The government of the Minbari Federation is a combination of clan and caste traditions going back thousands of years combined with relatively-newer governing bodies established by Valen.
The Grey Council is the highest governing body in the Federation. The group is made up of nine Satai - three from each caste - with each member speaking for their own caste. The council is led by a Chosen One who acts as the voice of the council, but does not vote in their deliberations.
The first Grey Council was formed by Valen in 1260, who intended to strike a balance between the three castes who had, until that point, often been in conflict with one another. To this end, Valen called forth the first council of nine, made up of three from each of the three castes. This system endured for a thousand years until the council chose Neroon of the Warrior Caste to fill the place once filled by Delenn of the Religious Caste, giving the Warriors an unprecedented majority.
In 2260, the council had become complacent and many no longer believed in the prophecies of Valen and refused to acknowledge the reality of the coming Shadow War. Such was their inaction that Delenn, unable to get through to all of them, broke the council. The resulting power vacuum eventually caused the Minbari Civil War and was stopped when Delenn reformed the council, though this time with five from the Worker Caste and only two each from the Religious and Warrior Castes, to make sure that the previously warring factions remember their true role, in service to the people who do the actual work of the Minbari Federation.
Council of Elders
Next in line of authority is the Council of Caste Elders, made up of nine members from each caste, each representing a particular clan. The selection of clan representatives is based on what clans are in dominance at the time. This component of the Minbari government is a hold-over from the time before Valen, such as when the Minbari chose their leaders via ritual at the Temple of Varenni.
The Minbari Federation includes a number of smaller allied worlds that come under the protection of the Minbari. One such race are the Norsai, a peaceful agrarian people that have depended on Minbari protection for centuries.
The Time Before Valen
Being the oldest of the younger races, the Minbari civilization has existed for many thousands of years and like many other races, they were contacted and influenced by the Vorlons. In ancient times, Minbar was wracked with numerous civil wars stemming from caste rivalries and factional violence where Minbari killed Minbari. Despite this institutional violence, their society was stable and disciplined enough to survive and thrive. They achieved space flight well over one thousand human years ago, measured from the events in Babylon 5. As is the case with the other younger races, the Minbari did not invent Jumpgate technology themselves; they found the already existing gates as their civilization expanded out into space. The Minbari quickly established themselves on an interstellar scale. Presumably, they came into contact with other species at this time, but little is generally known about their relations with other races at this relatively early period in their development.
A unique feature of the Pre-Valen Minbari government was a strong belief in the responsibility of leaders to their people and an emphasis on ensuring they were not insulated from their own decisions. The most prominent way this manifested was the Minbari tradition for ending wars. When the sides had at last come together and decided on basic terms, the leaders of each side would step into the Starfire Wheel. This device would funnel concentrated stellar radiation onto the two of them, causing them great pain and burns, gradually increasing in intensity over time until, at full power, it would vaporize anyone still in the circle. The last to step from the circle voluntarily would become the leader of the new government, having symbolically suffered as their people had. It was also viewed that one who was unwilling to go through such suffering and risk of life, as they had asked their people to, was unworthy to reap the rewards of victory. Sometimes, especially if asking their people to endure a difficult of controversial peace, victorious leaders would voluntarily stay in the wheel to the end, sacrificing themselves, so that their words would have more weight.
The First Shadow War
When the Shadows arose in 1260, the Minbari joined with the Vorlons and others in a war against them. When the war took a turn for the worse with the destruction of the main base for the alliance, at the last moment a replacement arrived seemingly out of nowhere. When Minbari warriors came aboard, they found a mysterious Minbari there named Valen. Surrounded by Vorlons in angelic form, seemingly blessing the event, the Minbari listened to Valen and took his leadership. Hope was restored and Shadows were defeated and driven off.
