The Lands of the Bartak Society
The Bartak society, originating from the continent of Cheidrah, occupies much of the north western part of Ewlah. The people speak a single language (with dialectical variations) and share a similar spiritual and moral outlook on the world.
Origins of the Society
The original "Bartak" Society is long dead. The Bartak Kingdom was a legendary kingdom whose rule stretched across the entire continent of Cheidrah - and allegedly parts of Ewlah - some three millennia ago. Historical evidence for the kingdom is scant, though some tombs and other archaeological detritus have been attributed to that Society.
The roots of the modern Society lie within the legends and folklore of the people of the Tells Region in Cheidrah. Tells was one of the northernmost regions of that continent, and also one of the most industrialised and populated regions. It suffered badly as the Disaster progressed. Once the severity of the coming disaster was recognised the Tells Authority took a decision that the only way it could survive was through a programme of mass evacuation.
As part of its information campaign to encourage people to emigrate, the Tells Authority chose to promote the new settlements in Ewlah as a rebirth of the ancient kingdom - with the democratically elected Authority taking on the role of monarch. While the plans of the authority quickly fell apart as the Disaster overtook the Tells region, the name stuck - most colonists quickly self-identified themselves as "Bartak" rather than "Tells".
Colonisation of Ewlah
Before the Disaster, the north western parts of Ewlah had little interest for any Society. The first areas to be colonised were probably the Yaabluush Kaarnamizhuush - evidence has been uncovered that sailors from various parts of Cheidrah had established seasonal camps on these islands before the signing of the Grand Treaty (orbit gt1 in the Grand Treaty Calendar). These settlements probably became more permanent sometime in the mid-fourth century, and were supporting a population of over 10,000 by gt450.
The first attempt to colonise the mainland appears to have been made by the prophet, Dasho, and his followers, who landed on the old coast near to present day Dashelone Plantation in gt384 or 385 (sources vary) and began the arduous task of cultivating the land from scratch. According to its own records, the settlement failed in the early gt420s following the death of the prophet, most probably from disease or in-fighting. The cultivation itself managed to become (marginally) self-sustaining - when pioneers arrived in the area to re-establish the settlement they found wheat and cabbage still growing in the old fields, and also small numbers of feral chickens.
The first refugees from Tells began to arrive in Yaabluush Kaarnamizhuush in the early gt470s. These early migrations were disorganised affairs mainly arranged by families; the recolonisation of Dashelone was undertaken by a northern Tells settlement, moving the entire settlement to Ewlah. By the mid gt480s the influx of refugees had become significant. For this reason the Kaarname settlements began work to cultivate the nearby mainland. By gt497 Lejune Plantation was operational, becoming the main destination for new settlers, and the (appropriately named) Destinashone Plantation began to accept settlers in gt508. Even so, the numbers of refugees continued to grow: Verhine Plantation was developed by Lejune pioneers, becoming operational in gt523.
In gt527, the scale of the Disaster became apparent to the Tells Authority. In that orbit, the Authority agreed to divert most of its efforts and resources to developing new colonies in Ewlah, and planning began for a mass evacuation of settlements and plantations most threatened by the changing climate and falling sea levels.
In effect, the Authority planned a two-stage evacuation. Stage One involved the development of new settlements along the north and west coast of Ewlah, principally around Dhounaelhuu Varamuun and the Smikuu Damizhuu. In establishing these settlements, the Authority co-opted the knowledge and resources of existing settlements. Stage Two would involve the development of new settlements further inland. The western settlements were the first to come online, in gt537. Defe Plantation became established nine orbits later. Over the course of the next 25 orbits almost half a million refugees - around 40% of all the people who emigrated from Tells to Ewlah - settled in, or passed through, Defe.
In gt567 the Tells Authority collapsed as life in the region became unsustainable. Even so, the flood of refugees had begun to trail of in the late gt550s as the Authority lost the political will to continue funding emigration. Plans to relocate the Authority never came to fruition, leaving the Tells - now known as the Bartak - settlements in Ewlah to their own devices.
