I am working on a country that has been conquered by a foreign power. However, they did not manage to conquer all settlements and fortresses. In and beyond a giant mountain range at the southern border autonomous holdouts even city-states remain that are still under native rulership. But all paths to these communities are fortified and locked down, so there is almost no movement of people between the societies. The technology is classic antiquity mixed with some late medieval inventions (e.g. a printing press analogue exists)

My question: Would it be possible for the occupying government to eradicate the knowledge of these independent communities among the conquered people within a couple of decades?

I have considered the falsifying, censoring, and purging of records and maps, but this does not cover the oral tradition and common knowledge aspect of it. I have also thought about the government just lying and claiming they conquered the remaining hold-outs, but that would only work on communities that do not have any contact with people that live close enough to the mountain range to know about the stand-off along the passes.

There are basically no restrictions on the government's methods, they can be as simple or complicated as they need to be. They have administrative and logistical capabilities that are extremely sophisticated for the setting, but they are trying to paint themselves as bringers of stability and order, so it shouldn't be to overtly tyrannical if possible.

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    $\begingroup$ @Topcode That's a good approach I haven't considered yet, thank you. It seems very hard to control whether they actually keep quite after you pay them, but they could pay people to spread false information making it hard to get a clear picture of what is actually going on. That may make most people mistrust anything they hear about the region. $\endgroup$ – Blitz Apr 20 '20 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ It's quite possible to change the past, even within living memory, and has been done many times. Folks are trying to do it today. You don't need to change the facts or the maps...you merely need to emphasize certain facts (or hoaxes) that support your narrative. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Apr 20 '20 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure that in the antiquity nobody even bothered with indoctrinating the conquered natives. Why would they? Classical antiquity, and even the latest middle ages, predate the emergence of the idea of a nation state. Nobody had any allegiance to a "nation"; nations simply had no political dimension whatsoever. So king X won, and we are now his subjects instead of being subjects of king Y. Big deal. Are taxes higher or are they lower under king X than under king Y? Does justice function better or does it function worse? Is life safer or less safe? That's all that matters. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 20 '20 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Blitz: (1) Citizenship and nationality are two very different things. It was one of the greatest achievements of Rome that, for the first time in history, they accepted that citizenship is not determined by birth: anybody could become a Roman citizen. I am pretty certain that, for example, Paul the Apostle never considered himself to belong to the Roman nation, although he was proud to be a Roman citizen. (2) Rome most definitely did not, ever, go out of its way to promote the use of the Latin language among alies and subjects. They learned Latin if they wanted to; and they did want to. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 20 '20 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Blitz: And the example of the Greek states is actually perfect. The Greeks had indeed a sense of belonging to a "Hellenic nation". They had pan-Hellenic games, pan-Hellenic temples and cults etc. But that Hellenic nation just did not have any political dimension. A citizen of Athens was a citizen of Athens, a citizen of Sparta was a citizen of Sparta; the two states were often at war; occasionally they were allied to various foreign powers; and so on. A citizen of one Greek state has no special rights in another Greek state; he was as foreign as any other foreigner. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 20 '20 at 15:13

11 Answers 11


Trivialize the holdouts

The KKK is an American terrorist organization. It used to have massive power. In the 1940s, Stetson Kennedy went undercover and started leaking the KKK's most guarded secrets in an effort to discredit the organization. Where do you think he sent these secrets for them to have the biggest effect? The military? The OSS/CIA? Although Kennedy did cooperate with law enforcement, the most powerful weapon he had was Superman. Yes, Superman. He worked with the writers of the Superman radio show to inject KKK secrets into a 16-part storyarc called "Clan of the fiery cross." The KKK's secrets were reduced to children's stories and membership plummeted.

In Kennedy's case, the truth was made to sound like fiction. The same approach could work in reverse. In your universe, the government presumably controls education. Publish children's stories about a mystical group of independent communities. Create versions for all age groups and make all of them mandatory in all schools. Include as many real details as possible. Then if someone tries to publish the truth, they'll sound like an adult who still believes in Santa. After two generations of learning that the independent communities are a children's story, who's going to listen to grandpa saying they're real?

