Cardassia Prime

  • Planet Name: Cardassia Prime
  • Class: M
  • Moons or Rings: None
  • Gravity: 1.18 G
  • Climate: Standard atmosphere, 65% hydrosphere, moderate temperatures
  • Demographics: Billions of Cardassians
  • Civilization: Agg ress ive and expansionist, governing council (either civilian or military)
  • Resources: Starships, advanced weapons systems and other manufactured goods

Cardassia Prime, which is most often known simply as Cardassia, is the depleted homeworld of the Cardassians and the capital of the Cardassian Union. Once a peaceful race that prided themselves on their rich cultural traditions, the Cardassians’ industrial age stripped the planet of most of its natural resources. Rather than face extinction as an advanced civilization, they turned to expansion and conquest to procure what they needed to survive. In the process, however, the Cardassians re-created themselves in a ruthless, autocratic image and turned their homeworld into a dour and joyless place. The Dominion War hardly improved matters; after the Cardassian Union switched sides and joined the Alliance in 2375, the Dominion exacted retribution by devastating the planet’s surface.


Cardassia Prime is the second planet in the Cardassia system, which is located in the Bajor sector. The world orbits a bright orange dwarf star, with several mineral-stripped desert and airless worlds as companions in orbit.


Cardassia Prime’s climate falls more or less within Class M norms. It is cold at the poles and warm at the tropics, with temperatures in between at other latitudes. The planet receives average rainfall for a Class M planet, although the heavily inhabited areas project such a gloomy mood that visitors joke that it seems like it rains more than it actually does. Cardassian climate runs on the warm side, averaging 25 degrees C, possibly as a result of environmental abuse over prior centuries.


Cardassia Prime’s landmass is divided into five large continents. The largest of these is Eheen, which straddles the equator. Central City, the capital city of the Cardassian Union, is located in the exact middle of Eheen. Lakaria City, the planet’s most popular tourist destination, is located on the east coast of Eheen, near the equator.


Since the 17th century (Earth calendar), government of the Cardassian Union has alternated between periods of civilian and military control. In theory, the civilian Detapa Council constituted the sole and legitimate Cardassian government since the 19th century, when a group of prominent political leaders decided that the military could no longer be trusted with the reins of power. In practice, however, Cardassian Central Command has never lived happily with the idea of answering to civilians, and the military has always struggled to wrench itself free of outside control. Most of the time, it operates with a significant degree of autonomy while paying lip service to the Detapa Council, while in other periods it has seen fit to openly take control of the government. One such period came to an end in 2372, when the Detapa Council overthrew Central Command and unintentionally provoked war with the Klingon Empire.

Membership in the Detapa Council varies between five and twelve individuals, all of them political figures with enough seniority to command general respect. Its methods of operation, however, are anything but democratic. They renew their membership rather like a secret society, with an outgoing member tapping one or more replacements to take his place. They conduct all of their deliberations in private. They keep records of their proceedings, but never release them to the public. All of the Council’s decisions have the immediate effect of law, and they admit no public debate or dissent.

Neither Cardassian Central Command nor the feared state intelligence service, the Obsidian Order, have any formal input into the Detapa Council’s decisions. In keeping with the absolutist nature of the Cardassian state, the Council believes that the military and the spies ought to know their place, and understand that their opinion doesn’t really matter. However, this attitude has proven a source of weakness. Lacking proper means of presenting their point of view, both Central Command and the Obsidian Order tend to do what they want in any event, without consulting the Council. They have no qualms about defying civilian authority, and they know that if it comes down to an open conflict with the Detapa Council, they have the firepower to enforce their point of view.

Cardassian society centers around the assumption that collective survival requires the ruthless subordination of all other goals and desires. Individual liberty and happiness are treated as quaint ideas that the Cardassians cannot afford to indulge. The Cardassian Union therefore strives to maintain absolute control over every aspect of life, to make sure that the will of its citizens is always properly focused. The Obsidian Order runs a thick network of spies and informers intent on ferreting out dissent. Publicly, the government asserts itself through the criminal court system, the purpose of which is less to administer justice than it is to enact morality plays that encourage its citizens to enforce social norms and respect the absolute authority of the government. All trials are broadcast for public viewing (with the verdict a prerendered conclusion), so that all may understand that any kind of dissent or abnormal behavior will not be tolerated.


