|The Imperium of Barrayar
|Motto: “Imperium, Honos et Officium”|
|Anthem: Imperial Ordnance March|
|Largest city||Vorbarr Sultana|
|Official languages||Barrayaran variants of English, Franch, Greek, Russian
|Recognised national languages||Barrayaran variants of English, Franch, Greek, Russian
|-||Emperor of Barrayar||Serg Vorbarra|
|-||Prime Minister||Lord Admiral Miles Vorlaisner|
|Legislature||Parliament of Barrayar|
|-||Upper house||Council of Counts|
|-||Lower house||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);
|Date format||dd ˘ mm ˘ yyyy|
|Drives on the||right|
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 Edit
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 Edit
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 Edit
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.
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|
Government of the Empire Edit
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 Edit
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 Edit
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 Edit
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 Edit
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 Edit
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.
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 Edit
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 Edit
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 Edit
Barrayaran culture is deeply characterized by allegiance ties and by some feudal traits, being dominated by a military caste known as the Vor, 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 planet's society is a male-prevalent hierarchy, with inheritance laws based on primogeniture, and the military is almost closed to women, war and fight being perceived as a strictly male duty. Military is a a significant and prestigious institution, respected in all society layers; however, rebelliousness within the youth is quite fairly tolerated, and the idea of limited, progressive changing (a change per generation) is accepted. The conscription term could be considered a sort of rite of passage: after the mandatory military service a young man is generally considered being wise enough to live independently. Military is also among the few ways through which a non-Vor man or woman could carry weapons: since Vors are the proper military caste, a prole or a plebeian could carry weapons only if he is in the military (the service weapons only) or if he is in the service of his liege lord.
On Barrayar - especially in the very backcountry - ordinary people is very wary of foreigners, which are regarded with suspicion due to the fact that Barrayaran society has got used to see everything outside the close circle of imported Earth life as hostile. The traditionalist nature of Barrayaran society does not comply very well with scientific or progressive approaches, but deals quite easily with scientific research, until scientists do not try to change the way of life. However, some inventions such as the uterine replicator had been well accepted almost since their introduction, in early XXIX Century. The introduction of the uterine replicators, despite of the Barrayaran progressives' predictions, did not hinder the traditionalist way, but did cause some relation into sex moral issues.
A person born a peasant usually dies a peasant, if he does not choose the military career, which is among the few ways to improve the social position: a significant part of the highest Generals and Admirals comes from a peasant background and they are well respected for their military status. The social mobility is slightly higher for a city inhabitant, although most of them inherit father's or mother's profession. However, since clerks demand has been growing for seventy years, it is not so uncommon, at least in major cities, that a son of an industry worker could get a clerk employment and could raise to the middle class, if he is capable. Also the spatial mobility is not so high, also due to relatively high costs of space flights and interstellar trips.
The mixture between widespread militarism and strongly rooted nationalism produces a variety of feasts, holidays and celebrations, such as the Freedom Day, which remembers the end of the First Cetagandan War. The national holiday, held on the Summer Solstice, anniversary of the Peace of Solstice, involves big celebrations, visits to cemeteries to burn offerings and parades in each District. The District parades where the war took its harshest forms are the most spectacular, with war souvenirs on display, scaring stories to be given to children, war-time weapons and vehicles are paraded by District forces and by the surviving war veterans and popular re-enactments of the best battles, which also serve as a military mass exercise. However, the most important and solemn event is the Imperial Military Parade, led by the Emperor himself, which is held in Vorbarr Sultana.
Vor ruling class collectively is one of the greatest patrons of the arts and architecture and in late years upper class societies of both Komarr and Barrayar are flourishing in culture and refinement.
