About Kaz as Asian, I've always wondered which irl countries inspired the nationalities in the books? Like sure, the Shu are Asian, but which part of Asia??? What about the rest??
*cracks history nerd knuckles*
Shu Han has the same name as one of the three major states that competed over the complete control of China during the third century. It’s named “Shu” for its geographical location in China, and “Han” for its founders’ direct connection to the Han dynasty, which was just ending at that time. I think it’s safe to say that area during the Three Kingdoms period was what Leigh used as a basis for Kuwei’s homeland.
Ravka was obviously inspired from Imperial Russia. The book covers of the Grisha Trilogy show the Grand Palace in Os Alta, which bears a striking resemblance to the tower tops of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. The characters from there even have Russian names - very famous ones, too. The Darkling - Aleksander - is named after countless Czar Alexanders that ruled over Russia, which very much imitates how there were “many Darklings” that kept Ravka “safe” from the Shadow Fold. Our beloved Nikolai Lanstov shares the same name with the last czar of Russia who was subsequently assassinated by the Bolsheviks, the Marxist revolutionary party led by Vladmir Lenin, in a church with his whole family. Hopefully, Nikolai doesn’t go the same way (Leigh Bardugo, please don’t let this be foreshadowing). And how everyone addressed the king and queen as “tsar” and “tsaritsa”? That’s how everyone addressed the imperial Russian monarchs back in Russia’s dynastic days.
The Kaelish are known for their red hair, their tendency to stay in their own lane, and their tradition to not cause too much drama in history. Judging from those three characteristics, I’d assume that Scotland is the inspiration for their land. But then again, we know very little about them.
Judging from Ketterdam’s worship of trade and business (even their god Ghezen rules over commerce and industry) I speculate Kerch was inspired from the Netherlands, most specifically the Dutch Republic. Not only did this country have one of the most powerful trading companies in the world during the 17th century, but they also gained their power through trade and industry because they had little natural resources to supply themselves. The people here were so focused on commerce that eventually the Dutch merchants grew more powerful than the so-called aristocracy (Council of Merchants, anyone?)
I was a little confused on where Fjerda would be for a moment before realizing the kingdom’s name was literally a play on the word fjord. So it had to be a Scandinavian country - Norway, Sweden, or Finland. However, I discovered that the term was initially used in Norway. My suspicions about Fjerda being Norway were further confirmed when I remembered Matthias mentioning that ash trees are sacred to Djel, and the one in the middle of the White Island was where the druskelle listened to his voice. It can’t be coincidence that Yggdrasil, the mythical tree that connected the nine worlds of Norse mythology, was an ash tree as well, connected to Odin, one of the most complex gods to exist in Norse mythos.
Novyi Zem was difficult, but then I found that Ms. Bardugo had answered this one for me: the country was mostly inspired by Australia and the American colonies. Which makes a lot of sense, considering how there’s a mass amount of Sudanese Australians, Kenyan Australians, Nigerian Australians, South African Australians, Somali Australians, Ghanaian Australians, and Zimbabwean Australians due to the British Empire’s slavery network. And who can forget how America exploited countless Africans for slavery and indentured workers as well? The Zemeni mostly work on farms of their own and handle guns (see: their entrance in Kuwei’s auction in CK), but that’s pretty much it. I suspect there’s a reason behind the homogeneity of the Zemeni, considering how Leigh Bardugo emphasized the theme of slavery and slave trade in the SOC duology.
What country are Inej’s people inspired from, you ask? The answer is heartbreakingly easy. The Ravkan government has persecuted the Suli, who have to travel across the country like wandering nomads, never permanently settling anywhere because they are a nationless state, unwelcome at Ravkan doors. Thus, most of them are living the effects of diaspora; Inej acts as a perfect example. The Suli are the equivalent of the Romani in the duology, who have been persecuted, enslaved, and most of all, forced under slave labor throughout history.