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The Imperium of Barrayar

Flag of Barrayar
Coat of arms of Barrayar
Coat of arms
Motto: “Imperium, Honos et Officium”
Anthem: Imperial Ordnance March
CapitalVorbarr Sultana
Largest cityVorbarr Sultana
Official languagesBarrayaran variants of English, Franch, Greek, Russian
Komarran English
Recognised national languagesBarrayaran variants of English, Franch, Greek, Russian
Komarran English
GovernmentAbsolute Monarchy
• Emperor of Barrayar
Serg Vorbarra
• Prime Minister
Lord Admiral Miles Vorlaisner
LegislatureParliament of Barrayar
Council of Counts
Council of Ministers
• Accession to the throne of Dorca Vorbarra
2789 A.D.
• Unification of Barrayar
2799 A.D.
• 3000 A.D. Census estimate
2,604,035,547 (Barrayar);
4,657,106,658 (Imperium)
CurrencyImperial Mark
Date formatdd ˘ mm ˘ yyyy
Driving sideright

The Imperium of Barrayar, also known as "Empire of Barrayar" or simply "Barrayar," is an interstellar, interplanetary state composed of the planets Barrayar, Komarr, and Sergyar. It was created during the rule of the Barrayaran Emperor Ezar Vorbarra. Its main planet is Barrayar.

Politically, the Imperium of Barrayar is an absolute monarchy with hereditary succession. Its governmental system is largely unwritten, and is largely based on oaths. The sixty District Counts form the Council of Counts, which largely controls the Imperium finances. There is also a Council of Ministers which controls the executive functions of the government, and other formal and informal advisers to the Emperor.


The Imperium of Barrayar is composed of three populated star systems, plus several other completely irrelevant and unpopulated ones. The sole ways of communication are the wormholes, the natural rifts into five-dimensional space, which link each other the various systems. Anything that goes through a wormhole must be guided by a human pilot with wormhole-navigation abilities, because the wormography changes constantly.


Barrayar is the home world of the three-planet Barrayaran Imperium. Barrayar was originally founded as an Earth Colony long ago, by what are known in Barrayaran history books as the Fifty Thousand Firsters. The planet is still slightly populated: its overall population is about 2.6 billions, mostly scattered trough the Northern Continent.
The planet Barrayar is called in honour of the ruling family VorBarra.
Barrayar is Earth-like, although with only two main continents and gravity slightly higher, but its native vegetation is inedible for humans and Earth-descended life; terraforming is still necessary for settlement. Indeed, the settlers' dislike of the vegetation is shown in the choice of names, Bloody Puffweed and Razorgrass being among them. It has two major continents, as well as significant islands in its oceans: equatorial area is occupied only by small islands, and main landmasses lie outside tropical belt. This geographical distribution causes harsher winters and fresher summers in the most populated regions. Geographical diversity is similar to the Earth, with flat plains, high mountains, swamps and river valleys, but the magnetic field is sensibly weaker, causing a major sensibility to space radiations. There are two major mountain ranges, one per continent: the Dendarii Mountains, in the Northern Continent, and the Black Mountains in the Southern Continent.
Mineral resources are present, in particular in the north-eastern regions of Northern Continent: this imbalance has caused the premiership of the current ruling dynasty.
It has a 26.7 hour day and two small moons, which create some complexity with tides.

Barrayaran time

On Barrayar a single day has 26,7 standard hours for a total of 1,602 minutes a day. Barrayarans keep the 26-hours clocks, with the residual 42 minutes being signed apart.
A Barrayaran year is noteworthy approximately the same total amount of time as an Earth year, having 328.31 Barrayaran days. The Barrayaran year is therefore 321 days long, with a bissextile year every three Barrayaran years in order to keep in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year.
The Barrayarans had set up a 12-month year of even days and weeks, 26 days and 4 weeks, with the leftovers gathered up at Winterfair into a sort of intercalary 9/10 days-long rump-week, in order to keep the years evenly on-track with the planet's yearly trip around its sun. The year is 44 weeks, plus Winterfair Days (a three-days long period) and 6/7 days called Carnival Days. Both Winterfair and Carnival Days are not counted within any week.


