The Ryccian Bulletin

Select language
  • Austral
  • Rissiaur
  • Français
  • Español
  • Deutsch
  • Azimiur
  • Lisiaul
  • Oberusur
  • Українська
  • Araliaur
  • Avasspapah-urt
  • Krissenia-dur
  • Mindonikaya
  • Sainsaya
  • Laiwakuya



“We were wrong” - Interview with Martin Tolksben, last surviving member of the 1943 Junta

Now aged 106, Martin Tolksben has both witnessed and has been involved in all of the country’s coups in the 20th century

The Ryccian Bulletin got an exclusive opportunity to interview the last living member of the 1943 military junta and ask him about his opinions and reflections of what he has witnessed in Ryccia’s history. Despite having 106 years of age, Tolksben’s mental capacity has not wavered significantly despite his body’s faltering integrity. Though by his own admission his mind has “slowed somewhat”, he and his doctors insist he remains “mentally sound”.

Interviewer (I) - “Thank you, Your Emeritance, for agreeing to this interview. I won’t keep you long, as I do not wish to pester you in your golden years”

Tolksben (T) - “Please, call me Mr. Tolksben. Also, worry not. I know I shall pass on soon, but I thank God every day for allowing me to live this long. Time matters not much to me at this age”

I - “May He permit you to live peacefully. Now, Mr. Tolksben, could you introduce yourself for those who are not aware of who you are?”

T - “Certainly. My name is Martin Karl Tolksben Taury, a native of the city of Fontaine in what I believe is now the State of Legada. I am an ethnic Ryccian and a Catholic. I served in our country’s armed forces from 1939 to 1990, specifically in what is now the Army. I was a lieutenant at the time of the 1943 coup, and I was approached by the military leaders of the time to represent the new generation of officers trained after the Democratic Revolution in the junta. I was also involved in the 1969 and 1987 coups, having risen to the rank of Major General and Grand General, respectively. I had the privilege of serving as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces from 1981 to 1985”

I - “Let’s proceed. First, can you explain to us what was your impression of the 1943 coup?”

T - “In 1943, the armed forces decided to stop Michael Arsunne’s blatant abuse of power, authoritarianism and defilement of the achievements of the revolution. Having the wish of the Father of the Republic, the Most Excellent Sean Hoxe Nixiven, in mind, we attempted to protect his legacy and our constitutional system. I approved of it enthusiastically, and I was beyond honoured for having been entrusted by my superiors to stand alongside them as we tried to save our republic from the terrible path it was being forced to walk. I will forever state to my dying breath that the officers who led the 1943 coup had the best of intentions for the country and never intended to make a joke of the republic Arsunne had done so. If we committed any errors during the time we temporarily guarded the power of the state, they were not out of our own volition”

I - “I notice you are using words such as ‘attempted’ and ‘tried’. This is not characteristic of your earlier statements, where you defended the 1943 junta with more certainty. Am I correct in my suspicion, or have I presumed wrongly?”

T - “No, you have a keen ear. We tried with the best of intentions to preserve our republic and the revolution. However, in my last years, as I reflect on what we did, I am saddened to say perhaps it was a mistake”

I - “Mistake? What do you mean?”

T - “I shall never regret having overthrown Arsunne, but we tampered with the fate of our country. I once read this article from a news source called…uhm, the Zircon Republic, was it?”

I - “I believe it is the Zimbron Republic”

T - “Yes, that. I shall not state that it alone changed my mind. I had been thinking of it for a long time, but they put it most excellently when they said that, by seizing power, we had become judge, jury and executioner. We sincerely believed all we did was for the best, that our military rule was only temporary and that we would fix course as a nation. However, by intervening, we never allowed the political leaders to learn by trial to solve unstable political circumstances. We failed to see that, by acting as mediators and forcing them to compromise, they never learned to do so themselves. When the political situation was stable, our democracy worked beautifully despite its imperfections. When the politicians struggled for control and attempted to deal with political crises, we stepped in to fill the void left by this instability. Although our actions were solutions in the short-term, we prevented our political culture from maturing on its own, constantly acting as its guardian. Now, what I had most feared, the military abusing the power it had gained as a political force, happened. The meddling of officers who became ever more radicalized in the affairs of state in the late 2010s and early 2020s clearly shows to me that, while we naively thought we were the solution, we had instead become part of the problem, and it eventually blew up on our faces. We were wrong”

I - “Profound words to hear. So, I presume you disapproved of the military regime of last year?”

T - “Heh. ‘Disapproved’ is putting it lightly. Those criminals disgraced the armed forces and robbed it of all its dignity. The fact our officers had not acted sooner to remove those bastards is beyond tragic. They spat on the very legacy they claimed to protect. They were traitors, and justice was served when they were sentenced to death. What pains me most, however, is not that they seized power. I regret that we, their predecessors, enabled them to do it in the first place eventually. We set the wrong example. For that, I apologize to the nation”

Tolksben at this point shed a few tears, sobbing for a few seconds before regaining his composure. His emotions on this subject clearly were intense, and despite his serious demeanor and hardened military character, they were too overwhelming.