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, this is extremely helpful. Thanks a lot! I already see tons of ways to integrate this approach. $\endgroup$ – Blitz Apr 20 '20 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ ‘Plausible deniability’ - You say there’s a secret military programme under Cheyenne mountain that sends people to space through a wormhole? Hmm.. where have we heard that before... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 20 '20 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ This works in a high-tech society against a specific type of enemy. I rather doubt it would work for the OP's purpose, which is to get the population of a defeated country to forget their past. $\endgroup$ – NomadMaker Apr 20 '20 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ @NomadMaker It is even easier in a pre-high-tech society where information transfer is more strict and limited. The internet made the transfer of information only freer and easier to spread. In ancient times, all you have to do is just destroy all writing, artifacts, and kill/imprison the people who know the truth. Brute military force is enough. $\endgroup$ – Galaxy Apr 20 '20 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Galaxy the internet has also made the transfer of misinformation freer and easier. See the rise of flat earth, anti-vax and climate change denial. Or on the flip side, it is equally possible for a government today to have tight control over information (e.g. China) as it was centuries ago. I think this idea has a good chance of working, regardless of the technology level. $\endgroup$ – craq Apr 21 '20 at 21:42

No, but Yes.

But by doing nothing, not by doing something.

technology is classic antiquity mixed with some late medieval inventions

within a couple of decades?

This is the biggest problem: two decades and a medieval society.

Almost all information is passed by word of mouth and through story and spoken (remembered) history. You cannot wipe that information from people's minds. The stories, legends, sagas, myths (even the myths have a basis) and songs and poems all contain information you want to hide.

Can you ban these things?

Sure. And you'll fail.

Every time you punish someone for doing what you don't want you create a new story about the place and people you want to destroy. You just ignite the flame of their memory again.

And the strange thing is that if you're seen to oppress the reality of these people, the stories that will develop from your attempts to hide them will make them sound like the good guys and you the bad.

For example, the English tried to suppress Catholicism at one time and this failed miserably and left a bitter hatred on both sides in it's wake. It's but one example from a history littered by failures to hide the truth.

That said the most effective (ever) attempt to destroy a people and wipe them from memory was (arguably) by the Romans against the Carthaginians. Rome did everything required to destroy not just the Carthaginians themselves (genocide and enslavement), but their culture - they razed Carthage to the ground and burned it and I would not be surprised if they also stomped on the bits left after that as well.

But we still remember Carthage.

And they were remembered at the time, although that didn't bother Rome as even remembering them said clearly that annoying Rome too much was a really bad idea.

If Rome could not completely wipe out Carthage from memory, you cannot, in two decades, do better.

Best approach.

You can make them largely forgotten or ignored.

Don't ignore them or hide the stories or whatever. Don't punish their mention. Just "no comment" them all. Do nothing. Someone paints a mural in public, just paint it back over and quietly denounce the "vandalism" that raises taxes. Someone mounts a public protest, bemoan how they disturb the peace over their obsession with something that's done and can't be undone. People like peace and quiet. Give them peace and quiet and they'll accept anything.

They won't forget. But they'll ignore the heck of whatever it was because deep down they don't really care about something that's done and dusted. They care about putting food on the table and a roof over their heads and the kids and their old age. It's medieval times so they really, really have to care about day-to-day and as long as you're not punishing them for singing some old song that mentions these otherwise forgotten people, they won't care what the words really mean.

And in two decades? Well, that's ancient history, Man. That happened when I was young and now I've my own kids and grand-kids to worry about and, well I never really missed those people you're talking about anyway. And things are hard now and we've better things to worry about in the present than the past.

So doing practically nothing, consistently, will pretty much take care of any real issue. The forgotten people will become practically a myth. And the thing about a myth is that basically no one really believes in them.

