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The Second Empire of Trabzon is an unrecognized state unilaterally established in the Eastern Turkish Wasteland by a former military officer active during the vicious border war which erupted in the Caucasus following the Doomsday catastrophe. He has functioned as the region's de facto monarch since 1983. The fiefdom originally claimed unofficial descent from the former Empire of Trebizond, a medieval Byzantine polity, although Trabzon remains a thoroughly Turkish state. It has been supported by Georgia, Armenia, and other Wasteland factions as an aggressive buffer zone against post-Doomsday's expanding Turkish Sultanate.
Trabzon, historically known as Trapezus and Trebizond, formed the basis of several states in its long history and was the capital city of the so-called "Empire of Trebizond" between 1204 and 1461. Geographically, the first empire never enveloped more than the southern coast of the Black Sea. Its demographic heritage, however, endured for several centuries following a Turkish annexation in 1461 and a substantial number of Greek Orthodox inhabitants remained in the area until the early 20th century.
Trabzon was the site of several clashes between Russia and the declining Ottoman Empire during World War I, and was occupied by Moscow until 1917. Around this time, the city's Greek inhabitants began pushing strongly for the creation of their own Hellenic state, a move initially backed by leading Allied Powers. A republican flag, bearing the one-headed eagle of Trebizond's Great Komnenus, was even hoisted. However, this proposal collapsed in the face of Turkish opposition and Trabzon rejoined Istanbul in 1923.
In 1983, Doomsday came suddenly for the Republic of Turkey and enacted a crippling toll. Due to Turkish proximity to the Soviet Union and their NATO status, Ankara and Istanbul, among other sites, were prime targets for Moscow's wrath. In the wake of the resulting nuclear barrage, a desperate border war erupted around the Caucasus region as NATO forces quickly mobilized to halt any anticipated conventional strikes by Soviet units operating from Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan.
With some difficulty, the conflict was eventually shifted into Georgian territory, but desertion, breakdowns in communications, and severe logistical problems continued to plague both sides. Mutinies by officers even at the command level were not uncommon; one especially prominent example was an unidentified brigadier general with Turkey's 11th Corps. Deeming the tactical situation untenable and protesting his redeployment into a contaminated zone near Batumi, he achieved notoriety for placing several immediate superiors under arrest and effectively nullifying the 11th Corps as a cohesive formation.
Taking what units would follow him, the man who identified himself only as Altan Sahin withdrew from the Soviet front towards Trabzon, which he occupied shortly after the morning of November 3. Due to the confusion which had already overtaken the city, local Gendarmerie and security forces welcomed Sahin's assistance in restoring order. Nevertheless, the garrison at Trabzon Air Base, which had played a significant role in the Caucasus campaign, refused to accept this illegal authority and stood to arms. They eventually yielded after two hours, fearing that their opponents would deny landing to returning military aircraft.
With Sahin presiding as unofficial commissioner, a more rigorous degree of martial law was swiftly applied to Trabzon and expanded into the surrounding districts. One account maintains that during the month over 153 refugees in one district alone were shot for breaking curfew regulations. Looters were similarly killed in public, including fourteen suspected 'bandits' found in possession of police weapons. Attempts by air base personnel to re-establish contact with Turkey's provisional government at Konya were halted; records salvaged from this period indicate that official radio and telephone contact with Trabzon ceased by November 10. Emergency broadcasts, such as reiterations of the infamous Toplama Order, were also forcibly silenced around the same time.
Heavy-handed initiatives to check panic ran their course well in 1984. At this point Trabzon's new leadership had recognized that they would continue to face enemies and Konya supporters among the population and even among the army. Radical Islamists who believed Doomsday to be the final judgment of Allah also posed a worrying (though comparatively minor) threat; soldiers worked to undermine such elements by disarming the civilians en masse. Meanwhile, rule by Sahin had became arbitrary. His administration issued decrees which granted security forces nearly unlimited powers of arrest and confinement to deal with 'anarchists', 'subversives', or others who threatened order. Acts of violence were used to eliminate those believed to be enemies, in particular, suspect members of Trabzon's existing civil service.
This purge inevitably led to a deterioration of local government, especially at the policy level. Senior civilian officials were removed from their posts, and others who were out of suspicion assumed low profiles. Military personnel loyal to Sahin were given the responsibility of managing ministries and departments. Such punitive and pre-emptive acts only induced a general climate of apprehension among the population, but they did succeed in creating precisely the order desired. Next to Konya, Patnos, and other key post-Doomsday centers, Trabzon proved a comparatively uncommon model of urban tranquility.
