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Principality of Vaarstato
A map of Vaarstato (pink) within Volscina (white)
and largest city
|Recognised national languages||Asendavian|
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Parliamentary elective monarchy and federated state|
|Anna-Cassandra Tutino di Vaar|
• First Minister
|Ilse Erika von Freyaelv|
• Federal Chancellor
• First settled by Tretrid
• Seizure by Asendavia
• Principality of Vaarstato Established
|May 16th, 1702 CE|
• Volscine confederation
|August 23rd, 1751 CE|
• 2021 estimate
The Principality of Vaarstato (Volscine: Principato Vaarstato; sometimes given in Staynish-Codexian as the archaic "Vaarshire") is one of the several dozen sovereign states that make up the Volscine Empire. It is comprised of city of Vaargioia (also known as New Zhelelovka) and the city's outlying areas along the coast to its northeast, as well as the island of Moltovaara, which is approximately 160km to the city's northeast. Vaargioia is one of the largest cities in the region of north-central Volscina, while the outlying areas of the principality—especially the island of Moltovaara, which is typically called just "Vaar" by its inhabitants—are generally rural. The island of Moltovaara in particular is home to a significant tourism-based economy, while agriculture is dominant in other rural areas of the principality. Like the Volscine Empire itself, Vaarstato is an elective monarchy, with the Prince or Princess (Volscine: Principe or Principessa) elected for life by the population of the state.
Like the rest of Volscina, the area that is now Vaarstato has been inhabited for thousands of years. The city of Vaargioia itself was inititally settled by Tretridians as part of Tretridian West Novaris in 1442. At that time, the city was known by the name Farhagan, alternately spelled as Fahrhagan or Forhagan. Vaar, typically spelled in Tretridian as far, fahr, or for, is believed to be a loanword adopted from the name given to the region by earlier inhabitants whose meaning is now lost, as the double vowel was not a linguistic feature of the Tretridian language at that time. The city thrived as a major Tretridian port city until the War of the Tretridian Succession, when Tretrid lost the city as well as the vast majority of its colonial holdings. Farhagan was seized by Asendavia in 1657 and renamed to New Zhelelovka.
As New Zhelelovka, the city and its environs became strategically important to Asendavia as one of the major ports from which it could bring in supplies to the rest of its colonial holdings in modern-day Volscina. During the period of Asendavian rule, the city was governed by a series of various nobles appointed by the Asendavian crown. The position was useful to the Kaisers as a sinecure, often given to people with whom the Kaiser sought to gain favor, often without regard to actual administrative ability. As a result, the people of New Zhelelovka (especially the ethnic Volscinians and Tretridians still living there) often chafed under Asendavian rule, and unrest was common. In 1688, the Lord-Mayor of New Zhelelovka, Ilmar Haugen, was killed in a riot due largely to a series of food shortages that were blamed on Haugen's decision to impose a particularly high import duty. As a result, Asendavia fortified the city with a significant military presence, which would remain for the duration of Asendavian rule but which largely served to exacerbate the problem of local anger towards the Asendavian administration. This anger was further escalated by the imposition of the Asendavian language on the largely Tretridian-speaking population and the suppression of the Ulvriktru religion in favor of Ademarism. Over the course of Asendavian rule, at least four Lord-Mayors would be assassinated, with another two deaths unconfirmed but suspected to have been caused by poisoning.
Prince Gregorio's Rebellion and Independence
In 1699, the largest popular uprising in the city's history overthrew the Lord-Mayor and seized the city's central keep, which the rebels renamed "the Palace of Vaar." The revolt was known initially as the Vaar Uprising. Unlike previous rebellions, the sheer number of people who were willing to take up arms against the Asendavian authorities was beyond what the local military garrisons could handle themselves. By the spring of 1700, the city was de facto independent, with no surviving Asendavian governing officials present in the city and the Asendavian garrisons almost entirely depleted. Many of the Asendavian soldiers chose to lay down arms and join the Vaar Uprising themselves. However, a major reinforcement of Asendavian troops arrived in the fall of 1701 and led to a brutal, grueling military campaign over that winter and into the spring of 1702 in which at least 10,000 people were killed. Over the course of what became known as the Bloody Winter, delegates from the city of New Zhelelovka and its surrounding areas came together as the Diet of Vaargioia and declared independence from Asendavia as the Principality of Vaarstato on January 6th, 1702.