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    $\begingroup$ The great philosopher St. Augustine of Hippo once said that "Everybody desires peace... it is the greatest good for man." This answer plays into that basic desire very well. +1 $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Apr 20 '20 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ That is a very good point, thank you. The relevance of these holdouts for the average person is for sure neglectable. But the displaced nobles and anyone who has lost status and privilege through the conquest might still be a problem though. And if they are aware that there are military forces that are significant enough to stay independent, they might consider coordinating with them in some way. "Maybe I can establish a holdout under my own rule. I mean its not like there aren't any." or something along those lines. $\endgroup$ – Blitz Apr 20 '20 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Blitz How to subvert the military in those days ? Buy them. They have to eat and loyalty is easier to switch when you're hungry and someone is offering you a loaf of bread and a regular job. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Apr 20 '20 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG Money will definitely need to feature more heavily in my approach. I think a lot of the problem can be taken care of with putting money in the right pockets, thank you. $\endgroup$ – Blitz Apr 20 '20 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ I think the correct Roman analogy here is "condemnation of memory" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damnatio_memoriae), which appears somewhat effective, though it's hard to judge! $\endgroup$ – Cireo Apr 22 '20 at 18:05

As mentioned in some comments and answers you don't need to invent anything, it already been done many times. If your society is low tech/literacy then all you need is to cut all contacts to communities you need to be forgotten and they will be forgotten.

If your society is more advanced and have mandatory education, then it is even easier. I hear this saying in many forms in many languages, but it boils down to "if you want to defeat an enemy - teach his children". New generation will know whatever they taught in school and what they seen on mass-media and will simply laugh at those senile old farts with their stupid "oral traditions".

Some examples from France24 and YouGov:



Immediately post WW2 there was no question who did more to bring Germany down in France. ~60% for USSR and ~20% for US. Today, 70 years later, despite USSR loses approaching 30m versus just a 500k for US and US entering the battle much later, numbers among general public - i.e. not professional historians - is pretty much reversed. Even in comments here in answers you can find people doubting that Soviets had that much contribution, though they admit that could be just what they were taught.

Here are images from article linked in those pieces above that pretty much speaks for itself.

What's even better, you get feedback loop/echo room effect and will have to spend less and less on propaganda as the time goes by. First generation children will grow up and write new schoolbooks and make new entertainment pieces with what they know so you don't need to do it yourself any more.

What was US opinion on Red Army Soldiers at time of WW2? Here's US Army pamphlet: https://archive.org/details/PAM21-30.

It tells us that Soviet soldier is disciplined, well-armed and equipped. There's equal opportunity: you might find out that tank commander or formation officer is a woman - something unheard in US and pamphlet says that it is "most unusual to Americans" and warns "don't be surprised". He enjoys classic literature and game of chess while off duty. They're well feed, go through regular cleaning of the clothes and try to set up steam bath whenever circumstances permit. They also appreciate troupes of entertainment when they manage to reach them from the rear.

What do we have today?


According to games like Company of Heroes 2 it is something along lines of "unwashed mongol hordes with single rifle on dozens soldiers buried Germans under piles of corpses while Commissars cackled in the back shooting them for the lulz".

And as I mentioned above, those taught from the childhood by both books and media really, genuinely believe that they are correct. When outraged players reached Relic's (CoH2 devs) forums to complain, Relic replied that "that the game reflects historical realities" and promptly banned most of complainers. In the end Russian distributor decided to cancel on-shelf sales, but Relic themselves remain adamant that they did nothing wrong. And they aren't lying! It is simply what they know and what they've been taught.

More recent example comes from CoD: MW.


I wonder, how many young people - i.e. CoD's regular auditory - will answer the question "who's responsible for Highway of Death" correctly today? And how many will answer correctly 5 years later?

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    $\begingroup$ This is a great answer! $\endgroup$ – Andrew Brēza Apr 21 '20 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for ths answer, I will definitely look into this further. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:10

Yes; in fact, it happens all the time.

TL;DR: Combine propaganda and Thought Police.

Believe it or not, this has been a wide-spread occurrence throughout history, to the point that it is still happening today.

In times past it was common for rulers to rewrite the history books and make their version the "correct" one. For example, it was standard practice for the Egyptian pharaohs to remove all references to their predecessors when they assumed the throne; that's why there is such a squabble over which version of Egyptian history is correct.

