The Coast of Moscow
by Allan B. Calhamer
None of us was surprised when Russia ordered the raise of a Fleet in Moscow;
but we were when he insisted it were legal. In the ensuing discussion Russia
indicated further that he intended to move the Fleet coastwise to Sevastopol;
and then, on the understanding that Sevastopol had only one coast, to move it on
to Rumania, the Black Sea, or Armenia.
At least it became clear what he was up to. Congestion in the Don River
Shipyards being what it was, he hoped to raise fleets twice as fast as usual for
his southern frontier, by building them in Moscow.
I think the Northern powers rather approved of the idea. Austria-Hungary was
dubious; Turkey, aghast.
"In order for Moscow to have a coast", said Turkey, "it seems
either you have to follow one or the other of two theories. Either Moscow has a
coast because it simply looks that way on the map, or else it has a coast
because it borders on a body of water, that is, the Caspian."
"Sounds like a distinction without a difference" said Italy.
"If we follow the first theory" resumed Turkey, "that Moscow
has a coast because it looks that way on the map, then what of Sevastopol?
Certainly Sevastopol must have two coasts, because it looks that way on the map.
Furthermore, since these two coasts are not named on the board, it may be
impossible for Russia to raise Fleets at Sevastopol at all, Raise F Sev
being void due to ambiguity.
"If we follow the second theory" Turkey went on, "we have to
ask what the situation is if Moscow borders a body of water."
"Topologically" said Germany, "nothing at all borders on the
Caspian, since you can't move to it. Therefore, Moscow has no coast."
Russia broke in. "Rule VII. 1. does not say that an unnamed space cannot
be a body of water. It says, merely, that `Units may not move...to any location
not specifically named on the board.'"
"But is the Caspian a body of water?" asked A-H. "Rule VI. 2..
in the 1971 rulebook, says `The seas are divided into "bodies of
water" by light, solid black lines.' There are no such lines in the
"Are there such lines in the Black?" Russia challenged.
"Sure," replied A-H. "On the 1961 map, there is a very short
black line separating the Black Sea from the Bosporus. The line is not a line
from the base map; it's thicker than the coastlines, and there would be no
reason for it on the base map."
"But does that line," asked Russia, "`divide the seas into
bodies of water' as it says in Rule VI. 2.? It divides the Black only from
Constantinople, which is not part of the seas."
"Maybe Constantinople is part of the seas, because Fleets can move
through it" offered A-H.
"The trouble is," replied Russia, "Constantinople is clearly
called a `province' in Rule VII. 3. a., Kiel and Constantinople. Nowhere
does it say that Constantinople is part of the seas. It just says that there is
a waterway through it."
"If Moscow borders on a body of water, the Caspian," said Turkey,
"then so does Sevastopol, which then has two coasts. Is it then impossible
to move a fleet there at all, because each coast is a `location not specifically
named on the board', within the purview of Rule VII. 1.?"
"To employ the purview of Rule VII. 1.," said France, "it is
necessary first to have a clear understanding of that purview. If `location'
should seem merely the name of a province, then, of course, it would be
permissible to move there, since Sevastopol is named on the map."
"All that doesn't matter," maintained Russia, "because
Sevastopol doesn't have two coasts, because it isn't named as a `Province Having
Two Coasts' in Rule VII. 3. b. Furthermore, Rule XIII. 2. says `If Russia builds
a Fleets in St. Petersburg, he must specify the coast...'. No mention is made of
Sevastopol, hence Sev. must only have one coast."
"Yes," replied Turkey, "but there are two ways it could only
have one coast: because the two apparent coasts are one, or because you can't
play on the Caspian coast. But if the Caspian is a body of water, then
Sevastopol borders on two bodies of water, leading to various
Russia answered, "Well, Albania borders on both Adriatic and Ionian, yet
it has only one coast."
"Sure," said Turkey, "but Adriatic and Ionian are adjacent.
Caspian and Black aren't."
"How do we know that?" asked France.
"We can see it!" exclaimed Turkey.
"Are we back to the appearance theory?" asked England.
"Distinction without a difference," murmured Italy.
"You have to use appearances to determine the mere gross topology of the
board," spluttered Turkey.
"Maybe we should have a list of all possible topological links,"
"That wouldn't be official," England exclaimed. "Then, there's
the danger that when you re-state anything, you may make mistakes in the
restatement. Third, it seems like you would have to decide this case in order to
make up the list."
Then France offered, "We may have a solution in the wording of Rule VII.
1.: `The Fleet may move to an adjacent coastal province only if it is adjacent
along the coastline, so that the vessels could move down the coast to that
province.' It is sufficiently obvious that the vessels can't get from the
Caspian to the Black."
"I's the Potemkin villages all over again," England observed.
"They told the Tsar they could build Fleets in Moscow and go down the Volga
to fight the Turks. They knew he wouldn't know that there was no way the vessels
could get to the Black."
Russia answered. "But we're not talking about a move from one coastal
province to another. Sevastopol is one province."
"Then it's like Spain," said France. "We always have to go out
from the same coast we went in at."
Russia rejoined, "But it doesn't have two coasts; Rules VII. 3. b. and
XIII. 2. It has one coast, and we're glad to go in at any point, and come out at
any other point on that single coast."
"What if Russia wanted to build a Fleet in St. Petersburg, on the coast
of Lake Ladoga?" asked France.
Russia answered coolly. "The rules clearly state that St. Pete has two
coasts, not three. Since they do not mention Sev., we have to assume it has only
"Since Sevastopol is not mentioned," said Italy, "it might
"You can see it doesn't have six!" exclaimed Russia.
"Appearances, appearances," said Italy. "You can see it has
"Which bolloxes everything as far as raising Fleets in Sevastopol is
concerned, if nothing else." added Germany.
"Not quite," said Turkey. "Russia could always escape
ambiguity by writing Raise F Sev (Black Sea Coast), invoking Rule VII.
4., `A badly written order, which nevertheless can only have one meaning, must
be followed.' Incidentally, his raise last turn was invalid, because he failed
to specify the coast. That Fleet should come off."
At this point England remarked that in Hugo's Ninety-Three the Marquis
de Lantenac, in a single hearing, ordered one and the same man to be decorated
for bravery and shot for dereliction of duty. "In somewhat the same
spirit," he said, "I suggest we recommend Russia for a Rusty Bolt, for
coming up with the weirdest rule interpretation in many years, while
nevertheless, at one and the same time, ruling out any use of the alleged
Caspian or its alleged coasts."
And they all agreed, four to two, with one abstention.
Reprinted from Diplomacy World No.74