Northern War of 1700–21

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Northern War of 1700–21


a war between Russia and Sweden for access to the Baltic Sea. Other European powers, including Denmark, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita), Saxony, and Prussia, fought against Sweden at various times during this war.

In the Livonian War of 1558–83, Ivan IV the Terrible tried unsuccessfully to open sea-lanes between Russia and Western Europe through the Baltic. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Sweden took Russian lands adjoining the Gulf of Finland. After wars with Poland, Denmark, and various German states, Sweden seized the Baltic region (Estland and Livland), the islands of Ösel (Saaremaa) and Gotland, and considerable territory in northern Germany (Bremen, Wismar, most of Pomera-nia, and the island of Rügen), transforming the Baltic Sea into a “Swedish lake.”

Russia failed in its attempt to regain the territories it had lost in the Russo-Swedish War of 1656–58. The only Russian seaport, Arkhangel’sk, was located far from the central regions and did not satisfy the growing demand for trade relations with the West. Lacking a merchant marine, economically backward Russia had an unfavorable balance of trade. Access to the Baltic Sea was both economically and strategically important to Russia.

Making aggressive plans against Russia and other states, Sweden had greatly strengthened its army and navy (up to 42 battleships and 12 frigates) by the end of the 17th century. In 1698, Sweden concluded an alliance with Great Britain and Holland (the Alliance of the Maritime Powers), and later with France, securing diplomatic, military, and material support in case of a war. The Baltic states’ discontent with Swedish naval supremacy and their fear of Swedish aggression created the objective conditions for the formation of an anti-Swedish coalition. Russian diplomacy took advantage of this situation.

During his trip abroad in 1697–98, Peter I the Great reached a preliminary accord with Frederick III, the elector of Brandenburg (from 1701, King Frederick I of Prussia), and with Augustus, the elector of Saxony (from 1697, simultaneously King Augustus II of Poland), regarding mutual support in case of a war with Sweden. Peter I correctly concluded that by diverting Sweden’s allies Great Britain and France, the impending War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) would create a favorable situation in Europe for launching a struggle over the Baltic region. Treaties concluded in Moscow in November and December 1699 created an anti-Swedish coalition, the Northern Alliance, consisting of Russia, Denmark, and Saxony. In addition, Augustus II promised to obtain the consent of the Sejm for the entry of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into the alliance.

First period (1700–06). Because of military weakness and poorly coordinated actions, the allies suffered heavy defeats at the beginning of the war. Augustus II moved first. Without having secured the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s entry into the war, he invaded Livland with Saxon troops in February

1700 and besieged Riga. In March 1700, Danish troops entered the territory of Holstein, Sweden’s ally. With the support of the British and Dutch navies, the Swedish king Charles XII disembarked a landing force near Copenhagen, forcing Denmark to conclude the Treaty of Traventhal on Aug. 7(18), 1700.

After concluding the Constantinople Peace Treaty of 1700 with Turkey, Russia was able to declare war on Sweden (Aug. 19 [30], 1700). Russian forces (about 35,000 men and 145 guns) laid siege to the fortress of Narva. The siege dragged on until autumn. Learning of the retreat of Saxon troops from Riga to Kovno (Kaunas), Charles XII moved his forces (about 32,000 men) by sea to Pernov (Pärnu). With part of his forces (23,000 men and 38 guns) he inflicted a heavy defeat on the unprepared Russian troops in the battle of Narva on Nov. 19 (30), 1700. However, Peter I took vigorous measures to restore his army, raising its strength to 40,000 men and about 300 guns. The attempt by Swedish forces to advance from Finland to Olonets was repulsed by I. Okulov’s partisan detachment of Russians and Karelians. At a meeting held in Birzhy (Biržai) in February 1701, Peter I and Augustus II reaffirmed their alliance.

Charles XII decided to force Saxony’s withdrawal from the war and to make an alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth before invading Russia. In the summer of 1701, Saxon troops were defeated at Riga. Leaving about 15,000 men in the Baltic region in fortresses from Vyborg to Riga, Charles XII invaded Poland without declaring war. Swedish aggression found the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth an easy prey, unprepared for war, torn by a struggle between the supporters and opponents of a pro-Swedish policy, and weakened by a cossack and peasant movement led by S. F. Palii in the Right-bank Ukraine. After capturing Warsaw, Kraków, and Toruń and defeating the Saxons near Kliszów in the summer of 1702, Charles XII had Augustus II deposed by the Warsaw Confederation, which proclaimed Stanisław Leszczyński, the Swedish nominee, king of Poland in July 1704.

