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Cardassia Prime in 2375

Cardassian history was the history of the Cardassian people, probably one of the most brutal histories of the species of the Alpha Quadrant.

Early history

In 2369, evidence was discovered that suggested many of the galaxy's humanoid races were descended from a single humanoid race. Around 4.5 billion years ago they had seeded many worlds with a DNA code to guide evolution to a form resembling their own. Cardassians displayed evidence of these DNA sequences. (TNG: "The Chase")

The ancient First Hebitian civilization on Cardassia Prime was a highly-developed civilization which once thrived on the planet. The First Hebitian burial vaults were said to be magnificent and filled with many artifacts made of jevonite. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II")

First contact with the Bajorans

The Cardassians welcome the Siskos to Cardassian space

First contact between the Cardassians and Bajorans occurred as early as the 16th century. Using their lightships, Bajoran explorers traversed the space around Bajor and stumbled upon tachyon eddies, which accelerated them beyond the speed of light, taking them all the way to Cardassia Prime at a distance of five light years. Although the Cardassian government would later deny the story's plausibility, an ancient crash site of a Bajoran lightship would be discovered on Cardassia "coincidentally" at the same time Commander Sisko and his son re-enacted the journey in late 2371, thereby forcing the Cardassians to acknowledge the achievement as "a testament to the spirit of the ancient Bajorans who first ventured out into space". (DS9: "Explorers")

Although the first crashes of Bajoran lightships onto Cardassia in the 16th century do not necessarily imply two-way communication between both civilizations, Akorem Laan, who disappeared from Bajor in the late 22nd century, knew about Cardassians, indicating that contact had been established by that time. (DS9: "Accession") That fact was further enforced in ENT: "Dead Stop" and "Observer Effect", where it established that Cardassians were well underway in space travel by that time period.

Cardassian Union

Cardassian Union logo.png

The Detapa Council, Cardassian Central Command and Obsidian Order were jointly established in the 19th century together forming what was eventually known as the Cardassian Union. (DS9: "Defiant")

In a scene cut from "Tears of the Prophets", Garak noted that Tret Akleen, who was born in the Ventani system, was the "father" of the Cardassian Empire. Garak suggested that if the Federation Alliance took the Ventani system during their counterattack, such a loss of sacred ground would be devastating to the Cardassians, and a great propaganda victory for the Federation.

Pre-First Republic

A Cardassian victim of the automated repair station as seen in 2152

By the mid-22nd century, Cardassian interstellar space travelers had been covertly observed by the Organians, who studied how they were responding to a deadly silicon-based virus, which parts of their crew had contracted on a planet. Although the Organians noted some initial compassion, the Cardassians eventually killed their infected crewmembers. (ENT: "Observer Effect") At least one Cardassian spacefarer had become a victim of the automated repair station by 2152. (ENT: "Dead Stop")

The date of first contact between the Federation and the Cardassian Union has never been established, though Cardassians and Humans had traveled in the same area of space as early as 2152, as seen in "Dead Stop" and "Observer Effect". A Cardassian on Vulcan (see below) as well as Cardassian voles being present in Gabriel Lorca's menagerie in 2256, suggests that some knowledge of Cardassia existed in the Federation by the early to mid-23rd century at least.

Also during the 22nd century, the burial vaults of the First Hebitian civilization were unearthed for the first time. They were plundered by the impoverished Cardassian population, and most of the artifacts stolen. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II")

First Republic

The First Republic existed as of the early-23rd century and was known for its serialist poetry. This included the works of serialist poet Iloja of Prim, who was ultimately exiled on Vulcan, however. (DS9: "Destiny")

Although we do not know why or when Iloja was exiled, it must have occurred sometime during the lifetime of Tobin Dax (who met him on Vulcan), i.e., after the death of Lela Dax in 2226, but before Emony Dax would encounter Leonard McCoy sometime in the 2240s.

By 2257, Starfleet Captain Christopher Pike had been awarded the Legate's Crest of Valor and the Proficient Service Medallion, both prestigious Cardassian commendations. (DIS: "Brother")

A Starfleet member being decorated by the Cardassian military strongly implies that Federation-Cardassian first contact occurred before 2257.

Military empire

Due to the planet's scarcity in natural resources, the Cardassian people eventually impoverished, suffering from famine and disease, leading to millions of deaths. The frail population then turned to a militaristic ideology and relied heavily on the military's expansion into the galaxy to obtain the natural resources they needed. In order to sustain the population, the military colonized numerous worlds and in return had complete power over the people as a totalitarian military dictatorship. This mutually beneficial arrangement reached an impasse, however, and in order to battle recurring famines on Cardassia, the military occupied additional nearby planets and subjugated their native people to work as forced laborers.