The first Prince of Vaarstato was Gregorio of Crogford, an ethnic Tretridian farmer and owner of a large estate (Crogford, meaning "saffron river ford" or "orange river ford," both referring to a color) who had been among the first to call for a declaration of outright independence and who had served as one of the primary military leaders of the rebellion. In addition to contributing large numbers of soldiers from among his own tenant farmers, he himself served on the "front lines" and lost a leg in combat during the Bloody Winter. He was enormously popular among both upper and lower-class members of the rebellion, and was selected as monarch by the Diet of Vaargioia unanimously. While the Diet had initially proposed that Gregorio be named King and the state be named Kingdom of Vaarstato, the titles Prince and Principality were chosen at Gregorio' insistence, with records of the Diet indicating that Gregorio's modesty prevented him from accepting a title "as lofty and beyond reproach as 'King.'" After the Diet of Vaarstato, the conflict with Asendavia became popularly known as Prince Gregorio's Rebellion. After his election, Gregorio took the name Gregorio di Vaar, a tradition that is still kept by modern leaders of the principality.
After the Diet, outright combat would continue in Vaarstato for five months. On May 2nd, a fire broke out in Vaargioia that burned down a vast portion of the harborside district of the city, killing 5,000-6,000 people—at least half of the total casualties of the rebellion. Among the dead were almost all of the Asendavian garrison, which had been housed in two former warehouses at the harbor. Whether or not the fire was deliberately set in order to eliminate the Asendavian forces remains a debated question among historians, with no direct evidence yet discovered linking the rebels to the fire but several contemporary written sources on both sides suspecting that the fire had been intentional. With their forces once again depleted and the most economically valuable portions of the city in total ruin, Asendavia agreed to accept Vaarano independence on the condition that the Principality pay reparations for the fire damage and agreeing to continue to allow Asendavian ships access to the port, as well as allowing ethnic Asendavians to continue to live in the city. Independence was ratified on May 16th, 1702, a date which is still celebrated as "Vaarstato Day" in the principality. The name "Vaarstato" was created to give a name to the country that was distinct from the name of the city of Vaargioia.
Confederation with Volscina
While Asendavia respected the terms of independence and allowed Vaarstato to administer its own affairs, the reparation payments consumed almost all of the new country's revenue, and it had little ability to restore the city of Vaargioia. Prince Gregorio died penniless in 1727 after donating all of his wealth to the state and even selling his family estate. Famously, he was initially buried in a pauper's cemetery with no gravemarker as he did not have enough money to be buried elsewhere. His body would not be rediscovered and reinterred until the year 2007, 280 years after his death. (His body is now entombed in a mausoleum at the Prince Gregorio Gardens, a large park in the city center of Vaargioia.) The principality also struggled to maintain a defensive force as it regularly failed to pay its soldiers. Concerned that Asendavia would take advantage of the opportunity and attempt to re-take the country, Vaarstato reached out to and formed a close relationship with Ethalria, who had begun to trade in the area. There was a flood of Ethalrian economic development all throughout the early 18th century, which also included a number of Ethalrian settlers who generally settled on the island of Moltovaara.
In 1750, the Volscine Confederation came into existence. The Prince at that time, Gregorio III, resisted calls to incorporate Vaarstato into the Volscine Empire. However, Gregorio III died later that year and his replacement, Prince Erik di Vaar, readily agreed to join the confederation, assured by Volscine authorities that the sovereignty of Vaarstato would continue to be respected just as that of the other constituent states was respected. Joining the confederation meant formally abandoning the idea of Vaarstato as a truly independent nation, but by as soon as 1761, Prince Erik's decision was hailed by all quarters of Vaarstato as a wise decision that allowed sustained prosperity to return to the city and its surrounding areas. The reconstruction of the Harbor of Vaargioia was declared complete in 1762 by King Johann in his only visit to the principality.
Incorporation of Moltovaara Island
The island of Moltovaara, (Ethalrian: Kleinvaar) to the northeast of the city, was a particular target of Ethalrian settlers as soon as Asendavian rule ended. Asendavian authorities in New Zhelelovka had administered the island, but it was viewed as a poor choice for settlement because of its rocky soil and uneven elevation. There were less than 2,000 inhabitants on the island at the time of Prince Gregorio's Rebellion, all of whom were largely impoverished rural farmers. The government of independent Vaarstato could never afford to formally settle the island, leaving it open for Ethalrians to settle even while it was still part of the independent country of Vaarstato. Because of this, buildings built on the island were designed with a distinctly "Ethalrian" architectural style as a way of glorifying Ethalrian colonialism. This tradition is kept today, with very strict building regulations requiring all buildings to adhere to this style. The island's economy is based almost entirely on tourism, with its "old Ethalrian" aesthetic its primary attraction. Famously, motor vehicles are not allowed within the central business district of Moltoborgo (Ethalrian: Vaarschaft), the island's only city, with only horses or horse-drawn carriages permitted (excepting emergency vehicles).