The Time of Valen
The arrival of Valen was not just a miracle for the sake of the war effort but a blessing for all Minbari. He soon began a series of reforms to unite the Minbari and put an end to the civil wars. He created the Grey Council and gave all three castes equal representation and power, and laid down the foundation for rule by wisdom rather than by war and violence. It was by this that the supreme law was made that no Minbari shall ever kill another Minbari. The Warrior Caste was mandated to defend their world against alien threats rather than their own people, and the Rangers were created to watch out for the Shadows.
The Thousand Years of Peace
For the next 900 years or so after Valen, the Minbari developed into one of most peaceful and progressive civilizations in the galaxy. They made great strides in technology which far exceeded other races, then and in the far future. The Religious Caste even enacted mercy missions and alliances with lesser advanced races bordering Minbari space like the Norsai, in which they offered them the protection of the Minbari fleet and guaranteed them their sovereignty. During these space ventures, the Minbari probably encountered other powerful civilizations like the Centauri, who were at the height of their expansion into space. It is not known what their relationship was like but apparently the Centauri did negotiate with them, instead of trying to conquer them. The Centauri would later advise the humans to keep a respectful distance from the Minbari, advice which was ignored.
Culture at this time had reached the peak of advancement and society became highly refined and ritualistic, with everyone dedicated to the service of one another. However, aside from some dealings with outsiders (i.e.: Vorlons and Centauri), the Minbari kept mostly to themselves and seemingly avoided any new first contacts with aliens. Their latest leader Dukhat presided over a council that seemed to be more isolationist than ever before. Many, especially the Warrior Caste, even began to doubt that the prophesied return of the ancient enemy would ever happen, and the concerns of the Rangers were set aside for the time being.
In 2245, Dukhat, hearing about humans through the Centauri and at least partially aware of a past connection with them, urges the council to make first contact. The council is unswayed and votes to avoid direct contact. Nevertheless, on their way to investigate the Shadows, they come into contact with several Earthforce ships. Not understanding the humans, and following their tradition of open respect, the Minbari vessels approached with their gunports open. This is perceived as a threat and the humans panic and open fire, damaging the Minbari fleet and killing Dukhat. In a fit of rage, council member Delenn, seeking revenge, casts the deciding vote with the council and begins the "holy war" with Earth.
Though the war dragged on for three years, Earthforce was no match for the Minbari's stealth technology, which did not allow human ships to acquire a weapons lock. Eventually the Minbari reached Earth fully prepared for an orbital bombardment. There they were met by Earth's last remaining forces at what would be known as the Battle of the Line. It was there that the Minbari learned of a special connection with the humans, through an examination of one human in particular. With this discovery, the Religious Caste ordered their forces to stop fighting and surrender. This enraged many in the Warrior Caste and shocked the humans, who both remained suspicious of the reasons behind it, not knowing what was discovered.
Postwar and the Babylon Project
After the war, a rift began to develop between the Warrior and Religious Castes. It also seemed, at least in some people's eyes, that Minbari society was becoming more self-involved, thinking less of the needs of others. The Minbari took special interest in the Babylon Project, particularly in its 5th incarnation, greatly contributing to it and influencing Earth Alliance to get Sinclair assigned to its command. Their true motive for wanting him was to keep an eye on him, and ensure that he never found out the truth of what had happened to him. They assigned Satai Delenn as ambassador to the station with orders to watch over him.
Back on Minbar, the divisions and rivalries between the warrior and priest castes began to grow steadily worse. As the warriors grew more suspicious of the religious caste's loyalty and commitment to their world, Delenn's disobedience of the council on the subject of prophecy by changing herself, Sinclair's subsequent appointment as ambassador to their world, and especially the assignment of Sheridan the 'Starkiller' to command Babylon 5 only increased these suspicions. Later, the warriors usurped the religious caste's position on the Grey Council by having a warrior appointed to replace the seat originally intended for a religious caste member.
