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Kislev is the nation beyond the northern border of the Empire in the Old World. It is bordered by the Empire to the south and west, the Sea of Claws to the west, the Troll Country to the north and the Worlds Edge Mountains to the north-east and east. A land of endless rolling plains and steppes, Kislev sits between the Empire and the Chaos Wastes to the far north. A near constant flow of Northmen Marauders raiding the farms and villages of this unforgiving land have forced the Kislevites to adopt a lifestyle which is geared to constant war against the forces of Chaos. And the Kislevites have become a hardy people who are never willing to back down from a fight. The capital of Kislev is the eponymous city "Kislev" and its rulers are the Tsars and Tsarinas. The symbol of Kislev is the bear, and the Kislevites have their own patron god known as Ursun, the Father of Bears. Kislev also uses their own calendar, the Kislev Calendar.
Kislev is almost two nations in one. On the one hand, there are the more civilised peoples of the south and the cities, where the lands are relatively fertile. In the north, particularly north of the River Lynsk, there are the nomad tribes. Kislevites are known as dour, taciturn people, and this is not surprising considering the harsh lands they inhabit. They are as unforgiving as the northern climate, with a grim, even morbid sense of humour.
When a warhost of Chaos emerges from the north, Kislev is inevitably the first nation to suffer, and the people of Kislev have been fighting for their survival since their nation was first founded. They relish in part the debt owed to them by the people of the Empire to the south who they protect. However, this does not stop a Kislevite bitterly complaining about this state of affairs at any opportunity. The Kislevites are closer to the people of the Empire than many of them would admit, and view them with a kind of patronising humour that one might reserve for a bright but slightly eccentric child. In point of fact, most Kislevites think that their neighbours have gone soft from easy living in fertile lands, and would benefit from a year or two in the north, or ‘living in the wind’ as the Kislevites like to describe it, in reference to the fierce north winds that often herald a Chaos incursion.
During the Great War against Chaos, when the hordes of the north stretched like a sea across the Taiga, the Elves and Dwarf came to the aid of the Makind. In return, it has been known for Kislevites to aid the Dwarfs, sometimes to clear the mountain passes, and in particular the High Pass, of foes such as Skaven, Greenskins and Marauders. Both respect the stubbornness they see in each other, though Kislevites cannot understand how Dwarfs can spend so much time underground, while a Dwarf generally thinks that all that open sky drives the Kislevites a little bit insane.
Though the great forests of the Empire give way to the increasingly desolate oblast of Kislev, the country is not without small woods and forests, some of which are rumoured to be the homes of isolated Wood Elf communities. The Wood Elves distrust all other races, even their own kin of Ulthuan, but when ancient foes rear their heads, they have been known to make common cause with others.
The Kislevites are descended from Human tribes that travelled from the Kurgan tribes of the north and east. In particular, the Kurgan influence is still strong in the north and the horse tribes share many traditions and customs with the likes of the Dolgans, Khazags and other Northmen tribes, though often the Northmen worship the Chaos Gods. The ancient traditions of these peoples are more keenly held to amongst the nomads, who see their southern cousins as weakened by the civilising influence of the Empire. In this respect, worship of the various ancient Kislev Gods varies across the nation, being more prominent in the north, while other gods have been incorporated into the Kislevite religion in southern lands. In addition, the Gospodars brought with them the Cult of the Bear God Ursun, which has been strongly established as the dominant religion of Kislev, though Dazh (god of fire and the sun); Tor (warrior god of thunder and lightning) and even to a lesser extent Taal and Ulric are worshipped.
As most of the Kislevite ancestry originated from the Eastern Steppes, Dark Lands and other harsh lands of the north, their gods represent very important forces in their lives. Various nature and household spirits are worshipped all across the Old World, but this worship is particularly strong in Kislev. These magical creatures are servants and messengers of the gods in this world, and should be treated as such.
At the time of Sigmar, the harsh lands north-east of the Urskoy were populated by the Ungol tribes, who also dominated the smaller tribes of the Ropsmenn who lived in what is now Troll Country. Sharing many traits with the Kurgan steppe nomads to the east, the Ungols were a scattered peoples consisting of nomadic horse-riding tribesmen. Sigmar’s influence did not stretch this far north and they remained independent from the confederation of tribes founded by Sigmar.
Circa 1500 on the Imperial Calendar, there was a large westward migration from the Eastern Steppes, and of particular importance was the arrival of the powerful and wealthy Gospodars. Torn with strife, the Empire was in no position to contest these lands, and the superior arms and tactics of the Gospodars drove the Ungols to the west and north, who in turn absorbed the Ropsmenn completely. Over the following century, the power of the Gospodars grew, and the city of Kislev was founded.
