For this article, I have placed the "finished" version in here after my last edit. Note that the article became a featured one on July 15, 2007, though the version I am putting in here is from August 18, 2007, after receiving some edits from other members and myself. Again, the images have been removed in this version. Also note that I did not so any work under the Appendices section.
The Cardassians are a humanoid species from the Alpha Quadrant. They are native to the planet Cardassia Prime, capital world of the Cardassian Union. Known throughout the Alpha Quadrant for their ruthlessness, the Cardassians became one of the greatest enemies of the United Federation of Planets and Klingon Empire when they joined the Dominion in 2373. Their xenophobic attitude towards other species was well established throughout the quadrant after the Setlik III massacre during the Cardassian War, as well as when their atrocities from the Occupation of Bajor were revealed after their withdrawal in 2369.
The Cardassians evolved from reptilian ancestors and they prefer a darker, hotter, and more humid environment than Humans. Externally, Cardassians are easily recognizable by each having light-gray skin, two thick vertical neck ridges that recede back to the crown of their head and an inverted tear-shaped ridge in the center of the forehead. The ridge is thickest immediately above the eyes, protecting them and creating an especially deep-set appearance. There is also another inverted tear-shaped ridge feature in the center of the Cardassian chest. On Cardassian females, the ridge in the center of the forehead has a blue coloration, as does the second or third rung down on their neck ridges. They have straight hair that varies in color from dark brown to the far more common jet black. Males typically slick their hair back, while the women have more varying hairstyles. As with Humans, their hair turns white with age. Furthermore, a Cardassian's hearing is not as acute as a Human's. (TNG: "The Wounded", "The Chase"; DS9: "Profit and Loss", "Cardassians", "Distant Voices")
Compared to other species, the Cardassians have a very strong resistance to the effects of alcohol, depressants and anesthetics. One Cardassian was able to down more than two bottles of kanar without being affected, and was even injected with 30 ccs of triptacederine without consequence, despite the fact that a dose of that magnitude would be enough to put an Algorian mammoth to sleep. The Cardassians are known for their photographic memories, and some even have the ability to resist a Vulcan mind meld. Medical conditions to which Cardassians are susceptible include the Rudellian plague, Coleibric hemorrhage, Kalla-Nohra Syndrome, Pottrik Syndrome and Yarim Fel Syndrome. (DS9: "Rules of Engagement", "Duet", "The Wire", "For the Cause", "Ties of Blood and Water")
- Since scale patterns on Cardassian necks have been shown to change from appearance to appearance (Garak, for example), makeup artist Michael Westmore theorized in a 2005 issue of Star Trek Insider that Cardassians continually shed and regrow scales. See below for more information on the evolution of the Cardassian "look".
Like many humanoid species, Cardassians are able to produce offspring with a variety of species, including Bajorans and Kazon. Dukat was known to have two half Bajoran children, including Tora Ziyal and another with Mika. Additionally, Seska had a son with the Kazon Culluh while stranded in the Delta Quadrant. It is also possible that Humans and Cardassians are able to cross-breed, as Seska nearly convinced Chakotay the child was his. Furthermore, Gilora Rejal was willing to bear Miles O'Brien children, convinced he wished to pursue a relationship with her. (DS9: "Destiny", "Indiscretion", "Covenant"; VOY: "Basics, Part I", "Basics, Part II")
Society and culture
Traits considered admirable in Cardassian society are different from those valued by Humans. Advanced age, for example, is seen as a sign of strength and power in Cardassian society; the 40th birthday of a Human, often a dreaded event in their culture, would thus be cause for celebration for a Cardassian. Every Cardassian is raised with an appreciation of fine arts and culture, though the government may not have always been so open-minded in its policies. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "Distant Voices")
Hostility and overt irritability towards a member of the opposite sex is a typical sign of interest in a physical relationship. Cardassians also value cleanliness, especially from their women. (DS9: "Destiny", "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night")
Family is one of the most important things in all Cardassian culture, and it is not uncommon for three or more generations to live in one home. On the other hand, Cardassian orphans have no place in their society and are forgotten. Similar to some other cultures, Cardassians expect their young to remain loyal to their families, and an order from one's mother or father is expected to be obeyed. Fertility is considered a most desirable trait in Cardassian women, suggesting Cardassians place great value on the continuation of family lines.(DS9: "Destiny"} Sometimes, Cardassian children will visit their parents at work to see what they do, even if their job involves torture. To be looked upon favorably, one must also take care never to show weakness; indeed, the irony in the Human tragedy Julius Caesar was lost on Garak, who thought Caesar a fool for not suspecting that Brutus would betray him. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Cardassians", "Distant Voices", "Improbable Cause", "Indiscretion", "In Purgatory's Shadow", and more)