Augustus’ supporters formed the Sandomierz Confederation. At a sejm held in Lublin they decided to conclude an alliance with Russia and declare war on Sweden. Under the Narva Alliance Treaty (Aug. 19 [30], 1704), Russia offered Poland an auxiliary corps of 12,000 and granted a subsidy for the maintenance of Polish forces. The allies promised not to conclude a separate peace with Sweden. Charles XII’s position in Poland became complicated. The Swedish occupation provoked popular resistance, and the majority of the Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords supported Augustus.

Correctly appraising the situation that took shape after, as he phrased it, “the Swede got stuck in Poland,” Peter I tried to establish a firm position in the Baltic region and speed up the construction of a fleet. A Swedish squadron’s attempt to capture Arkhangel’sk was repulsed in 1701. In the winter of 1701–02, General B. P. Sheremetev’s forces won their first victory over General W. A. von Schlippenbach’s Swedish corps at Erestfehr (50 km from Dorpat [Tartu]). In the summer of 1702, Sheremetev again defeated Schlippenbach at Hummelshof. The remnants of the Swedish forces hid in Pernov. At the same time, F. M. Apraksin’s forces drove General Cronhiort’s Swedish forces from Lake Ladoga, defeated them on the Izhora River, and forced them to retreat to the Nienschanz fortress at the mouth of the Neva River. I. Tyrtov’s flotilla drove the Swedish ships out of Lake Ladoga. Having blockaded the Noteburg fortress, Russian forces took it by storm on Oct. 11 (22), 1702. Noteburg was renamed Shlissel’burg (now Petrokrepost’).

Nienschanz, Iam, and Kopor’e were captured in the spring of 1703, The construction of St. Petersburg began on May 16 (27), when the Russians laid the foundation of the Peter and Paul Fortress. To cover the mouth of the Neva at its southern navigable channel, the Russians laid the foundation of the Kronslot fortress, established an artillery battery on Kotlin Island, and later, built the Kronstadt fortress. The large-scale construction of maritime galleys and sailing vessels was begun.

Swedish attempts to capture St. Petersburg in 1704 with combined land and sea attacks were repulsed. In the summer of 1704, Russian troops took Narva and Dorpat by storm.

Peter I intended to capture Vyborg in 1705, but complications forced him to dispatch his main forces to Poland. After concluding an alliance with Stanisław Leszczyński in 1705, Charles XII conducted secret negotiations with Prussia. Deploying his forces in Silesia in the winter of 1704–05, he cut off Augustus II’s forces from Saxony. To save his ally, who was threatened with destruction by the superior forces of the Swedes and Leszczyński, Peter I dispatched an army of 60,000 to Polotsk and sent reinforcements to Augustus, who was moving from Kraków to Lublin and Brest in order to link up with the Russian Army. To prevent the allies from joining forces, Charles XII ordered General A. L. Lewenhaupt (Löwenhaupt) to make an attack from Riga on Field Marshal Sheremetev’s corps, which had been sent against him, and he ordered General Maydell to begin a determined attack on St. Petersburg, in a coordinated action with Admiral Anckarstierna’s squadron.

In June-July 1705 the Baltic Fleet thwarted attempts by the Swedish squadron to place a landing force on Kotlin Island, and the St. Petersburg garrison repulsed the attacks of May-dell’s troops, who retreated to Vyborg. Although Lewenhaupt defeated Sheremetev’s troops at Gemauerthof on July 15 (26), 1705, failures at St. Petersburg and the capture of Mitava (Jelgava) and Bausk by Peter I’s troops in September 1705 forced Lewenhaupt to retreat to Riga, permitting the main forces of the Russian Army (about 35,000 men) to link up with Augustus II’s troops (10,000 men) at Grodno. Leaving the corps of General K. G. Rehnschiöld (Rehnsköld) in Silesia, Charles XII joined Leszczyński’s troops in Warsaw. Not expecting an enemy attack in the winter, Peter I departed for Moscow in December 1705, leaving Augustus II as commander in chief. Field Marshal G. B. Ogil’vi and A. D. Menshikov were placed in command of the Russian Army.

