Cardassians value family and relations above all else, shunning orphans while considering households with several generations living together an honorable establishment. The education system implemented on Cardassia dictates that intellectual pursuits begin at the young age of 3 or 4, with a full range of treatment in art, literature, and music that is the pride of Cardassian society. Every Cardassian is raised with an appreciation of fine arts and culture, though the government may not have always been like-minded in its policies. Educational attainment is regarded as a major source of social status and the source of creativity in Cardassian society. The Cardassians are known for their photographic memories and the ability to resist a Vulcan mind meld. They pride themselves on resourcefulness and often say of themselves:
There is no dilemma that cannot be solved by a disciplined Cardassian mind. [Hear it]
Men and women share equal status in Cardassia, and the openness of education for both sexes have contributed to the marvelous scientific and cultural achievements. In fact, Cardassian females consider themselves superior at logical and scientific fields than males. Acceptable social behavior dictates that men and women court with outward irritability, and the deceased are honored with elaborate rites that do not permit offworlders to view the body.
When the military dictatorship ended in a coup on Cardassia, the civilian Detapa Council ruled the Cardassian Union before its entrance into the Dominion. The Council legally administered to the Cardassian Central Command and the Obsidian Order, Cardassia's secret intelligence agency. However, the Central Command and the Obsidian Order functioned autonomously and do not report to the Detapa Council. The Central Command had the firmest grip on power in Cardassia. Cardassian society has the most rigid of all legal systems. All suspects are guilty before even appearing in court, an emphatic display of the futility of crime in Cardassia.
Cardassians used to be spiritual pacifists. Their homeworld Cardassia was in ancient times a legendary civilization whose ruins are considered as some of the most remarkable in the galaxy. However, Cardassia was poor in resources, and millions died in the famine before the military takeover. The treasured relics of the past were plundered by starving Cardassians and by the Cardassian military alike. The new leaders who rose to power after the takeover discovered that taking forcefully what they wanted was easier and more efficient than long-winded negotiations. Soon, the military state conquered worlds and replenished their resources by this new approach towards interstellar politics.
In the course of continuing military conquests, Cardassian military forces descended upon Bajor. Promising help and support to the peaceful Bajorans, the Cardassians instead annexed the peaceful planet in 2328 that began the 50 years of Cardassian Occupation. To stripmine the wealth of Iridium nearby, Cardassia built a mining station, Terok Nor, in Bajor's orbit for the purpose of ore mining and processing. They established a presence upon the planet and instigated an occupational government through the ruling Guls. Many Bajorans were forced to resettle on other worlds and their religion was later banned. Those among the Bajorans who were not content to rely on the assistance of the Prophets to end the Occupation gathered to form resistance cells in the mountains of Bajor. They utilized guerrilla tactics, running through rough terrain, then shooting as the Cardassian soldiers caught up. The relentless violence against the invading rulers would slowly change the stance of the Central Command back on Cardassia Prime.
Cardassian relations with the Federation had been hostile ever since 2350. The militant Central Command firmly believed Cardassia needed to expand in order to thrive, and they tried to extend their reach into Federation territory. War broke out when the Federation would not yield, lasting for 20 years. An uneasy truce was reached when a peace treaty was signed in 2366. Many Federation officers had grave misgivings about this treaty, suspicious of the true intents of the Cardassians. Were they simply buying time to regroup then attack the Federation? One year later, on Stardate 44429.6, Captains Jean-Luc Picard and Benjamin Maxwell discovered that the Cardassians were preparing to launch a major offensive against the Federation. Captain Maxwell violated the treaty when he entered Cardassian space with his vessel, the starship Phoenix. Though his action was illegal, it confirmed his suspicions: heavy Cardassian military activity portentous of ill intentions. A new treaty was signed in 2367 between the Federation and the Cardassian Union, which agreed upon a neutral party overseeing incarcerations of either country's captives.
Cardassian presence on Bajor was driven out in 2369, after years of unceasing terrorist activity from the freedom fighters of Bajor finally came to a head. The Occupation ended with a hasty withdrawal, and along with all the equipment left on Bajor itself, Terok Nor was abandoned as well. Defenseless and left with a shattered world, the Bajoran Provisional Government requested the assistance of Starfleet to administer to the orbiting station. The Cardassians would rue their mistake, when a stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant was soon discovered nearby. Terok Nor, renamed Deep Space Nine, became a strategic location for commercial and scientific expeditions to the Gamma Quadrant, and later became a key defensive front against the Dominion.