Cardassian space station Terok Nor in orbit of Bajor prior to 2369

Being located in a neighboring system only about five light years away, the Occupation of Bajor began in 2319 before it was formally annexed in 2328. The Occupation effectively ended in 2369 due to political pressure from the Federation on top of the constant terrorism and guerrilla warfare from the Bajoran Resistance. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II", "Ensign Ro"; DS9: "Emissary", "Duet", "Cardassians")

Since Madred still experienced a poor, starving Cardassia in his childhood, it could be concluded that the military takeover of Cardassia was a relatively recent phenomenon, possibly having occurred around the late 23rd to early 24th centuries.

Eventually their expansion brought the Cardassians into conflict with the Klingon Empire, causing the Betreka Nebula Incident which lasted for eighteen years. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")

No timeframe was given for those eighteen years, only Garak's statement that it was "ages ago".

The USS Phoenix (blue) engaging two Cardassian ships (red)

Their expansion also caused them to clash with the Federation, resulting in the Federation-Cardassian War, during which the Setlik III massacre was a major incident. The war cost hundred thousands of lifes and severely weakened the Cardassian Union. It eventually ended with the signing of the Federation-Cardassian Armistice of 2367 and the creation of a Demilitarized Zone three years later due to the final peace treaty. This was a perturbed peace and minor conflicts continued between both sides from time to time, including the rogue Captain Benjamin Maxwell of the USS Phoenix who attacked Cardassian targets, believing that the Cardassians were re-arming and preparing for a strike on Federation territory. Maxwell's fears were not unfounded, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard found out while investigating the matter: Cardassian supply ships were supplying with jamming equipment a "research station" too close to Federation sectors; although alerted, he opted to keep a vigilant peace. (TNG: "The Wounded", "Chain of Command, Part II")

The Reklar and Enterprise-D meet over the dispute about Minos Korva in 2369

Indeed, in 2369 the Federation was alerted when Cardassian forces relocated from the Bajoran sector towards the Federation-Cardassian border and feared for an incursion. Cardassians lured and captured Picard and then attempted to take Minos Korva by negotiating his release. 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")


Maquis terrorists attack a Cardassian vessel in 2370

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 based 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 in 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. (TNG: "Preemptive Strike"; DS9: "The Maquis, Part I", "The Maquis, Part II", "Defiant", "For the Uniform", "Blaze of Glory")

Public broadcast of Miles O'Brien's trial in 2370

The 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. An 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 was proven to be fabricated. (DS9: "Tribunal")

Another failed attempt by Central Command was to wipe out a Maquis' munitions base in the Badlands with the creation of their ATR-4107 missile (which was later 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 Cardassians' 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 weapon to attack a Cardassian fuel depot on Aschelan V. Dreadnought inexplicably disappeared in the Badlands while on the way to its new destination, only to be found by the USS Voyager two years later in the Delta Quadrant. (VOY: "Dreadnought")

Kai Winn and Legate Turrel negotiate the Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty in 2371

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 following the initiative of Vedek Bareil. 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. The first joint Federation-Bajoran-Cardassian effort under the new peace treaty, called the Wormhole Comm Relay Project, was to create a Gamma Quadrant relay station to aid communications through the Bajoran wormhole. A Bajoran vedek accused the participating Cardassian scientists, Ulani Belor, Gilora Rejal, and Dejar, to be "three vipers that would destroy the Celestial Temple". Although Dejar was indeed exposed by Ulani Belor as an Obsidian Order operative, who, as it turned out, was not only tasked with surveillance but to undermine Bajoran-Cardassian relations by sabotaging the entire project, the Wormhole Comm Relay was successfully completed. (DS9: "Life Support", "Destiny")

The discovery of a large, hostile empire in the Gamma Quadrant in 2370 proved to be one of the most devastating events for the Cardassian Empire, as this so-called "Dominion" would soon start to destabilize the Alpha Quadrant. By 2371, no major Alpha Quadrant power was willing to commit to a firm solution to the threat of a Dominion invasion. Enabran Tain, 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, 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")

The wreckage of the Cardassian fleet after the overwhelming Klingon forces invaded

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 stalemate, with Klingon ships able to roam freely throughout Cardassian territory. Later 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 economic and political problems, and strongly opposed to the Bajoran-Cardassian Treaty concluded the prior year, the True Way was responsible for destroying the runabout USS Orinoco, assassinating two Bajoran officials as well as a failed attempt at the life of Shakaar Edon. (DS9: "Our Man Bashir", "Crossfire")


In 2373, Dukat announces Cardassia has joined the Dominion

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 thereafter, 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 ceased to exist with Cardassia formally annexed and Dukat was designated supreme leader of the Cardassian people. Dukat later justified his actions by stating membership with the Dominion would restore Cardassia to its former glory, promising to sweep every Klingon ship out of Cardassian territory and wipe out every Maquis colony in the DMZ. Dukat made good on his promise, for within three 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

See also: Dominion War

Early success

With the Cardassian Union's borders returned to their pre-war state, Dukat had successfully raised the Union to again be a major 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. Since the Dominion required 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 aggressors. 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")

