The Cardassians are a humanoid species from the Alpha Quadrant. Cardassia Prime is the homeworld of the Cardassian people and capital of the Cardassian Union. The third of eight planets, it orbits a single Type K7 V (bright, orange dwarf) star. Although these worlds - several Class F and Class H planets - provided much-needed resources, their mineral wealth has long since been exhausted. Spinward of the Federation, the system lies just a few light years from the Bajor Sector (though Cardassians don't refer to it as such).
Cardassia is a planet poor in natural resources, having exhausted what little silicates they had as a result of their efforts to develop their space fleet. Cardassia's gravity is slightly greater than that of Earth (roughly 1.18), but not enough to affect non-Cardassian visitors. The atmosphere, though composed of nitrogen-oxygen, is thick enough to trap excess heat, making the planet warm (approximately 25 degrees Celsius).
The typical Cardassian is xenophobic, arrogant, and paranoid. They believe theirs is the greatest civilization in the universe; other, lesser species are intent on preventing Cardassia from taking its rightful place as the most powerful empire in the quadrant.
By their nature, Cardassians value influence over wealth or power, since the former can often bring you both of the latter. Called vesala, this informal system of influence peddling provides a Cardassian with the prestige that comes from commanding others. They like to be at the center of a complex web of relationships, from which they can strike without fear of discovery or reprisal. Why strike out against a rival when you can have others do it for you? To them, no relationship is worthless, no position too low to be of use.
Cardassians respond well to order, though their instinct for opportunity and influence can compromise their command structures; it's not unheard of for a Cardassian soldier to betray his crewmates as a favor to an influential Gul. They prefer to deal with others from a position of strength, whether that strength be military, intellectual, or social. Before embarking on a course of action, the average Cardassian makes sure he has the upper hand.
The Cardassians appear to have evolved from a creatures with both reptilian and mammalian traits. Standing roughly 1.8 meters tall, Cardassians evidence gray to grayish-green skin and shiny, jet-black hair. Males typically slick their hair back, while the women have more varying hairstyles.
Cardassians are barrel-chested and slightly heavier than humans, a result of their planet's thick atmosphere and slightly higher gravity. Elongated vertebrae covered in scaly plate sections extend along their necks. Segmented brow ridges strecth down from the forehead and encircle their eyes, giving them a slightly "hooded" look reminiscent of a Terran cobra. An unsegmented ridge known as a chufa extends upward from the tip of the nose to a spoon-shaped protrusion in the center of the forehead (this feature is blue in Cardassian females). All Cardassians have four secondary spinal cords.
All Cardassians receive intense mental training during childhood, which helps them to improve their memory. Their thick skins and tough bodies allow Cardassians to tolerate pain better than most other species.
History and Culture
Long ago, the Cardassians were a peaceful, spiritual people. Their world was home to a splendid civilization known as the First Hebitian civilization. They created incredible works of art, technically sophisticated philosophies, and extraordinary architecture.
As the Cardassians exhausted their resources, starvation and disease ran rampant. People died by the millions. In order to survive, the Cardassians focused their efforts on acquiring new territories and new resources. As the military gained more power, the whole of society was reorganized to support military expansion at the cost of the very culture they sought to preserve. Cardassians call this gradual decline of their civilization vereshvar.
Although the ruins of this period are legendary, and considered some of the most remarkable in the galaxy, much of this historical wealth and cultural heritage was plundered by the military, who sought funds to fight the Federation.
War with the Federation
The Cardassians approached encounters with other intergalactic civilizations with suspicion and mistrust, seeing them as competitors for resources and impediments to their expansion. Their first encounter with Klingons led to an 18-year long war. Yet it was their bitter conflict with the Federation - beginning in 2347, over the ownership of several planets along their ill-defined border - that taxed their facilities. (see the Cardassian War)
After some 20 years, the two sides reached an uneasy truce in 2366, followed by a historic peace treaty signed the following year. Conflicts continued, however, as both agreements left unresolved their original territorial dispute. After another three years of negotiations, the two sides concluded another pact, the Federation-Cardassian Treaty of 2370, which established a demilitarized zone by relocating several Federation and Cardassian colonies. Ironically, the agreement created a new thorn in Cardassia's side - a terrorist organization known as the Maquis mostly composed of human colonists who refused to leave their homes and attacked Cardassian targets for the next three years.