The Cardassians didn't let the Federation claim the wormhole entry without contest. A year later, they were successful in driving out Starfleet presence on the station by secretly helping to arm the Bajoran extremist group The Circle for a coup to overthrow the Bajoran Provisional Government. This plan would have left the Cardassians with Bajor and the wormhole ripe for the picking, but ultimately unraveled when Commander Sisko and the crew presented evidence to the Vedek Assembly that showed Cardassian backing for The Circle.
A few months later, the Cardassia Union and the Federation agreed to redraw their borders, relocating citizens who were on the wrong side of the line. The agreement also included a buffer zone between the two powers, called the Demilitarized Zone.
Dissent among the Union's hardliners ran rampant when the agreement was signed. Soon, they started unprovoked attacks and sabotage operations on the colonies closest to the Cardassian side of the Demilitarized Zone, hoping to reclaim land lost in the deal. For the Federation colonists, already furious over what they saw as the betrayal of the government, it was the last straw. They retaliated by forming the Maquis, and began hard-hitting terrorist attacks on Cardassia itself.
With the rise of the military to power, Cardassia's secret intelligence agency, the Obsidian Order, also came to prominence. Though required by law to report to the Central Command, they soon gained enough power to operate independently. A Maquis renegade, Tom Riker, seized control of the Defiant on Stardate 48467.3 and alerted both the Federation and the Cardassia Central Command of the covert shipyard in the Orias System.
The purpose of the secret fleet was revealed when the Obsidian Order joined forces with its Romulan Counterparts, the Tal Shiar, to launch a preemptive strike on the Founder homeworld. After the disastrous first encounter with the Jem'Hadar ships, the Alpha Quadrant was extremely worried by the rumors of a Founder infiltration. Fear of a Dominion invasion prompted the Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar to action. The two partners gathered a fleet of 40 Romulan warbirds and Cardassian vessels and sailed through the wormhole confident of total victory. The fleet was ambushed by 140 Jem'Hadar ships, and total eradication of both agencies resulted. The elimination of the terrifying secret service agency buoyed the hopes of the Cardassian underground movement.
In 2372, the Cardassian Central Command was overthrown by the movement, placing the civilian Detapa Council in control. However, as with the Bajorans, such drastic change in the political scene did not occur smoothly. At the time, paranoia ran high in the Alpha Quadrant following the exposure of Changeling operatives in the Federation. Fear of the Founders gripped the Klingon Empire, who believed the coup to be a ploy by the Dominion to replace the Council with Changelings. In response, Klingon warships led by General Martok attacked Cardassia Prime, nearly eliminating the ship carrying the Depata Council to safety. Gul Dukat, who changed his loyalties and sided with the Council when he saw the underground movement gain momentum, commanded the ship which, with assistance from Starfleet, rescued the Council members. After proving the Council members were not shape-shifters, the Klingon attack was forced to cease.
Though unsuccessful in its mission, the Klingon invasion nearly fell Cardassia's industrial production base. For the first time in decades, Cardassia was weak and unable to provide for itself. Several of the outer colonies had been captured by the Klingons, and nearly every ship destroyed while defending the homeworld. With assistance from the Federation Council, which provided among other things twelve industrial replicators, (though some replicators were stolen in transit by the Maquis) Cardassia started rebuilding.
The Klingons soon turned to declare war on the Federation, dissolving the historic Khitomer Accords and beginning attacks on Deep Space Nine. Acting on suspicions that Chancellor Gowron was a Changeling, Sisko and a few of his senior staff masqueraded as Klingons to expose Gowron and stop the war. When they instead realized that General Martok was a Changeling, and revealed that he was the one behind the paranoid violence exhibited by the Klingon Empire, the war ceased and the Khitomer Accords reinstated, but Klingons still occupied some of the Cardassian space they had seized earlier.
Ashamed of the weak state Cardassia had fallen to, and resenting the Klingons for not handing over the remaining Cardassian space, Gul Dukat began secret negotiations to form an alliance with the Dominion.