In late 1985, Altan Sahin gave his first personal address to the city residents at Trabzon's Hagia Sophia church. He extended the existing state of emergency, but also gave vent to his doubts about the survival of the Turkish republic. An aide actually read the subsequent proclamation which bluntly declared independence with the simple words "there are no compromises available". This actually changed relatively little; Turkish flags continued to be hoisted until 1987, when Sahin announced his intention to become Emperor and started constructing a palace for himself at the old Trebizond Castle.
Rise to prominence
Trabzon itself, always an underdeveloped region, was in relatively poor shape following Doomsday. Peasants found themselves forced to share homes with the countless refugees which began to crowd the countryside. In some areas, anarchy persisted. Military bureaucrats who handled administrative tasks and maintained the civil infrastructure were mostly occupying ransacked offices with few chairs, desks, typewriters, or paper. Due to a marked decline in the circulation of existing currency, black markets thrived and inflation skyrocketed. Sahin responded by fixing prices and using his resources to maintain an artificial rate. In an attempt to promote agriculture and stave off starvation, he also exempted those producing cash crops from reaping the meager sums determined by officially depressed prices.
With his establishment of a monarchy in 1987, Sahin, normally a frugal individual, reveled in unprecedented extravagance. The cost of his new residence, added to his absurd coronation, devastated Trabzon's fragile finances. A year later he announced more publicly funded celebrations to commemorate the coronation, and several subordinates mutinied. The conspirators, despite seizing the airport and a municipal radio station, were crushed after some initial skirmishing and their loyalists pursued into other districts with relentless determination. Contingents of Sahin's forces attacked Sinop, where a provincial warlord had granted two treacherous officers sanctuary, while others stole property and destroyed the livelihood of refugee communities. This, in turn, sparked a small series of scaled wars between the command at Trabzon and their independent neighbors in what had become known as the Eastern Turkish Wasteland.
As Wasteland realms and smaller states were subsumed by Sahin, he found himself saddled with the reluctant role of maintaining order in provinces which had been largely without effective government since Doomsday and lacked capable authority. Perhaps this gave rise to his subsequent preoccupation with 'pacifying' chaotic Eastern Turkey while casting Trabzon as benevolent conqueror; the fearsome conventional military capability at his disposal offered Sahin excellent means to further this cause.
Occupation of New Erzurum
In 1991, the newly constituted Trabzon Defence Force began penetrating the vilayets of neighboring New Erzurum. Confounded by difficult terrain and poor maps, expeditionary units soon lost cohesion in the face of stiff resistance from militia leaders with followers both trained in guerrilla tactics and armed with the necessary hardware to mount an effective insurgency.
A costly war in New Erzurum, which lasted for roughly seven years until the end of 1998, resulted in the formation of major rebel armies, a greater unity among the vilayets, and the militarization of local society. The TDF, on the other hand, responded by adopting an aggressive preemptive and counterstrike strategy. Security forces not only hit back hard against guerrilla targets but also attacked what remained of New Erzurum's priceless economic infrastructure by mining roads, sabotaging crude utilities, disrupting communications, and burning fields.
Initially, imperial troops possessed excellent morale; most units were also well trained for their respective missions. Heavy weapons and armour inherited from the pre-Doomsday Turkish Army were old but maintained adequately enough to offer conventional superiority over any potential Wasteland enemy. Yet the situation in New Erzurum considerably deteriorated by mid-1996 as the number of armed statelets with the capacity to resist continued to grow; by 1997 they had even succeeding in expelling Trabzon from the south. From 1998 onwards, the TDF strengthened its presence further north, although even here it remained enfeebled by consistent intelligence blunders: Sahin either underrated or failed to recognize the prospect of infiltration altogether until well after guerrillas from southern vilayets were already integrated into new strongholds and began striking targets.
Campaign against Greater Patnos
In 1999, Trabzon again resumed the offensive, this time on the Republic of Greater Patnos, New Erzurum's largest neighbor. The preparations for this latest conflict lasted no more than a week; some have even speculated that Sahin, by now a committed alcoholic, had made the decision to invade Greater Patnos while intoxicated. Whatever their rationale, Trabzon's High Command soon realized they had provoked a new and powerful enemy.