Occupation of Bajor
The occupation of Bajor provides an infamous example of the Cardassians' ruthless exploitation of other worlds. At first, the Cardassians offered their assistance to the Bajorans for some unrecorded disaster. The Bajorans saw this as benevolent, and even desirable, at first. As the Cardassians became increasingly obnoxious, the Bajorans changed their minds. The Cardassian Union officially annexed Bajor around 2328. Over the next several decades, they systematically stripped the planet of its resources, for shipment back to Cardassia Prime. They forced Bajorans to resettle, seized their land for industrial food production, and used them as slaves in their mines and ore processing facilities. Bajorans who taught the word of the Prophets were sent to labor camps, as were members and relatives of the Bajoran resistance.
Years of terrorist activity by the Bajoran resistance movement eventually forced the Cardassians from the planet in 2369. They abandoned Terok Nor, their orbital refining station, as well as their war orphans and the children of Bajoran-Cardassian parentage.
During the Dominion War, the role of the Cardassian Union had many twists and turns. At first, the Cardassian Central Command and Obsidian Order fought alongside the Klingons and Federation to oppose invasion by the Dominion. A civilian uprising in 2372 overthrew the military government, placing power in the hands of the long-impotent Detapa Council. Suspecting that shape-shifting agents of the Dominion had replaced the Council, the Klingon Empire invaded Cardassia Prime, which destroyed the industrial capability of dozens of Cardassian worlds and devastated the economy.
Desperate, the Cardassian government entered into an alliance with the Dominion in the following year. From this, the Cardassians gained a measure of relief from Dominion attacks, and Cardassian space became a staging point for Jem'Hadar fleets. By late 2375, however, Cardassian public opinion turned against the Dominion alliance, as the Jem'Hadar consumed more and more resources, and progressively larger numbers of Cardassians either starved or died in the war. In response, the Dominion leveled entire cities to quash the nascent rebellion, which only triggered more massive uprisings not only among the civilian population, but also among the ranks of the military.
Although Cardassia won its freedom at the end of the war, some 800 million Cardassians lost their lives, and their world was in shambles. Whether or not they learn from this period of vereshvar, or continue down the same bloody, costly road, remains to be seen.
Sacrifice for the State
Their world's chronic lack of natural resources shapes the Cardassian psyche. All Cardassians are expected to sacrifice to preserve Cardassian culture and obedience to the state is considered fundamental to society. At the age of ten, every citizen is required to have one of his molars extracted for identification purposes. The ruthlessly efficient Obsidian Order provides internal security, which maintains an elaborate network that keeps virtually every citizen under surveillance. The criminal justice system is designed to reassure the public that good (the state) triumphs over evil, and demonstrate the futility of dissent. Trials are broadcast for public viewing; Cardassians like to see their government in action. Criminals are not brought to trial until authorities find the defendant guilty, and only then (after a verdict has been rendered) can he present his defense. The defendant is required to testify against himself, and doesn't know the charges until the day of the trial. Cardassian lawyers, called nestors, don't argue their client's case, but work for the court to obtain a confession and help the accused see the errors of his ways.
Age and Power
Advanced age is a sign of great dignity. Cardassians respect authority and age, usually equating the two. A junior will attach himself to an up-and-coming superior or already successful elder, assisting his chosen mentor in any number of tasks intended to further their career, and presumably furthering his own, as well. This can be dangerous, however, should the mentor's fortunes turn, as the apprentice makes a convenient patsy on which to blame everything.
The older a Cardassian, the more feared he is, because he likely knows many secrets and maintains an extensive, and hidden, web of connections. When a Cardassian dies, he leaves his secrets to his relatives, so they can gain the benefit of his knowledge, use the information to preserve the family's fortunes, and exact revenge on his rivals. Family is very important to Cardassians, with several generations living under one roof.
Through their entire expansionist period, the Cardassian government was a military dictatorship called the Central Command. Although traditionally under the control of the Detapa Council, the civilian ruling body, both the Central Command and Obsidian Order intelligence agency often operated with virtual autonomy. The two agencies often vied with each other over governmental control and policies.
A civilian uprising to overthrow the Central Command restored power to the Detapa Council, but it remained influential in politics and society. When the Cardassians concluded their alliance with the Dominion, Cardassia became a virtual dictatorship, with Gul Dukat in command. With the conclusion of the Dominion War, it remains unknown what form the Cardassian government will take.
- Bridges, Bill, et al. Star Trek Roleplaying Game Book 5: Aliens, Decipher, 2003. ISBN: 1582369070.