Komarr is a key planet in the Wormhole Nexus, and part of the Barrayaran Empire. Komarr was discovered around the beginning of XXVII century, and it is still undergoing a major terraforming project to make the outside air breathable. During this centuries-long program the Komarrans are confined to domed cities, with controlled air supplies. Komarr has strategic importance because its local space contains the single known wormhole into Barrayar. Starting in 2830s, Barrayar was invaded by the Cetagandan Empire. As the only entrance to Barrayar was through Komarr, the Cetagandan empire bought Komarran cooperation. Cetagandan forces occupied Barrayar for twenty years but were eventually driven out of Barrayaran space. After more than 40 years of recovery and technological regrowth, Barrayaran forces poured through the wormhole to invade Komarr for three main reasons: control of their entrance, control of Komarran trade and a fair retribution. The Barrayaran invasion was successful. Komarr is currently controlled peacefully by Barrayar. A number of Komarrans have reached high rank in the Imperial Service, and current Emperor Serg Vorbarra is Laisa Toscane's firstborn, and due to his mother a member of the uppermost Komarran oligarchy.
Komarr is the first planet conquered by Barrayar: it is ruled by the Barrayaran Empire, but has its own dominant class of oligarchs. The primary industry of Komarr is essentially goods trade and starshipbuiilding. The secondary industries include all sorts of stuff, including other heavy and spacecraft industry.
In the Komarran economy and society, co-exist several kinds of business group, but family corporations are the pillars of planetary politics, although the supreme rule, after the Conquest, is held by Barrayaran Imperial Representative, economy and society. However, alongside the huge family corporations, like Toscane Ltd., Maraingon Corp., Tsukenari Ltd. and others, there are also small firms competing on quality and uniqueness of their service or even smaller firms competing on price: the smaller firms. Although not very well considered, there are also trade fleets run entirely by public subscription. Although much more galaxy and business-minded than Barrayaran culture, the founding Komarrans set up a oligarchic society similar to Barrayaran one. They set up certain families with extra shares, who passed, and still pass, on power through a hereditary system. The Komarran oligarchy let the proletarians and the single-share holders have a vote in elections, but kept the bulk of the voting shares for itself. The same families have been at the top of the order for a very long time, passing on the power from parent to child and the average Komarran had very little to say about most major decisions, they were in the hands of the oligarchs: Komarr was never a liberal democracy, not to talk a socialist democracy.


Barrayar itself has a relatively small population relative to other worlds settled by humans. The original settlement of Barrayar consisted of about 50,000 people.
There are four major ethnic groups on Barrayar, descended from Russian, French, English, and Greek-speaking forebears. The Greeks are the only explicit minority on Barrayar, and Russian is the predominant culture.
Barrayar's official language are Russian, English, French and Greek Barrayaran dialects. Barrayar has numerous other dialects spoken all over the country. The original colonizing group was to eighty percent Caucasian, and the minority racial phenotypes present among the founders were subsumed over time. The mixed genes are still in there: this is why the most common colouration on Barrayar is black hair, brown eyes, and olive skin.


On Barrayar four languages are spoken, derived from their relative-language on Earth: Barrayaran Russian, Barrayaran English, Barrayaran French and Barrayaran Greek. They are written using a Cyrillic-derivative alphabet. The spoken language veered back towards Nexus Standard after re-contact amongst the elite in contact with galactic civilization. The official languages of the Empire of Barrayar are five: Barrayaran English, Barrayaran Russian, Barrayaran French, Barrayaran Greek and Komarran English. All maintain equal status as official languages at the national level within the administration.
On Barrayar, native speakers number about 48 percent for Barrayaran Russian, 34 percent for Barrayaran English, 10 percent for Barrayaran French, and the remaining 8 percent for Barrayaran Greek. Albeit there are intersections, the Barrayaran Russian region is roughly in the east, north and centre; the English and French parts in the west and the Greek area lies in the south of the Northern Continent. In the Southern Continent, the Russian Region (centred around the Keroslav District) lies on the northern-eastern shores, the Greek region is the northern and western coastal line, while the centre and south are mixed English and French speaking areas.
On Komarr, the most spoken language is Komarran English, which presents very little variations from the standard Nexus dialect; however, due to relevant Barrayaran immigration, Barrayaran English is also spoken and a mixed form of Barrayaran-Komarran English is emerging.
On Sergyar, Barrayaran Russian, Barrayaran English and Komarran English are the most spoken languages; due to the relative isolation from the rest of the Empire, there are some significant influences from Escobaran dialects and Betan English.


