Caste War
Date <50 days (duration)
Place Chelgrian State
Result Reunification of the Chelgrian State
Sanctions against the Culture
Loyalists Invisibles
Casualties and losses
~4.5 billion

The Caste War was a civil war within the Chelgrian State in the 22nd century CE following the abolition of the social restrictions imposed by the caste system.[1] The war was instigated by newly empowered, and armed, members of the lower castes seeking revenge against the upper castes.[2]

The war was ultimately caused by failed covert Culture interference. The Culture supported the Equalitarian movement before the war, and subsequently underestimated the strength and depth of the lower castes' resentment toward the upper castes.[2]


The Chelgrian caste system was one of the saliant features of the Chelgrian society which had persisted for many millennia prior to the war.[3][4] The Equalitarian movement was covertly supported by the Culture. The Culture used the promise of technological assistance to buy support for the movement within the Chelgrian parliament.[2] This allowed Kapyre, an Equalitarian, to be elected as president; Kapyre's reforms removed the restrictions fully enfranchised the lower castes and relegated the caste system to a ceremonial role.[1]

Kapyre was succeeded by President Muonze, a Spayed, after the first Equalitarian election. The failed anti-Equalitarian Guards' Revolt spurred measures to increase the presence and authority of the lower castes throughout the armed forces, and led to the formation of new militias and the Equalitarian Guard Companies. The wider-spread distribution of arms added dangerous volatility to a society in transition.[2]

The Culture expected no further major incidents and began redeploying its assets away from the Chelgrian State. However, the Culture's confidence was misplaced. It underestimated the lower castes' desire for revenge against the upper castes, and failed failed to appreciate that Muonze might be unable, or unwilling, to maintain a peaceful transition.[2]

Two years after Kapyre's election[1], President Muonze began the Caste War by suddenly rallying the newly-armed lower castes into attacking the upper castes.[2]


The faction representing the lower castes was called the Invisibles. Half of those who benefitted most from the Equalitarian reforms became members.[2] It was neither limited to the Invisible caste,[1] nor did it include all Invisibles.[4]

The upper caste targets of the Invisibles were the Loyalists.[2]

In between the two were neutral organizations, such as Caring Orders, that facilitated prisoner exchanges.[2] Privateers also operated during the war; some were considered sufficiently neutral to facilitate communications between the belligerents.[5]

Course of the warEdit

The initial wave of Invisible attacks achieved complete survive, with Loyalists everywhere being suddenly attacked by nearby Invisibles while going about their everyday lives. The war quickly engulfed the entire Chelgrian State[6] and threatened to destroy Chelgrian civilization.[2]

Despite Chelgrian hopes, neither the Culture or the Chelgrian-Puen intervened directly to separate the belligerents and stop the fighting.[2]

The Culture's reaction was hampered by the pre-war withdrawal and the rapid loss of its Chelgrian contacts, 90% of whom had either been killed, being held hostage, or gone into hiding. Muonze was also killed early on. The Culture intervened covertly once again, this time to encourage an end to the war; the Culture contacted both sides and revealed the extent of their meddling in Chelgrian politics. While this confession was not initially well-publicized it had the intended effect. Both sides quickly entered negotiations and entered into a peace agreement.[2]

As the war progressed, the Loyalists were forced to fall back toward Chel.[5]

The war lasted less than 50 days[6] and killed approximately 4.5 billion Chelgrians.[7]


The Culture apologized and pledged reparations and assistance.[6] It assisted the Chelgrian State in locating ships lost during the war.[8] The Caste War was a major embarrassment for the Culture. As part of war reparations it was forced to transfer Protectorate custody of the Tsungarial Disk to the Nauptre Reliquaria[9]; the Culture regained custody over 600 years later after the resolution of the War in Heaven.[10]

All Chelgrian combatants were decorated with an award that recognized the Culture as being completely responsible for war.[6]

The fate of the mind-states of Chelgrians killed during the war added another complication to relations with the Culture. They were barred entry into the Chelgrian afterlife by the Chelgrian-Puen; in accordance with ancient custom, war dead had to buy their entry into heaven war with an equal toll of enemy dead.[4] The Chelgrian State tried to extract the necessary toll from the Culture by covert and violent means[7]; the attack was foiled by the Culture, but elicited a commitment from the Culture to work toward a peaceful solution[11] as part of the general reparations already pledged.[6]

Conduct of the warEdit

Both the Invisibles and the Loyalists waged the war with determined, and mutually-reinforcing, brutality and mercilessness.[2]

The Invisibles employed a gravity-wave impactor-like weapon to destroy Soulkeepers, although older large-scale storage substrates were unaffected.[2] They also took high caste Loyalists prisoner for ransom.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Look to Windward, chapter 5
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Look to Windward, chapter 6
  3. Look to Windward, chapter 3
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Look to Windward, chapter 10
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Look to Windward, chapter 4
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Look to Windward, chapter 8
  7. 7.0 7.1 Look to Windward, chapter 14
  8. Look to Windward, chapter 12
  9. Surface Detail, chapter 9
  10. Surface Detail, Dramatis Personae
  11. Look to Windward, chapter 16