In January 1706, Charles XII made a forced march to Grodno and compelled Menshikov’s cavalry to withdraw to Minsk. The main Swedish forces blockaded the allied troops in Grodno. Augustus II hastily left Grodno with the cavalry for Saxony, promising to return with Saxon troops. Because he did not want to leave his army exposed far from the border, Peter I ordered Ogil’vi to withdraw, but Ogil’vi was slow in carrying out the tsar’s order. Meanwhile, in February 1706, General J. M. von der Schulenburg’s 30,000-man Saxon corps was routed at Fraustadt by Rehnschiöld’s Swedish troops. On March 12 (23), Peter I ordered a retreat from Grodno to Brest and put Menshikov in command of the troops. In late March, Menshikov brilliantly carried out the difficult retreat, making good use of the high water and the ice floe on the river as a cover from the enemy’s pursuit.

In early May the Russian Army was deployed around Kiev. Ogil’vi was dismissed. The army was placed under the command of Sheremetev and Menshikov, and the fleet under the command of Apraksin. Charles XII let the Russians escape and moved into Saxony with the objective of routing Augustus II. To help his ally, Peter I sent dragoon regiments and Ukrainian cossacks under Menshikov’s command (up to 40,000 men). On Oct. 18 (29), 1706, they inflicted a heavy defeat on General Marderfelt’s Swedish-Polish troops (28,000 men) at Kalisz. However, on September 13 (24), Augustus II concluded a separate peace with Charles XII—the Altranstadt Peace of 1706. Russia had lost its last ally.

Second period (1707–09). Preparing for an invasion of Russia, Charles XII increased his army in the field to 95,000–100,000 men, with about 60,000 in the main forces under his command. Lewenhaupt’s corps in the Baltic region (Riga) had 16,000–20,000 men, Lybecker’s corps in Finland (Vyborg) 12,000–14,000 men and Krassow’s corps in Poland 8,000 men. In addition, there were 8,000–10,000 men in the fleet. The Swedish fleet dominated the Baltic Sea. Charles XII’s aims were to capture Arkhangel’sk, Pskov, and Novgorod; establish a protectorate over Lithuania, Poland, and the Ukraine; and divide Russia into separate principalities. He opened secret negotiations with the Ukrainian hetman I. S. Mazepa, who decided to support Sweden. The Swedes also hoped to take advantage of the domestic situation in Russia, which was complicated by an uprising in Bashkiria and the discontent of reactionary circles of the feudal aristocracy and clergy with Peter I’s progressive reforms. The international situation favored Sweden. In addition to rejecting Peter I’s request for mediation in concluding a peace with Sweden on moderate terms (the cession of Izhora Land, with St. Petersburg, to Russia), Great Britain prevented its ally Austria from clashing with Sweden over Silesia, recognized Stanisław Leszczyński as king of Poland, and encouraged Charles XII to launch a campaign against Russia.

Russia’s armed forces were roughly equal to the forces of the enemy. The main forces in Poland totaled 57,000 men; General R. Kh. Bour’s corps in Dorpat (Tartu), 16,000 men; and General F. M. Apraksin’s corps in St. Petersburg, 25,00 men. In addition, there were about 6,000 men in the fleet. However, the Russian troops were inferior to the enemy in combat experience. A war council of senior commanders convened by Peter I in Zholkev in late 1706 decided not to engage in a general battle in Poland but “to give battle at our borders when necessary”; to wear out the enemy with cavalry strikes from the rear while retreating; and to deliver counterblows at river crossings. Field defensive engineer installations and obstacles were built, and fortresses on the Kiev-Briansk-Smolensk-Pskov line were repaired. The local population was asked to hide grain, take their property and livestock into the forests, and fight off the enemy with their own weapons. The struggle against the Swedish invasion became a war for national independence, involving not only the army but also the townspeople and peasants.

The main forces of the Swedish Army, under the command of Charles XII, set out from Saxony in the fall of 1707 and entered Grodno in early 1708. Moving through Smorgon’-Ra-doshkovichi-Minsk, they forced the Berezina in June 1708 and reached the Russian border. The main forces of the Russian Army, concentrated in the Moscow axis of operations around Mogilev, had the capability of acting against the flanks of the enemy, in case they turned toward Pskov-St. Petersburg, as Peter I anticipated, or toward the Ukraine, as A. D. Menshikov anticipated. After an unsuccessful battle at Golovchin (northwest of Mogilev) on July 3 (14), 1708, the Russian Army withdrew across the Dnieper and concentrated near the small village of Gorki.

