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Arkanar is the capital of Arkanar Kingdom on a fictional unnamed planet described in "Hard to Be a God" ("Трудно быть богом") by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. This planet is a part of the so-called Noon Universe and presents a world in a late feudalistic/Renaissance stage (opposite to e.g. early feudalism of Saula). As stated, the planet has never been officially named so it is usually referred to by the name of the city where the action of the book takes place. Arkanar (planet) was discovered in the EN-2097 solar system in 2134 AD.
Very little is known about the planet as a whole, since the book only describes the events that happened in Arkanar shortly before the so-called "Arkanar Massacre" (see below). The planet has nine continents.
The native sentient species of Arkanar (planet) are humans genetically identical to those from Earth. Their social system is a feudalistic one, although some countries (see below) have already entered the Renaissance and even early capitalistic stages. All countries mentioned in the book are parts of once great Estor Empire named after its capital and Estor is probably located somewhere in the desert climatic zone, since the Emperor's elite troops mentioned occasionally in the book are battle camels.
The events described in "Hard to Be a God" take place in the far northern province of the Empire, in Arkanar Kingdom (named also after its capital) or just Arkanar. Arkanar is located to the west of Soan Merchant Republic (Soan) and to the east of Irukan Duchy (Irukan). To the south of Arkanar is the Strait between the northern provinces of the Empire and its mainland. To the north there are the semi-independent Pampa Baronial Estate and, far behind the mountains of Red Northern Range, the lands of barbarians which are, of course, not a part of Empire.
A schematic map of the Lands Beyond the Strait (Запроливье):
|Red Northern Range
|Irukan Duchy||Hiccupping Forest
As already mentioned, there are a lot of social structures and systems within the Estor Empire.
Notice: "don" is an Estorian equivalent of "sir".
The old Empire was ruled by the Emperor of Estor. It was founded when the ancestors of the Estorians migrated to the Land Beyond the Strait and subjugated the native population. It continued to expand from there, conquering the entire Land Beyond the Strait save for the Barbarian territories. By the time of the "Arkanar Massacre", it had become a mere shadow of its former power. Despite the official existence of a mother country, most of the colonies and provinces had become independent enough to intrigue, conspire and even declare war on each other.
There are three official churches in the Estor Empire.
Arkanar Kingdom & Irukan Duchy
These realms are very similar (or, at least, were similar before don Reba came to power) and present an example of a monarchy on its way to become a constitutional one. Each possesses a royal court and a number of ministries that virtually run the country. Probably because of this similarity, Arkanar and Irukan are the bitterest adversaries beyond the Strait. Since the beginning of don Reba's policy against literacy Irukan has become an asylum for most of scientists and artists who fled Arkanar.
Historically, Arkanar was founded by the Imperial Marshal Tots, who received the title of Pits I, the King of Arkanar for his military achievements about 300 years before the "Massacre".
Soan Merchant Republic
One of the first capitalistic countries on Arkanar (planet), Soan is ruled by an elected Conference of Twelve Merchants, a legislative body similar to the early Parliament. The Conference sponsors the development of science and arts therefore Soan Republic has become one of the enlightened provinces of the Empire as well. It is the site of the highly respected Soan Academy and the most extensive, well-rounded library in the Empire.
Semi-independent domains ruled by barons. Officially they belong to one or another bigger realm (a kingdom, a duchy etc.) but in reality their military strength and wealth ensures their de facto independence. The most known baron beyond the Strait is Pampa, the owner of Bau Castle in Pampa Estate, who also possesses the biggest silver mines in the region. Every new king of Arkanar (Pampa Estate officially belongs to the Kingdom) tried to conquer the Bau Castle in order to gain the possession of the silver mines but because of Pampas' exceptional military skills no attack has ever succeeded.
The Lands of Holy Order lay somewhere on the mainland rather than beyond the Strait, but they've played an important role in the "Arkanar Massacre". Holy Order is a religious order patronized by one of the three official churches of the Empire. It is a strict theocracy where everything is governed by the higher clergy, although, as usual, not really after the ideology of their religion. The Order possesses one of the most well-organized armies in the world composed of the church knights.