A similar thing went on in the Roman empire. When Caesar Augustus (also known as Octavian) assumed the throne as the first of the Emperors, he had a friend named Virgil write a poem called The Aeneid. Naturally, Virgil included a huge amount of pro-Augustus propaganda in it, which promoted Augustus's "I'm the son of God" party line. The Aeneid was immensely popular; as a result, this bit of pravda (official "truth") became actual truth in the eyes of many Roman citizens.

The practice of rewriting history has by and large continued since then, even into the modern day. To quote Winston Churchill, "History is written by the victors."

Furthermore, the rewriting isn't always done by the government. On a basic level, political correctness (especially related to issues like slavery or oppression) is society stating that "X is the only socially acceptable opinion on issue Y)." This effectively rewrites history.

Considering all this, I recommend to you the solution that Fahrenheit 451 used. In Fahrenheit the government has literally rewritten history (e.g. "Benjamin Franklin founded the first fire station to burn British propaganda"). They did this by combining truly massive amounts of propaganda with a Soviet Russia style not-so-secret police, which brutally and publicly killed anyone who believed the "wrong history". As a result, hardly anyone remembers the non-Pravda version of history; most of the people who did are dead or institutionalized, and the rest are keeping their heads down.

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    $\begingroup$ As a one who withnessed such a feat, I can not only confirm it is possible, but is also easier. You don't have to kill everyone who remembers, just make it unpleasant enough to tell (or to know). Granddads will not tell their grandsons for their own good. $\endgroup$ – fraxinus Apr 21 '20 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ @fraxinus True; I did generalize a bit about Fahrenheit 451; in it some people do remember, but they don't want to get killed. I have added a clarifying edit. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Apr 21 '20 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ Great insight. Thanks a lot! $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:11


Even with a printing press, I doubt that a society like yours would have widespread literacy. Widespread literacy means widespread schools, so peasant families must be able to afford to keep their children away from the fields, or away from caring for the toddlers.

Only the upper classes can afford teachers or tutors for the children. Most schooling will be informal or an on-the-job apprenticeship, so almost all elders will become teachers.

I don't know how old you are. Do you know anybody who fought in WWII? Anybody who lived through the social changes of the 60s? Would you believe them without Hollywood and history books? Sure, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List had a tremendous emotional impact, but would you doubt the witnesses?

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    $\begingroup$ And still most people believe that WWII was won by the Americans on D-DAY, so even with much higher technology perspectives can be influenced a lot. $\endgroup$ – D.J. Klomp Apr 20 '20 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with your assessment. For my specific case the people that might be a threat are the displaced elites though, making literacy not as much of an issue. But I will have to examine the situation from this angle more closely, so thank you for the input. $\endgroup$ – Blitz Apr 20 '20 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @D.J.Klomp are there any Non-Americans who believe that? $\endgroup$ – I'm with Monica Apr 21 '20 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ I think a big part of western Europe who never saw Russian troops, but maybe that is bias on my part due to the schooling given in my country (Netherlands). $\endgroup$ – D.J. Klomp Apr 21 '20 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ @I'mwithMonica, you might underestimate the impact of Hollywood. Consider how many non-Americans believe that their emergency number is 911 ... $\endgroup$ – o.m. Apr 21 '20 at 10:03

Not really, but that would be an inefficient and ineffectual approach to the problem.

The biggest issue with the question as posed is:

How much do you need recollections to be changed, and what will you do with the people whose lives make the lies clear?

The basic dimensions of the problem are that you can't reliably ascertain what individuals know or believe about those settlements, you can't be certain what records or references exist which will contradict the official narrative, you can't control or monitor even a small fraction of direct person-to-person communications, and your proposed timeline leaves information exposing the lies in living memory.

These, together, are a recipe which all but guarantees that you cannot get rid of the inconvenient, true information about those polities' not being a part of your conquering nation no matter how well the annexations seem to be going.

And the biggest threat of all is noted in a comment on another answer-- there are displaced elites who know the truth. These are people who fundamentally have a grievance against the conquering nation and have firsthand information about how and why the lies are untrue. Historically there have been methods employed to deal with those sorts of people, but they are monstrous and themselves generate new secrets which will need to be kept.

As long as information which exposes the lies exists, you can't be sure that the lies will be unchallenged.