By the time of the collapse, around a million people - around a sixth of the total population of Tells - had made the move to a new continent. In addition, some 200,000 people from Brhul Keng had also migrated to the Bartak settlements, alongside smaller numbers of people from Mas Yas, Massos, Codrol and Milys.
The history of the Bartak Society can be divided into four distinct periods: colonisation (to around gt560); expansion (gt560-720); the Bartekol League (gt720-1033); and post-League (gt1033-present day).
The expansion period was a wild time. Settlements and plantations could no longer look to the Tells Authority for guidance and support. But what they did have was a plan - the ongoing Stage Two colonisation of the continent away from the coastal areas. Key new cultivations included:
- gt550s - Tentole Plantation, by pioneers from Dashelone
- gt556 - Palake Plantation, by pioneers from Defe
- gt569 - Valele Plantation, by pioneers from Defe
- gt570 - Ohmne Plantation, by pioneers from Verhine
- gt608 - Pazile Plantation, by pioneers from Tentole
- gt650 - Cuskuu Damizhuu Plantation reaches the Tilhekrhistuu river, establishing Couwe settlement
It was early in the gt560s that Telik sailors first made contact with the Bartak settlements along the western coast, and the Telik quickly developed trade between the two parts of the continent. Alongside the trade of goods came a trade in ideas: the ideals of the Nakap Philosophers struck a chord with many Bartaks - particularly as they didn't threaten the Bartak spiritual beliefs.
One idea in particular found favour - that of organising settlements and plantations into a loose federation known as a Land, with executive powers only invested in the Land as and when required. The first Bartak Land - Omne - was established by treaty between Verhine and Ohmne Plantations in gt593; Koletane (centred on Dashelone) was formed in gt632.
The Bartekol League
Since the time of the collapse of the Tells Authority, there had been talk about establishing a single body to bring together all the Bartak settlements and plantations, with a single set of laws and trading regulations. Nothing ever came from this talk, though Bartak nationalists played a political role in many settlements and plantations over the centuries.
The event that finally drove people to act on the idea was a war. Since the time of the first cultivation, the colonisation of the Bartak lands had proceeded peacefully. Settlements and plantations ordered their own affairs and organised defensive watches only against the occasional outbreak of banditry. However, competition for resources in the Cuskuu Damizhuu between the cities of Ohmne and Couwe in the early eighth century led to tension between the two cities, including the formation of trained armed forces - ostensibly for protection. War between the two cities finally broke out in gt712, with the conflict - in which neither side prevailed - lasting just over an orbit.
The immediate outcome of the war was the establishment of a new Land - Damose - as part of the peace settlement in gt713. The longer term outcome was a movement to establish a supra-national body, with the aims of minimising conflict and maximising co-operation between Lands, plantations and settlements. The negotiations were torturous, and only in gt720 did the first meeting of the Bartekol League take place.
The founding members of the League were:
- The Land of Omne
- The Land of Koletane
- The Land of Damose
- Destinashone Plantation
- Lejune Plantation
- The City of Defe and surrounding settlements
- The City of Tentole and surrounding settlements
- The City of Palake
- Valele Plantation
From the outset the League was a political animal, with its administration (located in the city of Palake) keen to maximise its power over its constituent mambers. The League promoted science, culture and education; introduced mechanisms for mutual support between different communities; acted to standardise the Bathtel language; and promoted democratic reform - though this was often resisted by more communitarian communities. An early attempt to regularise religious worship throughout the Bartak lands failed.
The New Agreement
In gt742 the League administration finally gained its own revenue stream. A goods transit duty was imposed on a range of goods transported between communities. To collect the revenue, the administration introduced Goods Inspectors. The system quickly became corrupt and over the course of the next few orbits confidence in the work of the administration collapsed, with secessionist movements springing up in a number of different areas.