Overestimating his success and considering the Russian forces incapable of resistance, Charles XII did not wait for the arrival in Mogilev of Lewenhaupt’s corps (16,000 men), which had left Riga in June with large supplies of food and ammunition, but moved in August on Smolensk from Mogilev. In battles at the village of Dobroe on August 30 (September 10) and the village of Raevka on September 9–10 (September 20–21) the Swedish advance detachments were defeated, suffering heavy losses (up to 5,000 men killed). Difficulties developed in supplying the troops with food. In view of all these complications, Charles XII, who was in the village of Starishi, decided beween September 10 and September 12 to give up the offensive on Smolensk and turn toward the Ukraine. In late September (early October) the Swedes reached Kostenichi (on the road to Starodub) and stopped there to wait for Lewenhaupt’s corps. On September 28 (October 9), however, Lewenhaupt’s corps was routed near the village of Lesnaia by Peter I’s troops, losing two-thirds of its men and the entire supply train.

By that time, the Russian troops and fleet under General Apraksin had repulsed an offensive by General Stromberg’s 2,000-man detachment on Estland and an offensive from Vyborg on St. Petersburg by General Lybecker’s 12,000-man corps, assisted by Admiral Anckarstierna’s squadron (22 ships). Inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, the Russian troops and fleet forced them to go over to the defensive. The victory on the Neva created the conditions for strengthening the Baltic Fleet and reinforcing the main forces with General Bour’s corps and eight infantry and cavalry regiments from Apraksin’s troops.

Peter I sent Field Marshal Sheremetev’s detachment parallel to the movement of Charles XII’s Swedish troops on their left flank. Sheremetev’s troops got ahead of the enemy’s advance guards, preventing the capture of Pochep, Starodub, Novgo-rod-Severskü, and other cities, the residents of which participated in their defense. In conformity with the decision of a war council in Pochep in early October, Ukrainian cossack regiments (about 16,000 men) were to join the main forces in Starodub, with the aim of destroying the Swedish Army before winter. But this plan was foiled by the unexpected treachery of Hetman Mazepa, who joined Charles XII at the end of October. Under a decision of the war council, Menshikov led a cavalry detachment in a bold raid on the city of Baturin, the het-man’s residence, destroying large supplies of food, armaments, and ammunition stored there and capturing all the artillery (about 300 guns). General D. M. Golitsyn’s troops captured Belaia Tserkov’, another base used by the traitor, thus complicating the arrival of reinforcements from Poland for Charles XII.

The political and military calculations of Charles XII and Mazepa were foiled by the universal resistance of the Ukrainian peasants and townspeople against the Swedish invaders, reprisals by the population against Mazepa’s followers (in Lubny and Poltava, for example), and the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian cossacks to their alliance with Russia. Colonels D. Apostol and I. Galagan, who fled from Mazepa with their regiments, joined the loyal majority of the Ukrainian cossacks. A letter to Stanisław Leszczyński from Mazepa was intercepted and made public, discrediting the hetman among the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian host was placed under the command of a new hetman, I. I. Skoropadskii, and Colonel S. F. Palii, who was brought back from exile. By the end of 1708 the Ukrainian cossacks had begun active operations against the Swedes in the Left-bank Ukraine.

To ensure the complete isolation of Charles XII’s troops from Poland, in December 1708, Peter I sent General G. Gol’ts’ detachment across the Dnieper toward the Polish frontier. He also sent seven dragoon regiments to Lithuania to reinforce the troops of the Lithuanian hetman A. Siniawski. The new situation in the Ukraine, as well as diplomatic moves strengthened by demonstrations by the Azov Fleet, forced Turkey and the Crimean khan to break off negotiations with Charles XII’s emissaries and refrain from entering into the war.

In the winter of 1708–09 the Swedish Army took up positions in the region of Priluki-Gadiach-Romny-Lokhvitsa. The Swedes’ attempts in November 1709 to expand this region were thwarted by resistance from the local population, with the assistance of Russian troops. Ukrainian peasants began partisan actions in the Ukraine, operating together with cavalry detachments of Russian dragoons and Ukrainian cossacks. The main forces of the Russian Army, covering the road to Kharkov-Belgorod, took up positions in the region of Bogodukhov-Akhtyrka-Lebedin-Sumy. In December 1708 decoy maneuvers were carried out in the vicinity of Mazepa’s residence at Ga-diach. Swedish troops tried to come to the hetman’s aid but failed because Sheremetev had withdrawn to Lebedin. As a result, the Swedes lost their bases in Priluki and Romny, and 3,000–4,000 men suffered frostbite.