The mafia is an international criminal organization based beyond the Strait and controlled by a man known as Vaga the Wheel. Even the Progressors could not determine his origin and background. He became infamous for his habit of referring to himself as a younger brother of all (!) ruling monarchs, including the Emperor of Estor. For his deeds he was excommunicated from all three of the Empire's official churches. According to official propaganda, he was simultaneously languishing in all of the worst dungeons in the Empire (which, of course didn't stop the Empire's special services from hunting him down). Vaga is killed during the "Arkanar Massacre".
Vaga's organization does not have an official name and is called the "Mafia" only because of its similarity to the Italian organised crime Cosa Nostra.
As usual, any country has its rebels who strive to liberate it from the aristocracy and the rest of the ruling class. In the Estor Empire, rebellions happen very often and behind all of them usually stands one person - Arata the Handsome, later known as Arata the Hunchback. Arata is a very famous personality, just like Vaga the Wheel - which isn't surprising since they were best friends long ago - and a heaven-born revolutionary. He is a professional rebel and has organized dozens of rebellions but all of them were ultimately unsuccessful, falling apart at the moment of success because of the greed and infighting of the leaders. Arata however refuses to draw the lesson from his failures and continues to believe that if he could only wipe out the ruling classes in the whole world, freedom and equality would triumph.
Barbarians of the North are semi-nomadic tribes ruled by tribe chieftains and shamans. They are well known for their deadly long ranged weaponry, however are considered poor hand-to-hand fighters. It is known that a prince of Arkanar once fell in love with and married a barbarian princess.
Also mentioned in the book are Uban Duchy, Kaisan Tyranny (both located on other continents) and the ancient civilization that existed beyond the Strait long before Estor Empire conquered it.
The technological advancement of the planet Arkanar is equal to that of Earth in the post-Middle Ages and Renaissance period. Advanced countries like Soan possess much technological knowledge and their universities are filled with educated physicians, engineers, chemists, physicists and astronomers. The Holy Order officially discourages literacy as it sees the only possible way to maintain a stable nation is by keeping its citizens illiterate. Countries like the Arkanar Kingdom are approximately in the middle of these two poles.
Earth and Arkanar
Right after its discovery in 2134 AD, the planet Arkanar had become an object of careful observation by Institute of Experimental History on Earth. The Institute has developed a so-called "Primary Feudalism Theory" and nearly all of its aspects were tested on Arkanar. The first progressors arrived on the planet just after its discovery, as observers and had absolutely no right to contact the local population or do anything against its will. In 2141, however, the discovery of Saula changed the public opinion in favor of EHI and shortly afterwards it became one of the most influential and prestigious organizations on the planet.
By the time of the "Arkanar Massacre", there were 250 progressors disseminated over the nine continents of the planet. Here is the list of the few who are identified throughout the course of the novel:
- Don Rumata (real name - Anton Konstantinovich Malyshev ): background - a rich aristocrat from Estor, exiled after a duel with a member of the royal family; courtier and apparently an officer of the Royal Guard; location - Arkanar Kingdom; length of service - 6 years.
- Don Kondor (Alexander Vasilievitch Simonov ) - General Judge and Keeper of Great State Seal of the Soan Republic, vice-president of the Conference of Twelve Merchants; Soan Republic; 15 years.
- Don Goog (Pashka (Paul)) - courtier in the Duke of Irukan's court; Irukan Duchy; approx. 6 years.
- Shushtuletidovodus (n/a) - Great Shaman of one of barbarian tribes; Barbarian Regions; n/a.
- Don Kanade (Stefan Orlovskiy) - Commander of His Imperial Majesty's Crossbow Company, Estorian Empire, deceased.
- Pani-Pa (Karl Rosenblũm; one of Earth's foremost experts in serf wars of France and Germany) - fur trader,) Muriya, deceased.
- Cover name unknown (Jeremy Toughnut; expert in land reform) - confidant of the Kaisan tyrant; Kaisan Tyranny; extracted, currently under care.