Society is considerably stratified, and some stratifications are becoming, in the first years of Emperor Serg's rule, quite common within all the Empire. The Barrayaran class system creates an intricate hierarchy of people which contrast the new and old rich, the skilled and unskilled, the rural and urban and many more; this contrasts are often inherent to living standards. However, the steady economic growth rate allows to keep in order even the less affluent areas of Vorbarr Sultana, which has an its own social stratification. The gap in the hierarchy of society sometimes is so great that those of the upper urban classes in the very rural backcountry could be viewed by those below as almost wondrous fiction, something entirely out of reach yet tangibly there.
The population is steadily increasing on Barrayar, and this keeps controlled salaries and wages, while the welfare state is increasingly capable to address urban poverty demands; rural poor are well protected by their own communities. Trade unions are quite well accepted on all the Empire, if they constraint themselves to labour requests and demands, while socialist and proletarian leagues are attentively watched and barely tolerated. On Komarr, both workers organized in trade unions and trade unions on their own are often Corporations shareholders; there are also some corps owned only by their workers.
Under the apparent blanket of calm, however, many social problems act and evolve. In some interior underdeveloped districts, banditry and brigandage are sometimes a challenge to the institutions, and, in spite of the welfare state in full development, wages remain low. Strikes are frequent and sometimes degenerate into plunder or looting episodes, especially if they are politically motivated. The phenomenon of liberal and republican terrorism is spreading over the Empire, due to the influence of neighbouring states, and is based on the belief that the elimination of a key character of the state can lead to the collapse of the system. Calls to arms of reservists and the declaration of the state of siege are rarely used measures, but with progressively greater frequency, because the Government can have an effective reserve force.
Barrayaran militarism Edit
The Barrayaran backcountry life is still, on the wake of the 31st Century, characterized by a latent violence, also due to the still less-than-friendly environment. This historically led to a deeply militarized society. Conventionally, militarism in a society is identified by eight basic requirements:
- Military, as a distinct group, intervenes overtly or covertly in the process of political decision-making;
- Heavy emphasis on military ceremonial;
- Ideology supportive of military ideals;
- Regular inculcation of military ideals and values trough the educational system;
- Heavy State expenditure on military projects;
- Willingness to incur high causalities tolls in warfare;
- Readiness to commit the military in foreign and domestic conflicts;
- Extensive control over the life of society for military ends.
While the Vor ruling class is per se a warrior class who back in the Time of Isolation step in and assumed the political power, the Imperial Service and its members have been actively, openly and officially discouraged to take an active role in politics since the years of the Vorkosigan's Regency; the Hessman-Vordrozda conspiracy was the last attempt from an high-ranking officer to assume relevant positions of authority. Conversely, the formal and legal justification for the Emperor of Barrayar to rule the whole planet (and in perspective the whole Empire) is that he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Military Service. Nowadays, on the wake of the XXXI century, with the gradual opening to merchant elite (mostly Komarran) and with the persisting growth of the civil bureaucracy, the relevance of the military as a distinct group in the political decision-making is increasingly fading away, at least in comparison with the XXIX standards.
Being a society who has always openly disregarded the public level of spirituality, and having a war-torn history, the Barrayaran culture is imbued with the militarization of the existence; therefore, military ceremonials are the main public solemn occasions, and even real life passages are marked by military events, such as the conscription period. Officers - and to a lesser extent also troops - fully share the Vor class spirit in order to express and justify their own special interests and views.
The Barrayaran concept of "militarism", as it is been officially advertised, is a concept bearer of ethics that applies to the entire life of the Empire: all things having connections with discipline, wars and weapons are seen as essential to every other dimension of civilized life. The figure of the Soldier (in its broader meaning) occupies an autonomous position in the social life, in the service of the Emperor, and, through him, of the Empire. The purely heroic and warrior element is considered as a value in itself and functional political life. The Vor class itself is a warrior caste, and the warrior ethics were developed within the Vor ideologues.
