Sandwiched between the Prussian Empire and the Russian Coalition, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has always stood in a precarious position in the volatile political intrigues and territorial disputes of central and Eastern Europe. The Commonwealth is not inconsiderable in size – its lands stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea coasts, with Riga its northernmost city and Odessa the southernmost. Formed from a union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Commonwealth has a unique system of governance; the elective monarchy. The ruling King of the Commonwealth is elected by a parliamentary body known as the Sejm, which holds the real political power in the nation – in the past several kings have been dismissed from office by the Sejm which felt that their rule was proceeding counter to the best interests of the Commonwealth.
Though quite large, the Commonwealth has disappeared from the map of Europe in part or in whole a number of times, labouring under either Russian or Prussian domination. The last such occasion ended only in 1815, when the defeat of the Prussians forced them to surrender their hold over the Commonwealth. Though the Russian Coalition was instrumental in that victory, and is currently an ally of the Commonwealth against the Prussians once more, in truth this small nation would much prefer that both powers leave it alone. With its strategic position, however, this seems most unlikely.
The Commonwealth’s military forces are small but highly motivated and fairly well-equipped, having been resupplied by weaponry purchased from the Russians and, covertly, from the Britannians through trade links on the Black Sea. The army consists of ten Hussar Legions, each some three thousand men strong, not counting support troops. Their manner of waging war is unique, built around squadrons of heavily armoured mechanised cavalrymen riding steam-cycles and trained in the use of flame-lances. Each warrior has a set a great curved wings that sweep up from his back – when the lancer charges, air is forced through the metal ‘feathers’ making a terrible shrieking sound that by itself has been known to cause enemy infantry to scatter. The Hussar support troops use heavier versions of the steam cycle to carry weapons such as light cannon and machine guns, while lightly armoured but fast and well-armed tanks provide heavier support. The Commonwealth lacks the industrial base to build and maintain Land Ships, and has little in the way of a navy, but it does field large numbers of small aeroplanes and heavy bombers whose pilots are a byword for fierce dedication to duty and near-insane courage.
The Commonwealth’s current head of state is the 42 year old King Karol, known by the honourable epithet of ‘The Lancer King’ thanks to his days spent serving in the Hussar Legions. Ladislaw negotiated the pact between his nation and Tsar Vladimir of the Russian Coaliton that allowed Coalition armies to cross Commonwealth territory and attack the Prussians. Part of this agreement involved the provision of military aid, and so Karol committed three of his nation’s ten Hussar Legions to assist the Russians in hunting down more mobile Prussian forces while the bulk of the White Army lays siege to the Prussian border defences. Karol’s motives for forming the pact were personal as much as political – two of his uncles were executed by agents of the former Prussian Emperor Heinrich Otto during the occupation of the Commonwealth. Karol relished the chance to redeem his family’s honour after so many years.
However, although the king remains foursquare committed to his alliance, there are a small but growing number of voices within the Sejm expressing doubts about its long term benefits. With the country now full of White Army garrisons and regiments, many fear that their proud nation has in fact been invaded yet again, this time without a shot being fired, and are very worried that the Russian alliance could easily turn into outright occupation. In particular, the respected General Ryzard Rydz has reminded many of the uncomfortable fact that the last attempted military invasion of the Commonwealth was in fact carried out by the Russians in 1830, when a White Army division was destroyed at Bialystok by a crushing Commonwealth offensive that lives in national legend as the ‘Charge of the Angels. Moreover, the Commonwealth now finds its southern coast potentially under threat from Ottoman aggression. For now, the Lancer King still holds the confidence of his people, but how things will develop if the Russian-Prussian stalemate drags on and Ottoman military action escalates is anybody’s guess.