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Time of Isolation

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The Time of Isolation was a period on the planet Barrayar in Lois McMaster Bujold's sci-fi series, the Vorkosigan Saga.


The Time of Isolation lasted around 700 years on Barrayar. It started some time after Earth colonists first found Barrayar, and ended when a new wormhole route to Komarr was discovered. The Time of Isolation ended largely with the first Cetagandan Invasion.


Originally, colonists from Earth took a wormhole to Barrayaran local space. They started to settle the planet. Then, the wormhole collapsed. As far as anyone knew, the only way into Barrayar had just disappeared. This event was believed to be a natural phenomenon.

Eventually, a new wormhole route through a series of five jumps was found that led from Komarr to Barrayar, thus ending the Time of Isolation.


The Time of Isolation is a sizable portion of Barrayaran history. It affected the evolution of culture on Barrayar and consequently affected the current state of affairs on Barrayar.

Effects of isolation on the formation of Barrayaran culture[edit]

  • The nascent government of the colony, with accountants having an important role in the system, was transformed as battles broke out between different factions. Ultimately, a ruling class of Vor was created, headed by an emperor of the Barr family. The prefix "Vor" was added to this class's names, making the ruling family Vorbarra. Beneath the emperor was a legislature, the Council of Counts. The "Counts" evolved not from the European aristocratic title but from the word "accountant" as the bureaucrats became lords.
  • Many advanced technologies were forgotten.
  • The social structure became class-based, with the Emperor at the top, beneath him the high Vor, who governed large land areas, the low Vor, who did not hold land but were nevertheless higher than the people below, who did not bear the prefix "Vor" in their names.
  • The economy became somewhat feudal.
  • Sexual roles shifted from the more-or-less egalitarian ones that had existed before isolation, to sharply divided roles in which women raised children and had little power, and men were in charge through political and military might.
  • Infanticide and anti-mutant mindset: Due to the poisonous native biology and limited genetic variety, genetic mutations became common throughout the planet. Large prejudice against any perceived genetic problems developed, with infanticide becoming a common practice when faced with mutations, and genetic purity being stressed.
  • Prejudice against mutation: It is deeply ingrained in most Barrayarans' minds that any genetic deviation from the norm is bad, even beneficial or intentional mutation. Betan Hermaphrodites and Quaddies are notable examples of people Barrayarans are bothered by. Barrayarans even have prejudice against the genetically engineered Haut race of Cetaganda because they represent deviations from the norm.
  • Transportation: Horses became the primary means of transportation on Barrayar, and the Barrayaran military continues to wear riding boots in recognition of their past as cavalry.

Effects of recontact with other planets on Barrayaran culture[edit]

Barraryar is gradually changing in response to galactic contact. New technologies are gradually being accepted, and sex roles are becoming less rigid. It still maintains its feudal form of government headed by an emperor.

Effects of isolation on the current state of Barrayar[edit]

  • Komarr - Barrayar conquered Komarr to make sure that they controlled the only gateway to their homeworld at all times. Thus, Komarr is an integral, though occasionally unwilling, part of the Barrayaran Imperium.
  • Politics - With the influx of galactic ideas and beliefs, much of Barrayar (mostly the plebes, or proles, not Vor), wants to move more towards a galactic-style constitutional government. Much of the Vor naturally want to maintain the Vor system and keep the Imperium alive.

Notable events during the Isolation[edit]

  • Vorloupulous's 2000 '"cooks" The Emperor passed a law limiting Vor private armies to 20 men. Vorloupulous decided this was insufficient and hired an army; to get around the law he declared that his men were all cooks, not soldiers. He sent this army of 'cooks' against other Counts' forces and was eventually captured. In the spirit of the law, he was arrested and sentenced to death for treason. However, his sentence was suspended to allow him to fight in the First Cetagandan War. Miles Vorkosigan's possession of the Oseran or Denderii mercenaries violated the restriction on liegemen and as a result, he was accused of treason (The Warrior's Apprentice).

ru:Сага о Форкосиганах#Период Изоляции

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