This article belongs to the lore of Kylaris.

Great Steppe

Location of the Great Steppe in Coius
Mountains about the south of the steppe
Grass on the steppe

The Great Steppe, also called the Coian Steppe, Great Coian Steppe, High Plains or just the Steppes, is a complex geophysical, biogeographical and cultural area that stretches across much of the interior of the southern half of Coius. It is environmentally characterised by relatively flat topography and a wide variety of grasslands and shrublands. From west to east, it extends from the Amardian coast of the Mazdan Sea to the banks of the Batarak River; between them, the steppe covers large portions of the territory of Ajahadya, Zorasan and Kumuso.

The Great Steppe has great historical significance with regards to trade and the exchange of religion, language, literature, science, technology and other thoughts and ideas. Its topography, nomadic peoples and horse culture encouraged great mobility across a large area of Coius otherwise largely bounded by sedentary agricultural societies in areas such as Southeast Coius, Xiaodong and Satria. The region has a great history of people movements; the Chanwa, Oroqic, Yanogu and other peoples are native inhabitant ethnic groups.

Name

The Great Steppe has many native names in many languages, owing to its geographical extent and linguistic and cultural variety. Many of these names come from the recognition of the Great Steppe as the largest grassland on the continent, and an area topographically elevated as a plateau in the centre of that continent; its most common Estmerish name is a recognition of this. However, it is also been referred to as the Coian Steppe, Great Coian Steppe, Central Coian Steppe, Central Steppe, South Coian Steppe, the High Steppe, or plural variants thereon, the High Plains and the South Coian Plateau.

In geology, the region has some correlation to the orogenic belt referred to as the South Coian Montane Complex. However, this is an academic term, not a common one, and it stretches further south than conventional definitions of the Great Steppe.

Geography

Sea buckthorn, a species of berry bush harvested for food, native to the Great Steppe
A river watering vegetation on the steppe

The Great Steppe is both a geophysical and biological region.

Topography

It is largely a plateau—of high elevation but fairly smooth in its relief—with tall mountains to its south and also some to its west, but tapering off in the other directions towards the sea or inland lakes. The Great Steppe is often thought of as very flat, but in fact there are significant outcroppings scattered thoughout it; its flatness is in part perceived as a result of these outcroppings rarely being sufficiently linear or complex to be obstructive, and the low levels of vegetation.

During the last Ice Age, the region was covered in an ice cap. This caused glaciation; much of the rougher terrain in the region results from this. Moraine material is often present, along with other more recently eroded material.

Geology

The area is elevated because of uplift from the collision of the Australian Plate, the Solarian Plate, the East Coian Plate and the Lumine Plate; generally speaking, the Australian Plate subducts beneath the others, but the area is complexly folded and termed the South Coian Montane Complex. The Great Steppe is mainly located in the elevations under which the Australian Plate subducts; while rock layer disruption is less than where subduction is less complete, it is enough to expose some metamorphic and igneous stones, along with metals. The region sometimes experiences earthquakes as a result.

Hydrology

Glacial melt and heavy fog waters parts of the steppe, with relatively consistent and socioeconomically important rivers, though with typically low flow. Rainfall is overall low; the Great Steppe does not have the advantage of large bodies of water to evaporate from, and its high altitude makes it difficult for rain clouds to form or travel to it.

Land cover

The steppe varies between more arid and more humid biomes, but is overall characterised by grassland; in many more elevated or northerly areas it tends to be long grass, in others short grass, and scrubland in the far south; in general it is an area of low primary productivity, which combined with few large plants to bind the surface substrate, results in thin and conventionally agriculturally unproductive soils. Its cool scrublands are particularly hosts to notable biodiversity. In this way, it is a typical steppe.

Biodiversity

Animal range from eagles to wild horses. The Great Steppe is ecologically fragile, because of its thin topsoil and low primary production, and also because its inhabitants typically lack the political power to secure environmental protections.

History

The history of the Great Steppe is characterised by its sparseness of population and openness to horse-based travel. Mostly incapable of sustaining intensive agriculture mainly due to its low rainfall, its population was largely nomads of various descriptions (in particular transhumants). This societal structure tended to produce polities of limited population and power even when they were quite extensive, often having limited interest in empire. Nonetheless, not infrequently, whether for cultural, military or economic reasons, areas of the steppe were associated with much larger imperial states. Whether native or hailing from neighbouring more agricultural and sedentary regions, these empires had to adapt to the transience and sparseness of the steppe, often controlling them only at great cost or exercising only limited actual control.

