The Nothern war for Baltic supremacy

Автор: Maks Ноя 25, 2020

From the earliest days of his childhood Peter I felt drawn to sailing and all things nautical; a strong navy would mean power over the seas. That power, however, was held by Sweden, which jealously guarded its sovereignty over the Baltic Sea.

Peter founded St. Petersburg Fortress in 1703 not only to provide a useful base from which to prepare for battles against the Swedes, but its proximity to the Baltic was meant to show the tsar’s contempt for his confirmed enemy.

Tsar Peter saw only war as a means of gaining access to the Baltic. Hence, he entered into an alliance with Saxony, Poland and Denmark to defeat Sweden’s bellicose monarch, Charles XII.

King Charles was not only an accomplished military tactician but a persuasive diplomat as well. After defeating the Russian troops at the battle of Narva, he convinced Denmark to abrogate its alliance with Russia. Not long afterward, Charles installed his own royal candidate on the Polish throne. With Denmark and Poland offering no resistance to Sweden, the king turned his attention southward where the war continued. He was unsuccessful in convincing the Ukraine’s most powerful hetman, Mazepa, to fight against Russia, but Charles won over the Turks, whom Peter subsequently had to mollify with a treaty.

Tsar Peter’s two historical victories sealed Sweden’s eventual fate and assured Russian victory. Charles was utterly routed at the battle of Poltava in 1709. In 1714 the Swedes were defeated at sea off the coast of Finland, near the promontory called Xanko in Finnish and Gangut in Russian. All ten Swedish warships were captured.

Lasting twenty-one years, peace was concluded only when the two antagonists signed the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. Russia received part of Finland around Vyborg, In-germanlandia, Estland and Livland, including the Baltic seaport of Riga. Although Russia won the majority of battles, all victories were at great cost; the economic burden of waging so long a war left the imperial treasury virtually empty by war’s end.

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