League members finally took action against the administration in gt751. The New Bartekol Agreement was a formal treaty between the members which reorganised Bartak Society into a series of Lands and established a new, tightly limited administration - initially based in the city of Defe. For a few weeks it seemed like the Society was heading towards civil war as the old and new authorities vied for power, but in the end the old authority collapsed and voted for its own termination. The new authority relocated back to Palake in gt755.
The New Agreement extended the roll-call of Bartak Lands to ten: Aelhpaase; Baathtelhe; Damose; Elimnarhe; Kaarname; Koletane; Lejune; Omne; Palake; and Varhamyuuse. Two further Lands were constituted over the course of time: Tilhekrhiste in gt855; and Oute al Cive in gt970.
The New Authority proved to be an effective, though more passive, mechanism for organising relationships between the Lands. Trade routes were improved between cultivated areas - including some much needed trails through the mountain regions between Lands, and relationships with Societies beyond the Bartak borders established and improved. This was particularly important, given the convulsions within the Pentuuk Society south of the great mountains - which at times threatened the safety and security of neighbouring Societies.
The demise of the League
In the mid-tenth century Ambostak Society turned towards redeveloping lost technologies - particularly communication technologies. Until this time, the New Authority had operawted well, meeting a need to negotiate and co-ordinate activities between its constituent Lands. As technological developments leaked across the Ambostak/Bartak border, this need lessened. Lands could now negotiate directly with each other rather than via authority structures. Slowly, the New Authority became less relevant, and by the turn of the millennium it had become a largely ceremonial body, respected but no longer needed.
In gt1033 the Bartekol League was finally dissolved. Since that time, Bartak Society has remained mostly peaceful. Its population continues to grow slowly, its technology and cultivation continues to improve, and most of its Lands are increasingly prosperous.
Bartak life and culture
Bartak life centres on the family, the neighbourhood and the local temples. An individual's loyalties tend to lie with friends and family before that of the temple, the wider community or the Land.
Like all societies originating from Cheidrah, Bartak spiritual beliefs and religions are based on the dualist principal of a male and female creator who together created the universe and everything within it. Unlike the Ambostak Society, the Bartak peoples have generally resisted formalising their religion.
The central point of worship is the neighbourhood temple. This can be a dedicated building owned by the neighbourhood, or it can be a room set aside in a family's home. The key to worship is the giving of gifts and donations, not only to the God and Goddess but also between temple attendees. Worship is usually led by a respected elder member of the community. A meeting can include singing songs about the deities, telling stories either about the deities or about the community, the sharing of gifts and the discussion of issues of community interest. There will often be a number of operating temples within a settlement, each with a core of regular attendees supplemented by a larger number of occasional visitors. There is no formal requirement to worship, and non-believers are generally tolerated: what is not tolerated is angry argument or strife during the worship itself.
Because of this set-up, services can vary widely between temples. Even so, most believers accept that there is more than one way to worship the deities. There have, though, been occasions when a particularly charismatic leader has arisen, attempting to impose a particular form of worship on the wider community. The effectiveness of such people is tempered by the intrinsic wanderlust of the general population, who are quick to change their temple alleigance and equally quick to criticise a temple's performance (in a productive, non-confrontational way) when they feel the spiritual side of things is impacting detrimentally on the health of the wider community. To date, Bartak Society has not suffered from a charismatic leader with extreme yet popular views - unlike the Pentuuk Society to the south which has experienced conflicts inspired by several such characters.
There are several key ceremonies in an individual's life which are celebrated within the temple. These include the First Speech, where a person is accepted into the temple community; the birth of a child (for the parent's benefit, not the child's); accession to eldership (in other words the celebration of a person's 44th birthday); and Leavetaking - a celebration of a person's contribution to the community, generally held for that person when they are 80 orbits old, or when it becomes obvious they are terminally ill. Birthdays, marriages and burials tend to be secular affairs, either celebrated within the family or within the community outside of the temple.