The settlement of Praag grew in size as the Gospodars used the Lynsk to launch incursions into Ungol territory, eventually forcing the Ungol to accept Gospodar rule (who were now beginning to be called Kislevites, after their capital city). By this time, the former Ungol city of Erengrad had grown into a busy port ruled by the Kislevites, and from here the Kislevites were able to sail the Sea of Claws, trading and fighting with the Norse, and on occasion the Empire, as well as keeping the Ungols in check.
This state of affairs has existed for over 750 years, and Gospodar and Ungol society has merged over the centuries, to a greater or lesser extent, into the nation of Kislev. The ruling elite, from whom the Tsars and Tsarinas hail, are of Gospodar heritage. The influence of the Gospodar language and beliefs is more evident in the south, particularly in the cities of Kislev and Erengrad, while further north the land becomes more barren and the horse tribes still hold sway. In fact, Praag itself has been reclaimed in a large part by the old Ungol nobility, and in many ways is a separate power in the north.
Known by the Kislevites as Kyazak, Northmen raiding parties are an ever-present threat to settlements and caravans north of the Lynsk, and some even venture as far south as to cross the Lynsk itself. The incursions are short-lived, lasting perhaps only for a season at a time, and either end when winter draws in, or they are driven back by the armies of the Kislevites.
These armies are drawn from the scattered stanitsas and towns of the Kislev oblast, which each provide a standing force of warriors, much like a militia. Ungol horse archers patrol the most northern reaches of the country, while settlements with a great Gospodar heritage pool their resources to create squadrons (or rotas as they are known) of the famed Winged Lancers. This tradition is continued by the cities, and the Tsarina can command a large number of Winged Lancers drawn from the richest families and their household troops. A particularly famous regiment is the Gryphon Legion.
Occasionally, a particularly powerful chieftain or warlord will rise in Norsca, or amongst the tribes of the Kurgan people. They weld together a rough confederation of several tribes and launch attacks into Kislev. At these times, the various rotas of Kislev are drawn together into larger army groups called pulks. These pulks are invariably under the command of a noble of Gospodar heritage and are the closest Kislev has to a standing army. Sometimes, a single pulk is enough to see off the threat, but other times two, three or more pulks may combine their forces to counter an ambitious Marauder warlord.
Kislev is the most northerly civilised nation of the Old World. The northern border of the country is ill-defined, but many draw it at the River Lynsk, which flows westward from the Worlds Edge Mountains to the Sea of Claws, while its border with the Empire has been established at the River Urskoy (named after the god Ursun), a tributary of the River Talabec. The north of Kislev is barely distinguishable from the Troll Country and the tundra beyond, more wooded to the east in the foothills of the mountains. Some Kislev tribes travel further north than the Lynsk, into the Troll Country, and eastwards along the High Pass. It is a cold, infertile land, and most of the Kislevites who live here have a nomadic existence, moving constantly from one grazing ground to the next, much like the Marauder tribes of the Chaos Wastes.
Further south, Kislev becomes more hospitable, though still chill for the entire year. More farmsteads can flourish in these lands, though quarried stone is in short supply and so buildings tend to be of uncut rocks or wooden construction, giving them a rustic appearance which people of the Empire would consider backward and uncivilised. This is not so true of the mighty palaces and temples of the cities, with their distinctive gold, onion-shaped domes and towers.
There are three such cities in Kislev: Praag, Erengrad and the city of Kislev itself. Each city has its own distinct history and personality, and so though they are all inhabited by Kislevites, they have a character of their own.
The capital of the nation and seat of the Tsars and Tsarinas who rule the land, Kislev is the largest and most developed of the three cities. Situated close to the Urskoy, it is virtually on the border with the Empire, and many Imperial customs and aesthetic values have influenced Kislev life, literature and architecture. Founded as the capital by the Khans and Khan-queens of the Gospodar people in Year 1 (IC 1524), it has been besieged several times in its history, though has never fallen to an enemy. At the centre of Kislev lies the Bokha Palaces, the hereditary seat of power rebuilt during the reign of Tsar Boris Bokha after the original Palace Gospodarin was all but destroyed during the Great War against Chaos in 778 (IC 2302).
Erengrad was originally the Ungol capital, when it was merely a walled town known as Norvard, and later overrun by the Gospodars. Erengrad is Kislev’s main trading city and its largest port. Situated on the coast of the Sea of Claws at the mouth of the Lynsk, vessels from across the Old World, New World and even Norsca come here with goods, slaves, gems and precious metals. Kislev does not have a standing navy as such, but the waters of the Sea of Claws are dangerous. As such all merchantmen are armed in some fashion and can be pressed into service by the Tsarina when needed.