During the war in New Erzurum, the TDF had established bases at Refahiye to monitor insurgent bases in the nearby mountains. Beginning on December 21, 1998, these outposts were turned into a collective forward operating area; at least twenty-six armored cars were concurrently flown to Rafahiye town together with additional support and transport vehicles. These formed the so-called "Task Force Kasim". Simultaneously, further to the west another task force, "Damad", was comprised of motorized infantry.
Always threatened by the larger presence of Kurdistan to its immediate east, Greater Patnos was unprepared for the sudden blitz. On New Year's Day, 1999, Task Force Damad overran Patnosi border encampments and began advancing in force towards Erzincan. Task Force Kasim likewise drove south from Refahiye, overtaking an airfield at İliç, where it was re-inforced by additional armored cars and heavy mortars. By January 9, Damad had reached Erzincan, and five days later Kemah was shelled into capitulation.
On January 20, both Damad and Kasim reached the suburbs of Ovacik, where elements of the Patnosi Armed Forces (AFGP) attempted to ambush the approaching columns. This resistance was broken in less than an hour, and by January 15 the TDF had seized Hozat as well. However, exhaustion was taking its toll on the troops as they attempted to meet their wildly optimistic timetables, and immense supply problems - especially with petrol for the vehicles - had further hindered progress. As Damad stalled on Tunceli's outskirts, AFGP forces began streaming into the area to organize a counterattack. For the first time in the operation, TDF soldiers were exposed to artillery fire in the field when defenders raked their advance with rockets. Kasim deployed its scout cars and tanks, which out-maneuvered the opposing artillery and forced the AFGP to withdraw towards Pertek.
By early February, the task forces were menacing Pertek itself. But their progress had only slowed further since overrunning Tunceli; in a successful attempt to further confound their adversaries the AFGP had salted the roads with land mines, damaging or crippling several armored vehicles and trucks. Patnosi re-inforcements and material were also being deployed to the north in larger numbers. The TDF suffered its first setback when it attempted to capture Mazgirt, losing seventeen men and a single helicopter. Regrouping, Damad, Kasim, and a third Trabzon battle group, "Eretna", wheeled towards Pertek from the east. Between 9 and 11 February vicious firefights followed at the strategically important settlement of Mercinek. After bombarding a stubborn AFGP brigade for about forty-eight hours, Eretna launched a massive combined arms assault with heavy artillery and armor support. The unprecedented ferocity of this attack shattered the brigade's flanks and cut the survivors to pieces; the AFGP retreated with heavy losses. Eretna, however, was only able to move another five km before being halted again by tenacious opposition. In retrospect, this would mark the end of the TDF offensive.
Until the end of February, the campaign degenerated into a classic war of attrition centered around Pertek and Bingöl, with neither side able to gain a decisive upper hand. The TDF, despite inflicting severe casualties, was having difficulty adding to its conquests or even holding what territory it had taken. Bloody insurrections in Erzincan were hampering Trabzon's ability to rule her appropriations, and other Wasteland states, such as Elazig and Hatay, were rightly alarmed by such aggression so close to their own borders. In addition, the overstretched battlegroups had lost their initiative, and the aerial logistics lifeline upon which their mobile fronts depended had been derailed by the GPAF's emerging air superiority. On March 1, Sahin personally directed the consolidation of Task Force Eretna and Kasim, which were pulled back to Erzincan the following day. Damad remained until the end of the month, when it, too, was withdrawn. No further major clashes were reported and Erzincan itself was abandoned to approaching Patnosi convoys in April.
The undeclared war between Trabzon and Greater Patnos lasted only three months, but had destabilized the political landscape of the Eastern Turkish Wasteland forever. From 2000 onwards, other Wasteland states declined in importance - but the two chief rivals had each finally encountered a force in the other which checked it. Patnos ended Trabzon's wanton aggression; likewise, Trabzon checked Patnosi aspirations for its own desired status as the stable regional superpower. This bitter rivalry has persisted to present day.
The looming Sultanate
After 2001, Trabzon began publishing intelligence on the Sultanate of Turkey, legal successor state to the defunct Republic. The fall of Hatay in 1997 had permanently cemented the Sultanate's power in Anatolia, and sympathies across the Wasteland - including some endorsed by Greater Patnos - for a reunified Turkey were regarded with suspicion. Before 1997 Altan Sahin had made it no secret that he considered himself and Konya's interim government at odds. If anything, this view was radicalized by the ascension of Ertuğrul II - who was regarded as a deranged puppet of "illegal securocrats".