Shortly after Stardate 50560.1, Gul Dukat announced Cardassia's alliance with the Dominion, and his new position as head of state. In his speech to the shocked population of Cardassia, now subjects of the Dominion, his words were,
"You might ask, should we fear joining the Dominion. And I answer you: Not in the least. We should embrace the opportunity. The Dominion recognizes us for what we are, the true leaders of the Alpha Quadrant. And now that we are joined together, equal partners in all endeavors, the only people with anything to fear would be our enemies. My oldest son's birthday is in five days. To him, and to Cardassians everywhere, I make the following pledge: By the time his birthday dawns, there will not be a single Klingon alive inside Cardassian territory or a single Maquis colony left within our borders. Cardassia will be made whole, all that we have lost will be ours again. And anyone who stands in our way will be destroyed. This I vow with my life's blood, for my
son, for all our sons." [Wav 1] [Wav 2]
5 days after the speech, the Maquis were summarily slaughtered and the Klingons removed by the Jem'Hadar fleets that came through the wormhole. Dominion forces were continually building up in Cardassian space, and the whole Quadrant could sense an impending invasion.
On Stardate 50975.2, Starfleet gave orders to Deep Space Nine to begin mining the wormhole entrance with self-replicating cloaked mines. Vorta Weyoun was sent to dissuade Captain Sisko, but to no avail. Full out war had begun. Weyoun returned to Cardassia, where he along with Dukat and a large fleet of Dominion/Cardassian vessels, began an attack on Deep Space Nine, hoping to stop the activation of the minefield. The attempt was only successful in driving out the Federation personnel, but not in halting the minefield's activation.
The Dominion won victory after victory for the next three months, and the subjugation of the entire Alpha Quadrant was within sight. The slow progress in deactivating the minefield, however, displeased both Founder and Vorta. It was Dukat's aide, Glinn Damar, who finally figured out a way to disarm the mines. Starfleet assembled three fleets in a last-ditch effort to stop the Dominion from penetrating the minefield. 2,800 Jem'Hadar ships were waiting on the other side of the wormhole, and when the minefield is successfully deactivated, the Alpha Quadrant would be lost.
The minefield eventually was neutralized and the Jem'Hadar fleets began entering the wormhole. The warship Defiant, with Captain Sisko on-board, managed to break through enemy lines, but was no match for the overwhelming numbers of Jem'Hadar vessels. On the verge of destruction, the Emissary sought the help of the Prophets by making them see the result if all the Jem'Hadar passed through and arrived into the Alpha Quadrant. The Prophets moved to help their Emissary, and all 2,800 ships vanished without a trace. Dukat could not believe what had happened. With total victory almost within reach, he would suddenly lose everything he had gained. Worse still was the murder of his daughter Ziyal by Damar The impact of all these events resulted in the mental breakdown of Dukat, a condition he, as of the moment, has not yet recovered from.
Damar, Weyoun, and the rest of the Dominion presence retreated from Deep Space Nine, leaving the station for the Federation to reclaim. Damar was proclaimed the new leader of the Cardassian Union, but he merely served the will of Weyoun and the Dominion and had little power in his own land.
The Romulans, who had distanced themselves from the war by signing a nonaggression pact with the Dominion, would again be drawn into the brawl when they suspected the Cardassians of the assassination of Senator Vreenak. Vreenak had signed the nonaggression pact himself, and his death could not be ignored by the Romulan Empire. They immediately retaliated by destroying 15 Cardassian outposts along the border, and subsequently joined the Klingon/Federation forces battling the Dominion.
Among the first joint campaigns of the Klingon/Federation/Romulan forces was the taking of the Chin'Toka System. Targeted for its thin defenses, the fleet led by Sisko encountered resistance only in the orbital weapons platform deployed there. After destroying the main power source, the System came under Federation control. The random variable of Dukat, who escaped from a Federation prison escort ship when it crashed in a remote planet, returned to Deep Space Nine to destroy the Orb of Prophesy and in the process kill Jadzia Dax, who was in the Bajoran Temple at that time. The wormhole inverted and collapsed, sending the Bajorans into panic about the disappearance of their Celestial Temple. Three months later, Captain Sisko restored the wormhole by rediscovering the Orb of the Emissary on Bajor.