The "warrior" view of life is lived as a naturally higher ideal and it is seen, with the military ethic naturally connected, as being fit to give the shape and tone of the whole State. The "warrior" view of life cannot be reduced solely to the profession of arms, but may have other expressions because having a warrior view of life is having a general and all-encompassing "style", which may also extend into other domains of the daily life. This view of life consists of love of hierarchy and discipline, relations of command and obedience, sense of honour and loyalty, love for the distance, specific forms of active impersonality capable of developing up to the anonymous sacrifice, clear and loyal relationships, impatience with the empty words with and simple discussion.
To the induce masses to march to war, the propaganda is necessary only in part because the Barrayaran population is still largely hierarchical; often it is enough that the command of a recognized Chief and the reference to the principles of loyalty and honour are well advertised.
Eating is of the Earth European type, with Barrayaran adaptations and variants of traditional foods. Both French and Greek Barrayarans have a major stake into cheese and yoghurt dishes and foods, while Barrayarans of both Russian and English descent are more inclined toward wheat and corn. Fresh vegetables are widespread during spring and summer, although the galactic cultivation techniques allow a constant fresh vegetables flood. Barrayar has also an extensive viticulture, especially on the central and southern areas of the Northern Continent, due to their Mediterranean-like climate; Sergyaran wines are still too few reduced to be considered in an Imperium-wide perspective. Also eating utensils are of Earth European origin: forks, knives, spoons are widely used. Alcohol is a major stance in the Barrayaran eating and drinking habits, especially in the backcountry during winter.
Men and women, of all ages, usually eat together if they are of the same social group: corporation, class, rank or - mostly - family. In major noble houses, usually servants eat separately from lords or masters, but this traditional rule is not mandatory nor perceived as a grantor of social prestige. Due to the recurring famines in past times, meat is still considered a rich food within ordinary people, although traditional foods for Wintefair include breads with cardamom and hot brillberry syrup. However, also due to the toxicity of the Barrayaran plants, vegetarianism is very rare.
Diners usually sit around a long rectangular table. The seat of the head of the table is considered the seat at the end farthest from the kitchen and it is usually occupied by the householder. An honoured female guest usually would sit at the immediate right of the head of the table, while the male guest would sit at the immediate right of the householder's wife. The hospitality is sacred: within the most traditional people, a guest is formally welcomed by giving him bread and salt.
Family is the social minimum unit, and it is not uncommon to see several generations living under the same roof, or at least very close each other. An average middle class couple has three or four children, and if a family has only one child it's because it has suffered of the life circumstances. The upper class retains the tradition of providing several sons to Imperial armies. Traditionally, all immediate relatives attend the birth, although only female relatives (both of the father and of the mother) are present in the delivery room, together with the midwife.
Families have also the exclusive responsibility of raising and educating children, at least until the beginning of mandatory schools: the upper class families often chose private preceptors, at least for the first years. Children are treated, at least in lower and middle classes, as children, while within the Vor class they are formally considered as mini-adults: their formal uniforms are the same of their adult counterparts, only smaller in size.
The Barrayaran family attitude is underlined even by dances: Barrayaran dances are strictly male-female partner dances. The Barrayaran society is based upon, at all its levels, on family and personal connections: merit is sought, but the social structure is made up of family ties, both for the prole of the Caravanserai and for the government of a backcountry District. An individual without a family, or son of a prostitute is relegated to society margins. However, a more individualistic approach is spreading, due to both military service, which is an opportunity for redemption, and to the new galactic values, spread among the city middle-upper class people.
Family and, more in general, inter-personal nearness is deeply felt also at the moment of death and of dead remembrance: one the most felt mourning ceremonies is the burning offerings to the dead. This is an intimate ceremony which includes the burning on a metal tripod of scented bark and wood shavings, alongside with a mat of hair clippings atop. The hair mat is the most traditional thing to burn, but the ceremony and its significance require simply that a personal thing be burnt. After the ceremony, relatives, friends and guests bear small gifts.