Another aspect of great importance in Cardassian culture is to outlive one's enemies. Enabran Tain told his son on his death bed "A man shouldn't allow his enemies to outlive him". When an elderly family member is dying, they will generally enact the tradition of Shri-tal, thus passing on all of their secrets to another family member so they may use them against the dying one's enemies. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow", "Ties of Blood and Water")
Courtship among Cardassians largely consists of bitter, ferocious arguing, a fact unknown to the confrontational Miles O'Brien, who engaged in repeated disputes with his female Cardassian co-worker Gilora Rejal, only to be shocked when it led to her falling in love with him. (DS9: "Destiny")
Cardassian architecture typically has the commanding officer's office above the rest of the operations center. This is so that all others present are forced to look up at the commander with respect. (DS9: "Emissary")
- The Cardassian design ethic shows a preference for dark colors. Their architecture tends to have things in sets of three, and to have a sense of symmetry. Designs favor trapezoids instead of squares, and ovals instead of circles. (Herman Zimmerman - The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine #3)
Cardassian engineering standards are usually lower than Starfleet's. When Miles O'Brien ran a diagnostic of Deep Space 9's fusion power plant, it revealed that it was operating at 13% below peak efficiency. The station's computer, still running by Cardassian standards, explained that Cardassian specifications accept operating efficiency within 20%. (DS9: "The Forsaken")
Cardassians are well known for genetic engineering, even allowing other galactic powers to study their creations, such as the Federation. To distinguish their creations, they always build distinctive monoclonial links into their DNA. (DS9: "Babel")
A year after the conclusion of the Federation-Cardassian War, Worf stated "Cardassians have no honor". Conversely, during the Klingon-Cardassian War, an officer aboard a Klingon Bird-of-Prey stated that the Cardassians were honorable and formidable warriors in comparison to their Jem'Hadar counterparts. (TNG: "The Wounded"; DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire")
Cardassians, much like minions of the Dominion, are known for their punctuality. They are similar to the Romulans in their xenophobic tendencies, and also share the Romulan belief that there is no such thing as luck. Like the Breen, they treat their prisoners with little tolerance or sympathy, and have no qualms with using torture to extract information. Additionally, they are similar to the Ferengi in that they are known for paying their bills. During the Cardassian's occupation of Bajor, many officers accepted bribes to overlook suspicious activities, for additional food, or for other "favors". To many Alpha Quadrant species, Cardassians were seen as nothing more than arrogant, cruel, cold-blooded killers. (DS9: "Necessary Evil", "The Wire", "Distant Voices", "The Way of the Warrior", "In Purgatory's Shadow", and more)
The Cardassian educational system is considered to be unparalleled in the Alpha Quadrant, and educational attainment is regarded as a key asset in Cardassian society. Cardassian children are often put into intensive mind training programs from as early as three or four. It is because of these mind training programs that some Cardassians are able to resist a Vulcan mind meld. Cardassians are also trained during this time to have photographic memories. A typical view of how children should be raised is summed up in Dukat's statement "Education is power... joy is vulnerability." (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I")
Prior to the formation of the Cardassian Union, the ancient Cardassian society was very religious and spiritual. Unfortunately, plague and famine became rampant throughout the homeworld and the society perished. The survivors abandoned their religious ways and went on to create the Cardassian Union over the centuries. Their loyalty to the State became absolute when it resolved the problems on the homeworld. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II")
Cardassians think little of the religions of other galactic species. During the Bajoran Occupation, the Cardassians thought of the Bajoran's religion as silly superstition. After Cardassia joined the Dominion in 2373, most Cardassians refused to think of the Founders as gods, but as little more than Shapeshifters. (DS9: "Waltz", "Tears of the Prophets", "What You Leave Behind")
Despite being a non-religious society, Cardassians still hold funeral services for the dead, sometimes burying the bodies under large monuments. Like their criminal trials, funeral services are able to be viewed by the entire Cardassian public, especially for memorable figures such as Gul Darhe'el. (DS9: "Duet")
- "Rom is an enemy of the State, and enemies of the State do not deserve mercy." - Gul Dukat
The ideal Cardassian life is one of complete loyalty and servitude to the State. The Cardassian government is assumed to be omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent. In a sense, when the Cardassians abandoned their spiritual ways and began their expansion throughout the Alpha Quadrant centuries ago, they simply applied a twisted form of their religion to their political philosophy. (DS9: "The Wire", "Second Skin")
