Liberation War (Gylias)
Street fighting during the siege of Kyman
First phase (1938–1948)
First phase (1938–1948)
First phase (1938–1948)
Second phase (1948–1958)
Second phase (1948–1958)
Second phase (1948–1958)
|Commanders and leaders|
The war is conventionally divided into two phases:
- The first phase (1938–1948) saw a power vacuum caused by the retreat of the Nerveiík Kingdom, leading to battles between various Gylian factions for supremacy.
- The second phase (1948–1958) saw the overthrow of the Nerveiík Kingdom by a reactionary–Political Futurist regime, bringing Xevden into the war. The other Gylian factions were decimated, turning the conflict into a straightforward battle between the anarchist Free Territories and Xevden.
The war ended with the Free Territories' victory in 1958, followed by the transition from the Free Territories to Gylias.
The Liberation War was one of the most destructive conflicts in Gylian history. The death toll is estimated at around 800.000 soldiers, civilians, and non-combatants. War crimes were committed by most sides, including massacres, reprisal killings, tortures, and other atrocities. The war fundamentally reshaped Gylian society, consolidating the Gylian consensus and laying the foundation for the Golden Revolution.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw the weakening of Xevden, and its irreversible slide into disintegration. Pressure came from the Gylian ascendancy, producing an increasingly radicalised Gylian population whose defeats in 1848 and 1856–1868 came at a heavy price, and the Xevdenite elites' fracturing into reactionaries and pragmatists.
Reactionary intransigence and obstruction culminated in a coup d'état in 1902, installing Karnaz on the throne. Karnaz took an authoritarian turn and fruitlessly tried to crush all opposition. His reckless foreign policy led to the humiliating Cacerta-Xevden War, which resulted in the formation of Alscia. Karnaz spent the rest of his reign confronting one Gylian insurgency and uprising after another, with Alscia fanning the flames as a haven for radicals and fighting the Alscian Border War.
Karnaz's death in 1934 brought a brief interlude in the crisis. The new king, Láaresy, was a moderate figure who sought a peaceful resolution. He reversed the authoritarian turn and introduced reforms during the 1400 Days' Reform to democratise Xevden.
However, constitutional remedies were now inadequate. Two elections in 1935 and 1937 were marred by fraud and political violence; Láaresy himself fended off an attempted coup and an assassination attempt during his wedding. Polarisation ran at an all-time high and paramilitaries proliferated.
The start of the war is conventionally dated to 1 January 1938, when the People's Army launched its successful insurrection. Some historians consider the Liberation War merely the last part of the longer Gylian resistance; historian Nina Raukan writes, "the war had already been going on before; 1 January was simply the official declaration of it."
Initially, the war was a multi-party conflict. Having failed to negotiate peace and with further Gylian rebellions erupting, Láaresy ordered the withdrawal of the Xevdenite military to the Nerveiík peninsula, essentially ceding the mainland to the Gylians. The first phase of the war was thus both a struggle between Gylians and Xevden, as well as a struggle between various Gylian factions over which would achieve supremacy.
The Free Territories were proclaimed on 12 March 1938, after anarchists seized control of the People's Army. They were self-organised along anarchist principles, and quickly grew into one of the major factions of the conflict.
The People's Army, as the military arm of the Free Territories, was essentially a federation of democratic militias rather than a conventional military. It used primarily defensive tactics similar to the ones employed by the Alscian Border Guard — harassment of the enemy, fomenting rebellions to intervene in support of, and slow advances and consolidation.
The advantages of the Free Territories lay in its anarchist principles and provision of social services. These won it support from both the Gylian populace and international sympathy, attracting foreign volunteers to the International Brigades. Main disadvantages included light or deficient equipment, reduced ability to execute complicated operations due to revolutionary discipline, and occasionally chaotic and overlapping organisation.
Due to the initial retreat to Nerveiík, the first phase of the war marks a distinct period of Xevdenite history, known as the Nerveiík Kingdom.