A "defective" Weyoun clone contacted Constable Odo and lured him to Dominion space by pretending to be the Cardassian informant Odo was indebted to. This clone, number six, believed the Dominion war to be a mistake, and he wished to defect to the Federation to help end the bloodshed. When Weyoun 7, on Cardassia Prime and standing next to Legate Damar, contacted Odo's runabout, they asked Odo to return the clone, which the Constable declined firmly. Between the death of one of his gods to the possible loss of the entire war effort, Weyoun 7 chose the death of Odo, partly because of Damar's cool indifference to the Vorta's worship of Changelings. The Jem'Hadar ships pursuing Odo's runabout began firing on the small ship, and Weyoun 6, seeing no escape except for terminating himself, elected to die in order to save Odo. Before his death, Weyoun 6 informed Odo that the Great Link was dying from a disease which could leave Odo to be the only Founder left.
Dukat appeared one day in Damar's quarters, asking a favor of his old friend. The next time Damar went to see Dukat, Dukat had surgically altered himself to look Bajoran. After the initial shock and disbelief, Damar could only wish him the best and hope the surgeon was equally skilled at restoring Dukat's former countenance. Later, Weyoun, Damar, and the female Founder rendezvoused with a Breen ship. The Breen general Thot Gor, presented them with Worf and Ezri, whom they captured when the runabout the two were on crashed on a planet in the Goralis System. After thanking them for the gift, Weyoun and the Founder officially welcomed the Breen into the Dominion alliance.
A few years ago, Dukat had joined the Dominion to become true masters of the Alpha Quadrant, but when the Breen entered into the Dominion, the Cardassians suffered a major insult, and the subsequent massive sacrifice of Cardassian troops for Dominion causes showed the Dominion's lack of regard for Cardassia. Damar, angered by the dismissal of Cardassia and realizing that though he was on Cardassia Prime, he and the rest of the Cardassians were now second-class citizens within the Dominion, wanted to pull Cardassia out of the alliance altogether. However, the Dominion already had complete control over the Cardassian military, and Damar resorted to plotting a resistance movement along the lines of the tactics used by the Bajorans against the vastly superior Cardassian military at the time of the Occupation. Worf and Ezri, after undergoing painful interrogations, had been summoned to execution, a date moved up earlier when Worf wrung Weyoun 7's neck and angered the Vorta. On the day they were to be executed, Damar freed Worf and Ezri, asking them to bring word to the Federation that they had an ally on Cardassia.
The Breen attacked Starfleet headquarters shortly afterwards, causing severe damage to San Francisco and to the psyche of the Federation. An energy dissipater weapon the Breen utilized on their ship proved especially effective against power-hungry attack vessels the Federation, Klingon, and Romulans deployed. After San Francisco, the Breen turned their attention to the Chin'Toka System. Taken forcibly by the Federation, Klingon and Romulan last year, the Dominion were eager to reclaim it. The Federation and allied forces suffered devastating losses of ships and personnel, and the Chin'Toka System once again fell under Dominion control.
Having rounded up trusted friends and recruited loyal soldiers of Cardassia, Damar stepped into the fray of war with a speech calling on Cardassians everywhere to resist the Dominion until every last Dominion soldier was driven out. As he spoke his forces were destroying a Vorta cloning center, an action confirmed by intelligence reports. However, his rebels needed guidance in the guerrilla warfare he was waging. Sisko sent Kira, Odo, and Garak along with supplies and runabouts to Damar's assistance. Colonel Kira, professional to the last, swallowed her antagonism for Cardassians and taught them the strategies she learned while fighting in the Bajoran resistance. Despite the suspicions and misgivings of many of Damar's rebels, Damar himself accepted the logic of Kira's lessons and implemented them throughout his network of resistance bases.
When reports of the heavy losses due to the strange Breen energy weapon reached her, she decided it might help the Federation if they stole an installed Breen weapon and placed it into the hands of Federation scientists. With Damar, Odo, Garak, and Gul Rosot, the five entered a Dominion shipyard and secured a Jem'Hadar ship. However, the Breen weapon was not yet installed, and the five waited out a tense half-hour before finally leaving the shipyard. On the trip back, Legate Damar killed Rosot when the Cardassian threatened to kill Kira and made Damar choose between him and her. Damar shot down the old Cardassian Empire Rosot represented. The Cardassia he and Rosot knew was dead, and it wasn't coming back.