A typical example of the Cardassian approach to life is found in their criminal trials, in which the verdict is always determined beforehand, and the purpose of the proceedings is not justice in the Human sense but bringing the offender to recognize the power and benevolence of the State. The typical Cardassian approach is direct, simple and ruthless, uncaring about how many aliens – or Cardassians – are trampled on in the interests of the state. Cardassians pride themselves on their attention to detail and memories. They have no interest in science for its own worth, and demand that scientific projects, like everything, serve military benefits. (DS9: "Tribunal", "Destiny")
Much like the Nazis of the 20th century on Earth, the Cardassians often view themselves as superior to other species and cultures. This belief is summed up by Dukat when he announced Cardassia's membership in the Dominion, saying: "The Dominion recognizes us for what we are... the true leaders of the Alpha Quadrant." The Cardassians were particularly adamant that the Bajorans were a weak and inferior race. While stranded on a planet with Benjamin Sisko, Dukat explained how the Cardassians felt about the Bajorans, saying: "From the moment we arrived on Bajor, it was clear that we were the superior race. But they couldn't accept that. They wanted to be treated as equals, when they most certainly were not. Militarily, technologically, culturally – we were almost a century ahead of them in every way! We did not choose to be the superior race, fate handed us our role. And it would've been so much easier on everyone if the Bajorans had simply accepted their role." This kind of smug, cruel, arrogant attitude attributed to most Cardassians was even enough to push the Ferengi Quark into helping Major Kira's resistance cell on Terok Nor in 2374. (TOS: "Patterns of Force", DS9: "By Inferno's Light", "Favor the Bold", "Sacrifice of Angels", "Waltz")
Cardassian philosophy typically upholds the idea that the ends justify the means. After unearthing the burial vaults of their ancestors, which were filled with rare artifacts, they sold them to other species to pay for their war efforts as well as to feed the starving population on the homeworld. Additionally, the extraction of Bajor's natural resources was considered an appropriate means to feed Cardassia's population, despite the fact it required the occupation of the Bajoran's homeworld. Furthermore, in an attempt to help the USS Voyager make it back to the Alpha Quadrant safely, Seska was willing to sacrifice a Starfleet replicator to the Kazon-Nistrim in return for their protection, believing that Voyager's quick and safe return home would justify whatever actions were taken to attain that end. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Duet", VOY: "State of Flux")
In the aftermath of the Dominion War, and the utter devastation it created for Cardassia, it remains to be seen whether a new philosophy may emerge. One of the greatest questions facing the Alpha Quadrant is whether Cardassia will remain entrenched in its old, bloody system or if a reform to a more Federation-style democracy is possible. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")
Citizenry and the State
Cardassians give their first molar to the Bureau of Identification at age ten.
Cardassian society has the most rigid and, to the Federation, incomprehensible of all legal systems. Every suspect is guilty before even appearing in court, their sentence already spelled out – almost always death. No prisoner ever escapes the death penalty, and only very tempting incentives can change the sentence to a lifetime in a labor camp. The criminal is given a Conservator, equivalent to a public defender, except that the Conservator is not supposed to win but to prepare the criminal for a moving confession of guilt on the floor of the court. The accused is also permitted an advocate, the Nestor, to advise them during the trial. The Chief Archon, or judge, of the court plays to a televised audience, her duty not to judge the prisoner's innocence or guilt, but rather to give an emphatic display of the futility of crime on Cardassia and reinforce the public's trust in the justice system. (DS9: "Tribunal")
The Cardassian military is perhaps the largest organization in Cardassian society. Men, as well as women, may serve in the military, though it may be that only men are drafted. Women, on the other hand, are the majority in the sciences, leading to the impression that males don't have a "head for" technical matters. Even the Cardassian Science Ministry however is a branch of the military, and must abide by its regulations. (TNG: "The Chase"; DS9: "Destiny")
When the Cardassian Union was formed, the Cardassian military was supposed to be ruled by the civilian-run Detapa Council. However, for over five centuries the military had run its own agenda, and even surpassed the authority of the Detapa Council. This briefly changed when the Cardassian dissident movement successfully overthrew Cardassian Central Command in 2372, after the destruction of the Obsidian Order the previous year, thus restoring the Detapa Council's authority. However, when Gul Dukat negotiated Cardassia's membership into the Dominion, he made himself the sole leader of the Cardassian people, thus eliminating the Detapa Council's power and restoring the military's authority. (DS9: "Defiant", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light")
When the Cardassian military withdrew from an area, they typically would rig their supplies with pressure grenades for the enemy to encounter. The Cardassian military also tends to favour sneak attacks above direct confrontation. During their attempt to take over Minos Korva, they hid several vessels in the McAllister Nebula and were waiting to see if the Federation would trade the planet for the release of Captain Jean-Luc Picard before striking. The Cardassian Central Command was also secretly arming their citizens in the Demilitarized Zone to combat the Maquis. During the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Cardassians were able to win many engagements against the Klingons by implementing decoys with sensor ghosts and holo-projections, before striking their confused enemies. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II", DS9: "Armageddon Game", "The Maquis, Part I")