The Vor are the military caste and the aristocracy of Barrayar. Vor status is genetic, hereditary, and inescapable. All Vor surnames began with the syllable Vor-. While Vor men are generally involved in military or government service the women lead sheltered lives at home raising children.
The Vor function as the aristocratic caste, and are given privileged military status. No Vor could be denied a commanding role in the military, although with regards of competence and High Vor commanders are treated with more reverence and respect than their non-Vor counterparts.
The Vor caste was originally open to new members and the Emperor could declare a family Vor. This practice ceased over time, during the reign of Dorca the Just, but in theory is still possible.

Oaths of the Vor

The Vor caste can offer varyingly strong oaths and promises. Most of the Vor have a high ideal of honour: when they swear by "their word as Vor-name" it is much more equivalent to a serious and heartfelt "I swear to God." It is so strong that men have been known to kill others for calling them on their word.


One Vor privilege is the right to own swords and other weapons. The traditional armament of a Vor warrior is a set of two swords, a longsword and a short sword. Vor officers wear the two swords with their Imperial Service parade uniforms. Vor women carry a Vorfemme knife.

District Count

Count is a title and position in the government of Barrayar. The origin of the title is from accountant, as the counts were originally Imperial tax collectors, called " 'counts". Over time they gained control over large swathes of territory and recruited private armies. During the reign of Emperor Dorca the Just Vorbarra, the private armies were outlawed and each Count restricted to a guard of twenty Armsmen.
The northern continent of Barrayar is divided into sixty districts, one for each of the sixty counts. Each Count governs and taxes his district, and all counts are members of the Vor caste. Countships can only be inherited by a male heir, by default the eldest son. However, a count can choose his own heir.
The counts meet in the Council of Counts to pass legislation, confirm heirs, and conduct other business of state. Along with the Council of Ministers, they are the legislature of the Barrayaran Imperium. The Emperor of Barrayar is also a count in his own right, and has a vote in the Council.
Counts, as Vor lords, cannot be tried in standard courts on Barrayar. They can only be tried by their peers in the Council of Counts. However, they face tighter rules in their everyday lives. For instance, the charge of mutiny in the military becomes treason when applied to a Count or his heirs.
Each Count has two official residences, one in the capital Vorbarr Sultana, and another in his district.

Global politics

In the Empire there are local elections, but they are "managed", ie more or less moderately manipulated. At the centre of the party system is the Centrist Party, the political arm of the regime. The Emperor is the hub of the system and embodies the heart of the decision-making mechanism, according to the principle of "vertical of power".
Orders leave from Imperial Residence and branch out down to the last of Local. The government and, in a more attenuated, the Board of Auditors have roles more compressed than the formal rank.
Emperor Serg Vorbarra prefers to decide gathering small informal committees. Serious questions discusses them with trusted advisors and representatives of the "ministries of force" - military and intelligence chiefs.
Beyond the two main Councils (Council of Ministers and Council of Counts) there are several political or public interests organizations, which deal with all elected bodies in local government and in society in general. The main feature of Barrayaran politics is the language-divided groups, also because members of the same linguistic groups live in the same area of the Northern Continent and, to a certain point, of the Southern Continent. On Sergyar, Komarr and space settlements, as well as in Vorbarr Sultana, Barrayaran linguistic groups are widely intermingled. Each linguistic bloc has several sub-organizations, which represent an individual social bloc or several social sectors; in turn, all-Barrayaran social sectors are grouped according a inter-linguistic subdivision.