Despite the setbacks, Láaresy did not give up on his efforts to seek a peaceful solution or reform Xevden. Continuing the 1400 Days' Reform proved easier in the reduced territory of the Nerveiík Kingdom. His policies included a crackdown on corruption and nepotism, a reorganisation of the financial system, land reform, reform of local government, and state-driven economic development and public works. Some centralisation took place to strengthen the kingdom against reactionaries, including the establishment of the United National Movement, Women's League, and National Syndical Organisation.
Aided by foreign powers like Acrea and the Empire of Quenmin, the Xevdenite military was reorganised and consolidated, becoming the National Army. Another significant component was the Royal Guard, an elite all-female unit that protected and answered directly to Láaresy.
The kingdom followed a defensive and neutralist course, merely defending its peninsular territory and observing unofficial non-aggression pacts with neighbouring Gylian factions. Although the Nerveiík Kingdom still theoretically considered itself the Xevdenite state, a series of symbolic concessions and changes to underscore its commitment to liberalisation meant that in practice it had largely abandoned the goal of winning the war. It maintained a tacit alliance with a Gylian constitutional monarchist faction that seized the Daláyk islands with Ossorian support.
Within a few years, the Nerveiík Kingdom had become a fragile but liberal-oriented constitutional monarchy, albeit with a degree of militarism to withstand the war. On paper, it possessed a modern and professional military in the National Army and Royal Guard, and its social and economic reforms had secured Nerveiík residents' acquiescence, if not support. However, its fundamental flaw was its dependence on support from international powers, particularly to equip and train its military. As queen Márgit reflected, "If any of the great powers decides not to prop us up anymore, we can't stand by ourselves."
Between the Free Territories' slow advance and the Nerveiík Kingdom's retreat, most of Xevden's territory fell into the hands of various Gylian factions, which fought for supremacy.
Most factions had paramilitary wings, including liberals, socialists, communists, nationalists, and others. Several factions used the war as an opportunity to settle factional conflicts by force, including authoritarian versus anarchist leftists, "constructive" versus "recalcitrant" conservatives, and Gylicists versus Gylian nationalists.
The Futurist Front, led by Emilia Malandrino, emerged from among the various organisations that succeeded the Futurist Party of Alscia after Alscia joined the Free Territories. It was supported by Political Futurist regimes in Megelan during the Warlord Era and Æþurheim. Mainly operating in the Kackar mountains near Alscia's former borders, it was best-known for the Impresa di Chieti, the 1946–1947 period when it seized control of Keraþ, and ran a theatrical, ritual-oriented regime before being forced out by an authoritarian communist force.
The best-known "wildcard" faction was Lidia's Legion, led by the eccentric Lidia Leone. The Legion was described as an agglomeration of "misfits and outsiders" who did not fit in with other factions, politically neutral and composed of members united by little more than dislike of other factions. Lidia led it through a successful guerrilla campaign, making a near-circuit of former Xevden territory from coast to coast, and cooperating with other groups along the way. Lidia's colourful public image and courtesy towards outsiders generated notable sympathy and interest as a "wicked" figure.
On the Xevdenite side, the extremist margin was composed of a divergent mix of traditionalist reactionaries, angered by Láaresy and wishing to smash the pragmatists and the Gylian rebels, and revolutionary Futurists, who sought to create a new state that would take Xevden's social spencerist tendencies to their racist and murderous logical conclusion. The Revolutionary Front for Patriotic Victory, led by Nalo Ðari, emerged as the leading party of this current through strong-arming and amalgamation, and served as a consistent thorn in the side of the Nerveiík Kingdom. Its paramilitary, the Storm of Steel, was infamous for its brutality and suicidal attacks on superior Gylian forces.
Course of the war
First phase (1938–1948)
Launched on 1 January 1938, the People's Army insurrection was initially localised to the Salxar mountains. Although successful, it was merely one among many Gylian uprisings and uprising plots, and at the time did not appear an especially pronounced danger to Xevden. In fact, the initial statist communist leadership of the PA alienated the ranks and the local residents with its authoritarianism and military-focused resource allocation.
The mass mutiny that brought the PA under anarchist control changed this calculus significantly. The General Declaration of 12 March 1938 proclaimed the Free Territories, with Darnan Cyras chosen as nominal head of the PA. The Free Territories' organisation on anarchist principles consolidated its support.
