Why did the Great Northern War happen
The Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was one of the most important military and political events of the 18th century. This war not only determined the fate of Ukraine but of all of Northern Europe.
The extremely contentious foreign policy of its predecessors Charles XII., especially those of his grandfather, Karl X. Gustav, helped turn Sweden into a great power that ruled most of the countries in the Baltic Sea region. the main goal Charles XI., the father of Charles XII, was the strengthening of the absolute monarchy and the growth of the Swedish economy. At the same time, Sweden's uninterrupted aggressive foreign policy caused anger and unease in many European countries.
Russia also suffered from the aggressive policies of its neighbor to the north, especially after it was forced to sign a peace treaty in 1617 that barred all access to the Baltic Sea. After this Peter I the Great Having overcome all internal obstacles and ascended the throne, the restoration of the former Russian possessions on the Baltic Sea became one of the main objectives of his foreign policy. In 1699 and 1700 Russia made alliances with Poland-Saxony and Denmark. In August 1700, shortly after the peace treaty with Turkey, Russia declared war on the Swedes. The Great Northern War, which lasted 21 years, began.
King Charles XII. In spite of his youth (he was only 18 at the beginning of the war) he proved to be a worthy successor to the Swedish warrior kings. He was a gifted military strategist and an inspiring commander. It was his goal to defeat his enemies one by one. His first destination was Denmark. After a surprise attack on the city of Copenhagen and other Danish bases, he forced Denmark to sign a peace treaty with Sweden, to break all alliances with Russia and Poland and to pay substantial retaliatory measures. After defeating Denmark, he moved his army to it Riga, besieged the city, and then on November 19, 1700 defeated the Russian army in the battle of Narva, the first great battle of the Northern War.
(Map of the Battle of Narva)
However, he did swedish king a mistake when he refused to pursue the weakened Russian arms. Instead, he spent seven years defeating the armies of August II to fight. This gave the Russian tsar the opportunity to reorganize and modernize his armed forces and bring them into line with European standards. When Charles XII. finally defeated Poland-Saxony and August II, the Polish king, forced it to do so Stanislaus Leszczinskijs to abdicate, to break the alliance with Russia and the Old Town Peace to sign, Peter the Great had meanwhile converted his army into a powerful combat force.
1704 made the Russian victories in the battles Narva and it was clear to Dorpt that Russia would be a dangerous opponent of Sweden. Nevertheless, Charles XII. continues its foray into Russian territories. In the summer of 1708, the Swedish army urgently needed supplies and ammunition. A division under the leadership of General Lewenhaupt had received orders to transport urgently needed supplies from Riga. Waiting for supplies, Charles decided to cross the Berezina and began moving his troops towards Moscow. Lewenhaupt's division was in the battle of Lesnaya beaten by Russian troops and all supplies were lost. Instead of delivering the supplies, Lewenhaupt arrived with 6,000 equally hungry survivors. Karl's only choice was to drive his army south into the Ukraine to secure provisions there.
As the war between Russia and Sweden intensified, the tried Cossack hetman Ivan Masepa secure Ukraine. He had hoped that Russia and Sweden would fight their final battle somewhere outside Ukraine, but when Swedish ally Stanislaus Leszczinsky started threatening Ukraine, Hetman Masepa asked Peter the Great for help. The Russian tsar, busy preparing for his inevitable battle against Sweden, refused Masepa's request. That was an insult to Masepa that he couldn't accept. The Cossack leader interpreted Peter's refusal to help as a breach of the Russian-Ukrainian pact of 1654 and therefore believed that Ukraine had the right to act in its own interest.
In October 1708 Masepa allied himself with the Swedish king Karl XII, and concluded a military-political pact with Sweden. About 3,000 Cossacks joined him. According to the pact, Sweden pledged to support Ukraine militarily and not to conclude a peace treaty with Russia until Ukraine was completely liberated and all of its rights were restored. The tsar's counter-attack on Masepa's decision was quick and ruthless. Prince Menshikov, one of the commanders of the tsar, destroyed Baturin, the capital of the hetmanate and massacred all residents. This incident forced many of Masepa's potential followers to reconsider their situation and change their covenants again.
After an extremely hard and stressful winter, the Swedish army reached Poltava at the beginning of April 1709. Here the decisive battle of the Great Northern War took place on June 27, 1709. The Swedish Army suffered a devastating defeat with about 6,900 dead and wounded. The rest of the Swedish army, under the command of General Lewenhaupt, surrendered on June 30, 1709 near Perevolochnaja. About 6,000 Swedes were captured. The king and hetman Masepa managed to escape with a small troop and into Moldova (at that time part of the empire of the Turkish sultan Ahmed III. ) Find shelter. But the king's flight did not end the war. That was continued for nine years. In the last years of the war, the fight shifted to the Baltic regions. The Russian fleet dominated the Swedish one and contributed to the complete defeat of Sweden. On August 30, 1721, Russia and Sweden signed the Nystad Peace Treaty. Russia gained control of Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland and part of Karelia.