To ensure that the population remained completely loyal to the State, the Cardassian Obsidian Order – the Union's primary intelligence agency – closely watched over the people. It is said that a Cardassian citizen cannot sit down to a meal without each dish being duly noted and recorded by the Obsidian Order. Like the military, the Obsidian Order was supposed to submit to the Detapa Council, but in practice, the Order had far more authority. Even members of the Cardassian military were not immune to Obsidian Order inquiries. Almost every Cardassian lived in fear of the Order, as its constant surveillance led to the sudden eliminations of numerous "traitors". (DS9: "The Wire", "Defiant")
After the Battle of the Omarion Nebula, the Obsidian Order ceased to exist. However, after Cardassia joined the Dominion in 2373. the Order's role was replaced by the Cardassian Intelligence Bureau, which was just as effective. In fact, when Elim Garak attempted to contact some of his contacts on Cardassia Prime in 2374, every one of them was found and killed within one day of speaking to him. Garak called it "a testament to the effectiveness of Dominion security," adding "One should admire such... efficiency." (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "Rocks and Shoals", "In the Pale Moonlight")
The governing body of Cardassia is the Cardassian Union. The elected Detapa Council has ruled for centuries but, over the years, the Council's power was usurped by Cardassian Central Command, the military branch of the government, transforming Cardassia into a police state similar to Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. By the late 24th century, the Central Command's control was slipping due to civilian protests and the Cardassian dissident movement. The Obsidian Order had been given limited autonomy and thus took a very active role in Cardassians' lives, but it was forbidden from raising an army and its autonomy could be revoked at any time. (DS9: "Emissary", "Defiant")
The latter half of the century saw significant changes. A secret joint operation between the Obsidian Order and the Romulan Tal Shiar, intended to cripple the Dominion, raised an armada of ships armed with cloaking devices. Led by Enabran Tain, the plan nearly succeeded but had been sabotaged by a Changeling infiltrator. The joint Cardassian-Romulan fleet was utterly destroyed at the Battle of the Omarion Nebula, and the staggering losses suffered by the Order combined with public outcry had caused its downfall. (DS9: "Improbable Cause", "The Die is Cast")
Without the Obsidian Order to keep the populace in line, the dissident movement eventually succeeded in securing control of the government. A civilian uprising reinstated the power of the Detapa Council, but this drew the attention of the nearby Klingon Empire. Claiming that the Detapa Council was replaced by Changelings, Chancellor Gowron (who was himself under the influence of a Changeling infiltrator) initiated the Klingon-Cardassian War in a thinly veiled attempt to seize control of Cardassian territory. The invasion, combined with terrorist pressure from the Maquis in the Demilitarized Zone, resulted in utter chaos. In an attempt to restore Cardassia to its former glory, Dukat secretly negotiated Cardassia's entry into the Dominion. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
When Gul Dukat completed negotiations with the Dominion in 2373, the Detapa Council ceased to exist altogether, just as the Obsidian Order had two years prior. Placed as the leader of the Cardassian Union, Gul Dukat had control over the majority of Cardassian affairs. However, he was forced to work under the regulations of the Dominion. During the first three months of the Dominion War, Dukat generally controlled the Cardassian and Dominion fleets, with Weyoun overseeing his decisions. Dukat was able to maintain an equal standing with Weyoun, though both were subjected to the unquestionable orders of the Founders. (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light", "Call to Arms", "A Time to Stand", and more)
After Dukat's breakdown into insanity due to the death of his daughter, Tora Ziyal, Damar was placed in command of the Cardassian people. Since the new leader lacked the self-confidence and leadership skills of his former mentor and predecessor, Weyoun was able to take more and more control over the Cardassian people, with Damar becoming little more than a figurehead. Eventually, Damar had absolutely no say in any political decisions. This became blatantly obvious when Weyoun made territorial concessions to the Breen in 2375 in order to convince them to join the Dominion. Eventually, the Cardassians rebelled under Damar's leadership near the end of the Dominion War, allowing the Federation Alliance to gain a decisive advantage during the Battle of Cardassia and eventually win the Dominion War. The political future of Cardassia is left unknown at the end of the war, with the Dominion forced to surrender their governance over them. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels", "Statistical Probabilities", "Strange Bedfellows", "The Changing Face of Evil", "What You Leave Behind")
- In the non-canon Deep Space Nine relaunch novels, Garak is the leader of a civilian restoration, working with Alon Ghemor (the nephew of Tekeny Ghemor). Keiko O'Brien also aids Cardassia in its reconstruction efforts.