By the middle of 2260, during the crisis of Babylon 5's secession from Earth Alliance, the Warrior Caste-dominated Grey Council, unsympathetic and more concerned with their own affairs, refused to act in defense of the station. Disgusted by this, Delenn disbanded the council. With both castes acting like their own separate nations just as they did before Valen, the Minbari were now a completely divided people. Later that year, tensions increased still further when Delenn officially took command of the Rangers at the head of the Army of Light. The Rangers and the religious caste, with the support of the workers, would take part in the final Shadow War, while the warriors would refuse, remaining home.
With the Shadow War over, in late 2261, the peace between the Religious and Warrior castes finally broke. In some major cities and communities, the warriors no longer wished to lend aid and support to their Religious Caste neighbors. The warriors had apparently stolen from them and destroyed a great number of resources belonging to the Religious Caste, leaving whole populations of priests to fend for themselves. Some of those displaced were forced to journey to an adjoining population center to find food and supplies, and to meet with others of their brethren. Many of these refugees died of exposure before reaching such places.
The situation on Minbar soon turned to outright violence and war. It was because of this that Delenn decided to return home to organize her caste and possibly mediate the conflict. She met with Neroon, much to the chagrin of others in her caste, to resolve the situation peacefully, for he had the ear of Shakiri - a prominent leader in the Warrior Caste.
Delenn soon convinced Neroon to help her end the war between the castes. At her urging Neroon apparently betrays the Religious Caste, and leaves to meet Shakiri - having acquired intelligence that would greatly benefit the Warrior Caste. The Warrior Caste then began its final assault on the strongholds of the Religious Caste. Betrayed and defeated, they huddled together as they were bombed into complete submission. Delenn then had Lennier send a message to the Warrior Caste announcing their surrender.
As part of the plan Delenn and Neroon had earlier made, Neroon selects the Temple of Varenni for the formal surrender. At the Temple the two warring parties meet and Delenn announces the surrender of the Religious Caste. Shakiri then began a speech in which he declared his intentions to strip the Religious Caste of its sovereign rights and reinstitute the Grey Council - this time as a council of warriors.
Delenn interrupted Shakiri to invoke the ancient tradition of sacrificial rites to prove the worthiness of leaders - as she and Neroon had earlier planned. She challenged Shakiri to step into the Starfire Wheel and die for his Caste. At first he refused but then chose to join her in the circle. Unable to stand the energy of the Wheel, and having failed in an attempt to bargain co-leadership of the Minbari with Delenn in exchange for leaving the wheel together, Shakiri leapt out of the energy field - proving that he would not die for his caste and was unworthy. Despite having told Neroon that she would leave the energy field after Shakiri did, Delenn chose to stay in to prove herself and set an example for all Minbari, having previously entrusted Lennier with instructions for what to do afterward. Neroon, not wanting to see her die, stepped into the Wheel. Picking up Delenn, who had collapsed from the onslaught of the wheel, and handing her to Lennier, he remained in the Wheel as it continued to increase toward lethal power. He proclaimed the true calling of his heart was religion to the assembled Minbari, changing his allegiance, and implored the people to listen to Delenn. A few seconds later the Wheel reached its full, lethal energy, incinerating Neroon. With his sacrifice, the Religious Caste were declared victors in the war.
A few days later, still suffering from the effects of the Wheel, Delenn formed a new Grey Council. She called two members each from the Warrior Caste and Religious Caste. She then stopped to explain that while the Minbari had sought balance in the past, this would no longer be the case. Delenn then called five members of the Worker Caste forward to assume their places on the new council. She accused the Warriors and Religious of having forgotten the Workers - who toiled in anonymity while the Religious and Warriors squabbled. Under the new government, this would no longer be the case, and religion and war would now exist to serve the people instead of the other way around.
As to the leadership of the new council, she left that space empty in memory of Neroon until it was taken by the one who was to come.