The Great Northern War ended Sweden's position as the ruling power in Northern Europe and the Baltic region. This position has been taken over by Russia. For Ukraine, the war ended all hopes of independence. After the victory over Sweden, the full integration of the Cossack state into the powerful Russian Empire was simply a matter of time.
The Battle of Poltava
The hard winter of 1708/1709 and a series of military defeats made the situation of the Swedish army very precarious. In late April of 1709, Charles XII decided. to besiege the Poltava fortress. Although the Swedish army was 31,000 strong, the king decided to use only 4 cannons and about 6,000 soldiers. The Swedish army blocked all entrances to the city, including any Russian access via the Vorskla. In comparison, the Russian Army, under the command of the Tsar, consisted of 49,000 soldiers and 130 cannons. On the evening of the battle, therefore, the Russians had a considerable numerical advantage. When Tsar Peter I, coming from Azov Fortress, met his army on June 5, he decided to relocate the troops to the West Bank of the Worskla. On June 20, Russian troops crossed the Vorerskla near the villages of Petrowka and Semyonovka. The army marched further south and built her near the village of Yakovtzy Warehouse. In front of the camp there was a kilometer wide open land with dry, sandy soil. This land bordered the Budyshensky Forest. 100 m south of the camp was the Yakowtzy Forest, a green area with streams and gullies. Between these forests the Russians built 10 redoubts to defend the camp. Each redoubt consisted of a high earth wall with a trench in front of it. The redoubts were manned by 4,000 infantry soldiers (8 battalions) and had 16 artillery pieces. Disaster struck the Swedes on the evening before the battle. Charles XII. was on a reconnaissance when he was wounded in a brief skirmish. This unfortunate incident deprived the Swedes of their charismatic and capable leader - and more importantly - their lucky charm for victory. Although the king continued to nominally lead the army, he had to take direct command Field Marshal Rehnsköld submit. The Swedes' plan was simple. The army was to take up position in the south of the Russian entrenchments during the night, and overpower the redoubts before dawn. The infantry troops led by Lewenhaupt were to be the first to pass the Redoutenlinie; after them the cavalry should come. The infantry soldiers were then to carry out their attack on the Russians in their fortress camp. The 18 Swedish battalions were divided into four troops, supported by a battery of four cannons. The Swedish infantry took their position shortly after midnight. Their position was about a kilometer south of the first Russian redoubt, from which sawing and hammering could be heard. And there they waited. When the cavalry finally followed suit after two hours, it was already getting dark. This delay of the Swedish troops negated the element of surprise of the operation. After consulting his most important generals, the king decided to carry out the attack anyway. It was about 4 a.m. The battle had begun.
Maps of the Battle of Poltava
At the beginning of the battle, the Swedes marched boldly against the Russian front. Two redoubts that had not yet been completed were quickly overwhelmed and all defenders killed. But the first success quickly came to an end. The attack on the third redoubt was repulsed and the dead lay on top of each other in the ditch that encircled the redoubt. The Russian dragoons retreated north, pursued by both wings of the cavalry. General Lewenhaupt's infantry force tried to attack the Russians and reached the southern corner of the Russian camp. But the Swedish attack quickly lost its strength, as Rehnsköld called back the infantry and the cavalry to reorganize. The situation was made worse by the fact that the Swedish battalion was under the leadership of General Roos was not informed of this strategy and was therefore separated from the rest of the Swedish troops. When a column of about 4,000 Russian supply troops reoccupied the fortified positions, General Roos and his soldiers were trapped. With over 1,000 dead and little ammunition, General Roos was forced to withdraw to the south, and later to hand over his authority. Because of poor communication, the Swedish Army lost a third of the infanetry before the battle itself began. The Swedes postponed another deployment while waiting for General Roos to return. At around 10 a.m., when the Russian infantry began to leave their fortified camp, the Swedes decided to march against the enemy as well. Because of their numerical superiority, the Russian front was 400 to 500 meters wider than that of the Swedes. In addition, the Swedes' flanks were not sufficiently secured. When the Swedish infantry got within 200 m of the Russian troops, the Russian artillery pieces began to fire. The effect of this cannonade was like a shower of hail that mowed down rows of soldiers. While the right wing of the Swedish Army was being pushed back by the Russian artillery, the Russian cavalry overwhelmed the left flank of the Swedes. The Swedish cavalry tried in vain to gain time for the infantry. The soldiers of the Swedish king began to flee from the battlefield. The battle was like carnage, although it was not even 11 o'clock. Charles XII. had no alternative but to summon the rest of his troops to retreat south and thereby abandon the siege of Poltava. Over 6,900 Swedish soldiers died on the battlefield that morning. 2,800 other soldiers were captured. The Russian casualties were estimated at 1,345 dead and 3,200 wounded.
Some trophies, including stabbing and firearms, flags, drums and trumpets captured by the Russian Army in Poltava, were later given to the Armory of the Kremlin.
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