In the mirror universe, the Cardassians were a founding race of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance. (DS9: "Crossover")
In 2367, Cardassian technology was notably inferior to that of the Federation. A Cardassian warship was easily destroyed by the USS Phoenix, even when the warship had the ability to penetrate the Phoenix's shields. Cardassians on board the USS Enterprise-D made several comments about the superiority of Federation technology, notably the ship's transporter technology, as well as the vessel's sensors, which were able to detect the classification of Cardassian ships at long ranges, an ability that Cardassian sensors did not have. However, at this time, Cardassians did possess the ability to mask the contents of their supply ships from the Enterprise's scans. (TNG: "The Wounded")
Nevertheless, the Cardassians were formidable opponents. The bulk of the Cardassian military consisted of Template:ShipClass ships, which were outclassed by Galaxy- and Template:ShipClass Federation ships, though they had no trouble dealing with Miranda- or Template:ShipClass vessels. Furthermore, despite the Federation's superior vessels, the Federation-Cardassian War saw a stalemate between the two powers for a prolonged period of time. Admiral Haden told Picard "the Federation is not prepared for a new sustained conflict" with the Cardassians, revealing that, despite the technological advantage the Federation had, the Cardassians were an even match for the interstellar organization. (TNG: "The Wounded"; DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")
During the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Klingons had rendered considerable damages to the Cardassian military due to their sudden, unprovoked invasion. Nevertheless, the Cardassians were able to sustain a stale-mate after the invasion blunted. Compensating for their ships' relative weaknesses, the Cardassians were able to win many engagements by employing unique tactics (see above). (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "Soldiers of the Empire")
- Considering that the Cardassians are a militaristic society, it can be assumed that, despite their vessels' technological shortcomings, they are able to be formidable opponents in most engagements. This is probably why the Federation-Cardassian War proved to be a stalemate as opposed to an easy victory for the Federation, as well as why the Cardassians were able to cause a stalemate in the later conflict with the Klingons. This concept is reinforced in "Soldiers of the Empire", when a Klingon describes the tactics used by the Cardassians before striking. See above for more information.
By the late 24th century, the Cardassians used beritium, dolamide, kelindide, rhodinium and uridium in the construction of their ships and military equipment. (DS9: "The Search, Part I", "Indiscretion", "Dramatis Personae")
- Main article: See Cardassian history.
In its ancient history, before Cardassia became a military dictatorship, the Cardassian society was known as the Hebitians. It was home to fine art and beautiful architecture. Once the Hebitian civilization fell into decay from lack of natural resources, millions of Cardassians were starving and the planet was subjected to utter anarchy. Though the Hebitian society and way of life eventually became extinct, the remaining Cardassians turned to the military to solve their problems. This began the Cardassian policy of expansion into the galaxy, to provide the much-needed natural resources to sustain its population. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II"; DS9: "Duet")
- See: Occupation of Bajor
During the 24th century, Cardassians were involved in three cataclysmic wars. The first major war was with the Federation in the mid-24th century, which ended in a turbulent peace treaty. (TNG: "The Wounded") A second war broke out when the Klingon Empire launched an unprovoked and unjustified invasion into Cardassian territory after a successful rebellion had overthrown the military's rule. The Klingons believed the coup to be a result of Changeling infiltration, and therefore attempted to take over the Cardassian Union. The coup was in fact successful due to the collapse of the Obsidian Order after the Battle of the Omarion Nebula. This war devastated Cardassian infrastructure, with a great loss of life and territory. (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "The Way of the Warrior")
The third and largest of these conflicts was the Dominion War. In order to drive out the Klingons from their territory, destroy the Maquis in the Demilitarized Zone and regain Cardassia's status in the Alpha Quadrant, Gul Dukat signed a treaty making Cardassia a member of the Dominion. Cardassian and Dominion forces proceeded to push the Klingon fleet out of Cardassian territory and wipe out the entire Maquis movement within a few days. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light")
While initially the alliance with the Dominion seemed to be beneficial to Cardassia, in the long run it resulted in an exponential loss of life. Near the end of the Dominion War, Cardassia Prime was struck by Jem'Hadar raids and orbital bombardment from the Dominion and Breen forces in orbit of the planet, which attempted to wipe out the Cardassian species entirely for their betrayal. (DS9: "A Time to Stand", "What You Leave Behind")
The Cardassians were introduced in TNG: "The Wounded", but their physical appearance and uniforms changed after "Ensign Ro" (their second appearance). The make-up used in later episodes and particularly throughout DS9 is smoother, and their uniforms changed entirely from a bulky, brown design to the familiar sleek, black one. The addition of the blue pigment to the females' "spoon" area was an attempt to differentiate them from their male counterparts, as there is little to distinguish one from the other when in uniform. An early attempt to remedy this can be seen in "Journey's End", where a female Cardassian appears with pigtails.
- Acording to the Millennium series, this tear-shaped ridge is actually the Cardassian equivalent of a belly button, although Cardassian myth says it is where the gods planted their mark to show the Cardassians had achieved true wisdom. It is unknown if this coloration is a natural gender difference or if it is some kind of makeup.
It is also worth noting that Macet (the first Cardassian seen on-screen) is the only Cardassian known to wear a beard. However, his facial hair appears to have been shaved, or simply does not grow, in portions of his face outside his lower cheek area. The potential for confusion may have influenced the decision not to give further Cardassians facial hair. (Unlike male Vulcans, who also generally shave facial hair, the Cardassians' mirror universe counterparts do not wear beards.)
Andrew Robinson (Elim Garak) has likened the Cardassian brain to the reptilian portion of the Human brain which, in Robinson's words, "knows what boundaries are ... [and] how to take care of itself so that the species survives." [X]wbm Consequently, Cardassian philosophy places order above both freedom and equality, resulting in an Orwellian society where the good of the state is placed above that of the individual. The Cardassians by and large are willing to sacrifice freedom and equality for order.