Moving farther east, the Swedish troops reached Krasno-kutsk in February 1709, after advancing only 80 km in two months and suffering great losses. In the spring of 1709 acute shortages of food and forage forced Charles XII to move south into Poltava Province, which had not yet been ravaged. In retreating, the Swedes burned populated areas and killed peaceful inhabitants. In April the Swedish Army took up positions near Poltava. The Swedes’ attempts to capture the city were repulsed by the heroic resistance of the garrison of the fortress (about 4,000 men, 29 guns, and 2,600 armed residents) under Commandant A. S. Kelin, with the aid of the main forces, who arrived in time to strike several blows at the enemy and bring reinforcements (1,200 men) and supplies of gunpowder.

At the same time, Russian troops and Colonel Galagan’s cos-sack regiment occupied the Zaporozh’e Sech’ and destroyed supplies prepared by one of Mazepa’s followers, K. Gordienko, the kosh ataman (head of the administration of the host in the Zaporozh’e Sech’), who tricked some of the Zaporozh’e cossacks into joining the Swedes at Poltava. (Most of these cossacks refused to serve under the Swedes and ran away.) Skoro-padskii’s regiments captured crossings on the Psel and Khorol rivers and destroyed the crossing equipment, cutting off the Swedes’ routes of withdrawal across the Dnieper. Nevertheless, in April 1709, Charles XII rejected Peter I’s proposal for a treaty ceding St. Petersburg and Narva to Russia. In the battle of Poltava on June 27 (July 8), 1709, the Swedish troops were routed by the Russian Army under the command of Peter I and his military commanders B. P. Sheremetev, A. D. Menshikov, and N. I. Repnin. Charles XII and Mazepa fled to Turkey with a small suite. The victory at Poltava was a turning point in the Northern War.

Third period (1710–18). The victory at Poltava and the adven-turistic policy of Charles XII, who rejected Russia’s new peace proposals, led to the renewal of the Northern Alliance, which included Russia, Denmark, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Saxony. The alliance was soon joined by Hanover and Prussia, with the latter promising only to refuse to permit Swedish troops to pass through its territory. In 1710, Russian forces launched an offensive in the Baltic region, capturing Riga, Revel (Tallinn), Käkisalmi (Kexholm), Vyborg, and the island of Ösel. At the same time, aided by Menshikov’s corps, the troops of Augustus II, who had regained the Polish throne, pushed Krassow’s and Stanisław Leszczyński’s troops into Swedish Pomerania.

Russia’s successes provoked counteractions by the Western powers. Great Britain tried to split the Northern Alliance. In the spring of 1710, Great Britain, Austria, and Holland signed a convention in The Hague to preserve “neutrality” in the Holy Roman Empire and an agreement to prevent military operations on German territory. However, Charles XII refused to accept the agreement regarding a “peace guarantee” in Germany. With the aid of British and Austrian diplomacy, he drew Turkey into the Northern War. Turkey declared war on Russia in 1710. Invading the Ukraine in early 1711, the Crimean Tatars advanced as far as Kharkov and Belaia Tserkov’, but they were repulsed. Although Peter I’s Prut Campaign of 1711 failed, Russia obtained a truce with Turkey, at the price of ceding Azov.

Nevertheless, until the conclusion of the Peace of Adrianople (1713), Russia had to keep considerable forces in the Ukraine and could not begin active operations against Sweden. The siege of Stralsund by Russian, Danish, and Saxon troops was unsuccessful. General M. Stenbock’s 18,000-man Swedish army defeated Danish troops at Gadesbusch in Mecklenburg in December 1712. Russian troops came to the Danes’ aid and routed the Swedes at Friedrichstadt in Holstein in January 1713. Besieged in the fortress of Tönning, Stenbock’s troops surrendered in the spring of 1713.

