Tsarevich Alexander Rurik was the crown prince and heir apparent to the Empire of Russia, one of the major regional powers of the planet Zemlya (alongside the Kazahk tribes, the Kingdom of Transvaal, the Kingdom of Carpathia and the Coastal Princes of Darhur).
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Early Life Edit
Early in Tsar Alexander's life, rumors swirled around his right to the throne. He was the child of Tsar Pyotr and his second wife, Katerina, and at first second in line, behind his half-brother, Pyotr. However, shortly after the death of Tsar Pyotr's first wife, Dania, the Tsar's (suspiciously swift) remarriage and Alexander's birth, the young Tsarevich Pyotr died of an ill-explained malady. This, of course, cleared the path for Tsarevich Alexander, and the fiercest opponents of the regime maintained for decades after that Tsarevich Pyotr had been the victim of an assassination. Further, some even alleged that he had been rescued from assassination (usually in such stories by a fearless peasant maid) and raised in secret. The complicated relationship between the Communist and Reactionary movements meant that many would-be revolutionaries in Russia still sought to preserve the monarchy as a figurehead, and various pretenders to the throne claimed to be Pyotr returned from exile (this led to several so-called "Pyotr Uprisings" and two wildly successful novels on the subject: "The Colonel's Niece" by the Russian Alexander Pushkin and "The Man in the Adamantium Mask" by the itinerant half-elvish novelist, Alexandre Dumas)
As his ailing father, Tsar Pyotr II, fell into decrepitude and senility, the middle-aged prince became monarch in all but name. After the humiliating defeat of Russia's Imperial Army by the Aeldrum Trade Company at the First Battle of Dalcia, Alexander began a series of significant military reforms, disbanding most of the regular army outside of the southern border regions and focusing on elite, highly mobile cavalry forces composed of Streltsy and Cossack warriors. The decision to demobilize was driven partly by an already mounting rash of desertions, as the Empire's woeful financial state led to wage shortfalls. Rather than preserve what he described as an "open sore of banditry and communism," Alexander systematically dismantled and disarmed suspect regiments. Naturally, many disgruntled former soldiers stole weapons and went on to become exactly the sort of brigands that Alexander had feared.
The Great Russian Famine Edit
Alexander's most pressing concern was the famine that had spread across his Empire, partially driven by severe soil depletion. The resultant food insecurity drove thousands of urban workers into the folds of the Communist movement, while the ATC's stranglehold on planetary exports kept Alexander from selling Russia's silk and mineral wealth to the wider cosmos without paying the exorbitant excises demanded by the company. Alexander's principal strategic concern became the recapture of Dalcia as a matter of commercial pragmatism and a means of restoring the Empire's damaged prestige. To this end, he formed a relationship with members of the Knights Mercantile, who offered scientific and engineering expertise with which to update Russian military technology, access to mercenary aetheric vessels with which to threaten the ATC and, ultimately, stop-gap imports of fertilizer and food to keep the Empire from collapse while KM specialists worked to mechanize Russian agriculture. In this respect, Alexander was wildly successful, keeping the Empire stable for another thirty years and giving it the technological edge to exterminate the Kazahk tribes and force the kingdoms of Carpathia and Transvaal into vassalage.
Depictions in Russian Culture Edit
Personal descriptions and state portraits of Tsarevich (later Tsar) Alexander show a tall, strapping man with a neat, dark beard, usually astride his favorite hunting horse and with a classic Russian double-barrel rifle slung over his shoulder (in a nod to his role as a modernizer, the double-barrel is sometimes a Schulz Rifle). His role in driving out the Aeldrum Trade Company, destroying the Communist movement in Moscow and bringing Russia into the modern age made him a national hero. Ironically, many of the failures of his regime (such as the enormous influence that the Knights Mercantile swiftly acquired as they not only replaced the Aeldrum Trade Company as the dominant brokerage house on Zemlya but became the state bank and minority partners in the Imperial silk monopoly) did not emerge into public knowledge until after his death, leading most of the blame to fall on his son, the sickly Tsar Pyotr III.
Russian nationalist historians have since constructed a rather fanciful narrative in which the great Tsar Alexander's only flaw was to overlook his son's weakness and incompetence, giving foreign imperial interests the opportunity to fall upon Russia "like Vulture-Snakes" as soon as the great man had passed and could no longer shield his beloved people.
Accounts derived from court memoirs and the diary of Towelie Tenskwetawa (first Secretary of the Zemlya Chapter of the Knights Mercantile) cast Alexander rather differently, as a man disgusted by the prospect of unrest and communist uprising, prepared to overlook the long-term implications of collaboration with the Knights Mercantile to stave off the fall of his dynasty and all-too willing to sanction the most brutal methods of repression. As Tsarevich, Alexander is known to have personally authorized gas attacks on urban demonstrators as well as the dissemination of the Shambler Plague within ATC-held Dalcia and the subsequent extermination of any residents unfortunate enough to be left behind when the Company evacuated. This characteristic brutality continued after the defeat of the ATC at The Second Battle of Dalcia, as Alexander's Streltsy regiments and his "Reformed Regular Army" perpetrated the genocide of the Kazakh tribes (rewarding Cossack and Streltsy riders with vast farmsteads to bring "civilization" to the region) and, perhaps influenced by the Knights Mercantile, forced Carpathia and Transvaal into a commercial union that strongly favored the Russian Empire.