Apart from the Sultanate's ability to threaten the Wasteland economically, Sahin was concerned about Konya's more direct methods, such as the annexation of Elazig in 2005. He has since asserted that his government had no intention of interfering in mainstream Turkish affairs but warned that the empire would use its strength if the Sultanate attempted to undermine Trabzon's security. There is no evidence that Trabzon has attempted to instigate a military confrontation, though because of known Sultanate involvement in other Wasteland states and the discovery of undercover agents with the security forces who were charged with gathering intelligence for Konya, regime officials now suspect that their western neighbor is conducting a program of ongoing covert operations against them.
On 21 August 2008, a TDF patrol clashed near Sinop with clandestine operatives serving in the Turkish Armed Forces and killed four of them. The Sultanate has also been linked by Sahin to a variety of acts of "terrorism" and "sabotage", including the support of insurgent movements in New Erzurum. The extent of Turkish activities having overt security implications beyond intelligence could not be ascertained, but many international observers believed that the Sultanate was at least in contact with Trabzon's opponents.
As of 2013, the Second Empire of Trabzon remains one of the few autonomous states left in the Eastern Wasteland, and the only one of the three which does not recognize Konya. Sahin, who continues to enjoy diplomatic support from both Georgia and Armenia (although neither have recognized his imperial title), has succeeded in preserving a delicate balance against his rivals to prevent the outbreak of any further open warfare.
Government and Politics
Although it has often presented itself as a constitutional monarchy, in practice Trabzon has functioned as little more than an uncomplicated military dictatorship since 1983. The emperor acts as both head of state and head of government; he is also entitled to hold any key portfolios, including Foreign Affairs, Justice, Trade, Internal Security, and National Defense. In his capacity as reigning monarch Altan Sahin appoints the chief justice, senior civil servants, and and an unlimited number of members to the Imperial Senate. This nominal parliament may be dissolved or prorogued at any time; its respective representatives - mostly former or serving military bureaucrats - were charged only with approving an emperor's decrees. Government ministers are encouraged to attend senatorial debates and discuss government policies within the jurisdiction of their titles. They may sit and speak in the state legislative body, but may only vote if they hold membership.
The term of each Senate has been five to seven years unless dissolved sooner. Annual sessions were usually opened by Sahin himself until 2003, when he began appointing a chairman for the task of outlining policy for the forthcoming year and presiding over the ensuing discussion. Although the Senate may not block imperial decrees more than twenty-two hours (the allotted time for parliamentary debate) a decisive opposition majority may delay the action long enough for the emperor to reconsider. Action on decrees follows the customary procedure of three readings, the first outlining the government's position on one issue or another, the second serving as a platform for constructive criticism or debate, and the third an occasion for clause-by-clause consideration of the legislation.
There are circumstances by which the Senate may propose its own legislation, but if its members cannot discuss or agree upon the proposal within three months' time, it will normally be presented to the emperor for assent. Such financial proposals normally cannot be debated for more than ten sitting days.
According to critics, the state's extreme dependence on the single figure of Sahin makes the regime extremely vulnerable. This weakness is supposedly heightened by the emperor's lack of any one political ideology to unite his adherents.
Seriously disrupted by Doomsday, crippled by recurring droughts, and subject to necessary austerity measures by the imperial authorities, the Empire's economic outlook was bleak from its very onset. However, in the mid 1990s limited steps toward recovery had already been enacted: through 1994, for example, several dam (and irrigation) projects were underway, and infrastructure for greater exploitation of the region's natural resources being improved upon. In mid-1999, Trabzon, by every comparative index, still had the most promising economy in the Eastern Turkish Wasteland.
At a time when many of his development strategists advocated central planning, the emperor has distanced himself from what he described as "unrealistic" plans for state monopolies in major enterprises, and rapid post-Doomsday re-industrialization. Sahin has also scorned those who looked upon the agricultural sector only as a necessary pillar in the greater economic machine. Rather, farming and the provision of both food and water supplies have received the most attention and a lion's share of development expenditure.
Upon establishing ties with the Federation of Georgia, Sahin began permitting export-oriented estates to resume post-Doomsday operations while simultaneously coaxing subsistence cultivators in rural refugee communities and elsewhere to integrate into the market economy as small commercial holders.