Because of its ease of traversal by horse, and its proximity to agricultural civilisations, however, the Great Steppe was a region that saw considerable trade through and with it, and the influence of religions, languages, science and more besides. This was the case right up until the coming of gunpowder empires, which defeated the power of local mounted tactics in the early modern era. Euclean colonialism broke old links and bonds, first taking over the coasts of the Coian continent, but ultimately bringing the Great Steppe under direct control by the 20th century. While many continued to practice traditional lifestyles, the steppe became a backwater as trade moved to the coasts towards Euclea, and advances in agricultural technology reduced distinctive non-agricultural traditions. On decolonisation, conventional nation-states took over, with the region today being of a lower socioeconomic development than the world average.

Prehistory

Anatomically modern humans arrived on the Great Steppe from the northeast, relatively early, probably no later than 40,000 years ago. It is believed that horses may have been first domesticated by humans on the Great Steppe, though whether this was the earliest, only or even one of the domestication of horses in human history is still contentious.

Antiquity

The first period of society on the steppe is often called the Oghuz Period which was defined principally by an eponymous union of several Oroqic tribes that controlled Qizsho, Mirghazab, and Togot from the 6th to 4th century BCE. This was the first kelekoltoi and occupies a semi-legendary status within steppe society. Records describing the Oghuz are mostly from their neighbors, especially the burgeoning Phuli Empire, which would eventually absorb the Oghuz society. The Old Oroqic word translated as here as "period" is kelekoltoi and means literally "to speak by the lake". This refers to meeting places that many tribes would share around winter pastures, which were often lakes. The kelekoltoi was not a formal government, in the context of the steppes, it means a social order or culture based on mutual recognition and shared resources. This contrasts with the khagan or the khural, which are governments that reigned during these kelekoltoi periods.

Depiction of an Oghuz camp under construction

Oghuz communities were characterised by a diarchy with a leader for both the men and the women of the tribe. The male leader was responsible for the organisation of the tribe when moving, had authority over the herds, and control of trades with other tribes. The female leader was responsible for the construction and maintenance of shelters and was also responsible advocating for women during their marriage negotiations. Both were typically older, experienced members of the tribe and were each responsible for selecting the other's successor upon their death. When both died at the same time, the tribe was considered dead and new tribe had to be formed.

The diarchy was the basis of the kelekoltoi--the mutual recognition of other tribes--because the women could organise the construction of the great lakeside camps even when the male leaders were engaged in bitter rivalries over water access and grazing rights.

Phuli Empire

The First Phuli Empire dominated the Great Steppe from the 4th century BCE until shortly before its collapse several centuries later. Often regarded as the first civilisation to bring permanent settlements to the area, the theocratic government established several Satyist monasteries to act as administrative offices and constabularies in a disparate, tribal, and highly fractured region. The monks within these monasteries collected tribute from local tribes, offered protection over trade routes and neutral gathering points for trade and negotiations, and provided security for the construction of permanent settlements.

The Phuli period is regarded as a period of significant economic growth, as monastic towns would grow into trade offices by which the empire could conduct and participate in pan-coian trade. The Great Steppe was a vital trade lane, offering clear, flat path directly to Phula proper,

Wearing a mask became an important custom in warfare on the steppes

with mountains, deserts, and forests disturbing continental traffic in neighboring areas. The permanent settlements also facilitated the spread of Phuli specialty goods, such as prayer items, books, silk, tea, opium, and early forms of waterproofed clothing and material. There may have also been an exchange of livestock such as yaks, but particularly the war and work horses of the Avanidhara native to the Phuli north.

Satyist material culture blossomed in the Great Steppe during the rule of the First Phuli Empire, and a process of mutual interchange between local tribes and Phuli society lasted throughout the imperial period. Examples of shared material culture include prayer beads, ritual items such as daggers, golden statues, and war masks. The iconic war mask commonly associated with Steppe cultures and also present within Phula is believed to have been invented by Satyist warriors as a means of displaying shame and avoiding humanising features being readily seen during battle, in accordance with Adripathi Adhikari's Rebuke of the Kshatriya.

Late antiquity

Unlike the preceding Oghuz society, the population in the late antique period of steppe history was large enough that land management was a serious challenge. In the Oghuz period, the seasonal migration could be as short as eighty miles. By the early years of the first century, however, the radius of pasture land around the lakeside winter camps could not sustain everyone. Moreover, because of the tribal arrangement in which extended families lived together for the whole year, the very young and very old limited distance that a tribe could travel. The solution to this issue was balkalgaz which means "to become solitary". Balkalgaz was the practice of the young and middle aged adults taking a small part of the tribe's herds with a small group of close friends and traveling a much further distance than the weaker members of the tribe. They spent the summer months away from their tribe and then reunited with them in the autumn. Young men especially demonstrated their strength and earned prestige for traveling as far as possible and waiting the longest to return.

