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Skyrim Civil War

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"When the sons of Skyrim would spill their own blood."
Esbern on the prophecy to unfold[src]

The Skyrim Civil War (called the Stormcloak Rebellion by the Empire and the Great Uprising by the Stormcloaks, and frequently shortened to simply the Civil War) is an ongoing civil war in the province of Skyrim. It began when High King Torygg was slain in a duel by the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloak, who then initiated the Stormcloak Rebellion.[3][4]


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. 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 killing of High King Torygg—and seek to crush the rebellion and prevent it from gaining a stronger foothold in Skyrim.

The Stormcloaks in turn view the Empire as corrupted by the Aldmeri Dominion and a threat to their Nordic way of life. When Jarls and Skyrim leaders such as Balgruuf the Greater were gifted with chests of gold as an incentive to support the White-Gold Concordat[5], the Stormcloaks viewed the Nord Imperial supporters as bought by the Empire and traitors to Skyrim.[6]

As the war between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion progresses in Skyrim, the Dragonborn can choose a side and end the war.[7]


The Stormcloak uprising was initiated by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Eastmarch after the Markarth Incident, and aims to remove the Imperial Legion from Skyrim's territories and turn the province into an independent kingdom. The rebels' stated goals include lifting the ban on Talos worship across Skyrim, expelling or executing all the Thalmor Justiciars who have been granted the authority by the Empire to enforce the White-Gold Concordat within the province, crown Ulfric Stormcloak the High King of Skyrim, and to independently prepare Skyrim for a future war with the Aldmeri Dominion. Besides stemming from deep discontentment with the ban on Talos worship among much of the Nord population, a secondary motivation behind the Stormcloak uprising is the belief that the Mede Dynasty and the Empire of Cyrodiil have become a puppet state of the Thalmor in all but name, and no longer has the legitimacy to rule over Skyrim. The Stormcloaks holds fast to old Nord customs and values and recruits from those who share their principles. They consider themselves the "true sons and daughters of Skyrim" since they are the only force in Skyrim who have not capitulated to the Aldmeri Dominion and are openly revolting against their influence.[8] The Stormcloaks see the Empire's Thalmor influenced laws as a threat to their Nordic way of life.[9] They believe once they've consolidated their control over Skyrim, they can set to reforming the autonomous kingdom into a strong and fearless nation capable of finishing the war with Aldmeri Dominion and not be hindered by the Empire's detrimental policies.[10]

The Battle for Solitude

The Stormcloaks engaging in the final assault on Solitude

The Stormcloak rebellion represents a large enough portion of Skyrim's population to have triggered a civil war. Some Nords, notably Jarl Laila Law-Giver of Riften, do not entirely trust or support Ulfric but back the Stormcloaks as they share the common goal of independence from the Empire, while others feel the civil war bleeds Skyrim dry and will leave the Thalmor as the sole beneficiaries. After the White-Gold Concordat was ratified and the worship of Talos became outlawed, some of Skyrim's populace began to view Imperial rule as the illegal occupation of their lands, and many Nord men and women would volunteer to take up arms against the Empire under the banner of Ulfric Stormcloak while other Nords choose to join the Imperial Legion, as the Nords had done for centuries.

The name "Stormcloaks" was invented by the Empire in an attempt to belittle the uprising, by implying that its supporters are Ulfric's personal lackeys in his bid for power. However, the rebels have since defiantly taken the name and made it their own, to honor the common cause of Skyrim's independence they are fighting for.

Their base of operations is the Palace of the Kings in the city of Windhelm, with Galmar Stone-Fist serving as their field commander.

Imperial Legion


The Imperial Legion preparing for the final assault on Windhelm.

The Imperial Legion is the military arm of the Empire, which, prior to its Great War with the Aldmeri Dominion, ruled over most of Tamriel. The Legion is attempting to quell the rebellion led by Ulfric Stormcloak, with the goal of keeping Skyrim in the Empire.

