Nations of the day and age: The Republic of Hanö

The Republic of Hanö is the second of the two major states in what used to be Finland, the other one being the Kingdom of Peimar. It can briefly be summarized in the expression “merchant dictatorship”, though this is somewhat inaccurate.

Previously known as the Hanö-Halike Republic, the Republic has its roots in the alliances of two early city-states, Hanö and Halike respectively. They allied with each other to be able to stand up to the expansionism of the Kingdom of Peimar under Henrik I. After Henrik died, the alliance was formalized through the founding of the Republic.

The rot set in quickly, though. While Peimar under Christina I evolved into a relatively stable and organized state, the Republic collapsed internally, with the parliament losing power to local strongmen and a runaway executive branch. The Chairman of the Republic, Heimo Saari, finally dealt the death blow to legal rule by making the parliament accept the right of the executive to rule by decree. Parliament accepted due to cannons being brought outside the Hall of Parliament.

Chairman Heimo Saari later died in an abortive invasion of Åland, but his legacy remained. Internal conflicts were daily affairs until an uneasy truce was reached, since both the parliament and the strongmen realizing that if the Republic would entirely collapse, Peimar would swoop in and take over.

Currently, the Chairman rules the Republic through decrees, while the Parliament oversees the fiscal affairs of the Republic, limiting the power of the executive to a modest degree.  Overseas trade has made the capital of the republic, Hanö. fantastically rich but has marginalized the partner of Hanö, Halike because all trade goes through towns controlled by the Town Hall of Hanö. Halike is the most important shipbuilding center in the Republic and resents playing second fiddle.

The Parliament meets twice a month for debates and votes on fiscal affairs. Lately, the Chairman, Otto Moren, has fallen ill so executive power is used by two Vice Chairmen, Gunilla Harpar and Taavetti Saari. Harpar and Saari get along nicely at this point, so they don’t have much trouble with sharing rule. Harpar is a shipping magnate from Halike and Saari is a landlord from outside Hanö.

Apart from the merchant navy, the military and the Revenue Service, Hanö doesn’t have much in the way of government. Essentially local strongmen and town councils do whatever they please and try to stop from aggravating the executive too much. It’s everyone for themselves.

The average citizen in the Republic is poorer than his counterparts in Peimar or Kirkoslet. Most of the population are in fact subsistence farmers, which is exactly what the executive, the strongmen and the parliament wants. The poor classes are fit for working in the shipyards and mills and when war comes, fit to be recruited into the military. The urban population is richer.

Ask a citizen of Hanö for a national motto, and the answer you get is “take nothing for granted.” There are no civil rights, voting is restricted to property owners, no criminal courts and no law enforcement. The military keeps order in the major cities and towns, but the rest of the country is left to arrange their affairs however they like it. Sometimes this means appointing a local constable or two, sometimes this means mercenaries in private service. Judicial power is exercised by town councils, whenever the proceedings aren’t interrupted by the private troops of either the accused or the victim arriving. When this happens, it’s either accepted by the councils or if they have enough pull with a local strongman, they summon their own troops.

Of course, not everyone is happy with this, so the parliament is often divided between members who are content with the way things are and reformers who want to curtail executive power and bring the local strongmen in line. Wide reforms have not been successful but occasionally, the parliament has managed to force the executive to solve local issues for the common interest.

Militarywise, the Republic can field more troops than Peimar or Kirkoslet, having an army of almost ten thousand men and women. However, apart from a few elite outfits, like the Marine Regiment of Hanö and the Lancers of Peimar, half-starved recruits aren’t really able to stand up to the regulars of Kirkoslet or the regiments of Peimar. The last war against Peimar proved this, since the three regiments invading North Peimar were cut to ribbons by the Night Witches Dragoons of Peimar. This resulted in an embarrasing retreat and a quick peace.

The Border Guards of the Republic are of a different sort though. Roughly divided between Post Troops who man forts along the borders and Ranger Troops who ride out to patrol the wilderness, the borders of the country are defended well, if thinly. What’s commonly thought as both the best fighting outfit and the worst location to be posted to is Björnposten on the utmost eastern border, which serves as a strongpoint against incursions from the Southern Ruins. Björnposten is a monument for how dangerous the frontier can be: a previous chairman had it built after an entire village nearby was depopulated overnight. No survivors were ever found, and neither did the army ever discover where the people went.

On the seas, the Republic reigns supreme for now. This is due to navigational secrets that some captain in the past found out, and those navigation methods are among the most guarded secrets of the Republic, because they can be used to travel in open seas without great danger. The methods are only taught to selected captains of warships and the largest trading vessels, and the necessary equipment is always kept guarded and hidden when not in use.

The actual war fleet of the Republic amounts to nine large warships and approximately thirty smaller warships, like sloops and brigs. To compare, Peimar has three large warships and a dozen smaller ones, while Kirkoslet has one large warship and five smaller ones.

The merchant navy has eight large trading vessels capable of open seas navigation and over a hundred smaller vessels. In practice, Hanö controls more than thirty percent of all shipping in the Baltic Sea.

While Hanö would like to control Kirkoslet, invasion isn’t feasible. Instead, Hanö has settled on trying to keep them away from direct overseas trade as a form of economic warfare. Economic control of Kirkoslet is one of the most important goals of the Republic, since Hanö has very little arms manufacturing and no steel manufacturing of their own. At the same time, Hanö is careful to not come in direct conflict with either Kirkoslet or Peimar, since it could result in a war on two fronts, which would probably lead to disaster.

At the moment, with Otto Moren being unable to rule, Hanö is not interested in expansionism. While Peimar has been an enemy in the past, it has not been it since the last war five years ago. The trade conflicts can be nasty, but no one really wants a new war.

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