Barrayaran orphans are mostly raised by their close relatives: parents' siblings or orphans' grandparents, or even cousins. If an orphan is without family, each District has its own orphanage system, which raise them until the age of twenty. Also military orphanages do exist, and provide a steady flow of career servicemen. If an abandoned child is found, it is considered as being an orphan, and then sent to local orphanage. Orphanage children are trained to get a job as soon as possible, but for those are suited for, the university is District or State funded: however, many of them choose the Imperial Service as their new family.
Barrayaran urban middle-lower classes prefer living in traditional three-floor through terraces houses, with small but prosperous gardens. Such houses are joined together into rows, while urban middle class prefers living in small independent houses, surrounded by an high wall, which also encloses a quiet garden. Only poor working-class families and unmarried employees live in apartment buildings, although even in Vorbarr Sultana or in other new cities house prices are very low, due to the abundance of space. On the other hand, the rich who can not afford a villa usually reside in large apartments in luxurious palaces.
Whether they are detached or independent, all the average houses are structured on three floors, including the ground floor. The ground floor has the function of public façade of the house: at the ground floor, there are the public spaces as the entrance, the antechamber, the living room, the library, often placed in the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and if the people living there is a professional, the study open to the public. The first floor houses the private rooms for daytime: private studies, the reading room, the room devoted to music and a bathroom. Finally, the second floor contains the bedrooms, cloakroom and one or more bathrooms. The laundry can be housed either on the ground floor and in the cellar, if it is present. Anyway, solutions vary greatly. Rooms are square, not too large, in order to keep warmth; however, in warmer regions they tend to be quite larger.
Barrayaran rural houses are quite different: buildings - both in wood and stone - are long and thin, with two doors and a fireplace at each end. Each door opens onto a small veranda, surrounded by a balustrade.
As most of the Barrayaran society, furniture is usually built to last for generations. Therefore, it usually is elaborately carved and, especially in the southernmost regions of the Northern Continent, brightly painted. Most furniture pieces are solid wood, and traditional furniture in an average family includes beds with bed-curtains, long tables and soft armchairs.
Due to heavy male-warrior ideology, homosexuality is spread mostly within the Vor warrior caste. However, the scarce planetary population led to the heavy commitment to form a family; therefore homosexuality is silently accepted only within the upper-most layer of society, but carefully kept silent, and no one would risk to have an open homosexual relationship.
Due to the limited genetic pool from the original colonists, and the poisonous native biology, mutations became very frightening. Eventually, infants showing signs of mutation are killed to prevent the spread of the mutation to the gene pool as a whole.
It is deeply ingrained in most Barrayarans minds that any mutation is terrible. Even the gengineered Haut race of Cetaganda bothers the Barrayarans because they are intentional mutations. Being a "Mutie" is still considered a terrible slur. Killing mutants is prohibited, though "muties" are still despised by many Vor and plebes for being genetically "impure".
Barrayaran Counts take oaths of fealty from the residents of their Districts and their personal bodyguards, known as Armsmen. The oath of a resident is necessarily less formal and personal than that of an Armsman, and may consist simply of signing a document. Residents can easily switch their oaths to another District, causing Counts to compete with each other to improve the living conditions of residents. The oath of an Armsman or other Vassal is more formal and direct. It is taken in the feudal manner, with the vassal's hands placed between those of the liege.
Arranged marriages Edit
Many Barrayaran families, especially the traditionalists, arrange marriages for their children using a go-between known as a Baba. These are women, and at the highest levels they are professionals who guard their reputations. The damsel asked to marry the proponent retains the right to refuse.
A Baba is issued from the male suitor's family to formally propose to the potential bride. During the period of betrothal, the Baba serves as a mediator between the families and as a chaperone between all meetings between the two suitors, who remain segregated until the wedding. Part of the purpose of the Baba is to maintain a formalized, chaste relationship between the pair to ensure any children born would provably not be the future groom's.
The arranged marriage is a mainly Vor thing, although Baba is considered as an essential part of the deal in Barrayaran way.
