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The Balmori Republic: The Best-Laid Plans
The 65 million people that make up the extended Balmori Republic are an exercise in dissonance. Educated, trained, and with the world's largest middle class, the Republic is nonetheless a deeply divided nation. Politics and philosophy divide the population deeply, and it always seems to be on the verge of collapse. Despite a fairly victorious list of wars, and what should be powerful supernatural allies, the Republic is distrusted by most of the other former Shogunate nations, and lacks the firepower it needs to truly excel in the world.
Covering the southern and western portions of the Blessed Isle, the Balmori Republic does not currently hold any tributaries off the Isle itself. With almost two-thirds of its population concentrated in a number of large, urban settlements, and vast agricultural fields covering much of the land, the Balmori Republic remains self-sufficient, rich, and capable of handling itself; however, it does not have the raw numbers of many other nations.
The Balmori Republic is one of the only large non-aristocratic controlled nations. Over the last 150 years, the aristocracy has continued to lose powers, and the middle class now has a vast degree of power. The President of Balmori is elected by the population (or, more precisely, the land-owning population); each district also elects a Senator, and the Senators have the bulk of the power. Balmori therefore has political parties, and works on a complex electoral system; generally, the centralized parties succeed. There is also a House of Lords with partial veto power; however, they cannot veto any proposition that passes with 80% or more support in the Senate. The President appoints cabinet members and leads proceedings, but doesn't have much more power; he does not have to be elected from the ruling party in the Senate (if there is one). Coalitions and power-deals are the order of the day, as the Republic has almost a dozen active political parties spread across the 70 district senators. There are also district governers, who have their own cabinets; they can make up their own parties. Most major cities are single districts, while rural areas or groups of towns make up other districts. While many senators and Presidents are Dragon-Blooded, just as many mortals are also elected. The House of Lords tends more towards Dragon-Blooded, however (about two-thirds of the House are Terrestrial Exalts).
The population is primarily educated, as public education is required up to the age of 16, and scholarships exist for the next degree of schooling. Of course, patronage is an active force, but it is at least possible to become rich from poverty. This is a major advantage for the nation, which boasts the lowest poverty rate of any of the Great Nations. In addition, Balmori's lax information controls have led to a spread of thaumaturges and bizarre technologies, which are patented and controlled by their owners, rather than by the state.
In addition, the Republic has one social feature that those outside consider to be insanity - the registration and legal residency of Fair Folk, ghosts, and (in theory, at least) any other supernatural being. Tolerance is rampant in Balmori, to a potentially dangerous degree. While there are not a large number of either Fair Folk or the undead, they are given full rights under the Republic provided that they register with the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. In theory, Anathema are also allowed to register; however, only one has ever done so, fifty years back, and the registry of Callador Lent of the Zenith Caste is what led to the Two Years' War against Pangu and Deheleshen. Lent's disappearance ended that war, although Balmori came out ahead overall. Supernaturals who do not register are considered to be treasonous and dangerous criminals, and are usually killed if discovered - in fact, some in Balmori question why Solars and Lunars never register, and conspiracy theorists claim that the Bureau quietly kills those who try.
Balmori is also very tolerant religiously. While the Immaculate Order preaches the evils of the nation, the gods are worshipped and supported, ancestor cultus flourish, and some seek out stranger things. As long as a religion does not actively break the existing laws, anyone may worship anything - even demons or the Anathema. Balmori even has a thriving atheist community - they do not believe that gods and spirits should be worshipped, as these beings are merely another form of natural phenomena. This leads to occasional riots between rival sects and cults, which the government cracks down on, but are usually confined to bitter invective against one another.
Technology runs rampant across Balmori. With no real restrictions in place beyond a patent system to protect an inventor's rights, machinery can be purchased everywhere, and much of it fails to be standardized. The Republic has no real standardization, certainly no legal requirements, and whatever anyone can create, they can try to find an investor for. Even battery sizes and types are not standarized, although only a handful of types of Essence batteries are actually invented.
Because of this, Essence, steam, oil, wind and electrical devices are all commonplace, and it can be a nightmare trying to unify all the disparate technologies, many of which only last for a handful of years and are then almost impossible to repair or replace. Even Glamour enchantments are relatively common in the nation, as the local Fair Folk ply their trades in exchange for dreamstuff or new sensations.
The Balmori Republic has many enemies, primarily the three nations that seek to restore one form or another of the old Shogunate. In particular, Pangu considers the Republic to be the perfect symbol of everything that can and will go wrong if the Precepts of the Immaculate Order are not followed strictly, and affairs between the two nations are extremely strained. Deheleshen is not much happier with the Republic, and anything that happens between the two are viewed with suspicion.
Chiaroscuro is a more pleasant relationship, but many in the Republic consider it to be a great evil, and protests against the Southern nation are common and occasionally violent. The government generally tries to keep Chiaroscuro at arm's length while still trading with it.
Despite their tolerance overall, the Republic of Balmori does not entirely trust the Dragon-Kings of Rathess. However, they have a strong support as invaded natives amongst the students and left-wing members of the nation, and they are given more support than they sometimes realize. Similarly, although New Estasia invaded Creation, the Republic holds that the past is the past, and points to its own relatively good relations with its Autochthonian minority as a sign of what could come.
The Western League is more courted, as many in the Republic see it as a beacon of hope, and actively try to help the League against other, more imperialist nations. The League distrusts the Republic in return, but seems to be generally willing to interact with them, and many left-wing Republicans are pushing for some sort of permanent economic alliance.
The Deathlords are trusted or distrusted on a case-by-case basis. Princess Magnificence seems like a decent Deathlord, as does the Silver Prince, but the First And Forsaken Lion or the Mask of Winters are considered to be dangerous warmongers. Most in the Republic would scoff at the idea that the Deathlords might have any sort of uniform agenda or goals.
As mentioned above, the Balmori Republic has no official hatred of the Anathema, and while individual members of the Wyld Hunt are allowed into the nation, they are not allowed to pursue Anathema without just cause. However, the simple fact that the Anathema don't seem to want to register means that most of the Republic views them with suspicion; why would they hide unless they had reason?