How exactly do I validate my head-canon about what certain characters were or are? The main factor is historical continuity. If I can explain an unbroken chain of continuity for a character in my head, I can justify his or her past. Yes, this does require research and effort. Regrettably, that's something that most fans don't do beyond the superficial level. This is a fandom where, if you're doing fanfiction outside of the parameters set by Himaruya, you have to do your research and get it right, because someone will call you out on it. If that someone can be heard above the voices of the squeeing mob having a collective orgasm because Nation A and Nation B were inserting Nice C into Rectum D...
...actually, I'd better stop that thread there. I have very strong and long-established opinions about teenage girls writing slash. I'm male and in my mid-forties, and I shy away from describing the female experience during sex in writing. How does a (relatively) sexually-inexperienced young woman know a man's emotional and physical reactions before, during, and after coital activities? I'll just leave it at that, I think. Don't want to offend anyone unnecessarily.
So, getting back to the main point of this...what was it again? Oh, yeah, historical continuity is the main influence on my head-canon. It's the whole reason why Germany isn't HRE (and that's coming soon, I promise). But it affects any number of characters in Hetalia. Fanfiction deals with the young versions of these characters where there isn't a canon youth to fall back on, and very often, these stories violate historical continuity. Characters are there that shouldn't be there. Most of the time, it's because of plot-critical reasons. But this is Hetalia. Historical canon provides the basis, and plot meshes with it. One cannot exist without the other in this fandom. A lot of the time, this is avoided by authors taking the AU route and putting the characters in a high school setting, a hospital setting, etc. No. Just, no. This is original fiction (and not-so-original plotting) with character names bolted on in order to claim it as part of an already-existing fandom to get people to read it. I was going to say something here about having the Allied Forces and Axis Powers as the Fellowship of the Ring (with Germania, since he's already Legolas), but I'm sure that exists somewhere.
Seriously, I keep getting off-track here. Back to the main point, Spie, now...
Okay, historical continuity and which characters were what before they became the ones we all know and love. This is best answered in Q&A format, I think. England, I've already dealt with in a previous blog post, so I'll concentrate on other countries:
Was France originally Gaul? Yes. There's a clear historical line from the Celts through Vercingetorix to Clovis and the Merovingians (no, not the character in the Matrix films) to Hugh Capet and thus to modern France. Due to Charlemagne, this is how France and HRE knew each other (and mutually beat up on Chibitalia).
Was Portugal originally Lusitania? Yes. Again, there's a clear historical line. There was always a Portugese identity there, even under occupation.
Was Spain originally Hispania? No. Sorry. No matter how much you want Grandpa Rome/Spain pedo/shota, the historical record doesn't bear it out. There's a clear breach after the Roman Era in the line of continuity, when the Visigoths moved into Spain and stayed there for centuries. Then there's Al-Andalus to deal with. If Spain was Al-Andalus...oh, how to put this delicately? Might as well do it directly: when did he grow his foreskin back? As someone who's had a penis for a long time now, I can tell you that it doesn't work that way. Once it's gone, it's gone.
So who was Spain? The best conclusion is that Spain was originally Castile. Castilian culture is the dominant one in Spain today, after all. The base Spanish language is Castilian dialect. And, this conclusion is supported in Hetalia canon. When Spain's boss is shown, it's not a King of Spain. It's Juana the Mad, a.k.a. Joanna of Castile.
Maybe the best part about Spain being Castile is that he now has a tsundere sibling of his own in Catalonia. As if Romano wasn't bad enough.
Was Russia originally Kievan Rus? No, Ukraine was. The "Kiev" part is a bit of a giveaway.
So who was Russia? In general, Ivan represented (and represents) the so-called "Great Russians", Natalia the "White Russians", and Yekaterina (for lack of a better name) the "Little Russians" (the Ukranians), even before formal nations existed. The most satisfactory origin for Ivan before becoming Russia would be that he represented the first real governmental organization that the Great Russians formed. That would be Novgorod. He would later become the Principality of Vladimir and then the Grand Principality of Moscow before formally becoming Russia. That would involve Sweden in Russia's origin, something that can be a goldmine for fanfiction. And if Russia was Novgorod, we finally get an explanation of where Ivan and Gilbert first met and why they hate each other: the battle on the ice of Lake Peipus, where Alexander Nevsky defeated the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights. Young Ivan's first battle, and he kicks the shit out of Gilbo...and you thought Chibitalia over Ottoman Empire was an upset of epic proportions.
And speaking of Lake Peipus and the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights...
Why does Estonia have a German last name, and why does Latvia have an Italian last name? Because Gilbo thought it would be awesome. The Teutonic Knights were essentially responsible for setting both Estonia and Latvia on the path to nationhood. Historically, the Teutonic Knights were based in Italy for an extended period of time. So, when Gilbert found two boy-nations calling themselves Eduard and Raivis, he gave them appropriate last names. The serious one got a serious German name, and the cute one triggered awesome memories of Italy (the country, not the brothers).
Since I'm veering dangerously close to Germany, and I want to leave that as its own piece, I'll stop here. If you have any questions or counter-arguments, please respond and I'll see if I can deal with them.