Romulan Neutral Zone
The Romulan Neutral Zone was an exclusion zone between the United Federation of Planets and the Old Romulan Star Empire that existed between 2160 and 2387. Established after the Earth-Romulan War, entry to the zone by either side constituted an act of war. While never formally dissolved, it effectively ceased to exist in the wake of the Romulan supernova. Since the collapse of the Empire, it now borders the Romulan Free State and the new Romulan Star Empire.
The Neutral Zone was established by the treaty negotiated at the end of the Earth-Romulan War, and provided a buffer that allowed the Romulan Star Empire to withdraw from galactic affairs and interactions with the Federation for a century. While the Empire would reenter the political stage in the 23rd century, the Neutral Zone was reinforced, and redefined by the Treaty of Algeron in 2311, and persisted in such a state until its collapse. Even forays between the Federation and Empire in the 2360s and the Romulan-Federation alliance of the Dominion War did not weaken it.
The Romulan supernova changed this. Habitable planets in the Neutral Zone became prime locations to which refugees could be evacuated by the Romulan Star Empire, which initially violated the Treaty of Algeron to do so without consultation with the Federation. When the Federation learned of the crisis and offered aid in the evacuation, the Neutral Zone could no longer remain an exclusion zone.
Not only did Federation and Romulan ships cross the Neutral Zone constantly, but now refugee settlements existed within and on either side of it. Communities that had lived together were now spread across adjacent planets, with the will and means to interact. Commerce sprung up between them, and outside commercial interests became involved in trade and prospecting of the region’s untapped natural resources.
With the Federation turning inward after the Attack on Mars and the Romulan Star Empire fracturing after the supernova, neither side had the will or capacity to restore the Neutral Zone. Relocating all refugees was deemed too vast an undertaking, as would securing the border to its status of the 2370s. With neither side claiming jurisdiction, the old Neutral Zone became an uncontested region of independent planets and settlements, commercial undertakings, and pirates and warlords seeking to capitalise on this lawlessness. With Starfleet and the Romulans unprepared to uproot this last, independent groups such as the Fenris Rangers rose to protect the locals.
Most settlements in the Neutral Zone were originally temporary homes for Romulan refugees. With the Federation’s withdrawal from the evacuation, these settlements have become permanent. Bold colonists and other displaced populaces have formed their own settlements or joined the Romulans on some worlds, either out of desperation or as part of the increased commercial activity in the region.
Traders seeking new shipping lines, prospectors investigating the untapped resources of the region, or scientists pursuing the unexplored expanses of the Neutral Zone have all contributed to the area becoming a bustling, yet lawless place. All of these have attracted pirates preying on unprotected shipments or settlements, or warlords trying to carve out their own dominion from unguarded worlds. This has made the Fenris Rangers a not-uncommon sight in the region, one of the only factions dedicated to combating these threats to the largely desperate inhabitants.
Starfleet retains limited interests in the Neutral Zone; while it holds some sense of responsibility for the refugees and many Federation citizens operate in the area, it has been a low priority. Starships are most often sent in response to specific calls for aid, usually only to the biggest settlements or to protect Federation citizens’ undertakings. Otherwise, they may hunt pirates whose operations threaten to spill across the border, and there has been a small increase recently in scientific surveys. The Neutral Zone may be charted, but it remains largely unexplored to any great extent by the Federation.
The Romulan Star Empire and Free State alike have less interest in the Neutral Zone and tend to act in the region only if they have identified a potential security threat.