Russian organizations

Main russophone organizations are:

  • Organization of Councils and Associations for the Protection and Defence of the Barrayaran Russian People (Russian Barrayaran: Organizatsiya sovetov i assotsiatsiy po zashchite i oborone barrayarskikh russkogo naroda) - the umbrella organization; the founder was Dmitri Vromoncrief, 9th Count Vormoncrief, and the presidency is assigned to the incumbent Count Vormoncrief.
  • People's Defence League (Russian Barrayaran: Narodnyy Oborony Liga)
  • Workers' Party (Russian Barrayaran: Trudovaya partiya)
  • Supreme Council of the Middle Class (Russian Barrayaran: Verkhovnyy Sovet srednego klassa)
  • League for the Protection, Development and Improvement of the Barrayaran Russian Language (Russian Barrayaran: Liga po zashchite, razvitiyu i sovershenstvovaniyu Barrayarskoy russkogo yazyka)
  • Barrayaran Russian Linguistic Academy (Russian Barrayaran: Barrayarskiy Rossii Lingvisticheskaya Akademiya)
  • Association of shop-owners of the Russophone Districts (Russian Barrayaran: Assotsiatsiya vladel'tsy magazinov iz rayonov russkoyazychnykh)
  • All-Barrayaran Entrepreneurs Union (Russian Barrayaran: Panbarrayarskiy soyuza predprinimateley) - A private research centre.
  • Russophone Veterans Group (Russian Barrayaran: Russkoyazychnykh veteranov Gruppa)
  • Trade Union of the Barrayaran Russian Teachers (Russian Barrayaran: Profsoyuz barrayarskikh rossiyskikh uchiteley)

Imperial Association

The Imperial Association is an organization which acts as a network facilitator. The Imperial Association draws together political leaders, academics, and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the Imperium.
The Imperial Association seeks, through discussion and political channels, to support the values set forth in the Imperium: Peace, Security, and the Rule of law. As such, the Imperial Association acts as a forum for debate in which member associations can realize common interests and goals in the ever-changing environment. The Imperial Association is fully dedicated to engaging the youth of the Imperium through close cooperation with its youth division, the Youth Imperial Association. YIA seeks to educate and promote debate amongst the successor generations in an effort to create responsible future political leaders.


Barrayar is an absolute monarchy: the Imperium of Barrayar is headed and ruled by the Emperor of Barrayar, who is also and formally the Supreme Commander of Barrayar. The title of Emperor on Barrayar passes ordinarily in the male line.
In the case of an Emperor succeeding in his minority, a Lord Regent of Barrayar is appointed. The Regent needs to be confirmed by the Council of Counts and the Council of Ministers, and holds power until the Emperor reaches his twentieth birthday, although the young Emperor retains all ceremonial duties.
The Emperor is also a District Count in his own right, and the capital city of Vorbarr Sultana is part of his district. After the annexation of Sergyar, it also became a personal possession of the Emperor.
The Emperor of Barrayar is referred to as "His Imperial Majesty" and addressed as "Sire". Individuals acting in his direct service referred to him as "my Imperial Master".


The politics of Barrayar take place in a framework of a absolute, traditional monarchy, tempered by a very moderate parliamentary power, which is characterized by the presence of rivalling factions. The executive power is exercised by the Government of the Empire, led by the Prime Minister of the Empire. Legislative power is vested in the Council of the Counts, and secondarily in the Council of Ministers. The judiciary emanates from the Emperor and is independent from the legislative. Serg Vorbarra is the Barrayaran Emperor, whilst Lord Admiral Miles Vorlaisner is the nation's Prime Minister.
According the Democracy Index, Barrayar is an authoritarian polity.

