Here's the very first map-profile for 2013! Or rather, that's a little bit of a lie, since this was first thought of shortly before that December vacation and that it was only finished recently.
Anyway, this one came about as a result of reading up on Poland, Lithuania and a very strange game of Empire: Total War
where their Commonwealth got more than lucky, in a sense becoming a reversal of what Prussia became in our world. So what it loses in realism, I hope to make this as plausible as possible in alternate history form. Hope you enjoy it!
It has been centuries since the Union of Lublin in 1569, when the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania forged their Commonwealth under the Golden Liberty. Faced with threats both within and without, it seemed to some of the leading realms of Europe that this strange realm was doomed to fail. But despite the odds, and more than a few fortunate streaks from its generals, merchants and leaders, it had done much more than persevere, becoming a major power in its own right. Indeed, their reach had gone to the point wherein, had the union crumbled, the Continent's history would have changed considerably.
Even past the dawn of the 19th Century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth holds firm in Eastern Europe. It is in many ways a paradox: a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and elective, nigh-republican monarchy whose people value tolerance and freedom with high regard. While Poland and Lithuania are still the dominant forces in their federation (being the centers of the whole union), ever since the Prussian defeat in 1728 it has sought to extend equal representation to all citizens, whatever their origin. Their current prestige is far from perfect, however. Even with all the prosperity and subsequent reforms, corruption among the nobility and ruling classes remains an issue. While the Germans, Tartars and Cossacks have largely been tamed and accepting, there still exists discontent by what some claim to be "inner colonization" of their lands.
To its south and west, it has since found reliable allies among the British (themselves the rulers of an increasingly powerful empire), royal Bavarians and the South Slavs (the result of a daring expedition into former Ottoman-held territories in Serbia and Bulgaria). The closest they have to a kindred spirit however lie in the Habsburg Empire, itself increasingly taking after the Commonwealth's example (with Poland in particular aiding the Hungarians in their quest for equal partnership with Austria) as well as replacing Prussia as the leading German power, although Silesia remains a sensitive issue between the two realms.
They are not without rivals however. To the north, Sweden had since unified Scandinavia and extended its influence into the states of northern Germany. The Nordics' reach has grown such that, as with the Commonwealth ironically enough, they actively threaten the increasingly weak Russian Empire. While further south, both the restored Ottoman Empire (the Sultan coming back in 1786 after a republican uprising, albeit integrating their reforms) and the Holy Kingdom of Spain (the Habsburgs of Spain having styled themselves and their realm in a more theocratic mold) compete over the Mediterranean.
Whatever the future holds however, with the burgeoning advances in industry, surely the Commonwealth is poised to continue prospering well into tomorrow.