The government of Vaarstato can be characterized as an elective monarchy within and subject to the overarching authority of the confederated Volscine Empire above it. The current Princess is Anna-Cassandra Tutino di Vaar, elected in 2008. The Princess or Prince of Vaarstato continues to be both the statutory and functioning chief executive of the principality, and is not considered to be a figurehead or symbolic leader. The institution of the Vaar elective monarchy is consistently popular among Vaar citizens, and is routinely more popular than the institution of the imperial crown of Volscina. The Princess does share power with an elected Legislative Assembly, which is commonly known (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) as Vaarliament, however the Princess holds the power of veto over most matters. The Princess prepares and proposes a budget which is ratified by Vaarliament, and must attain the support of Vaarliament to impose or raise taxes and to appoint judges to the principality's judiciary. Certain matters—namely anything to do with Vaarstato's Constitutional relationship with Volscina as a whole—are entrusted to Vaarliament and not subject to a veto from the Princess. Beyond this, however, the Princess has broad authority to act unilaterally in many cases, in matters such as policing, the military, the structure of the executive branch of government, and even such things as eminent domain.
Members of Vaarliament are elected in regular elections every 4 years. The members elect one of their own to serve as First Minister, who assists in the administration of the principality and who serves independently of the princess or prince of the day. While the Vaar monarchy is expected to remain politically neutral and unaffiliated with any particular faction or party, the First Minister is invariably the leader of the largest party in Vaarliament. The job of First Minister is often derided as being "irrelevant" or even "useless" considering the monarch's executive authority, but the First Minister's consent is always required for any Constitutional changes, and law requires that the First Minister not only be kept aware but "be present for the making of all major decisions of state" and be allowed access to the monarch at all times. The First Minister is generally considered to be the political leader of Vaarstato whose job is to represent the will and desire of the citizenry to the monarch. The current First Minister, Szabina Tóth, is a Mexregionan, the first person born outside Volscinia to serve in the office.
A monarch is elected only upon the death or resignation of the previous monarch. In cases of temporary absence for any reason, the First Minister assumes executive control of the principality. Since Constitutional reforms undertaken in 2009, upon the death or resignation of the monarch, Vaarliament must appoint exactly five candidates, who will then appear on the ballot in an election placed before the entire citizenry of Vaarstato. The voting age for elections for Princess or Prince is mandated to be 15, unlike all other Vaar elections, in which it is 18, and the law requires that voting be done through a system of ranked choice. Voting in elections for monarch are compulsory, with the fine for not participating being ₦10,000 or six months of the non-voting individual's income, whichever is higher. Candidates for monarch must be at least 40 years of age and must have been resident in Vaarstato for at least ten consecutive years prior to the election. There has never been a gender requirement in the law, and the first Princess of Vaarstato was elected in 1806. Elections for monarch must be non-partisan, and individuals who have served in a partisan electoral office are ineligible for nomination as candidate unless they have been out of office for at least 3 years. Prior to her election as Princess, Anna-Cassandra Henschel was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Civil Court of Vaarstato.
The flag of Vaarstato is something of a quirk in the history of flag design in that, while it uses only colors that are largely associated with Volscine vexillology and is almost identical to the flag used by the Volscine Confederation under George Gray (though upside-down), it was designed completely independently from these, with its similarity entirely coincidental. The design was drafted by the Diet of Vaargioia with particular symbolism in mind. The red stripe at the bottom represents "the blood shed by Vaar patriots and countrymen during the rebellion," and it is placed at the bottom of the flag to indicate that "the sacrifice of our countrymen is the very foundation of the principality." The white stripe represents "freedom and independence," and it rests upon the red stripe to symbolize that "our freedoms were purchased by, and could not exist without, the sacrifices of those who came before us." At the top of the flag is a stripe of orange, known as "saffron," (Old Tretridian: crog) which represents "wealth and prosperity" but is also a nod to Prince Gregorio di Vaar, with whom the color orange was associated because of his family estate at Crogford. The plant saffron cannot grow in Vaarstato and both the plant and the color are believed to become associated with the estate and with Prince Gregorio as an indicator of wealth and high status, with saffron being a remarkably expensive commodity.
The flag's design predates the existence of Volscina by 49 years, but due to Vaarstato's small size, it is not well known outside of the principality. During the Civil War, it was often confused with either a display of allegiance with the West Volscine Republic (among those who did not know the Volscine Confederation flag had the colors reversed) or as a symbol of spite towards the West Volscine Republic (among those who thought the flag was simply West Volscina's flag flown deliberately upside down as a rejection of George Gray's authority.) Both Vaarliament and the princes of Vaarstato have steadfastly refused to change the design, though there have been several proposals over the years to deface the flag with the principality's coat of arms or otherwise mark it as distinct from other flags. "Prince Gregorio himself signed the resolution to make that flag our flag as his first action as head of our state, and so long as I breathe, his flag will remain our flag," said Princess Anna-Cassandra as recently as 2017.