Electoral process and pluralism Functioning of government Political participation Democratic political culture Civil liberties Average
4.17 3.14 4.00 0.91 5.83 3.63

Government of the Empire

The Prime Minister as leader of the Council of Ministers is the top official on Barrayar and the interstellar Barrayaran Imperium except for the Emperor himself.
The Council of Ministers is one of two Councils that serve as Barrayar's parliament. Unlike the Council of Counts, it is by appointment and not hereditary, although Counts could also serve as Ministers or even as Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers has been created by Emperor Dorca the Just Vorbarra as part of his reforms to create a centralized monarchy at the expense of the District Counts. It is significantly smaller than the Council of Counts, since there are only fifteen Ministers. The impeachment of an Imperial Auditor required a three quarters majority vote of the Ministers and the Counts in full joint session assembled. Ceremonial ministerial robes were black and purple, and worn at solemn ceremonies such as the Emperor's Birthday.

Council of Counts

The Council of Counts is a major part of the government of Barrayar, and is composed of the 60 District Counts, who are themselves members of the Vor class. The Council is also all-male, never having a woman serve as a voting member. A Count's Heir, if accepted by the Council, can act as Count's Voice, substitutes for his father in Council meetings.
The Council of Counts meets in Vorbarr Sultana, the capital of Barrayar and the Barrayaran Imperium, and often in joint session with the Council of Ministers. The ruling Emperor presides over Council meetings.
The Council of Counts originated during the Time of Isolation along with the Vor class and the the rise of the ruling Vorbarra Imperial dynasty. During the 20-year military occupation of Barrayar by the Cetagandan Empire, the Council of Counts met clandestinely and underground, or did not meet at all, since the Cetagandans officially disbanded the Council. The Council of Counts was restored after the Cetagandans were driven from Barrayar.
The Council of Counts is politically divided into two Progressive and Liberal Party and a more traditional-minded Conservative Party.


After the Vorkosigan Regency was established and consolidated in early 30th Century, Aral Vorkosigan prohibited the political activities of officers in active service and strongly discouraged active service personnel in involving in politics. This orientation was continued by Emperor Gregor the Progressive and especially by Emperor Serg Vorbarra. The Imperial Service perceives itself as the guardian of militarism. The various branches of the Imperial Service still maintain an important degree of influence over the decision making process regarding issues related to national security, albeit decreased in the past decades.

Intelligence and security

The Barrayaran intelligence apparatus consists of three major agencies: the Ministry of Protection of Imperial Loyalty, the Imperial Security and the Military Intelligence Service. The law enforcement is carried out by three police agencies with a planetary jurisdiction, as well as a centralized organized crime agency and the military police.
From a general point of view, the Barrayaran apparatus is characterized by a deep functional separation; no corps or agency exclusively retains intelligence or law enforcement responsibilities, although the Imperial Security is doubtless the privileged and main agency in charge of overall security protection.

Local Government

Barrayar is divided into 124 areas at the District level, sixty of them ruled by the Counts, 280 Regions and many municipalities. Administration of the government of each level corresponds to a level in the Imperial Civil Service, except where the rulers are Counts.
District: Barrayar consists of 124 administrative territories of the Regional level, including 60 Districts ruled by the Counts located in the North Continent. Districts hold a number of powers and administrative discretion and government, although government policy depend on the address of the Empire. According to their status, have special powers and privileges.
Region: The Region is a territorial local authority subordinate to the District level, and includes the territory of several municipalities. There are 280 Regions.
Municipality: The municipality is the smallest administrative territorial subdivision, determined by precise borders on which insists a portion of the population. It defines, for its centre in which there is the public social life of its inhabitants, the fundamental local authority.

Komarr and Sergyar Viceroyalties

Viceroy is the title for the high ranking official who governs one of the two planetary Viceroyalties in the Barrayaran Imperium, Sergyar or Komarr. The Viceroy of Komarr is locally styled the Imperial Counsellor.
Komarr and Sergyar have their own bureaucratic structures, organized and directed by the Viceroys.