Child rearing was the business of unmarried women and the elderly, who taught them the basis of husbandry. Male children came of age officially when they accompanied their parents on Balkalgaz. Another milestone of adulthood was going off away from one's parents, typically with a group of close friends. Female children came of age upon their marriage, at which point they joined their husbands on Balkalgaz. Having a child while out away from the tribe was considered bad luck, in no small part because of the relatively hard lifestyle. If a woman became pregnant, she had the option to stay with the tribe during the summer.

Badi Reaction

One of the oldest Badi stone shrines on the Great Steppe

The Badi Reaction was the conversion of large numbers of Oroqic people after the withdrawal of the Phuli Empire. The material culture of Badi appealed to the newly forming Balkalgaz society, in which there was a period of physical separation from the community. Physical separation from the religious towns of the Satyist towns had always promoted the construction of small shrines and religious sites in the wilderness, but Badi brought a new importance to those beliefs. Earth, air, and animal shrines propagated rapidly around the steppe, almost always in the remote summer pasture land. Initially, these were intensely personal sites, shrines where only one or two people would take time to reflect on the world. Later excavations from this early period of Badi have uncovered caches of personal items such as baby teeth, locks of hair, ornaments, sketches and paintings, and many other items. Records from foreign observers and accounts from oral histories document a wave of religious ecstasy. It has been theorised, because of the remains of plant matter at these early shrines, that the first wave of Badi conversion brought psychoactive substances with it, although the practice seems to have gone out of style quickly because of the cost of importation.

The construction of temples and the development of the formal clerical hierarchy, however, was significantly delayed. The entrenched Satyist monasteries continued to dominate urban life in the former Phuli territories long after their political power had waned. Some houses of worship were constructed in winter camps, but there seasonality generally meant a lack of established, sedentary clergy. The shift from a fundamentally folk observance to a formal religious establishment did not occur until the power and wealth of the Satyist monks were routinely destroyed by <a nomadic empire>. With the advent of organized religious life, the use of entheogens returned, this time supported by the vast network of Badi priests stretching across the steppes.

Kituki Khaganate

The Kituki Khaganate was a short-lived, highly centralised state that emerged at the end of the Antique period. Driven by a dynastic crisis on the western slopes of the steppe neat the Bashurat River, Cyrus enjoyed a meteoric rise to power. Once he had control of the khanates of Shebbek, Katta Vodiy, and Biritan, he began a massive overhaul of steppe society. He launched public programs such as the construction of qanats and the creation of publicly funded circuses. During the beginning of his reign, these were mostly construction projections, but as time went on and his rule remained absolute, he began to make changes to the organisation of society as whole. This phase of his rule included dispatching bureaucrats and military officers from his own tribe to oversee other tribes business, which almost immediately triggered a constitutional crisis. Almost as quickly as it had arisen, Cyrus's government was disbanded and his territory broken up. Although it was short-lived, the Cyrene Khaganate formed a pattern for all future states with ambitions for the steppe.

One of the only reforms that survived the Khaganate was the segregation of the priests. Monasticism was a prominent element of Satyism which had been rejected by the Khaganate, so the priests were not cloistered. Instead the priests were encouraged to form their own mendicant bands, which would be supplied with sustenance by the tribes they serviced. They would also return to the winter camps with everyone else and freely participate in the sharing of food stores. In return, they were required to visit and maintain the vast network of shrines and religious sites that were spread across the steppe. They also served as an easily accessible source of mediation and knowledge. The priests were also often asked to seek out those who died while in balkalgaz solitude and ensure they were properly treated in death.

Medieval period

Tagames

The Tagames were a group of people who lived on parts of the steppes in the mid 9th century BCE and are known for their presence in conflicts all around the Mazdan.

Korshid Period

The Korshids emerged in the 12th century during the decline of the Sangama Dynasty in Satria and maintained control of the steppes until the start of the 16th century. They were rivals with the Zorsani Gorsanid Empire and the Norzin Empire in Tava. They were a significant empire in the history of the Great Steppe.