There were also numerous similarities between Cardassians and reptiles. For example, while their skin is closer to that of Humans than reptiles, their neck ridges bear a resemblance to scales. Additionally, they prefer relatively dark rooms, enjoy the heat, are intolerant to cold (reptiles are cold-blooded), and are frequently portrayed as aggressors, an attribute often associated with reptiles.
On the other hand, the socio-political status of Bajor and the Cardassians' occupation of that planet have been likened to the Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews and Imperial Japan's occupation of Korea. The episode which introduced the Bajorans, "Ensign Ro", did not make any specific attempts at creating a metaphor but, as the storyline of Bajoran-Cardassian relations developed, so did the similarities. The Cardassians were firmly cemented in fans' minds as "the Nazis of the galaxy", so to speak, in DS9: "Duet". There, Aamin Marritza gives graphic details of how the Cardassians slaughtered Bajoran laborers.
In the alternate timeline of the Deep Space Nine book trilogy Millennium, the Cardassians were all but extinct. When Weyoun took a fleet of Dominion warships to see if the second Bajoran wormhole would lead to the Gamma Quadrant (the original Bajoran wormhole would not open), he returned with a fleet of Grigari warships, as well as claiming that the Pah-wraiths had made him their Kai. Weyoun took his fleet to Cardassia Prime to request that to the Female Changeling and Damar that the Dominion join the Grigari. When they refused, the Grigari fleet laid waste to the entire Cardassian Union. By the time they were done, less than a million Cardassians were left in the Alpha Quadrant, the survivors driven insane, or leading a life of piracy.
For this article, all of the images and their captions have not been included here, though all of the ones present as of December 16, 2006 are ones I put there myself (aside from the one of Cardassia Prime at the top right of the page). Most of the information below was added by me, though numerous other members contributed to it.
Cardassian history is perhaps one of the most brutal histories of the species inhabiting the Alpha Quadrant. Originally, the Cardassian homeworld was that of a deeply spiritual and artistic people, which soon fell into decay when famine and plague struck their civilization. Over the years, Cardassian society evolved to adopt a philosophy that sacrificed their individual freedoms for the greater good of the state and their society. For over five centuries, the iron fisted Cardassian military sought to solve Cardassia's problems through the conquest of numerous worlds and species throughout the galaxy, leading to an era of expansion and conflict. This ultimately left Cardassian civilization in ruins once again after suffering the staggering losses of two major wars.
The ancient Hebitians were a spiritual and peaceful civilization which thrived on Cardassia Prime centuries prior to the formation of the Cardassian Union. The Hebitian burial vaults were said to be magnificent and filled with many jeweled artifacts made of jevonite. Due to the planet's scarcity in natural resources, the impoverished society suffered from famine and disease, leading to millions of deaths. The frail population then turned to a militaristic ideology thus ending the Hebitian way of life. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II")
The First Republic was established in the late-21st century, and featured an era of excellent literature, such as the works of Iloja of Prim. (DS9: "Destiny")
Having assumed a militaristic philosophy after the Hebitian society perished, Cardassians relied heavily on the military's expansion into the galaxy to obtain the natural resources which were scarce on their homeworld. The military colonized numerous worlds to obtain the resources for their population, and in return had almost complete power over the people. This arrangement satisfied both the military and the people for many years. However, as the Cardassian Union continued to expand over the decades, so did the military's requirements. Eventually, the military was taking in the majority of the obtained resources, and providing the remains to the rest of the Cardassian citizens. This lead to a period of social discontent, as famine and disease once again struck Cardassia, as it had with its ancient civilization. To compensate, the military conquered neighboring planets and forced their native people to work as forced laborers. The most well known of these occupations was that of Bajor in 2328. The Occupation effectively ended in 2369 due to political pressure from the Federation on top of the constant terrorism and guerilla warfare from the Bajoran Resistance. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II", "Ensign Ro"; DS9: "Duet", "Cardassians", etc)
- See: Occupation of Bajor
Eventually their expansion brought them into conflict with the Klingon Empire, causing the Betreka Nebula Incident. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior") Their expansion also caused them to clash with the Federation, resulting in the Cardassian Wars, eventually ending with the signing of a peace treaty in 2368 and the creation of a Demilitarized Zone two years later. This was a perturbed peace and minor conflicts continued between both sides from time to time, including the Cardassians attempt to take Minos Korva by negotiating the release of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The layout of the DMZ also contributed to the tensions. Due to the change in borders, some Federation worlds became Cardassian territories and vice versa. Many of the people whose worlds were turned over to the Cardassians did not wish to leave, and were granted permission to remain on their worlds. Disgruntled by the treatment they received from the Cardassians, some of the citizens decided to revolt. This gave birth to the Maquis. (TNG: "The Wounded", "Chain of Command, Part I", "Chain of Command, Part II"; DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "The Maquis, Part II")