Dominion and Cardassian ships attacking Deep Space 9

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 major engagement of the war where the allies were successful. Conversely, this was only due to the help of the Bajoran Prophets which stopped all 2,800 Dominion ships inside the Bajoran wormhole before they could enter the Alpha Quadrant. The sudden turn of events, combined with the death of his daughter Tora Ziyal, caused Dukat to have a mental breakdown. It was after this defeat, 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, occupation and rebellion

"We've gained no new territories; in fact, our influence throughout the Quadrant has diminished. And to make matters worse, we are no longer masters in our own home. Travel anywhere in Cardassia and what do you find? Jem'Hadar, Vorta, and now Breen. Instead of the invaders, we have become the invaded. Our "allies" have conquered us without firing a single shot!"
– Damar, announcing his rebellion against the Dominion, 2375 ("The Changing Face of Evil")

After Dukat's subsequent capture earlier that year, Damar was installed as the new leader of the Cardassian people. However, Damar's position gradually became 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 pursuing the USS Defiant, as Damar had initially ordered. (DS9: "Statistical Probabilities", "Penumbra")

Damar rallying support on Cardassia against the Dominion

Damar gradually realized that he was simply running a puppet government under Dominion rule and that Cardassians were becoming second-class citizens within their own territory. When the Female Changeling negotiated with the Breen to join in a new alliance in 2375, she made territorial concessions on behalf of Cardassia. Damar, forced to sign the agreement as the designated leader of Cardassia without even knowing the exact concessions, realized his power had been completely usurped while seven million Cardassian soldiers had already died in the war. It was then that Damar began his rebellion against the Dominion oppressors by striking Rondac III. (DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil", "When It Rains...", "Tacking Into the Wind")

His military rebellion was effectively destroyed when Gul Revok betrayed it and the Dominion gained the necessary information to locate and destroy their bases. However, Damar learned upon arriving back on Cardassia Prime that he had had more of an impact on all Cardassians than he thought. The general population eventually joined Damar's rebellion and was able to cause a planet-wide blackout during the Battle of Cardassia. (DS9: "The Dogs of War", "What You Leave Behind")


The capital city on Cardassia Prime in ruins after the Dominion War in 2375

When the Dominion destroyed Lakarian City in retaliation for the blackout, the remaining Cardassian ships switched sides; this, coupled with the confusion and lack of communication with their main headquarters among Dominion forces due to the blackout, helped the Federation Alliance defeat the Dominion forcing them to retreat for a final stand at Cardassia Prime.

While the war could be ended without a full-scale allied assault on the planet, by the end of the Dominion War Cardassia Prime was in ashes; devastated by the Jem'Hadar, who had been ordered to wipe out the Cardassian species for their betrayal. Over eight hundred million men, women and children were slaughtered in this planet-wide genocide. The Cardassian military was reduced greatly from two years of total war against the Federation Alliance, and their economy was crippled. In the Treaty of Bajor, the Cardassian Union agreed that all Alpha Quadrant territories would revert to the status before the Dominion's entry into the quadrant.

Cardassia, a once proud, powerful and unrelenting force in the Alpha Quadrant, had once again become a planet plagued with famine, death, disease and destruction, leaving the remaining Cardassians to rebuild it and pick up the pieces amongst the ruins. A tragic ending for a once mighty people, and a fate Klingon Chancellor Martok believed most Bajorans would call "poetic justice". (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")


In 1996, after a decades-long ordeal on 20th century Earth, a mentally confused Captain Braxton from the 29th century called a Los Angeles police officer a "quasi-Cardassian totalitarian." (VOY: "Future's End")

As Cpt. Braxton was a seasoned time traveler, his remark might not necessarily reflect the reputation or at least stereotype of Cardassians in the 29th century.

A Cardassian Starfleet captain at Federation HQ in 3189

In 3189 a Cardassian Starfleet captain was present at a briefing held by Admiral Charles Vance at Federation Headquarters. (DIS: "Scavengers")

Alternate timelines

In a quantum reality visited by Worf in 2370, the Cardassian Empire had been overthrown by the very aggressive Bajorans. In this same universe, a Cardassian also served as the conn officer of the USS Enterprise-D. (TNG: "Parallels")

By the year 2422 of an alternate timeline, created by the disappearance of Benjamin Sisko in 2372, the Cardassians had entered into a mutual defense pact with the Bajorans, to defend against the Klingon Empire. (DS9: "The Visitor")

Alternate reality

A drink named Cardassian sunrise was available in the Shipyard Bar in 2255 of the alternate reality. (Star Trek)

Mirror universe

In the mirror universe, the Cardassians eventually joined forces with the Klingons to form the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, which defeated the Terran Empire. The Alliance was still existing by 2375, although it faced a growing Terran Rebellion. (DS9: "Crossover", "The Emperor's New Cloak")



See also

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