I - “Are you okay, Mr. Tolksben?”

T - “Oh, I am fine. Eye allergies, that is all”

I - “Let us move on. You were the youngest member of the 1943 junta, so I’d assume you got to know their leaders personally in some capacity. How would you describe them and their goals?”

T - “They were not just individuals. They were legends. At the time, most of the highest-ranking officers were former commanders in the Democratic Revolution. In our years, they were revered among us, and for good reason. They were driven by their dream of constructing a free and democratic country. Some were conservatives, some were liberals…heck, there were even a few socialists and communists there. Regardless, they, more or less, respected each other and knew when and how to disagree. After the 37 years of war the country had endured to finally win its freedom, they had no more stomach for yet another ideological battle that would plunge Ryccia into chaos once again, especially when they had fought alongside one another as comrades-in-arms. In other countries, perhaps they would have mobilized their loyalists to fight for their cause. In Ryccia, we had the miraculous fortune of our generals simply being tired of slashing apart hundreds more for an idea when they had won our republic where we could instead discuss them openly with sweat, tears, and blood. They were upstanding gentlemen in their role as citizens of the republic. They were never perfect. No one will ever be so. However, I know they had the best of intentions in mind when they overthrew Arsunne. A smaller faction in the military wanted to take power outright, but we managed to stop them in their tracks. When we took over power, we left the Grand Assembly open, preserving most of its legislative powers. We seldom intervened. When we convened a constitutional convention to consider amendments to the constitution or write a new one from scratch, we never once tried to impose our vision of our magna carta by force. I remember a conversation I had with one of them that I believe could exemplify best what they wished. He said, ‘if we took over all the power in the country, then this is all for nothing. We have to let the republic exist. We should never be its murderers’. We were not there to govern the republic. We were there to guard it. The leaders of the coup recognized they had a historic opportunity to seize control for their own benefit as petty tyrants by cynically using Arsunne as a scapegoat. Instead, they chose to be greater than the men they were. That is who they truly were”

I - “Fascinating perspective. Now, onto the 1969 and 1987 coups. Unlike the one in 1943, these happened because governments kept collapsing under fragile coalitions. What were the motives behind these coups?”

T - “In our minds at the time, stability was essential for the preservation of the republic. Those were moments of political chaos, with extremists on all sides increasingly radicalizing one another. We felt compelled to step in to provide a guiding hand in order to prevent the collapse of the system and halt the turmoil of those times. As we had done in 1943, we preserved the institutions of the state in 1969, and only sparingly intervened except when it came to forming governments. I swear, getting those politicians to agree was like trying to fit a whale inside a needle”

I - “In 1987, the case was interesting. As I understand it, behind the scenes, you were actually encouraged by several politicians from many parties to step in. Why did you go along with their wishes, and do you think now, in hindsight, it was correct to listen to them?”

T - “The 1987 junta was one of the least interventionist military periods we had. They all knew they had to form a government, but their political pride never allowed them to concede or compromise. That is where we failed to see our errors already taking shape. At that time, we genuinely believed we were, once again, doing the right thing: we sat them at the table, we forced them to compromise, we restored stability and formed a government. However, now, maybe we did enable them to develop a culture of stubbornness, and that would be our greatest sin against the nation. They refused to cooperate, and when similar troubles engulfed the country in the 2010s, the military tried, perhaps too late, to rectify its mistakes and rejected calls for an intervention. I had long ago retired then, but I had to see the disaster that followed: a decade of destruction and destitution for our country. Perhaps we never did restore stability. Perhaps all we did was kick the can down the road, allowing the systematic problems that had arisen in our politics to magnify. I guess I have, what you could say, ‘buyer’s remorse’. We bought the country time. Time to ignore the long-term issues that were manifesting, time to look the other way, time to procrastinate in actually perfecting Hoxe’s vision. You know, I met him once as a child. Back then, he was my hero, like many children in that era. If I could see him again, I could never look at him with those eyes of hope and glee I had once. I could only look him with eyes of guilt, shame. I do not believe we destroyed his dream. However, we, thinking we were fixing the situation, only became impediments to the development of that dream. I would apologize a thousand times for failing to have the foresight we should have had. I would apologize for not letting his dream mature. I would apologize for failing him and his legacy”

I - “Thank you for your time, Mr. Tolksben. I realize these were words you spoke from the heart. It must have taken much effort to finally say them”

T - “No one is ever perfect. Admitting your accomplishments is easy. Admitting your mistakes is something only the best of us do. I do not say this to flatter myself, and I did not agree to this interview to clean my image in history. I know many will not believe me, but I could not care less if I am remembered with stains and flaws. I only hope actions such as the one I did could serve as an example for our leaders, present and future, to be among the best of us and acknowledge what they have done, the good and the bad”