Komarran Corporation

Komarran government formally is a planetary corporation, which owns the whole planet. Voting shares are owned by Komarran citizens: at least a single share is granted by law, extra-shares could be purchased and brought. The owner of 67% of Komarran Corporation is the Barrayaran Empire, personified by the Emperor, which delegates his Imperial Representative to govern the Komarran Corp.
Emperor Serg Vorbarra has introduced, in continuity with his predecessor's latest policies and reforms, a partial association of the Komarran oligarchy to the conduct of planetary affairs, while the legislative power related to the government of the single domes is entrusted to the Komarran share-holders as how was before the Barrayaran conquest, although under the local Imperial Representative's surveillance and supervision.
The planet is divided into a number of equal-sized Sectors, with responsibilities for regional government, headed by the Imperial Sector Representative, who is also the Imperial Representative in charge for Sector Capital City, while other Domes have their own Imperial Dome Representative.
The plutocratic and nominal democracy is divided into two types of votes - one person, one vote - and "extra votes" that are granted to any settlers starting a new domed-city. These "extra votes" are inheritable and trade-able on a secondary market. The plutocratic oligarchies control the government by holding these extra votes.
The Imperial Counsellor retains the executive and judicial power, but the Komarran Senate, the Komarran legislature, has limited but effective powers, enjoying of the Cooperation procedure: the Council of Counts could reject the proposed law by the Komarran Senate by adopting a resolution with a qualified majority of 40 votes (out of 60 in total). The Cooperation procedure is permitted only on restricted areas regarding the custom duties, some areas of the Komarran monetary policy and Komarran share-voting procedures and rules. However, in entirely internal matters, where general interests of the Empire are not involved, Komarran Senate can legislate with the sole consent of Imperial Counsellor.


Sergyar is one of the three planets that comprise the Barrayaran Imperium. Sergyar serves as a link from Komarr to Escobar and to Beta Colony, which significantly opens up trade in the wormhole nexus for Barrayar. At first, it was used by the Barrayarans as the site of massive caches of ordinance and other material for their abortive attempt to invade and conquer Escobar. After the war, it was opened for colonization.
Directly owned by the Emperor of Barrayar, Sergyar is a Barrayaran vice-royalty under the governance of a Viceroy. A steady flow of immigrants from both Barrayar and Komarr have made new homes on Sergyar since the opening to colonization, in 2918, and still flows. The planet is also attractive for foreign settlers coming from overpopulated planets. Due the vicinity between Sergyar and Escobar - roughly four-days long trip - the latter, democratic planet has a strong influence over the so-called "Chaos Colony".
Sergyar is visible from two wormholes, in a vicinity that contains four wormholes. The two close wormholes lead on paths toward Barrayar and Beta Colony. The third useful wormhole leads to Escobar.

Military of Barrayar

The Barrayaran Military Imperial Service, also known as the Imperial Service or colloquially as The Service is the national military force of the planet of Barrayar.
The service originates from the feudal armies of Time of Isolation of Barrayar, until their dissolution by the reforming emperor Dorca Vorbarra. All officers swear allegiance directly to the Emperor of Barrayar. Originally, the Service's officer corps was dominated by the Vor aristocracy. However, the Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, and Lord Regent Admiral Vorkosigan, reformed the admissions process, allowing competitive admission from all classes. The Imperial Military Service in its modern form (the "New Service") dates from the early years of Vorkosigan's regency, partly reformed by the reigning Emperor, Gregor's son, Serg Vorbarra. While there are female auxiliary forces, the Barrayaran Imperial Service Women's Auxiliary, the regular Barrayaran Imperial Service is exclusively male.
By definition, the Imperial Military is under the overall command of the reigning Emperor or Regent as commander-in-chief. Consequently, in his role as the Emperor's Voice, any Imperial Auditor can command military forces as he sees fit.

Military Discipline

The Regulations of Military Discipline is the moral code of the Imperial Service. It must be recognized, considered and observed by all the military. The moral principles and specifications dictated by the Regulations form the basis and strength of the military institution.
The Imperial Service, which is supreme commander of the Emperor, are set up to support the Throne, to protect the laws and institutions, make war wherever it is ordained by the sovereign, to defend the honour and independence of the country in obedience to orders received to the extreme fate.
The Imperial Service, to avoid any rift in their team and to perform the duties arising from institutional duties, must remain outside the political controversy.