In 2163, Cardassian archaeologists uncovered a series of magnificent burial mounds in the Gardat Valley in the continent of Eheen. They were obviously the tombs of kings, leaders of an ancient civilization that had long gone into the ground. Although their technology level scarcely exceeded basic iron working, the tombs contained many artifacts wrought from precious metals and inlaid with gems, as well as elegant everyday items (presumably for use in the afterlife), statuary and other ornaments that spoke of highly sophisticated artistic conventions and religious thought. The discovery of the First Hebitian civilization, as it came to be known, served contemporary Cardassians as a poignant reminder that their distant precursors had known wealth and comfort of which they themselves could only dream. The Gardat Valley was also renamed the Valley of the Hebitians in honor of these distant ancestors.

The Cardassians knew that earlier in their history, even well after the fall of the Hebitians, they had had the luxury of dedicating themselves to the finer points of civilization. They boasted well-developed artistic and literary traditions, and religious and philosophical activity thrived at all levels of society, not just among the educated elite. They saw themselves as a spiritual and peaceful race.

The passing centuries and the increasing pace of technological development, however, unmasked the fact that Cardassia had remarkably little of the natural resources needed to support an advanced civilization. The Cardassians entered their Industrial Age keenly aware that not only were they running out of arable land, but that their homeworld offered them little upon which to build an industrial economy. In 1670, the sudden arrival of Bajoran explorers traveling in a solar sail vessel provided the Cardassians with their first glimpse of a race from another world. They realized that other planets could be exploited to provide them with the natural resources that they needed so desperately. This realization prodded the Cardassians to launch themselves into the Space Age. When they made first contact with the Bajorans, they did not even have primitive chemical rockets. By 1760 – a mere ninety years later – they had developed a functioning warp drive, at which point they promptly began to explore and exploit nearby planets.

In some cases, this required wresting worlds from intelligent races reluctant to give them up. The need for an aggressive and well-honed military resulted in the formation of both the Cardassian Central Command and its intelligence wing, the Obsidian Order and gave them virtually complete authority over all facets of Cardassian politics and society. In fact, however, Cardassians had long ago decided that they had to direct every ounce of collective will toward ensuring their physical survival as a race, and that independent thought and free expression were luxuries that they could no longer afford, and military rule simply cemented those trends in place. In 1870, civilian authority reasserted itself when a group of political leaders formed the Detapa Council and forced the military to accept its primacy. In practice, the Cardassian High Command continued to do as it pleased.

The Cardassian Union, as this empire called itself, continued to expand for the next 400 years. In 2286, the Cardassians made first contact with the Klingons while exploring the Betreka Nebula in Beta Quadrant. Initially, the Cardassians dismissed the Klingons as mere barbarians, but proved unable to inflict a major defeat on them in 18 years of war. The two sides agreed to a truce in 2304, a development that both troubled and humiliated the leaders of the Cardassian Union.

Cardassian troops first occupied Bajor in 2328; later, the Cardassian authorities aggressively suppressed information about this incident (although it was eventually rediscovered at the instigation of Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space 9 in 2371).

In 2335, the Cardassians made first contact with the Federation. From the start, Cardassian Central Command read aggressive motives behind every gesture the UFP made, and used the trumped-up threat of yet another major power on its borders to gain power at the expense of the Detapa Council. Three decades of border warfare commenced, ending only in 2367. By then, the occupation of Bajor had become an open sore thanks to the Bajoran Resistance; the Cardassians withdrew in 2369 and reluctantly agreed to let the Federation act as guarantors of peace, using the former Cardassian mining station Terok Nor (rechristened Deep Space 9) as headquarters.

In 2372, with the Dominion posing a military threat to the civilizations of Alpha Quadrant, the Detapa Council rebelled against Central Command and restored its authority over the government. Unfortunately, the Klingon Empire took this coup as a sign that the Founders had infiltrated the Council to destabilize the Cardassian Union. The Klingons responded by attacking key Cardassian colonies.

These military reverses and the devastation they inflicted on the Cardassian economy persuaded Gul Dukat, then acting as military advisor to the Detapa Council, that the Cardassian Union needed a strong ally, and fast. On behalf of the Council, he negotiated an alliance with the Dominion against the powers of Alpha Quadrant. The Cardassians and the Dominion then launched the attack on Deep Space 9 that began the Dominion War.