For a year, Láaresy engaged in negotiations with Darnan to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Láaresy withheld the Xevdenite military to prevent the situation escalating, and the news of the negotiations significantly raised Darnan's profile, placing him at the forefront of the Gylian resistance. Although Darnan respected Láaresy's sincere desire to achieve peace and justice for Xevden's wrongs, he did not want a peaceful resolution, and dragged out the negotiations to stall for time.
As more Gylian insurgencies and rebellions erupted, the poorly-disciplined and fractious Xevdenite army faced pressure, and extremist paramilitaries sought to incite further violence. Láaresy ordered the withdrawal of all Xevdenite military units to Nerveiík, a chaotic retreat that lasted nearly a year. Other Gylian factions seized the opportunity to take control of territory abandoned by the fleeing Xevdenite authorities.
By 1939, the battle lines had consolidated: the Nerveiík Kingdom now held sway in the south, with the Varnaþ family's reforms and foreign support managing to bring some stability to the precarious reformist regime. Most of the mainland was a theatre of war between multiple factions: Gylian paramilitaries, Xevdenite reactionaries, and others.
The Free Territories' survival was assured by distance from the other factions and a mainly defensive strategy. Its expansion was slow and methodical: the PA allied with like-minded groups and aided anarchist and communist rebellions. Once a territory was liberated, it would be integrated into the Free Territories.
With the dissolution of the Cacertian Empire imminent, Alscia voted overwhelmingly to join the Free Territories, which took place on 1 March 1939. At a stroke, the Free Territories' size and population greatly increased, and it gained an industrial base, access to the sea, and greatly diversified politics. "More than anything," argued Margherita Martini, "Alscia's decision determined who would have the upper hand."
The Nerveiík Kingdom's similarly defensive strategy, borne of necessity, allowed it to survive and slowly build up the National Army and Royal Guard into significant fighting forces with foreign support. Láaresy never lost hope for a negotiated end to the war, and directed his main energies towards suppressing the Xevdenite reactionaries, rapprochement with the Gylian factions, and seeking foreign support.
The Royal Guard's most notable engagement was the suppression of an authoritarian communist uprising in Laiýs in 1942. Even when faced with determined resistance and urban warfare, the RG maintained its discipline and restraint, seeking to avoid civilian casualties, and putting the defeated rebels in protective custody to prevent reprisal killings. The RG's conduct at the Battle of Laiýs gained it respect among its more moderate opponents and even the PA; Láaresy capitalised on it to bolster the presentation of the Nerveiík Kingdom as a reformed entity capable of transcending the historical crimes of Xevden.
The other Gylian factions increasingly adopted a narrow mindset, concentrating on little more than securing and maintaining control of particular tracts of territory. The fractiousness meant that nobody could score a decisive knockout blow, and thus the factions were dominated by a victory disease that assumed the victory against Xevden was all but certain, and drove them to ruinous fights to attempt to secure power in a highly fluid situation. Several factions' reputations suffered as they were caught up in the violence and sacrificed their proclaimed principles for the sake of victory or psychological warfare.
Second phase (1948–1958)
Láaresy was overthrown in a coup d'état on 31 December 1947, masterminded by the "monstrous alliance" of reactionaries and the Revolutionary Front for Patriotic Victory. The hardline Tymzar was installed on the throne, and RFPV leader Nalo Ðari became the head of government, forming the Tymzar–Nalo regime.
Tymzar and Nalo immediately began preparations to commit Xevden to the war, and to systematically destroy the Nerveiík Kingdom. Symbolic concessions were annulled, martial law was imposed, the legislature and United National Movement were shut down, and the National Army hastily reorganised into the Royal Army. Purges took place against enemies; Láaresy's immediate family escaped to Daláyk, while many other Xevdenites fled to Quenmin. The new RFPV regime secured support from Æþurheim and sought the backing of other authoritarian regimes of Tyran.