Progressors' work on Arkanar was especially tough because of the constant internal conflicts between the morals they've brought with them from Earth and the role they had to play to remain undercover. Most of them couldn't handle it and only a few of them could last a long time (e.g. don Kondor) in such society. Those who couldn't stand the medieval atrocities (of which were many) either left the planet or broke loose: started rebellions, usurped thrones, just started killing those who committed the cruelties... However, the medieval consciousness always won and nothing would really change because of progressors' outbreaks. The "Arkanar Massacre" is the result of one of them.
Don Reba's affairs
"Hard to Be a God" tells about don Reba's attempt to become Arkanar's ruler. The story began in 2153 AD when a new Prime Minister of Arkanar, don Reba, was appointed. Back then no one knew him and what he wanted. He somehow managed to stay in power although everything he started failed: he tried to set on two old baronial families to fight, but they declared peace and together conquered some of Arkanar's land; he declared war on Irukan, but the army got stuck in the swamps on the border and a peace treaty had to be signed; he formed "grey troops" to fight dangerous liberal literacy, but it was evident, that sooner or later "troopers" would realize their power and overthrow him. He acted very strange, unlike any politician ever known, just as if his only goals were destruction of culture and weakening of his own country.
Don Rumata did his best to resist don Reba: he rescued scientists and artists from prison, ransomed them, prevented "grey troopers" from killing. Usually he succeeded, because he had all the Earth's technologies to help him, but sometimes he lost. And for that he hated don Reba. The "Massacre" has practically started when Reba's men poisoned the King Pits VI of Arkanar and assassinated his only son. Shortly afterwards it became clear that don Reba was working for the Holy Order ever since he came to power. The elite troops of Holy Order entered the country, "freed" it from "grey troopers" and marauding agents of Vaga's organization and declared Arkanar Kingdom the Arkanar Episcopacy of the Holy Order. The Bishop of Arkanar was, of course, don Reba. It is important to mention that at that time Reba has already suspected that Rumata actively resists his policy for a long time.
But don Rumata still held on. He managed to save a few scientists and his only local friend, Baron Pampa, before a devastating tragedy happened. Kira, a local girl he loved, was mercilessly assassinated by an unidentified arbalester, presumably sent by Reba. If it were indeed so, then it was Reba's last mistake. Rumata stormed Reba's residence, killed the guards and Reba the Bishop of Arkanar before the progressor control center (located on the South Pole) managed to stop him by dropping soporific charges on the city and evacuated him to the Earth.
Boris Strugatsky in his interview (2000) told that "as far as he remembers" Reba wanted to take Kira as hostage in order to control Rumata, but due to poor discipline among his monks, Kira had been killed.
There is no information in Hard to Be a God or other Strugatsky's books about what happened in Arkanar after Rumata was evacuated from the planet. The concept of a"Arkanar Massacre" ("арканарская резня") is popular among writers of fan fiction based on their works.
The concept, first introduced in the "Worlds of Stugatsky Brothers" edition of Hard to Be a God, was invented by Sergey Pereslegin [permanent dead link]. According to him, the people of Arkanar stayed without a governor - which led to anarchy and a rebellion quickly organized by Arata the Hunchback who "happened" to be in Arkanar at that time. Historian on Earth later called this rebellion "Arkanar Massacre". The rebellion had been the first serious failure of Experimental History Institute and a first milestone in abolishing the progressor institution. It isn't really known what happened in 2156 AD in Arkanar, but the consequences were disastrous. Thousands of people perished in a bloody and senseless slaughter that resulted, however cliché this may sound, from actions of a single person. A progressor from Earth, don Rumata.
He also denies that don Reba's connection to the assassination of Kira. Instead, he argues that such assassination wasn't of any use to Reba, but much more to Arata. Arata knew that Rumata hates Reba and that the death of his lover would immediately trigger a lust for revenge. Moreover, Arata knew that Anton (don Rumata) was from another world and is therefore capable of assaulting Reba's residence alone. Moreover, last but not least, it was in the end Arata who gained from the death of Reba and organized a rebellion.