Modern period

Togoti Khaganate

The Togoti Khaganate rose in the 15th century as one of the Post-Sangma States and greatly expanded in the 16th century, coming to control much of the western half of the Great Steppe. The Togoti Khaganate would fight several inconclusive skirmishes against the rising Aguda Empire as it attempted to assert control over the eastern part of the steppe. It would ultimately decline in the 17th century following a series of wars against the Rajadom of Zubad as it sought to conquer the Bashurat Valley. It has been called a gunpowder empire.

Aguda Empire

The Aguda Empire, an empire whose main base of power was in Dezevau, exerted control over much of the Great Steppe in the early modern era. While the empire was founded in the 15th century, it integrated the areas around the Batarak River in Cavunia and launched expeditions to bring steppe polities into its sphere as tributaries and vassals in the 16th century. Like the Togoti Khaganate, it was a gunpowder empire, but one with a larger economic base and a larger pool of manpower. At its peak, it fought the Togoti Khaganate directly, though the khaganate collapsed soon after mainly due to the exertions of Rajadom of Zubad.

The Aguda Empire came under serious threat from Euclean colonialism during the 17th and 18th centuries, in particular from Saint Bermude's Company, a Gaullican externality. Its power in the steppes receded during this time, though relatively slowly, as it attempted to shift its base of power away from the coasts which it found itself increasingly unable to control. It finally ceased to exist in the 18th century, leaving the steppes with strong influences in modern agriculture and trade but political disunity and disrupted economies. Soon after, Euclean colonial expeditions reached the Great Steppe, though they initially took little care of what they perceived to be a dry, sparse, remote region.

Colonialism

During the colonial period, the steppes were largely considered a waste by Euclean powers since they were not amenable to conventional agriculture and its inhabitants often caused trouble crossing newly drawn borders. Overland trade in this period declined, as Euclean powers directed the commercial and industrial capabilities of their colonies to their metropoles overseas, away from traditional inland routes. Nonetheless, Euclean ideas such as liberalism and socialism gained presences in the Great Steppe.

Pardals

The Pardals were a brief, but potent political force on the steppes in the 1940s. They were engaged in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics, in particular militarily.

Zorasani normalisation

Following the Pardarian Civil War and the beginning of Zorasani unification, the areas of the Great Steppe were subject to a policy of Normalisation (Estekham). The inhabitants of the Zorasani steppe were violently repressed, while centuries-long traditions of nomadism, tribalism and the practice of Badism were banned and forcibly abolished. Zorasan's once proud nomadic communities were forced to settle in New Towns, where herding and other traditional means of subsistence were replaced with manufacturing and mining. An estimated 125,000 people were killed between 1950 and 1976 as a result of Normalisation.

Contemporary period

Red Surge

Much of the developing world, in which the Great Steppe is included, took a turn towards socialism in the mid 20th century, after decolonisation; this trend was linked to the Association of Emerging Socialist Economies. It had various impacts on the Great Steppe. By the end of the 20th century, however, the Red Surge had well and truly ended.

Society

The society of the Great Steppe is strongly influenced by its historical intermixture with neighbours, but also unique local human and natural geography.

Religion

A small Badist stone shrine

Notable religions practiced in the region include Badi, Irfan and Satyism.

Historically, in the core areas of the steppe, Badist temples were relatively stable centres of trade, culture and learning, and played an important role as mediators between warring groups, stopping places for traders, arbiters of mores and customs, keepers of history and literature, and during and after colonisation and decolonisation, the seeds of urban settlements. Sects dedicated to earth and air were particularly prominent on the steppe.

Irfan has however gained much ground in Zorasan since the ascendancy of the Irfanic regime there.

Culture

The Great Steppe's culture is influenced from many directions, but also characterised by their own unique lifestyles which are often dictated by the natural geography. Local crafts are particularly significant.

Nomadism

One of the most enduring qualities of steppe society is transhumance, or the movement between summer and winter pasturing sites for herds. It is a common misconception that all people on the steppes practice this kind of nomadism, but it has been an integral element of every steppe empire, and it continues to be practiced by some groups to this day.

Economy

The countries of the Great Steppe are postcolonial, existing in the developing world, and lost considerable economic relevance after colonialism diverted trade and resources to the coasts and ultimately to Euclea. However, growth and development have occurred since decolonisation.

Agriculture

Much of the Great Steppe did not support intensive agriculture in the distant past, but the advent of modern fertilisers and irrigation have allowed some areas to be cultivated. Additionally, traditional grazing and herding continue to be practiced, constituting a significant part of the economy of the region.

Mining

The geological uplift that produced the Great Steppe also helped produce mineral deposits. Apart from various types of quarried stones, various mineral ores may be found.

See also