The Imperial Legion believes that as a province of the Empire, Skyrim must abide by its laws and customs, including the provisions in the White-Gold Concordat.[11] Though most do not approve of the White-Gold Concordat, they nevertheless publicly uphold it in order to preserve the peace between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion.[12] If any legionaries are believers of Talos, such as Legate Rikke who is implied to be a believer, they keep their religion to themselves and pray to Talos discreetly and out of earshot. Though the Empire has appeased the Aldmeri Dominion's demands, Vittoria Vici, the cousin of Emperor Titus Mede II, claims that the Empire has little love for the Dominion.[13]

The majority of Skyrim's more affluent populace are supportive of the Empire, as they feel Ulfric's speeches amount to political posturing and that his underlying motive is to become Skyrim's new High King. Furthermore, some of the Imperial supporters cling to the prosperous trade they've had with the Empire[14], while others simply believe they have a better chance of defending against the Aldmeri Dominion if they are united with the Empire[15].

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 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.

Initial territories

Initially, both the Empire and the Stormcloak Rebellion control four Holds. The Empire controls Falkreath, Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, and the Reach, while 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 war is joined, regardless of which side the Dragonborn chooses.

Major battles

If the Dragonborn sides with the Imperials:

If the Dragonborn sides with the Stormcloaks:

(Note that depending on choices made during Season Unending, Fort Dunstad, Fort Greenwall, and Fort Kastav will have to be conquered in place of the previously mentioned three.)


  • Low leveled characters may find it beneficial to ignore the Civil War, as it allows unrestricted access to every Imperial and Stormcloak encampment in Skyrim without consequence. As none of the items are marked as "Steal", this allows the Dragonborn to receive decent armor and weaponry very early on.
  • The Dragonborn sometimes will encounter an Imperial citizen on the roads who is heading to Windhelm to join the Stormcloak uprising, stating that "The Empire is in shambles," and that "Ulfric has the right of it." Contrarily, they can also encounter a Dunmer citizen heading to Solitude to join the Legion, stating that "A united Empire is best for everyone," or "I was born and raised in Skyrim, but the Nords treat us like dirt."
    • ​The Dunmer farmer going to join the Legion can later be found in the Blue Palace in Solitude, however the Imperial going to join the Stormcloaks is never seen in the Palace of the Kings in Windhelm, or anywhere in Eastmarch.
  • 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 five factions (the Stormcloaks, the Legion, the Blades, the Thalmor 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 will not be held, and the later quest will 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.
  • When the Thalmor Dossier on Ulfric Stormcloak is found, it states that if either side wins the Civil War it would negatively affect the Thalmor's goals; they claim that an ideal situation would be a long war in which neither side truly "wins."
  • Even though they play a major part in the tension between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion, the Thalmor play no major part in the war itself.
    • Despite this, there is a random encounter where Thalmor Justiciars are fighting Stormcloak Soldiers.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard quest Awakening, the Dragonborn may ask the vampire Serana how long she's been sealed in Dimhollow Crypt. As she will have no idea, she will ask "Who is Skyrim's High King?" after. By this point, the Dragonborn can either refer to the Civil War as "a matter of debate", or voice their support for either Ulfric Stormcloak or Elisif the Fair. Obviously, she will not recognize either Jarl due to the amount of time she's been sealed, hiding from her father under her mother's instruction.

See also



  1. (called the Stormcloak Rebellion by the Empire and the Great Uprising by the Stormcloaks)
  2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrimdragon attack
  3. Loading Screens (Skyrim)
  4. Dialogue with Elisif the Fair
  5. Dialogue between Balgruuf the Greater and Proventus Avenicci, "The chests of gold didn't hurt."
  6. Nords Arise!
  7. Events of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  8. Galmar Stone-Fist's dialogue
  9. Loading Screens (Skyrim)
  10. Dialogue between Ulfric Stormcloak and Galmar Stone-Fist in the Palace of the Kings
  11. Loading Screens (Skyrim)
  12. The Talos Mistake
  13. Dialogue with Vittoria Vici
  14. Balgruuf the Greater's dialogue
  15. Legate Rikke's dialogue during the Battle for Solitude

Start a Discussion Discussions about Skyrim Civil War

  • Has anyone else noticed...

    442 messages
    • On the far back issue of shouts, why can't we just be blessed by a dragon we meet somewhere along in the game, and unlock shouts that w...
    • It doesn't work that way. At the end of Skyrim, the remnant Dragons were either hostile to mortals or they follow Paarthurnax presuma...
  • Skyrims Fate

    81 messages
    • ZhugeQuanqiang wrote:Blademaster Jauffre wrote: I see that even trying to create proper arguments goes as far as ever with you. Done. So now ...
    • ShadowDark959 wrote: Fuckin' hell dudes calm down (I side with Jauffre 'cuz he's my homie) This conversation is over as far...

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