opening in Russia and wizards begin joining Red Army units in 1927. CCNMD and Mushtamir wizards collaborate closely on education and defense matters. Lenin contracts syphilis and dies in late 1927 – after the huge state funeral, Trotsky and Stalin disagree over who should fill the resulting power vacuum. Trotsky, sensing Stalin’s potential danger, agrees to continue as head of the Red Army while Stalin takes over as Premier of the USSR. Stalin agrees to the power-brokering agreement, though Trotsky is constantly watched by KGB agents. Stalin is wary of the Mushtamir presence in his country, and begins to order KGB spies to infiltrate Mushtamir schools to search for “anti-revolutionary” sentiment in 1928. In May 1928, another large battle between the Soviets and Tsarist forces is fought outside Archangelsk, with the Soviets gaining significant ground for the first time in a decade, though they fail to capture the city. In 1929, the stock market collapse marks American withdrawal from the ANEF, further weakening the Tsarist cause. Rumors from the front of strange and dark beings begin to emerge, and CCCP leaders worry the Collegium is turning to dark magic in their weakness.
1930-1935 – Mid-1930 marks the end of the ANEF, as British forces withdraw due to the financial collapse. Stalin begins a policy of assisting Communist revolutionaries in other countries, and formally annexes the Ukraine, which had not even titularly been under German rule since 1928. Rasputin takes the title of Grand Vizier to Alexei, who at this point is almost entirely a figurehead ruler. Rasputin and the Collegium, concerned with the now-total lack of Allied forces in the region, begin encouraging summoning activities that had previously been isolated cases; reports of demonic attack along the border grow as the year goes on. Several foreign Sentinel groups attempt to enter the USSR to repel the threat; while Trotsky is in favor of it Stalin’s paranoia gets the better of him and they are stopped at the border. In 1931, Soviet agents assist in the creation of the People’s Collective in the American Midwest, though the PC’s religious backing eventually drives a rift between the two nations. Still, in 1931 the PC is seen as a major international coup for Stalin, and the USSR starts to be taken seriously on the world stage. While the USSR had previously taken an isolationist stance, they now began trading and exerting influence on nearby nations, especially in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Starting in 1930 through 1933, most of Central Asia comes under Soviet control, especially as Central Asian Dwarf populations flock to a Dwarf-led major power under Stalin. Al Mushtamir had, up to this point, been waning in the eyes of Stalin, but the incorporation of the Central Asian Republics helped cement the shaky political union as Kazakh Mushtamirites became prominent Soviet leaders in their Republic. 1933 saw the rise to power of Hitler in Germany, and Stalin found himself facing a second threat as Hitler’s anti-Communist rhetoric took hold. Units of the Red Army were redeployed from the Tsarist border to the Ukraine, over Trotsky’s objections – he felt that the time was ripe for a renewed offensive into St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, Lavrentiy Beria, a Georgian Gnome, becomes one of Stalin’s trusted allies after publicly lauding his role in the formation of the USSR and the battle with the Tsarists. Beria’s rise further inflames tensions between Stalin and Trotsky, and while the war with the Tsarists demands unity, Trotsky becomes worried about his future and begins secretly planning Stalin’s overthrow. Stalin and Beria, similarly, begin planning a future without Trotsky. In 1934-35, a renewed Tsarist offensive, supported by summoned demons, nearly reaches Moscow before being halted a mere 10 miles from the city limits. This finally prompts Stalin to allow foreign Sentinels into Russia to fight the demonic attackers, though some fear this may be too late. King George V of England dies in 1935, purportedly after dining in Italy and eating a meal spiced with garlic. Rumors persist that Soviet agents were responsible for the contents of the meal, and the cook is hanged, though British authorities insist the King died of a heart attack and was not a vampire. His second son George VI becomes King after the eldest son confesses to an affair with a divorced American woman. Alexei Romanov, now 29, is reputed to be much more actively involved in the Tsarist military, and some suspect he may be seeking to challenge Rasputin and the Collegium for control of the country. As 1936 dawns, both Russian states are on the verge of major internal strife yet again, and control of the two countries seems tenuous at best for their rulers.