The Skyrim Civil War (called the Stormcloak Rebellion by the Empire and the Great Uprising by the Stormcloaks) is an ongoing civil war in the province of Skyrim. It began when High King Torygg was killed by the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloak, who then initiated the Stormcloak Rebellion.
The Stormcloaks believe that the Empire betrayed Skyrim by signing the White-Gold Concordat with the Aldmeri Dominion at the end of the Great War. The Concordat binds the Empire to several Thalmor demands, including the outlawing of Talos worship, and the Stormcloaks feel that the Thalmor have far too much influence over the Empire. The Imperial Legion see the Stormcloaks as traitors — partly due to their desire to secede from the Empire and partly because of Ulfric's alleged murder of High King Torygg — and seek to crush the rebellion and prevent it from taking control of Skyrim.
The Stormcloaks were founded by Jarl Ulfric of Eastmarch with the goal of forcing the Imperials from Skyrim and turning it into an independent kingdom. If he achieves this goal, Ulfric intends to lift the ban on Talos worship and expel the Thalmor Justiciars who have been granted the authority to enforce it. Aside from restoring Talos worship, the main motivation behind the Stormcloak rebellion is the belief that the Imperial government has become little more than a puppet for the Thalmor and is therefore unfit to rule Skyrim. Some citizens, notably Jarl Laila Law-Giver of Riften do not entirely trust or support Ulfric himself, but back the Stormcloaks as they share the goal of independence from the Empire.
The name "Stormcloaks" was invented by the Empire to belittle the cause by implying they were nothing more than Ulfric's personal lackeys. They have since proudly kept the name to honor Ulfric.
The Imperials represent the Mede Imperial government that once ruled over most of Tamriel. They are fighting against the resistance led by Ulfric Stormcloak with the goal of keeping Skyrim in the Empire and bringing Ulfric to justice for the murder of Torygg, the province's last High King. Many citizens of Skyrim support the Legion because they feel Ulfric's speeches about freedom and independence are nothing but political posturing and his true motive for starting the rebellion is to become Skyrim's next High King.
General Tullius is the Military Governor of Skyrim and the commander of the Legion in the province. He and Jarl Elisif of Haafingar lead the pro-Imperial war effort. In Skyrim, the Legion is headquartered at Castle Dour in the city of Solitude, with Legate Rikke serving as their field commander.
Initially, both the Empire and the Stormcloak Rebellion control four Holds. The Empire controls Falkreath, Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, and the Reach, and the Stormcloaks control Eastmarch, the Pale, the Rift and Winterhold. Balgruuf the Greater, Jarl of the central Whiterun Hold, remains uneasily neutral, but he will eventually side with the Empire once the player joins the war.
- Depending on the order in which they are completed, the Civil War can have an impact on the Main Quest, and vice versa. In the main quest, Season Unending is a meeting between four factions (the Stormcloaks, the Legion, the Blades and the Greybeards) to negotiate a truce, which temporarily pauses the Civil War.
- If the Civil War is completed before Season Unending, the peace conference is not held, and the latter quest does not occur.
- If Season Unending is completed before the Civil War ends, it will change territories under the control of both the Imperials and the Stormcloaks.
- A bounty may be cleared when the relevant Hold is liberated or reunified during the Civil War.
- The game begins in Empire-controlled Helgen, which is destroyed by Alduin and plays no further role in the Civil War.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (First appearance)