In 2006 Trabzon remained heavily dependent on a few major cash crops (hazelnut, and to a much lesser extent, tobacco and tea). A substantial proportion of this production is undoubtedly smuggled out of the country to fetch a higher price in sounder currency. Given the paucity of her domestic resources, however, the state has performed well.
Ranged against the external menace posed by both Greater Patnos and the Sultanate of Turkey, not to mention threats to internal stability posed by the coalition of vilayets in New Erzurum, are security forces and reserves numbering under 60,000 men - not all of which are even considered sufficiently armed or trained to be combat effective.
The armed forces, which had changed little from the establishment pre-1983, were incorporated into a small, regular, army of around 10,000 - originally manned chiefly by troops from Trabzon's 11th Corps. In 1998 the army was backed by about 16,800 reservists, and another 500 served with the air force. By all accounts, these numbers have remained more or less stable since. In 2005, exercises conducted by the Trabzon Defence Force indicated that it was able to field for rapid reaction at least one heavy battalion of shock troops, three over-sized battalions of motorized infantry, one squadron of elite special warfare paratroops (the "Imperial Guard"), and an unknown number of artillery batteries and mechanized units. These diverse commands and others, including as many as up to 20,000 unofficial paramilitary personnel, fall under the authority of a High Command, headed directly by the emperor.
Trabzon's military equipment has been well worn and in many cases, obsolete, due to the state's longstanding inability to reproduce fresh munitions of its own. But army engineers have shown resourcefulness in modifying commercial vehicles and aircraft to meet offensive capabilities. Although its campaigns in New Erzurum and Greater Patnos were ultimate failures, the TDF has been credited with waging both conventional and counter-insurgency warfare with surprising operational competence, deftly juggling tactics and force structures to confront new contingencies.
Equipment and Organization
Shortly after its formation, the TDF opted to simplify maintenance and logistics by only issuing weapons and equipment of NATO design formerly in the pre-Doomsday Turkish military inventory. As these soon proved insufficient to supply the expanding security forces, captured Eastern Bloc varieties were brought out of storage to relieve the shortage and subsequently supplemented by deliveries of Soviet-designed equipment from Georgia or Armenia. Serious logistical difficulties inevitably resulted from using such a motley spectrum of arms, especially since weapons of Soviet style were of different gauges and calibers than the Western models in use. In the short run the TDF countered this problem by standardizing hardware within brigades, redistributing what equipment it already possessed.
By 2006 it was announced that Trabzon's minute industrial base would be diversified to produce lighter military equipment as well as ancillary supplies for the TDF "as effectively and economically as feasible". In addition, heavy armaments of ADC specifications have also been made available by Greek manufacturers.
At various times, attempts have been made to reduce the Turkish influence on TDF uniforms, insignia, and decorations, but the changes to these military symbols have only been partially successful. In 2008 the dress and service uniforms of the security forces retained a traditional semblance of Turkish pattern and standards. Old Turkish Army uniforms, however, have been gradually replaced somewhat with articles of local manufacture, and insignia is now thought to reflect a distinct national character. The former apparently suffers from poor quality; servicemen have reportedly envied other troops in their units whose issues of Turkish, Soviet, or NATO clothing and webbing are far superior.
Unit training is generally focused on the battalion and company levels; brigade-type maneuvers were not yet thought practical until the exercises conducted in 2005.
The Trabzon National Police, a centralized law enforcement agency of more than 12,000 regular members and 7,000 reservists, is the state's primary instrument for enforcing order and preserving internal security. Trained and equipped to meet paramilitary standards, the police element includes integrated constituents of the former Turkish Jendarma (Gendarmerie), National Intelligence Organization, and civil law enforcement agencies. It is widely regarded as an auxiliary of the armed services, rather than a traditional public service. Indeed, the TNP operates under the authority of the High Command, primarily functions as a TDF reserve, and, in the case of domestic unrest, provides the first line of active response.
In 2012 the national police were divided into seven special police districts supervised by special military commissioners. The districts - excluding those in New Erzurum - are, in turn, subdivided into a number of police stations, each the responsibility of a section officer. Allegations of brutality, torture or the mistreatment of suspects and imperial detainees have often been leveled at the TNP by the Turkish press, foreign media and international observers. Most of these charges were specifically made against personnel assigned to the Directorate of Counter-Intelligence, an organization outside the normal command structure responsible for civil counter-subversion activity.