While non-belief is tolerated within Bartak Society, being a non-believer can be difficult for the individual. Temples are at the very core of neighbourhood activities - with both local policy and local practicalities being decided as part of the act of worship. A number of attempts have been made to set up non-religious temples, but they have rarely succeeded - most folks like a religious song to go alongside discussions on waste collection and crop rotations.
There is an saying: "within the temple, all are equal". Bartak Society is remarkably egalitarian, and while some differences between the sexes have been culturalised, they are not fixed. Women play a central role in Bartak Society, both within the family unit and more widely, and are generally considered to have an equal voice to men.
Far more stark is the influence of the generational gap. Older people - those older than 44 orbits - have far greater influence and respect within the community than younger people, and the passage to seniority is one of the most important celebrations in a person's life. Even so, within the temple, the only formal difference between senior and junior members is that senior members can lead the meeting.
It's noticable that there is no concept of "marriage" in the temple. A person's choice of partner is considered to be their own individual choice, and only the richest families have ever tried to control their children's choices for political purposes. The only restriction that seems to operate is that a person should end one relationship before starting a new one. The sex of the partner is irrelevant - there is a social pressure to limit the number of children born to that which can be supported by the collective resources of the neighbourhood or settlement; interestingly, the birth rate is higher in the city than in the country. In times of hardship this pressure has sometimes led to the abandonment, and even killing, of unwanted babies.
The upbringing of children is the joint responsibility of the parents or, if a parent dies or abandons the family, the grandparents. Orphans are looked after by the temple, unless a willing individual can be found to look after them. There is a general taboo against harming or physically chastising a child (except in extremis), and the local temple or community has no fear of intervening if they feel a child is being mis-treated. Education takes place firstly within the family, then in the local temple. More formal schools are maintained by the community for the teaching of more advanced or specialised subjects, where older children can be taught alongside adults. Apprenticeships are common.
Each Land has its own rules and customs on inheritance - some will pass everything to the oldest child, others divide everything equally between the children, yet others insist that all posessions apart from personal gifts (for example, items of jewellery) become the property of the temple or the community.
The Bartak Society has always been a cash trading economy, even during times of hardship. For much of its history, the economy centred on agriculture, mining and light industry - most infrastructure work centred on the need to generate and maintain soil, and to provide and maintain property and common areas within settlements and cities. The manufacturing of personal goods - clothes, houshold items, etc - was more of a cottage industry. This has changed somewhat with the re-development of technology, particularly information and communications technology, over the past couple of centuries.
Similarly, the provision of energy has mostly been a local affair. The Bartak Lands have no significant fossil fuel deposits, meaning that natural energy sources - wind, water and heat generated from the burning of oil-rich Type One lifeforms - have all been utilised by settlements. Major electricity generating schemes based on geothermal energy and hydro-electric generators in the mountains have been developed more recently.
There is a clear division between personal and communal property. All land is owned jointly by the settlement (or city), as are all permanent structures built on the land - property is let by the settlement to individual families, with better properties earning greater rent. Most energy supplies are also communally owned. All other goods and services are the property of individuals.
The concept of a company as a separate legal entity is understood, but not encouraged or widely practiced. Instead, partnership structures are the preferred way of undertaking business. Commercial law is not seen as separate from community or personal law, and business disputes are often settled within the temple. A set of basic trading laws were introduced by the Bartekol League as part of the New Agreement: these over-ride local law and custom, and are administered by the Land courts or City courts.
Banking systems are the bulwark of the cash economy. Most banks are ownerd and operated by the settlement or neighbourhood. Lending money for interest is an acceptable part of everyday life. Most Lands have their own separate currencies, though the currency of one Land is often honoured in other Lands. Coinage tends to be metal-based, with paper money restricted to credit notes and cheques drawn on banks.