The Xevdenites launched their offensive in February 1948. The RA scored easy defeats against the fractious Gylian forces and advanced northwards. However, they floundered against the PA, which employed strategic retreats, attrition warfare, and guerrilla tactics to harass the Xevdenite flanks, particularly supply lines. Impatient and meddlesome, Tymzar and Nalo pushed for relentless offensives, seeking to deal a death blow to the Free Territories. Instead, the RA suffered spectacular defeats at the battles of Nerazur and Mytin on 14-15 April 1948.
Tymzar and Nalo's course now led Xevden to disaster. The decimation of the other Gylian factions drove them to unite behind the Free Territories, turning the second phase of the war into a straightforward Free Territories–Xevden conflict. Their fanatical militarism and obsession with victory proved no match for the Gylians' mastery of guerrilla warfare and control of advantageous areas like the Kackar mountains, Paksas hills, and Nezyál jungles.
More damagingly, the destruction of the Nerveiík Kingdom's accomplishments isolated Xevden internationally. Former backers like Acrea switched sides to support the Free Territories, seeing them as preferable to the RFPV regime. Deprived of foreign support, the Royal Army lost its advantage in equipment, and its morale and professionalism was eroded by defeats inflicted by the PA and the totalitarianism inflicted by Nalo, who sought to turn it into another Storm of Steel. In a further humiliation, Tymzar and Nalo's misogyny drove the entire RG to defect in 1948, and it joined Lidia's Legion instead, bolstering the Legion considerably.
With the Xevdenites' irrevocable loss of the initiative, the next years saw a slow but steady advance by the Free Territories. Although bolstered by its unification of the other factions under its umbrella, the Free Territories still faced the fundamental problem of controlling too much territory with too little manpower. The slow pace of advance was born of necessity: newly-liberated territory needed to be integrated, reorganised, and most importantly, cleared of Xevdenite stragglers, saboteurs, and irregulars.
While the Free Territories gained a symbolic win by having the Futurist Front join its side, the newly-bolstered Lidia's Legion remained a problem. Whenever the Legion encountered PA units during its haphazard travels, the two sides observed mutual truces and even fraternisation. Lidia made it clear simultaneously that she had no strife with the People's Army, and had no plans to join their side. The Legion's continued wanderings thus became a disruptive obstacle to the PA's planning. The PA continued to negotiate for an alliance with the Legion, and at times prepared offensives around the Legion's path or positions.
By 1954, the Free Territories controlled the mainland. Within two years, the Nauras peninsula was liberated; only Nerveiík remained under Xevdenite control. Surrounded on the outskirts of Tezira, Lidia's Legion finally surrendered. Láaresy was freed from prison and reunited with his family; the torture and mistreatment he had endured repulsed his liberators so much that they briefly interrupted their offensive to destroy his former prison.
With victory in sight, questions regarding the post-war future grew in importance. In the Free Territories, anarchists faced a loose coalition of liberals, "constructive" conservatives, and reformist leftists, arguing against abolition of the state on the grounds that state mechanisms should be used to achieve rapid relief, reconstruction, and development. Several leading anarchist figures, including Darnan, the Freeman sisters, and the ferroses, tried to compromise by moving to a withering away of the state position, which caused some controversy.
Anarchists similarly grew impatient with being forced to work together with the statist–authoritarian left during the war. Growing tensions in the "alliance of convenience" finally came to a head with the Lucian Purge of April 1956.
There was a brief lull in fighting after the liberation of Nauras, to prepare the final assault on Nerveiík and regroup after the Lucian Purge. The final offensive began in late 1956, as the PA simultaneously attacked by land from the north and made naval landings from Nauras, Iárus island, and the Daláyk islands.
Xevden's defeat was a foregone conclusion, and this drove the remaining Xevdenite forces to resist fanatically, knowing capitulation would bring a reckoning for their crimes. A secondary goal was to buy time for others to flee Nerveiík — a difficult proposition given the PA's naval blockade and limited air capacity.
The Xevdenite resistance caused some disorder in the PA's operations, as mop-up operations were extended and units had to be reunited. By the end of 1957, the PA had successfully occupied the peninsula and converged on Velouria, the Xevdenite capital.