Golden Leaves Day Edit
Golden Leaves Day is an annual holiday celebrating the harvest and other thanksgiving of the past year. Over time, Golden Leaves Day became a mix of religious and non-religious attitudes, approaches and practices. Golden Leaves is a legal holiday; it is celebrated on the fourth week of second-last month. Because of the long standing traditions of the holiday, the celebration often extends to the weekend that falls closest to the day it is celebrated. The festival is common among internal regions farmers and agricultural districts. Farmers and peasants build wood towers leaving a hole for a flag-pole in the centre so that they may raise their colours. When the flags over the many peat-constructed towers are raised, farmers would go to others' towers and attempt to level them to the ground. A successful attempt brings great praise. However, people are allowed to defend their towers, and so everyone is provided with a "tooting-horn" to alert nearby country folk of the impending attack and the battle turn into a "brawl". Sometimes some people are injured, but in modern times the brawls are conducted in a quasi-non-violent way. At the day's end, races are held, with prizes given to the townspeople.
Dress codes are written and unwritten rules with regard to clothing. The dress code has built in rules or signals indicating the message being given by a person's clothing and how it is worn. This message may include indications of the person's gender, income, occupation and social class, political, ethnic and religious affiliation, attitude and attitude towards comfort, fashion, traditions, gender expression, marital status, sexual availability, and sexual orientation, etc.
On Barrayar, certain types of clothing are worn exclusively or predominantly by either men or women. For example, the wearing of a skirt is associated with female dress, while trousers are associated with male dress. Hairdressing also conforms to a dress code, such as long hair for women and short hair for men. Ethnic (i.e. language-based communities) costumes and styles in clothing and ornament declare membership in a certain village, class, social position within a class, etc. In Barrayaran culture, dress codes are highly codified with essentially fixed definitions, while the more casual and the less formal classifications change very quickly, as fashion trends dictate. In practical use, people wear similar clothing in the same situations. Alternatively, at more formal events where a dress code is specified, invitees wear clothes at the specified level; if some variation is permitted, the host will wear the most formal option to save guests the embarrassment of out-dressing him. Appropriate ethnic or District dress is almost always permitted, as well as military uniforms, which are universally accepted, while Vor House uniforms are accepted within the Vor class.
In the dress codes, there are four wearing classes:
- Ceremonial dress and Court dress
- Full dress
- Half dress
- Cocktail dress
Barrayar's mythology is varied. Military and cultural heroes from the planet's recent and distant past are celebrated, along with a number of carry overs from Old Earth culture, including Russian fairy tales and Greek mythology. The main holidays celebrated on Barrayar are the Emperor's Birthday, Midsummer Review, and Winterfair, where the coming of Father Frost is eagerly awaited by all Barrayaran children.
Rural backwardness Edit
Even nowadays, after centuries of contact with the rest of the Galaxy, in rural areas and in regions distant from major cities, a general state of backwardness and hostility towards the galactic values. While in the great plains of this condition is relative backwardness, and especially focuses on the pride of the points of greatest strength of both Barrayaran and local culture, in the mountainous areas (Black Mountains and especially on the slopes of the Dendarii Mountains), backwardness is much more pronounced and is accompanied by a serious economic lagging against the entire planet. During the XXIX Century a general upgrade was obtained, but Dendarii slopes (and their adjacent Districts) still suffer the lagging.
Such highlanders are perceived as backward, quick to violence, and inbred in their isolation. The highlander stereotype reached its current characterization during the years of the great economic growth during Yuri's and Ezar's reigns, when many mountaineers left their homes to find work in other areas of the planet. The period of Dendarii out-migration saw many mountain residents moving North to the Mid-northern and Southern industrial cities and Districts. The movement brought these migrants into mainstream culture. The misrepresentation of Dendarii people in the media has led to a cultural distortion of Dendarii beliefs, practices, and lifestyle. The general derogatory view of the cities inhabitant depicts Northern Highlanders (i.e. those of the Northern Continent) as genetically deficient, inbred and murderous.