The "best" response will depend on why, exactly, you perceive value in eradicating those polities from memory entirely in so short a time. I suggest that, whatever your conquering nation is after, they can achieve it more easily and fully with other strategies.

The easiest solution is to add to the widely-held historical record. This deals less with memory than with perception and belief, but has the benefit of not being obviously falsifiable from life experiences people have already had:

Sure, that city-state used to exist, but it was buried in the big earthquake of whatever year that was, which we barely felt all the way out here.

Sure, that place was doing OK up until that crop blight and famine. You remember, we had to deal with it here too. But while we were ready, thanks to the foresight of the government of our great nation of Conquestia, and we made it through. They didn't, and even refused offers of assistance from us! Most of them starved, and the rest killed each other rioting. Aside from the roving murder bands making use of discarded soldiering equipment, of course.

Oh, yeah, the Neutral City? When envoys of Conquestia went there to share our awesome social organization practices with them they found out that those filthy Neutrals were raising a huge army to use to slaughter Conquestians! That's what neutral meant in their language, you know: murder of the peaceful. Well, the First Conquestian Legion saw to them. Now the Neutral City is just a burned-out husk, and no one lives there. Oh, you want to talk to a member of the First Legion? Sorry, they took such heavy losses at the Neutral City that they had to be disbanded, and the former members scattered through other military units. If you come across one of them, they can tell you all about it though.

These have the benefit of not diverging from actual history prior to these efforts, and so there is less concern about extant records or personal experiences exposing lies. But after the conquests and lockdowns, no new, true information is going to be coming in and so there's nothing to contradict. Even people who used to go to those places every year can't account for what they're like now, 30 years after their last visit.

If there is some specific reason why all memory of and reference to those places needs to be eliminated I might be able to give an answer more focused in that direction. But otherwise, a couple of decades is too little time to get people to do more than pretend the history-eradicating lies are true, because living memory will prove them false. More time gives more options, but lie outside the scope of the question.

That aside, the best bet is probably going to be to rely on the heavy travel restrictions to prevent real information observed by firsthand witnesses from spreading. The vast majority of the population isn't likely to encounter anything that will contradict the official narrative, and the people living in places which make believing the lie impossible will be sequestered away from the others.

  • $\begingroup$ Altering the information instead of erasing it is a great alternative approach for sure. I will keep this in mind. The way you wrote out potential conversations really helped with conceptualizing the misinformation. Many thanks. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:18

Overwrite Written History

You are on the right track when it comes to overriding history. The first step is obviously to remove the concrete evidence of the real history. However, simply removing the history would seem a little bit suspicious. Instead, you have to have some scholarly types come out and say, "after further research, we found that event x happened y way, and will continue with this going forward." This means that those still in school would begin to learn the new history and not the old history. Bonus points if you have some anti-family education going on, where the students learn to trust the teacher more than the government.

Remove physical evidence from the old history, on the basis that the old rulers lied to you, and your history is obviously more accurate. Show only artifacts to tell the story of the old regime horribly mistreating the populace and hopefully the members of the new regime. Establish a holiday to remember the horrible atrocities, and to mourn those lost in that event.

Shut out opposition

As you pointed out, simply replacing the concrete history doesn't eliminate the people that actually experienced it. However, most people probably didn't experience the history. Most people in your time period didn't travel very far, and thus have no real knowledge of the other holdouts. You can probably get away with saying that they gave up and fled, or were completely destroyed, since almost nobody is actually going to check. If someone does want to go check, then simply kill them en route and claim that they died from some other cause on the journey, or that some remnants from the old regime killed them for their new fealty, making them a martyr and increasing the peoples obedience towards the new regime.

If someone is able to evade your guards and wants to go check on the holdouts, they'll come back, and you can completely slander them. Shut them down for giving out "alternative facts" or simply trying to "spread rumors against the state." Remember, you have those poor poor martyrs that were killed by remnants of the old regime, and obviously any regime that still had a holdout wouldn't resort to such evil tactics, meaning that what the witness says is all a lie. Once the people are thoroughly convinced that they're lying, you can kill them under the guise of suicide or a heart attack and say "they weren't in the best of health" or "they were sad from being ostracized."