The Battle of Velouria took slightly over a week, as the PA fought their way through the city. Enraged at the victory delayed by the Xevdenites, many PA soldiers resorted to brutal tactics like bombing entire neighbourhoods and indiscriminately killing combatants and civilians alike in an attempt to break the Xevdenite resistance. Leading cadres and political figures traveled to Velouria in anticipation of the imminent victory. Clarissa Rossetti recounted in her memoir that "it seemed like the entire city had been reduced to rubble".
The PA finally reached the former Royal Palace on the night of 1–2 January 1958. A captured Xevdenite soldier informed them that Tymzar and Nalo were there, having both failed to escape, and planned a last stand. To avoid another fierce combat within its walls, the PA moved its artillery into position and bombed the palace intensely. Afterwards, the 15th Special Operations Squad was sent to perform a final mop-up of the building, wherein they managed to capture Tymzar and Nalo alive.
With Tymzar and Nalo now in PA custody, the PA resumed bombing the palace until it was completely destroyed. Finally, two volunteers climbed what remained of the building and raised two flags, one black and one red. Fighting ceased, and in the morning, the residents saw the flags flying above the ruins of the former Royal Palace, marking the PA's victory.
Approximately 800.000 soldiers, civilians, and non-combatants died in the Liberation War, making it one of the violent and traumatic conflicts in Gylian history.
Many sides committed war crimes, atrocities, and abuses; Lidia's Legion was the only combatant not to do so. One historian commented that of the major factions, only the PA and NA–RG emerged from the war with any credit, as the PA punished personnel who committed war crimes, and the NA–RG demonstrated remarkable restraint, as well as not seeing much action during the first phase.
The bulk of war crimes and atrocities were committed by Xevdenite reactionaries and the RFPV and Storm of Steel. These included indiscriminate violence and torture, mass murders, and mass rapes. The PA considered them their most abominable enemies, and were so revolted by their repeated acts of perfidy that they adopted a policy of no quarter, shooting or maiming those who surrendered to prevent them from engaging in perfidy.
During the Impresa di Chieti, the Futurist Front became infamous for Emilia's preference for publicly humiliating her enemies instead of killing them. Their best-known method was to parade restrained enemies in public and force-feed them castor oil, forcing them to defecate themselves in public.
While the Free Territories made efforts to prevent massacres, violent reprisals against collaborators and former oppressors were frequent. Common forms included being paraded in public wearing dunce caps and wooden boards with insulting remarks. In the countryside, violence and public humiliation were especially meted out to former landlords after their lands were expropriated. The Lucian Purge saw similar humiliations of authoritarians, vilification in the press, and nuisance lawsuits brought mainly to excuse their purge from public life.
In an effort to undermine the RFPV and Storm of Steel's image, the PA often dumped their corpses in public squares to be abused by passersby, or hung them by lamp-posts with wooden boards attached detailing their crimes.
Hostility to monotheism was a significant component of the Gylian ascendancy, and the Free Territories did little to discourage it. A hostile environment formed that drove most of them to flee. Their departure was followed by campaigns to destroy traces of their presence. Their places of worship were demolished, and sacred objects and scriptures destroyed. In some cases, cemeteries were vandalised and desecrated, and bodies were dug up, loaded into carts and dumped outside the Free Territories' borders.
The Battle of Velouria saw some of the most intense fighting of the conflict. Many PA units resorted to brutal tactics to break the Xevdenite resistance, including indiscriminately bombing the city and killing combatants and civilians alike.
Historian Herta Schwamen summed up the difference between sides by saying that war crimes and killings in the Free Territories were largely chaotic and "an outpouring of hatred against oppressors" during the transition to anarchism, while the Tymzar–Nalo regime engaged in a more systematic and organised terror against their enemies.
The war ended with Xevden's destruction as a state. A transitional period from the Free Territories to Gylias ensued, overlapping with the National Obligation period. Both the Free Territories and Gylias have consistently emphasised their rejection of the succession of states theory, emphasising that Xevden was an illegal regime that had usurped the Liúşai League. Neóre Rouraþ, the first foreign minister in the Executive Committee of Gylias, made the point forcefully: "We have not 'replaced' Xevden. We have dug its grave and pissed on it."