Constant disputes among Prussia, Denmark, Saxony, and the small German states, as well as the intrigues of the great powers, paralyzed the Russian army in northern Germany, and Peter I decided to deliver the main attack in Finland. The special Ingermanlandia Corps (more than 65,000 men), assisted by galley fleets (up to 200 ships, 870 guns) and sailing vessels (17 battleships, four frigates, 900 guns), went over to the offensive in 1713, capturing Helsingfors (Helsinki) and Abo (Turku) in the summer. On Oct. 6 (17), 1713, F. M. Apraksin’s and M. M. Golitsyn’s detachments (14,000–16,000 men) inflicted a heavy defeat on General C. G. Armfelt’s Swedish troops on the Päl-käne River, and on February 19 (March 2), Golitsyn again defeated the Swedes near the village of Lappila and captured Vaasa (Vasa). After the victory of the Russian galley fleet in the battle of Hangö (1714), all of Finland was cleared of Swedish troops. TheRussian fleet began combat operations in the region of the Åland Islands and in the Gulf of Bothnia, threatening the eastern coast of Sweden.

With the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713–14, the great powers intensified their intervention in the Northern War. Great Britain recalled its ambassador from Russia, equipped a squadron to aid the Swedish fleet, and tried to force Denmark to conclude a separate peace with Sweden. France renewed its treaty of alliance with Sweden, to which it granted substantial cash subsidies. Russian diplomacy vigorously opposed these hostile actions, skillfully taking advantage of conflicts between the powers. Important conventions regarding rights of “free trade” with Russia and in the Baltic Sea were signed in 1713 by Hamburg, Liibeck, and Danzig (Gdansk). On June 1 (12), 1714, Russia concluded a treaty with Prussia, which received former Swedish possessions (Stettin, Wolgast, and the islands of Wollin and Usedom).

The accession of George I, Elector of Hanover, to the British throne in 1714 temporarily eased the Anglo-Russian conflict. On Mar. 28 (Apr. 8), 1716, Peter I concluded a treaty of alliance with Mecklenburg, to which he transferred Wismar and War-nemünde. Russian troops were dispatched to aid Prussia and Mecklenburg. The allies’ inactivity in 1716 thwarted Peter I’s plan to send a landing force to Sweden. Fearing that Russia would grow stronger, Great Britain pursued an ambivalent policy, striving to prevent Sweden’s defeat. To counterbalance Great Britain, Peter I obtained a rapprochement with France and on August 4 (15) concluded the Treaty of Amsterdam (1717), providing for alliance and friendship between Russia, France, and Prussia. France renounced its treaty with Sweden, which was to expire in 1718. Because its international position had deteriorated sharply, Sweden agreed to peace negotiations, which opened in the spring of 1718 (the Congress of Aland). Despite Great Britain’s opposition and threats, peace terms were agreed on, but military operations were resumed after the sudden death of Charles XII in November 1718, during the siege of a fortress in Norway. The government of Queen Ulrika Eleonora, who succeeded Charles XII, hoped for aid from Great Britain.

Final period (1719–21). Great Britain decided to intervene in the Northern War to prevent Russia from gaining a foothold in the Baltic region. In January 1719, Hanover, Austria, and Saxony concluded the Treaty of Vienna on mutual aid, which was aimed at preventing action by the Russian army in Poland and Germany and imposing an unfavorable peace on Russia. In August 1719, Great Britain concluded a treaty with Sweden, promising to extend military aid to Sweden if Russia rejected British mediation. Hanover, Prussia, Saxony, and Denmark concluded a peace treaty with Sweden, gaining the latter’s recognition of their territorial acquisitions. Between 1719 and 1721 a British squadron under Admiral J. Norris was sent into the Baltic Sea three times with the mission of provoking clashes with the Russian fleet and destroying it.

By means of a skillful policy the Russian government avoided a direct war with Great Britain and thwarted its attempts to draw other states into the war against Russia. At the same time, the brilliant victories of the Russian fleet near the island of Ösel in May 1719 and near Granhamn Island in July 1720, as well as Russian landings in Sweden between 1719 and 1721, convinced the Swedish government that it was hopeless to continue the war, especially since Great Britain had not offered effective aid, and territorial concessions to Hanover, Prussia, and Denmark proved to be a useless sacrifice. In 1720 the Swedish king, Frederick (Ulrika Eleonora’s husband), resumed peace negotiations with Russia, which ended in the conclusion of the Treaty of Nystadt (1721).

The victory in the Northern War, which demonstrated the brilliant art of war of the Russian Army and its military commanders, was the culmination of Russia’s century-long struggle for access to the Baltic Sea. Along with Peter I’s major domestic reforms, the victory facilitated the transformation of Russia into a great European power.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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