Part 28: XXVII. Laurence V 1845-1854 A.D.
While the wave of liberal revolution caused problems in Europe, Jerusalem managed to avoid much of the chaos. Only in the Andaman islands did the ideas really catch fire, inspiring a small group of Bengali farmers to rise up in revolt and declare the island chain an independent republic.
The arrival of ten thousand of Jerusalem's finest soon taught the farmers to be a bit more circumspect in their political ambitions. Those of the farmers that survived, that is.
In any case, King Laurence had other things to worry about. The Russian government had increasingly sought to regain more of the territory once controlled by Rum. They had had several wars with Poland and now turned their eyes on the land route to the Indian Ocean that King Martin IV had wrested away from them back in 1760.
Attempts at resolving the impending crisis diplomatically failed, and in November of 1845, Russia declared war on Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, the speed at which events had unfolded had caught Jerusalem's military by surprise. The divisions along the border were severely under strength, disorganized, and had low morale. Worse still, both Prussia and Italy had joined the war as Russia's ally, Prussia sending military support and Italy eying North Africa. King Laurence called on Jerusalem's ally, Orleans who promptly declared war and marched into Italy in support of the Kingdom.
Things had gotten very bad, very fast.
Jerusalem's armies were initially forced to retreat and reorganize away from the border, but by January of 1846, the brave and brilliant General Bernat was marching on the Russian city of Herat.
A small force of Italians landed near Benghazi. Fortunately, they were quickly repulsed by troops marching east to reinforce Egypt and Alexandria from any attempt at invasion.
While General Bernat took Herat and continued towards Merv, an even larger force headed north along the coast of the Caspian Sea. For a short time, King Laurence V began to imagine a decisive victory over the Russians was within grasp.
Such dreams were, however, only an illusion. By spring the massive number of conscripts the Russians had mobilized had begun to arrive at the front. By midsummer, Jerusalem was outnumbered by over 400,000 to 120,000. In August, General Bernat's forces were surrounded and completely annihilated while attempting to retreat to Herat. The Kingdom's front was broken and Russia began to push steadily forward.
By November, 80,000 new troops were arriving in Persia, but it was too little, too late. The situation on the front was becoming untenable. Russian troops were already besieging Tehran. In early December, with great reluctance, King Laurence V signed a peace treaty ceding five provinces to the Russians. The Kingdom had lost Sabzevar, Mashhad, Mazar i Sharif, Gazni, and Kandahar.
Orleans, meanwhile, continued to push against Italy, choosing to continue their war even after Jerusalem signed a white peace with both Italy and Prussia. Their persistence eventually paid off when they won several coveted border provinces from the Italians.
Many of the minorities in the Kingdom, sensing weakness after the recent defeat, grew restive. There were a few scattered revolts, but fortunately nothing too terrible. Four percent of the population was now of a liberal ideology, however.
An African Magistrate, thought to be in the pay of the Russians, was caught feeding military information and funds to the Orthodox Ethiopian rump state. He was dealt with most harshly.
Over the next few years efforts were made to shore up the defense of the border. Many new divisions were raised and an effort was made to fortify the Russian border. It was too expensive to keep all of Jerusalem's divisions at full strength, but funding was otherwise left high to make sure they maintained their morale and organization.
Efforts were redoubled in late 1848, when the Byzantines and Russians signed a military alliance. King Laurence V began diplomatic efforts to improve the Kingdom's relations with both nations. His efforts were only semi-successful. He managed to diffuse some of the hatred, but relations remained frosty.
The King also sponsored the construction of a new museum in Jerusalem to demonstrate the many industrial wonders of the new age.
By 1850 the anger of the liberal revolutionaries had largely faded. The unrest caused by the Russian invasion had also subsided and order had returned to the Kingdom.
1850 was also a good year for the military. Many recruits allowed the formation of a volunteer division, which was stationed in Baghdad to quickly respond to threats from either Russia or the Byzantines. For far too long, many of the Kingdom's modern firearms had been purchased from Orleans or Leon, and now factories were springing up in Iraq to create homemade Jerusalem arms.
The Kingdom had also taken another small island in Indonesia, just west of the Flemish Philippines.
Surprising news came from Nicholia, with the report that the Flemish Argentine had forced the powerful Scots Union to cede their holdings on the tip of the continenet.
The Scots it seemed, were having more success in North Nicholia, as they competed with the CSN and FRN to seize the rich Nicholian heartland at the center of the continent.
There was great grief in Jerusalem in the summer of 1853, when the King's good friend, the Duke of Alexandria, was found poisoned. The Duke had long been an advocate of a strong defense against the northern Orthodox powers and many suspected them of the murder. There was precious little evidence to go on though, and ultimately, King Laurence was unable to do much beyond saber rattle and execute a few suspected conspirators.
There were more reports of war from Nicholia. The Confederate States had attempted to institute heavy taxes on the sea lanes leading the Byzantine fur trading colonies in the north. Commerce raiding an attempt at a blockade had led to war, and the Byzantines had invaded Newfoundland, as well as landing and burning the Confederate capital of New York.
The Federal States of Nicholia had been more lucky, joining the Argentines in inflicting an embarrassing colonial defeat on the Scots. By 1854, the Scots Union had been forced to surrender California and most of their Rocky Mountain holdings.
Noting that the Russians had won a pair of colonial wars against the Chinese, King Laurence began to build his forces in India, aiming at eventually taking the Chinese holdings there. Guard divisions and cavalry divisions were also added to the Kingdom's northern borders. If another war came with the Russians it would be a victorious one.
The balance of power had also begun to change. The Russians were falling behind on their industrialization while the Scots and Orleans raced ahead. Jerusalem also led the world in railway construction, throwing out a net of steel and steam to bind together its far-flung territories.