The Arnak Trials took place after the war to punish war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crimes of the Xevdenite regime. They lasted from 1958 to 1961, and their comprehensive nature, heated atmosphere, and sometimes harsh administration of justice satisfied the wish for revenge that followed victory.
Notably, the trials reflected the Free Territories' use of the adversary–enemy distinction, or what Luisa Braglia called the "gold or bullets strategy" underlying policies like the honoured citizens list. The Varnaþ family attended the trials almost like guests of honour, and were not found guilty of any crimes. They were seen with more sympathy by the Gylian public as tragic figures due to their fruitless efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the war.
By contrast, Tymzar, Nalo, and the other highest-ranking Xevdenite officials were sent to barren and uninhabited Gylian islands, without guards or contact, and left to starve to death or murder each other. They were seen by the Gylian public as implacable enemies, and their deaths as just comeuppance. Nalo in particular was expertly ridiculed by anarchist propaganda and reduced to a ludicruous figure, heaping humiliation upon his fate.
Similarly, Emilia Malandrino and Lidia Leone largely escaped without serious consequence in the Arnak Trials due to public perception of them as adversaries. They also capitalised on their "wicked" reputations to lead political careers after the war in the National Reconstruction Alliance.
The length and trauma of the war had a major impact on Gylian history. It strengthened the social revolution undertaken by the Free Territories and consolidated the Gylian consensus, with the Golden Revolution launched after the war based on the foundations of the Free Territories. Groups like the Veterans for a Just Peace explicitly mobilised the memory of the war to promote a progressive and left-wing vision of a just peace.
Although the Lucian Purge, Arnak Trials, and hostile environment against monotheists all contributed to international suspicion of Gylias immediately after the war, other commentators like Sofia Westergaard noted the comparative speed with which reconciliation proceeded, taking advantage of the adversary–enemy distinction, the rapid transfer of popular mobilisation to the utopian Golden Revolution, and the cathartic punishments handed down by the Arnak Trials. The former members of Lidia's Legion and the Royal Guard were given veterans' pensions and allowed to keep their ranks in retirement; some joined the Gylian Self-Defense Forces as senior advisors.
The Varnaþ family were resettled in Renig, a village in northern Kausania, where they lived out their lives in quiet retirement. One biographer commented that there was an "unspoken understanding" that the family would stay away from politics in exchange for being left alone. They enjoyed a comfortable retirement, forming a close relationship with the Gylian Police constables assigned to look after them, and the villagers grew fond of them as a colourful presence. A descendant of the family, Laura Varnaþ, later served as President of Gylias, and the former queen Márgit was interviewed in the 1999 documentary Nation Building.
Velouria underwent extensive reconstruction after the war, but the ruined Royal Palace with the black and red flags remains as it did after the Battle of Velouria as a monument to the war.
In popular culture
The Liberation War has both been extensively depicted in Gylian popular culture and has influenced it. The sheer length and traumatic violence of the war, coupled with the fractious battles of the first phase, made certain parts such as the exploits of the 15th Special Operations Squad and Lidia's Legion stand out more, with the public warming to their exciting tone of derring-do in contrast to the atrocities, senseless killings, and agonisingly slow advances of the conflict in general.
The war is considered to have helped strengthen the wicked–evil distinction in Gylian culture by providing such a stark backdrop to illustrate the distinction. It also influenced Gylian popular culture's search for healthy outlets for socially troublesome impulses, such as crime fiction instead of actual crime, strict gun laws and outlandish depictions of guns instead of violence, and rezy instead of violence.
Free Gylias commented that one of the anarchists' greatest propaganda victories was reducing Nalo Ðari, the head of the murderous RFPV regime, to a ridiculous figure. Relentless caricatures turned him into a pompous and stupid figure of ridicule, which both increased the public clamour for revenge at the Arnak Trials and ensured he would be seen as laughable instead of a legitimate threat or target of misplaced admiration.
The Liberation War has notably been a fertile ground for Gylian alternate history works due to its chaotic nature in the start, making other factions' victory a plausible prospect.