After exhausting much of their resources during the Federation-Cardassian War, the Cardassian Union was in no shape for renewed conflict with the Federation so soon after the peace treaty. To make matters worse, the Maquis were located in the Demilitarized Zone, preventing the Cardassian military from launching a full-scale invasion to wipe them out. This enabled the Maquis to carry out numerous acts of sabotage and small military engagements against the Union. As the Maquis grew is size and strength, tensions grew higher between the Federation and the Cardassian Union, with neither side having a concrete solution to the problem. Instead, the Central Command secretly armed their citizens in the DMZ to combat the Maquis, while the Maquis procured weapons by raiding various vessels, as well as receiving materials from the Klingon Empire in later years. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "The Maquis, Part II", "Defiant", "For the Uniform", "Blaze of Glory")
Central Command attempted to deal with the situation in the DMZ by discrediting the Federation and providing evidence that they not only sanctioned the Maquis' actions, but were providing them with weapons to combat the Cardassians. Their undercover operative secretly developed evidence that Miles O'Brien was shipping photon torpedoes to the Maquis from Deep Space 9. The plan was foiled when Central Command's agent was discovered by the station's senior staff, and the evidence against O'Brien to be fabricated. (DS9: "Tribunal")
Another failed attempt by Central Command was to wipe out the Maquis' munitions base in the Badlands with the creation of their ATR-4107 missile (which would later be renamed Dreadnought). While the ATR-4107 effectively acted as a missile, it was also a fully autonomous warship capable of warp speeds and carried a wide range of defensive weaponry. The Dreadnought had successfully made it to the Maquis munitions depot after fighting its way through every Maquis defense. However, due to the Cardassian's use of an outdated Kinetic detonator, the Dreadnought did not detonate as planned, but instead drifted in orbit of the planetoid. There, the Maquis reprogrammed the super weapon to attack a Cardassian fuel station on Aschelan V. The Dreadnought unexplainably disappeared in the Badlands while on the way to its new destination, only to be found by the USS Voyager two years later. (VOY: "Dreadnought")
Attempting to reestablish relations with Bajor after the end of the occupation, the Cardassians secretly worked out a treaty with the Bajorans. With Legate Turrel representing the Cardassian Union and Vedek Bareil initiating the talks and working out the details, five months of secret discussions began between the two, from war reparations to an official apology from the Cardassians. However, Bareil was injured on his way to Deep Space 9 to finalize the treaty, so Kai Winn completed the negotiations, thus creating the Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty. (DS9: "Life Support")
The discovery of a large, hostile empire in the Gamma Quadrant in 2370 would prove to be one of the most devastating events for the Cardassian Empire. By 2371, no major Alpha Quadrant power was willing to commit to a firm solution to the threat of a Dominion invasion. Thus, the retired leader of the Obsidian Order took it upon himself to see Cardassia's involvement in preventing a major war. With the help of the Tal Shiar, Enabran Tain was able to develop his own small fleet in the Orias system, which he would use later that year in an attempt to wipe out the Dominion's rulers; the Founders. His plan was ultimately foiled by a changeling infiltrator, resulting in the disastrous Battle of the Omarion Nebula. The battle caused the Obsidian Order to completely collapse, allowing for the Cardassian dissident movement to overthrow the Central Command's authority the following year. The movement saw the restoration of the Detapa Council and civilian rule. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", "Improbable Cause", "The Die is Cast", "The Way of the Warrior")
Having been suppressed for so long, the civilian population's ability to restore the Detapa Council was believed to be influenced by the Founders in the eyes of the Klingon Empire. Because of this, as well as Chancellor Gowron being influenced by an actual changeling, the Klingon Empire launched an unprovoked and abrupt invasion of the Cardassian Union, thus beginning the Klingon-Cardassian War. The war devastated Cardassian infrastructure, and crippled a large portion of their fleets. The Detapa Council, with the help of Gul Dukat and the Federation was able to obtain asylum aboard Deep Space 9. After the Klingons were successfully driven away, the war became a stale mate, with Klingon ships able to roam freely throughout Cardassian territory. Later in that year, Dukat was able to procure a Klingon vessel with the help of Major Kira Nerys. Despite the substantial information he obtained from the ship's computer logs and status reports, the Detapa Council wished to find a diplomatic solution to the war, as opposed to using the information for launching a new offensive. Dukat then began a one-ship war against the Klingons with his captured Bird of Prey. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "Return to Grace", "Rules of Engagement")
With the Cardassian Obsidian Order no longer existing to keep the population in line, a fanatical separatist group known as the "True Way" began to unleash their frustration on the Federation and Bajor through terrorism and sabotage. Blaming the Federation for Cardassia's economical and political problems, and strongly opposed to the Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty made the year prior, the True Way was responsible for destroying the runabout USS Orinoco, as well as a failed attempt at the life of Shakaar Edon. (DS9: "Our Man Bashir", "Crossfire")
