Cardassians can be identified by several key characteristics. Humanoid in form, they have light-grey 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 their forehead.
A hierarchial culture, the Cardassians live in a society of strict obedience to those in a superior rank to their own. From homelife where the parents run the home to public life where the State dictates life, the Cardassian society is very rigid. They have an underlying suspicion of all and are very family orientated.
Brief Canon History
The Carsassian union was formed in the 19th century on the planet Cardassia Prime, a resource-poor world in the alpha quadrant. The Detapa Council, Cardassian High Command and Obsidian Order were established jointly, forming the eventual Cardassian Union.
First contact with the Federation occurred some time prior to 2257, although the exact date is unestablished.
Due to Cardassia Prime’s lack of resources, the Carsassians eventually found themselves impoverished, suffering from famine and disease. This led to them turning to the military, who expanded the union and colonised a number of worlds, funnelling their resources back to Cardassia. In response, the union effectively became a military dictatorship. However, this expansion only provided so many resources, and the union moved on to occupying inhabited planets, using their resources and forcing the inhabitants to act as slave labour.
The planet Bajor is located around five light years from Cardassia Prime, and as such became an early target for occupation, which began in 2319, and led to formal annexation in 2328. The occupation of Bajor would last until 2369.
Carsassian expansionism led them into conflict with the Klingons in the Betreka Nebula Incident, and later with The United Federation of Planets.
The Cardassian Border Wars lasted from 2347-2366, a truce was signed, followed by an armistice which led to the creation of the Cardassian Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).
In 2369, the Union withdrew from Bajor, ending the occupation.
The changes to the border required the citizens of a number of federation colonies to leave their homes. This led to the creation the the terrorist group known as The Maquis.
Losing Bajor, alongside the attacks from the Maquis caused significant issues to the Cardassian Union, weakening their position. The discovery of a stable wormhole to the gamma quadrant in the Bajoran system further complicated this, especially as it was sentried by the former Carsassian station Terok Nor, now known as Deep Space Nine.
The discovery of the wormhole was complicated when contact was made with The Dominion, a large, powerful and aggressive empire that controlled much of the gamma quadrant. In 2371, the Obsidian Order, in conjunction with the Romulan Tal Shiar, sent a fleet to attack the homeworld of the Dominion’s rulers, the shapeshifting species known as The Founders. This attack failed and the fleet was wiped out, along with a huge amount of the Obsidian Order’s power and influence, which ultimately led to the order collapsing.
With the order no longer around to keep the population in line, the Cardassian Dissident Movement arose, which quickly overthrew the military government, installing the Detapa Council as the de facto leadership of the Union.
The Klingon Empire became convinced that the Union’s new leadership had been influenced by The Dominion, launching and unprovoked and abrupt invasion of Cardassian space. The Klingon-Cardassian war was hugely damaging to the already-depleted Union.
In 2373, The Dominion sent a large fleet through the wormhole. Upon arrival, the fleet headed straight to Cardassian Territory, alongside Gul Dukat, the former governor of the Bajoran system who had secretly negotiated membership of The Dominion. The effects were immediate. Klingon forces were pushed out of the Union, and within weeks, every Maquis base within the DMZ had been destroyed.
In order to prevent further Dominion forces and supplies from entering the alpha quadrant, Starfleet began to mine the entrance to the wormhole. This was all the provocation needed to begin a war with the Federation. The Dominion War began with the retaking of Terok Nor.
The first few months of the war went extremely well for The Dominion, and it appeared only a matter of time until the federation fell. However, a bold attack to retake Terok Nor by Federation and Klingon forces turned the tide. The Dominion’s latest reinforcement fleet, 2,800 vessels were prevented from entering the alpha quadrant by the wormhole’s creators and inhabitants, powerful aliens known as The Prophets who saw themselves as the gods of Bajor. During the Dominion withdrawal from Terok Nor, Gul Dukat was captured by Starfleet.
Dukat was replaced by Damar as Carsassian leader, but without his predecessor’s determination and strength, the Carsassians saw their role and power within The Dominion start to diminish. In 2375, the Dominion formed an alliance with The Breen, without consulting Damar, who found the Union being effectively usurped by The Breen.
Whilst the Breen’s involvement turned the tide of the war back in The Dominion’s favour, the Federation-Klingon-Romulan alliance swiftly began to push back. Damar began a rebellion against the Dominion. Although the rebellion was betrayed and effectively destroyed, the opinion within the union had changed. As the Federation alliance attacked, the civilian population rose up against the Dominion, shortly followed by the military when the Jem’hadar destroyed Lakarian city as punishment.
As the allied forces approached Cardassia Prime, the Founder in charge of the Dominion forces ordered that the Carsassians be wiped out for their betrayal. Over 800 million Carsassians were slaughtered before The Dominion surrendered.
The union was left broken, it’s military, economy and even population had been devastated.
Proposed Post-Canon History
The Federation alliance occupied Cardassian Territory for a time, during which the allied forces assisted with restorative efforts including the formation of new supply lines and trade deals. A new government is formed, initially under the guise of the Detapa Council, which evolved into the Cardassian Assembly in 2385.
In 2381, The Borg attacked the alpha quadrant. However, the Cardassian Union did not appear to be a priority target, and the few losses they suffered were incidental, a ship in the wrong place at the wrong time, or an outpost in a cube’s path.
In 2382, representatives from the Union attend a conference to discuss the expansion of the khitomer accords, bringing the Union closer to the federation.
However, in the Federation reallocated resources from the Cardassian reclamation project to relief work for the Romulan Empire after the destruction of Romulus and Remus in the Hobus supernova event. As a result, the Carsassians move away from the Federation, forming closer ties to the Ferengi Alliance.
In 2385, Elim Garak entered the office of Castellan. There were renewed efforts to tighten relations with the Khitomer Accords signatories. Cardassia also began courting the Typhon Pact, looking to become a more neutral party in the Alpha and Beta quadrants.
By 2390, the Carsassians had restored some of their military and civilian infrastructure, enough to become an independent state, although nowhere near the height of their powers. The breakdowns in internal relationships within both the Khitomer accords signees and the Typhon pact encouraged the to Carsassians put some distance between themselves and both factions, becoming somewhat isolationist in the process, although they maintained relations with the Ferengi and a few other more neutral parties.
Over the next few years, a division appears within Cardassian society. Progressive elements push for greater cooperation with the Federation, whilst other, more conservative elements advocate for independence. Some within the union believe that these conservative elements are remnants of the old military ruling class, having laid low until the Union was in a position to start to reassert itself on the galactic stage.
Whilst the Cardassian Union are still allied with the Federation, they have distanced themselves somewhat, and the military appears to have gained more independence to conduct their own operations.
The Cardassians are allies of the Federation at present. Although new trade deals have helped them become more progressive, Cardassia Prime is still a resource-poor planet. The union will always need to acquire more resources, and while that demand is present there will always be a drive for expansion deeply ingrained in the culture. Whilst they may not be suitable for antagonists in a straight war, there is plenty of scope for them using underhand tactics to achieve their aims.