Gem of the South
Vashch (Vanoshan: Vaǩš Vaśč /vaɕt͡ɕ/) is a city in Vanosha, and is the southeastern most settlement within the country. Situated just 7 km from the border of Khezan, it was originally a popular border crossing for trade from Vanosha to Khezan. Following the Khezi-Vanoshan Border Conflict, much of the city was depopulated due to many seeking refuge in Khezan and Vosan in the aftermath of the Battle of Vashch in 2011.
The area of Vashch today was originally settled by North Vaniuans in the 2nd century BCE, but was eventually abandoned around the 4th century. It was later refounded as Kanem, by Khezians who moved into the area sometime in the 12th century. Its location by the Hirneian mountains made it a popular spa town, and its vineyards produced quality wine which attracted artisans from the surrounding regions. The area exchanged hands a few times between independent lords, when the Kingdom of Khezan annexed the region in the 16th century. Khezan remained in control over the area until the 18th century when the Duchy of Vanosha declared independence in 1744, before the town was joined to the Velmarsha in 1749. Vashch was originally to be the capitol of the newly formed Kingdom of Vanosha, however it was deemed too excluded from the rest of the duchy to be an effective administrative center.
During the Khezi-Vanoshan Valley War, the settlement avoided conflict as the Khezian army treated the vineyards as insignificant and not worth the effort of taking. As a result, many peasants fleeing the carnage north of the area fled to Vashch, increasing the town's population from 15,000 in 1879 to 55,000 in 1899. The city saw a boom of culture as the downtown became noted for music and art, with high quality vintage being sold to collectors in Western Vaniua.
Vashch entered into a state of turmoil during the coup of 1924, as the Khezian majority city attempted to breakaway from Vanosha before it was forcibly put down in a bloody reprisal which left nearly a thousand wounded or killed. The Vanoshan Famine of 1928-1934 left 20% of the city dead from starvation. There has been scholarly debate on whether this was intentional or from resource mismanagement, as the city was not connected to the rest of Vanosha's rail network due to originally relying on trade through Khezan to supply the population's goods. In 1939, a two-lane asphalt road was built to connect Vashch to Drme to the north.
The city was originally selected to become a center of industry, but it was decided by the 50s to focus on luxury consumer goods such as wines and cotton-derived products instead. In 1957, a textile factory was built, which had produced at one point nearly 48% of the country's pillow coverings. Vashch enjoyed a high quality of life, meant to entice Khezians across the border to flee to the nation despite much of the setbacks of the 80s and 90s. The 00s were turbulent, as ethnic tensions built up as rumors of assigning a third of the population to Velmaruś for an economic project was being discussed which led to protests in 2002 over the rumor. 17 were officially killed, 6,817 arrests were made, and over 700 people went missing as a result.
Khezi-Vanoshan Border Conflict
During the Khezi-Vanoshan Border Conflict, Vashch became a center of conflict as the city was fought over by advancing Khezian soldiers. The initial battle lasted little less than a week as the Vanoshan units in this sector routed. The following battle over the area started on December 2, 2011, with Khezan focusing on helping much of the ethnic Khezian population escape the town. This act was dubbed an illegal kidnapping operation of Vanosha's official government spokesmen, but less than 10 people of those who fled the city to Khezan had willingly returned to Vanosha. Before the war, the population of the city was tallied at 84,127 in 2009. Today, the population has been tallied at 12,581 citizens of which 4,500 are military personnel in 2019.
Although much of the infrastructure was destroyed, it was repaired quickly as a show of strength against Khezan despite it being economically worthless to do so after 4/5ths of the city had left. Today, of the 900 or so shops, only 21 remain open. The textile mill has since been reduced to a third of its original size and employs over half of the remaining civilian population, while the rest work various administrative and maintenance positions. Serious concerns have arose over aging architecture and the need to either replace or demolish these buildings.
Members of the Committee for Industry have suggested that, due to the depopulation of the town and difficulty of defending a settlement so close to the border, that the city be razed and the materials to be recycled and reused for projects in Drme and other cities. Others suggest razing only the downtown and turning the town into a resort center for tourists and workers.