Prague Sit-in

From Acw

Russia's Migration Crises began some ten years earlier than the other powers, because of a particularly loud protest by a large mass of Liberian refugees trying to emigrate into the Ukraine.


Global Warming and Environmental Refugees

In 2114, the rate of skin cancer along Earth's equator spiked to one case in four people. The degradation of the atmosphere and the Greenhouse effect were slowly suffocating the planet, and turning the tropics into desert.

Liberia was a country that had been in trouble since its inception in the late 1800s. In 1994 it underwent a Communist revolution and sued for entry into the USSR. While that request was not granted due to the risk of inflaming American opinion (Liberia was originally an American creation), Liberia began to accept greater and greater aid packages from the Soviets.

By 2114 the country was effectively propped up by Soviet money. As the temperatures began to soar and crops began to die, Liberians began to emigrate en masse. At first they travelled in small groups, and though they preferred the USSR, they settled anywhere that would have them. Later on they exclusively chose Russia. This may have been due to the influence of Foreign Minister Kwame M'Boko, who advised the country constantly through radio and print media that 'Friend Russia' would come to their aid, or possibly just that the other powers were turning them away and Russia had always been associated with aid in the public's eyes.

Beginnings - Liberians in Limbo

Germany's immigration policy at the time allowed for Untermenschen to travel across the country if they had a specific destination in mind and declared it at the border when they entered. Used to larger than usual population movements by 2114, the German border guards were somewhat careless, and they allowed the mases of Afircan refugees into the country without making sure of the Soviets' intention to let them in.

As with most things, the Prague Sit-in started small. A group of 40 Liberian refugees were refused entry at the Soviet Border in late 2113, and were turned back to West Prague. The German guards would not let them back through the gates into Germany as they had no other destination in mind. They therefore set up camp, within sight of both sides of the divided city, in the three-kilometer strip of no-man's land between the two sides of the Prague Wall.

The Soviet guards began turning away further Africans in droves. They strayed back to the Liberian camps and began to camp there. Traffic across the border was larger than usual in 2114, as less noticeable groups of refugees were moving across the globe as well. Neither side wanted to deal with the Liberians, who steadily started to grow as a community in Limbo.

The Powder Keg Heats Up

The problem was exacerbated when a number of Slavic refugees from German territories joined the Liberians in Limbo. By this point the crowd was an estimated 2000 strong - large enough to be noticed, but too large for the border guards to disperse, and anyway, where were they to go? Neither country would let them in. By this point it was too hard to find a quick solution, and diplomatic talks on the topic were fruitless. The Slavic refugees whipped up serious unrest amongst the Liberians, whose numbers were swelling daily.

Other North African refugees, from Libya and Tunisia, themselves also recipients of Russian aid, were also pouring into the Prague No-mans' Land. by August 2114 the small town had grown to a large collection of tents, and there were some 30,000 people crammed into a 3km by 3km square. Traffic through the border was slowed to a crawl and the whole thing assumed the status of an international crisis.

The Match

The final straw came on the 8th of September, 2114, when one Piotr Slavcek (a Russian bastardisation of the Germanic last name for Slavic wards of the state) began loudly decrying the treatment of the refugees by both Germans and Russians. Witnesses who understood his particularly heavily-accented patois (he was speaking in English for the benefit of the cameras) recall that his abuse became quite heated. Passers-by, both living in the shanty-town and those crossing the border, began to gather around him and spur him on. The hubbub grew and grew, more voices being added to the mix, until finally a shot rang out. Slavcek had been standing on a car roof, and on System-wide television, he was seen to topple from the roof of the car, having taken a gunshot wound to the head.

No-one is sure who shot first, or which side they were from. Tempers were high in both camps; guards from both sides had been patrolling the No-Mans Land for months, and there had already been several altercations and a number of shooting incidents involving refugees, border guards and regular travellers. Regardless, even before Slavcek's body had hit the ground, automatic fire was everywhere. Guards on the walls of both sides were seen indiscriminately firing into the crowd. In an area that densely packed with human bodies, casualties were gigantic. somewhere close to 300 people were killed, including 4 German and 7 Soviet guards, and 17 unrelated civilians. A further 800 or more were wounded.

The 'firefight' went on for at least an hour, with guards shooting at anything that moved in the killing ground. Orders to cease fire came on the Soviet side first, followed by the German side twenty minutes later. Sporadic fire was heard for a further hour from the West Prague wall. As night fell, all the guards and travellers were removed from the No-Mans' Land, and the border closed on both sides.

Passive Resistance

Activity did not cease during the night. As dawn broke, it became clear that the remains of the shanty-town had been dismantled and moved to the edge of the minefields on either side, and the dead bodies from the preceeding day's fight were piled alongside them. The guards were greeted by the sight of the 40,000-strong throng sitting silently in a mass, completely blocking the border road, effectively closing the major land border between two of the solar system's pre-eminent powers.

Initial attempts to move the crowd were unsuccessful. Guards with loudspeakers, guards threatening to fire, the manhandling of individual protesters out of the way, all elicited no reaction. The stony-faced crowd remained impassive. The Germans ordered a squad of soldiers to open fire at the protesters, but they had already been through hell. A number were killed, but the remainder did not move. Eventually a bulldozer was brought up, but no-one could be found who would drive it through the crowd. An impasse had been reached.

The man who had orchestrated this was one Arthur Thandiswa, a Liberian socialist who had become somewhat influential in the camp. He had been a close associate of Slavcek, who it emerged later was a Slavic nationalist escaping Germany. While they had not intended it to happen in quite this manner, they had been working on the sit-in plan together. Whichever guard fired that shot could not have played more squarely into their hands.

The Aftermath

The situation at Prague had become a stalemate. After the gunfights, the world would no longer ignore international dalliance on this situation. The complete intractability the crowds were now displaying meant that in the minds of many onloookers, the only solution seemed to be the least palatable of all. The German Foreign Minister, Heinrich von Heiden, was heard to casually remark that since they were not on the soil of any nation, no-one could stop anyone from merely finishing the work the border guards had begun when they opened fire.

Legend has it that upon reading this remark in Pravda, General Secretary Chernenko was heard to remark that this was a typically Nazi attitude. An aid of his, new to the job and whose name history has forgotten, then asked the question "But sir, how are we any different?", and before he was carted off and fired (possibly executed, the legend is unclear) for his impudence, something clicked in Chernenko's head and he gave the now famous order to take all of the refugees in, without further ado.

This legend is most probably false, but no-one has uncovered a more believable motive for Chernenko's surprise decision. It is known that the order came direct from the top, but policy analysts of the other Empires remain baffled as to what purpose this move served beyond being seen to be the ones to break the deadlock. This benefit is generaly held to be vastly outweighed by the negative effects; namely that the USSR was the first port of call for most further environmental refugees as the Migration Crises worsened. The huge numbers of refugees taken in by Russia in the 2110s and 2120s are often said to have contributed indirectly to the rapid development of the Krasnikov Generator by Russia, but there is more to the story.

Regardless, Russia's early wakeup call to the coming environmental disaster was enough to mean they were ahead of the other powers in their efforts to resettle incoming refugees. Their Mars resettlement program was a decade ahead of Germany's, and combined with timely funding and careful planning, their leap to colonise other systems was much less hurried and much better orchestrated. The Prague Sit-in was an inauspicious start, but a start nonetheless to Russia's continued galactic dominance.

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