Interstellar Alliance and Beyond
With the civil war over and their world reunited, the Minbari were among the first races to support the newly formed Interstellar Alliance. Although Babylon 5 was the Alliance's first capital, it was decided early on that would not remain so forever, and the city of Tuzanor on Minbar was selected as the permanent capital. Construction on facilities for the Alliance in Tuzanor began in the late part of 2261 and was completed by the end of the following year, with the alliance government relocating there in December of 2262.
Minbari technology is some of the finest and most advanced of the younger races, though they are still very far behind that of the Vorlons, the Shadows and the other First Ones. Their ships are powered by gravimetric engines and are equipped with artificial gravity. The Minbari are suspected to have other devices based on gravitic science, such as gravity rings which Delenn was shown using on G'Kar. Minbari also make use of crystals in their devices, most likely due to the high concentration of crystals present on their homeworld. The Minbari use Base-11, or Undecimal math.
While the Minbari Federation has no specifically important colonies, it does include Worker Caste operated agricultural colonies on fourteen different worlds, all within a radius of 50 light-years from Minbar. One such colony is located on Kordat IV. Since much of the surface of the homeworld is littered with enormous crystalline deposits and the polar ice cap covers a quarter of the globe, the potential for agricultural expansion is extremely limited. As a result, the colonies were established primarily as a means to combat overpopulation on Minbar. The colonies themselves are separated into three settlements, one for each caste, each laid out as an equilateral triangle; these all converge at a central, caste neutral administration facility where the food sanctification rituals and colony meetings are held.
Titles and Ranks
- Chosen One: Leader of the Grey Council and stands apart from the nine. Appointed by a consensus vote from the members of the Grey Council. The Chosen One is typically chosen from within the Grey Council, but this is not required, and typically lives in isolation, meeting with no one outside of administrative and Council business. When the Chosen One dies the Council can traditionally wait up to ten years before choosing another leader, as they did after the death of Dukhat. In 2258, Delenn became the only Minbari ever to refuse the offer of leadership. The Chosen One is highly respected, and has many administrative powers and responsibilities, but does not have a vote on matters before the Council and are bound by any decisions passed by majority vote of the Council, over which they have no veto.
- Persons known to have held this position: -
- Satai: Member of the Grey Council. Appointed through sponsorship and majority vote from the other members of the Council. The names of the Council members were kept secret and indeed the exact nature of the Satai's duties and how they exactly relate to the other parts of the government are never discussed. When Delenn reformed the Council, the identities of the Council members were made public.
- Elder: Senior member of a given Clan, represents their clan in the Council of Caste Elders, which is itself composed of nine members for each of the three castes.
- F'hurs: The Minbari equivalent of a city mayor.
- Persons known to have held this position: -
- Anoon (F'hurs of Yedor, 2259)
- Religious Caste
- Shaal: An honorific title, granted to a person who has made a major achievement, usually a lifetime achievement, such as becoming a Master of Ti'la (Minbari song poetry.)
- Example: Shaal Mayan
- Acolyte: An Acolyte is an essentially a Religious Caste attendant, seeing to the needs of others as they are directed. Often trained in temple from childhood, some are specifically groomed for certain positions by their Master and may ascend very quickly through the ranks of their caste or clan.
- Warrior Caste
- Fleet Captain: A military rank equivalent to an Earth Commodore, one who commands not only his ship but also the escort ships that travel with it.
- Persons known to have held this rank: -
- Fleet Captain Lennan
- F'hursna: Title given to the Master teacher of the Denn'bok. The F'hursna is solely responsible for ensuring only those worthy may own the limited number of existing fighting pikes and controls the manufacture of any new ones.
- Moments of Transition
- Lines of Communication
- Lurker's Guide
- War Without End, Part II
- The Gathering
- In the Beginning
- Points of Departure
- And the Sky Full of Stars
- A Voice in the Wilderness, Part I
- All Alone in the Night
- Grey 17 Is Missing
- The Quality of Mercy
- Dining on Babylon 5
- To Dream in the City of Sorrows
- Other Voices Vol 3 - Babylon 5 Alien Guide
- The War Prayer
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