Damar took a big risk in landing on Cardassia Prime hoping to enlist a powerful Gul's support in the resistance. When he, Garak and Kira beamed down to the meeting place, they found dead Cardassians everywhere and Jem'Hadar chasing after any survivors. Moments later, Gul Rovok and a Vorta strolled into their sight and they realized they had been betrayed. The ship he came in was destroyed in orbit and the three became stranded. Everyone who knew Damar was killed or executed, but Garak still had one person he trusted. Mila, housekeeper of Enabran Tain, still lived in the old house Garak had grown up in. She sheltered them in her basement, and helped them where she could. With the comm unit she procured, Kira, Damar and Garak witnessed Weyoun announcing the death of Damar and the destruction of all 18 rebel bases. The formal resistance organization was dead, and all they could was to sit in that dark basement.
However, Mila instilled new hope in the three when she told them of the rumors flying on the streets that Damar wasn't dead, that he only faked his death to plan another offensive. Kira read the rumors as the Cardassian population's discontent with the Dominion. The resistance had not been in vain. It stoked the anger and resentment of the Cardassian people, and it had made Damar an icon of the resistance movement. The realization that the resistance can be continued, but this time through the civilian population pulled Damar, Garak, and Kira back onto their feet. Garak planted an explosion that took out the Jem'Hadar barracks and when the commotion drew Cardassians, Damar spoke out and asked them to rebel against the Dominion.
The popular movement against the Dominion began not a moment too soon. The Federation had developed a countermeasure against the Breen weapon and the Founder decided a change of tactics was necessary. All Dominion ships were to pull out of their present engagements and return to establish a tight defensive perimeter around Cardassia Prime. Sisko opted to attack the Dominion before they had time to rebuild their fleet, a plan which Chancellor Martok (Worf killed Chancellor Gowron for his dishonorable acts earlier), Admiral Ross and the Romulan Empire agreed.
Damar and his civilian resistance cut off power to almost the entire planet, effectively breaking communication between Weyoun and the Jem'Hadar engaging in combat with the Federation, Klingon and Romulan forces. The Female Founder could stand it no longer and destroyed an entire city of 2 million as a resounding punishment to the uprising. She also ordered every house levelled in Cardassia if necessary until Damar and his rebels were found. The Jem'Hadar eventually knocked on Mila's door, killing the old woman and took Damar, Kira, and Garak. When orders came to the Jem'Hadar to execute them, the Cardassians behind the Jem'Hadar turned against them and killed the soldiers and pledged their loyalty to Damar.
Sisko, Martok, and Ross lead the attack, and they clearly were losing ground when the Cardassian ships suddenly turned to fire on the Dominion. Soon, the Dominion was losing ground fast, and it was only then that long-range communications returned to Weyoun and Founder. Knowledge that the entire Cardassian fleet had turned against the Dominion angered the Founder so she finally declared that all Cardassians were untrustworthy and ordered the extermination of the entire population on Cardassia Prime. Jem'Hadar ships immediately set about levelling every inch of Cardassia Prime, while the Breen general volunteered to fight in the front lines, leaving Weyoun and the Founder almost entirely alone on the planet surface.
In the cellar at Mila's, Garak proposed that they storm the capital, but when the band of rebels prepared to storm the headquarters and kill both the Founder and Weyoun, along with any Jem'Hadar that stood in their way. We stop for nothing, declared Damar. However, a big problem stood in the way, the doors that separated chambers were made of solid Neutronium, the most durable of substances. The doors opened by themselves when Jem'Hadar dragged two Cardassians, one being the latest Legate groveling for his life, and killed them. Damar led the charge and died, taking in 6 rounds of plasma rifle fire. Kira and Garak pressed on and reached the serpent's lair. The Founder was dying, in horrible condition and unable to revert to a liquid state. Garak killed Weyoun without much ceremony, but although the band of rebels had control of headquarters and the Founder, she refused to call off her dogs and was content to let all of her forces die. The casualties suffered on all sides will be so high, the Federation will feel like it had lost. Her xenophobic fears were pacified only when Odo linked with her and healed her disease. She agreed to sign a peace treaty and to stand trial as a war criminal, ending the war and bringing a resolution to the four years of hostilities.
The war was over! Every side paid dearly, but particularly Cardassia. With perhaps a billion dead, and Cardassia Prime in ruins, so much of the rich history and culture was lost and even more minds wasted. Garak echoed the sentiments of all Cardassians when he said in conclusion: "Cardassia will survive, but it will never be what it once was."
The bleakness of Cardassia in the aftermath of the war will take a strong leader to reverse. How Cardassians fare in the future notwithstanding, the glorious resistance and the courage of Damar to stand and face overwhelming odds to free his people will be remembered for all times.