Control the modern narrative

The final stage is to control their live access to information. This may be harder than the modern day, but the premise still applies. Remember, you control what kind of notices can go out in the town square, so that is covered by simply delivering your regime's propaganda. Your real threat is going to be travelling merchants come the long way around from the holdouts, or interact with merchants that go there.

Obviously people would know something is up if merchants stopped coming altogether, however if there were merchants rumors about the road being blocked to the holdouts, or if a lot of merchants were killed by wolves or thieves along the way (preferably with a few limping their way back bloodied, giving out dying words about the thieves and wolves), then merchants would stop travelling there. They would assume that the holdout was abandoned, since now thieves (your goons) are able to act with impunity, and wolves are courageous enough to go there (a karambit or similar looks like claw marks, or you can just release wolves), and thus the logical conclusion is that they were conquered. This simultaneously makes life hell for the people actually living in the holdout, since they are left with only what they grow and what preserves they have. This also fits nicely with the idea that there was already little to no movement from these holdouts, as simply decreasing three or four down to zero isn't suspicious.

Left with no news of the holdouts, or limited news, the logical conclusion is that they all died fighting, holding on to their last bit of pride and honor. You can have a national holiday commemorating them for their valor in their last moments, and tell people that that level of patriotism is what we should all strive for in life.

Read alternative history conspiracy theories

Not for the alternative history (because it's mostly BS), but instead for the theories about how some lizard people supplanted the "real" history in favor of something that suits their narrative. My English teacher told me one time that "fiction has to make sense." If somebody pitched a movie detailing the 9/11 attacks back in 1990, it wouldn't get made because it would be too hard to suspend disbelief. Reality doesn't need to make sense, and that's why they were able to hijack a plane using some boxcutters. There already exists plenty of stories about replacing history, it's just a matter of sifting through that for the portions you want to include.

There's also plenty of variations on this theme in published fiction (although there is a higher pay wall there). I remember Terry Goodkinds Sword of Truth #5 had a narrative where an empire (your copy+paste Rome allegory )conquered a foreign land, integrated the inhabitants into their society, and the conquered people rose up in academia and politics to teach their own version of history and subjugate and shame the original natives, complete with mandatory daily "education."

  • $\begingroup$ I like the approach of discrediting people that actually know the truth. I will try to work out an implementation for this. In the end it's just a question of control of information and the accepted narrative. Thanks a lot. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:14

Well, I think it is possible even for the first generation, If you cut them from their parents from very early age you can make whatever you want.

One cruel example. I am Bulgarian and our country has been under the Ottoman Empire (Turkey nowadays) for about 5 centuries. I can not recall the begging time but it ended in the year 1878.

During that period there has been times when the Sultan needed his own army, to use it for example if some of local subordinates goes on revolt or refuse to let men fight for the Sultan, etc.

So a perfect solution was found for the Sultan but terrible for the Bulgarian parents. Each year troops will come and from thousands of parent the first boy child would be taken. Age, not sure but say between 5 and 7. Those boys will be sent to special camps where they will live under military rules for many years. They will be trained to fight and to have no mercy and to have allegiance to the Sultan alone. They would remember nothing about their parents, origin etc.

So there are stories where Bulgarian rebellions have been put up with the help of such army - already grown and completely brain washed.

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissaries $\endgroup$ – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 29 '20 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ That would definitley be a solution. It's very intrusive though. I will hold on to this. It might come in useful a little down the line. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:19

You can see it in Chinas case with fear and paranoia. Like killing teachers of a past society or purging them, and giving them a new source of education but twisted to make younger people believe they said something

or the Soviet Union where they sent important figureheads away, like Trotsky or suddenly disappear, if they spoke badly would be arrested and sent to the gulag....

there is a way of soft power though, like banning certain media coverage or newspapers, and making people believe it never happened.