As the war progressed, however, some in the Cardassian government began to doubt the value of their alliance with the shapeshifters from Gamma Quadrant. These doubts became stronger after the Breen allied with the Dominion in 2375, under terms that seemed to slight Cardassian interests. Inspired by the example of Legate Damar, who had succeeded Gul Dukat at the head of the Cardassian government, the Cardassian fleet turned against their erstwhile allies and attacked the Dominion fleet in cooperation with the Alliance. This battle above Cardassia proved to be the last, decisive engagement of the Dominion War. Before they fled Cardassian space, the Jem’Hadar blasted the planet’s surface in retribution, destroying much of its infrastructure and killing over 800 million Cardassians.

Cardassia Prime remained occupied by Starfleet for several years following the Dominion War but the occupation ended when the Empire War began. Shortly into the war, the Federation made an open invitation to the Cardassian Union to join the UFP and provide military aid in the war. Cardassia accepted and played a key roll in the eventual defeat of The Empire.


All Cardassians refer to the planet’s largest city and governmental center as Central City, a plain name that reinforces the government’s absolute power of its citizens. Everyone knows what it is and what goes on there, so it has no need for a distinctive name. Like all of Cardassia, Central City is a drab and depressing place, full of functional gray buildings that look worn and heavy at the same time. The Detapa Council Chambers building dominates the downtown skyline, along with the Central Command and Obsidian Order headquarters. The most imposing structure in the Central City civic center, however, is the Court of Justice, which occupies a square mile of ground adjacent to the Obsidian Order headquarters.

The atmosphere in Lakaria City is less oppressive than in the capital, but on Cardassia Prime, these judgments are all relative. Lakaria City is the planet’s fifth largest metropolis and a popular resort destination for Cardassians. It is most famous for its Ekat Center amusement park. All of the rides and attractions at Ekat Center were built from military scrap parts, and offworld visitors have damned it with faint praise as “The Least Depressing Place on Cardassia.” After the Dominion War, several Federation-based entertainment companies approached Cardassian authorities about redesigning the park, but the Detapa Council, wary of the Federation’s relatively liberal and hedonistic culture, reserved their approval.

The Valley of the Hebitians is all but barren now, its glorious tombs long ago looted to pay for the Cardassian Union’s wars and buy natural resources on the spot market. However, it is not at all certain that all the tombs have been looted, because it is by no means certain that all the tombs that exist have been discovered.

The fourth planet in the Cardassia system, the class M world Cardassia IV, is the site of the notorious Hutet Labor Camp, which served as a concentration camp for Bajorans who resisted the Cardassian occupation of their homeworld. Hutet was erected in 2328 at the very beginning of the occupation, but continued to house prisoners even after Cardassia renounced its annexation of Bajor in 2369. Federation personnel discovered the continuing existence of Hutet in 2370 while investigating the fate of Bajoran Resistance hero Li Nalas. Following this embarrassing disclosure, the Cardassians closed the camp and released its remaining inmates, after which it fell into disrepair. After the conclusion of the Dominion War, however, some within the Cardassian ruling elite (as well as potential investors from Ferenginar and the Federation) saw the economic potential of this class M world in the backyard of a highly developed homeworld of an advanced race, and floated plans to survey Cardassia IV more extensively.

Cardassia V, the fifth planet in the system, is also a class M world. It hosts a small Cardassian colony centered around a group of archaeologists and anthropologists with the unassuming name of the Cardassian Society. The Cardassian Society devotes itself to preserving Cardassia’s rich archaeological heritage. Founded by tycoon Poren Madred in 2290, the Cardassian Society built the Cardassian Museum here to preserve relics of their homeworld’s history. They chose Cardassia V hoping that the winds of war (which seemed to blow constantly after the Cardassians made first contact with the Klingons) would spare a barely inhabited world in case the Cardassia system was ever attacked. The Cardassian Museum draws visitors from all over Alpha Quadrant. Its history has been uneventful, except for the theft of some ancient bone carvings in 2370. The thief has never been positively identified, although surveillance data suggest that he was a Ferengi.

Would you like to know more?

United Federation of Planets
Cardassian Mythology
Cardassian Union

Cardassia Prime

Star Trek Late Night StephenWollett