Barrayar's planetary economy is mostly based upon agriculture, though the role of industry has grown since the Cetagandan Invasion. The Empire of Barrayar draws most of its revenue from trade passing through the wormholes in Komarran space. It is important to note that Barrayar's economy is still weak by the standards of many other well developed planets. The currency of the planet is the "Barrayaran Imperial Mark", which is worth about one quarter of a Betan dollar, regarded as the hardest currency in the Nexus. This, on the other hand, favours exports.

The Barrayaran economic outline is characterized by an heavy presence of large conglomerates, often built on a family basis and controlled by a chairman who has power over all the operations. The family conglomerate is predominant on Komarr, but it is quite spread also on Barrayar and Sergyar. On the latter planets, Vors are significant economic players. Most important conglomerates are financial business conglomerates consisting of a holding company on top, with a wholly owned banking subsidiary providing finance, and several industrial subsidiaries. While most important on Komarr, the family corporations are part of the heart of economic and industrial activity within the whole Empire of Barrayar. Alongside the family corporations, the Imperial Service covert or unofficial presence is a major economic characteristic. Anyway, there are also large public companies and to a limited extent almost all major groups offers their securities (stock/shares, bonds/loans, etc.) for sale to the general public, typically through a stock exchange, or through market makers operating in over the counter markets.

The common feature is that all major economic actors produce everything internally and have their own financial institution. Most conglomerates are one, very large corporation, while others have broken up into loosely connected groups of separate companies sharing a common name. Also in the latter case, each is almost always owned, controlled, or managed by the same family group or by a select group of professional managers. In case of family conglomerates, the overall owner, with the help of family members, family-owned charity and senior managers from subsidiaries, has to control (but very often to own) three of four public companies, who themselves control other companies that control subsidiaries.

Alongside privately held companies, there are a number of large corporations owned and operated directly by the Government of the Empire through the relevant Minister or by the Vice-regal governments of Sergyar and Komarr.

Although large corporations - whoever the owners are - represent a large chunk of the economic life of the planet, the medium and small enterprises are a significant reality, mostly on Barrayar and Sergyar, but also in some economic sectors of the Komarran internal market. The races for many government contracts, particularly in services and minor architecture, are called upon to contribute specifically to small and medium enterprises. In the primary sector, the small and medium enterprises, as well as cooperatives, are widespread in the agriculture market, especially in wine production.

Culture and society

Barrayaran culture is deeply characterized by allegiance ties and by some feudal traits, being heavily stratified and dominated by a military caste known as the Vors, headed by an Emperor and sixty Counts each governing a district. On Barrayar the title of Count is derived from accountant, since the original Counts were mere tax-gatherers. Counts and their liege-subjects have reciprocal duties and obligations to each other. Members of the Vor class have the syllable "Vor" prepended to the original surname. Barrayar was isolated from the rest of the known galaxy for many centuries, and devolved into a quasi-medieval level of technology. Modernization proceeded rapidly at the price of a great deal of culture shock. While the cities are modern, much of rural Barrayar is still not too different from conditions in the "Time of Isolation". However, most of very basic habits, such as eating or drinking, are very different from most advanced Nexus planets, which have less familiarity with animals and animal-derived food or with alcohol: formal Barrayaran meals are accompanied by traditional toasts and the most common practice is to drain the glass for each toast. The military and official systems use kilometres instead of miles, but socially Barrayar never left traditional measurement units.
Titles of nobility are only inherited by males, although the heir is appointed at the discretion of the noble and need not be a son or the closest relative. In default of a will, inheritance is however by male primogeniture. The eldest son is also the legal guardian of his brothers' children in the event of the brothers' death. If a dead has no living brothers, so the guardianship goes to his nearest male relative alive. The Vor class is both an aristocracy (in the upper layers) and a gentry (in the lower layers).

See also