In 2373, the Dominion suddenly invaded the Alpha Quadrant, with dozens of ships coming through the Bajoran wormhole. The Federation was preparing for the worst, assuming the fleet was going to begin an interstellar war by attacking Deep Space 9. However, the fleet immediately changed course and headed directly for Cardassian space. Shortly afterwards, Dukat revealed that he had secretly negotiated an alliance with the Dominion over the past few months, and made Cardassia an official member only weeks prior to the Dominion's entry of the Alpha Quadrant. The Detapa Council became completely powerless with Cardassia formally annexed, and Dukat as the designated leader of the Cardassian people. Dukat later "justified" his actions by saying the alliance with the Dominion would restore Cardassia to its former glory, promising to push every Klingon ship from Cardassian territory and wipe out every Maquis colony in the DMZ. Dukat made good in his promise, for within 3 days every Maquis colony was destroyed with only a few members able to evade capture or death, and the entire Klingon invasion force was in full retreat. (DS9: "By Inferno's Light", "Blaze of Glory")
Membership in the Dominion
With the Cardassian Union's borders returned to their pre-war state, Dukat had successfully raised the Union to be a first-rate power in the Alpha Quadrant. However, Dukat's personal ambitions, combined with the Founders desire to bring order to the galaxy, meant that an interstellar war was inevitable. Requiring constant reinforcements of ships, supplies, troops and Ketracel-white from the Gamma Quadrant to be able to conquer the entire Alpha Quadrant, the Federation decided to mine the entrance of the wormhole to prevent the strength of the Dominion from growing. This move was the provocation the Dominion needed to start a full-scale war against the Federation without coming across as the agressors. The Dominion then sent a fleet of ships to capture Deep Space 9 and prevent the minefield from completion, which resulted in Dukat retaking the station. Thus, the Dominion War began. (DS9: "Call to Arms")
For the first few months of the war Cardassia and the Dominion were unmatched on all fronts, constantly forcing the Federation and Klingon Empire to retreat. The utter failure of the Federation's Seventh Fleet at Tyra was one of the many engagements resulting in complete success for the Dominion. At the current rate of success it was only a matter of time before Earth and the rest of the Federation became completely conquered by the Dominion. However, a bold attack lead by Captain Benjamin Sisko saw the first engagement of the war where the allies were successful. Conversely, this was only due to the help of the Bajoran Prophets which destroyed all 2,800 Dominion ships inside the wormhole before they could enter the Alpha Quadrant. The sudden turn of events, topped with the death of his daughter Tora Ziyal, caused Dukat to have a mental breakdown. It was after this that Cardassians began to lose their status as equals with the Vorta and Jem'Hadar in the Dominion. (DS9: "A Time to Stand", "Sacrifice of Angels")
Puppet Government & Rebellion
After Dukat's subsequent capture earlier that year Damar was placed as the new leader of the Cardassian people. However, Damar's position would gradually become nothing more than a simple formality, with the Female Changeling and Weyoun running a de facto government. Shortly after Deep Space 9 was lost to the Federation, Damar was forced to call for peace by Weyoun, despite his personal objections. Over time, Damar was forced to obey Weyoun on almost all political and military decisions, including the order to reinforce the Son'a outpost on Devos II as opposed to perusing the USS Defiant, as Damar had initially ordered. (DS9: "Statistical Probabilities", "Penumbra")
Damar gradually realized that he was simply running a puppet government under the Dominion regime, and that Cardassians were becoming second-class citizens within their own territory. When the Founder negotiated with the Breen to join the Dominion in 2375, she made territorial concessions on behalf of Cardassia. Damar, forced to sign the negotiations as the designated leader of Cardassia, realized his power had been completely usurped. It was then that Damar began his rebellion against the Dominion oppressors. (DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil", "When It Rains...", "Tacking Into the Wind")
His military rebellion was destroyed when Gul Revok betrayed it and provided the Dominion with the information necessary to locate their bases. However, Damar learned upon arriving back on Cardassia Prime that he had more of an impact on all Cardassians than he thought. The entire civilian population eventually joined Damar's rebellion and was able to cause a planet-wide blackout during the Battle of Cardassia. The confusion and lack of communication with their main headquarters enabled the allies to defeat the Dominion forces, forcing them to retreat to Cardassia Prime for one final stand. When the Dominion destroyed Lakarian City in retaliation for the blackout, the remaining Cardassian military forces switched sides, helping the Federation Alliance defeat the Dominion once and for all. (DS9: "The Dogs of War", "What You Leave Behind")
By the end of the Dominion War, Cardassia Prime was devastated by orbital bombardment and Jem'Hadar raids by the Dominion, who wished to wipe out the Cardassian species for their betrayal. Over 800 million men, women and children were slaughtered in the planet-wide genocide. The Cardassian military was reduced greatly from two years of total war with the Federation Alliance, an entire Order was wiped out from a single engagement, and their economy was crippled. Cardassia Prime had once again become a planet plagued with famine, death, disease and destruction, leaving the remaining Cardassians to rebuild. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")