  • $\begingroup$ Strongly enforced social taboos against speaking against the system and brainwashing of youth then, efficient and nasty. $\endgroup$ – Rottweiler on market-day. Apr 22 '20 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ This is definitely what I'm looking for. It's fascinating how common these kinds of government actions are even in recent history. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:21

So those villages beyond the mountain range are isolated, right? And the ones of most concern who could "know the truth" are villages near the mountain on your side? Purge them, or benevolently relocate them - make the valley near the mountain a no-man's land.

Like how Genghis Khan's tribal origins and burial place were hidden somewhere in first a sanctuary, then recently in military-controlled training grounds, to kick the ace out of hands of nationalists who could rally under his memory. I can recommend Jack Weatherford's "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" in general, and specifically for your question as that era's prodigy who was centuries ahead of his time and respected all around the Eurasia for making international laws, trade and travel possible, consequently vilified into a barbarian horde leader by people who lost to him. There is a saying that history is written by winners, or by survivors. Sometimes it is just written by those who can write.

Tell stories about how the mountain is unpassable after some earthquake. If the war itself is acknowledgeable in this historiography, those cities beyond the ridge could be conquered (so "all is ok, don't worry") or razed ("alas, nothing anymore to care about") during that conflict; in any case they might be devastated by some plague ("don't go or you'd die").

You can also make the picturesque valley near the mountains a royal game reserve, so it is naturally off-limits to the common folk. And stretching from one border to another, it blocks any way beyond (so people forget that any "beyond" exists).

For example (from literature - there are many good real-life ones above), the 13th district in Hunger Games, which everyone in general population for 75 years assumed to be scorched by nuclear strikes.

Note also that for settled peoples, with towns and villages, travel was not something they did normally in that era. Soldiers, traders, maybe aristocrats... the majority of population might live and die in the same village and never wander a hundred kilometers from it.

  • $\begingroup$ I have played with the idea of lying about a plague that rages in the mountains as well. Your approaches are great. I will definitely explore them further. Thanks a lot. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:23

Written history is not your problem. Your problem is all the people more than a few decades old who remember and know the truth, and who will communicate this to other people.

If you're talking about "a couple of decades", you're the asking whether you can wipe out everyone's memories of 9/11 and I think that would be difficult.

  • $\begingroup$ I get your point. That's a big issue I'm struggling with. But I think, since we are talking about details and not the entire war itself, it could be possible to contain the knowledge somehow during the chaotic aftermath and systematically purge it once control is solidified. But I appreciate your input, thank you. I will have to consider this in my approach. $\endgroup$ – Blitz May 4 '20 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ But if you ask people what happened then, and whose fault it is, and who is immediately responsible for the deaths of thousands - even now (and just in the days after 9/11) you'd get widely different answers. Was it CIA making a provocation to invade the oil regions? Did someone from urban security trigger the controlled tower demolition, or otherwise, by prepared explosions in the core structure - though without calling back the response task forces? Or were purely only a few disgruntled middle-easterns at fault for everything? Probably noone can say and 100% prove that except those involved. $\endgroup$ – Jim Klimov May 4 '20 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ There's also an Arlington Road (movie) that deals with creation of alternative interpretation of what will have happened and whom to blame, long before the scapegoat gets involved in the act. Or "Wag the dog" just trying to turn attention from presidential mischiefs by starting a war... Or like when there's an alleged water bubble burst, like many others detected, but this time interpreted as a missile attack to get an excuse to plunge into a Korean war. Who knows what really happened, when someone influential wants a particular course of action to happen? And then explain it? $\endgroup$ – Jim Klimov May 4 '20 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ In this instance, it's not a question of who is to blame : the OP needs to blot out pre-existing knowledge that other communities ever existed. That's very much harder than a shift of interpretation. $\endgroup$ – David Hambling May 5 '20 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ DAVID> the OP needs to blot out pre-existing knowledge that other communities ever existed. // OP> Would it be possible for the occupying government to eradicate the knowledge of these independent communities among the conquered people within a couple of decades? // I did not read this as eradicating knowledge that communities did exist. Just blocking the idea that they exist now, and that anyone should bother and risk checking if they do. Also note the OP constraint on knowledge in the conquered peoples - of course, some of the conquerors may be "in the know" (for a while at least). $\endgroup$ – Jim Klimov May 7 '20 at 9:42

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