Great Northern War
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|Great Northern War|
|Part of Russo–Swedish Wars and Polish–Swedish wars|
| Image:Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden |
Image:Ottoman Flag.svg Ottoman Empire (1710–1714)
| Image:Flag of Russia.svg Russia|
Image:Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark-Norway
Image:Flag of Poland.svg Poland-Lithuania
Image:Flag of Saxony.svg Saxony
| Charles XII of Sweden|
| Peter the Great|
Frederick IV of Denmark
| Livonian War – War of 1600–11 – |
War of 1620–22 – War of 1625–29 –
The Deluge – Northern Wars –
Great Northern War
- This is an article about the 18th century war. For wars with similar names see Northern Seven Years' War (1563–1570), Northern Wars (1655–1661) and the Flagstaff War (1845–1846) in New Zealand
The Great Northern War took place between 1700 and 1721. It was fought between a coalition of Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Saxony (also the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, from 1701,and Prussia and Hanover from 1715) and Sweden, which was helped by the Ottoman Empire.
The war began as a coordinated attack on Sweden by the coalition in 1700 and ended in 1721 with the Treaty of Nystad and the Stockholm treaties. A result of the war was the end of the Swedish Empire. Russia supplanted Sweden as the dominant Power on the Baltic Sea and became a major player in European politics.
Between 1560 and 1658, Sweden created a Baltic empire centered on the Gulf of Finland and comprising the provinces of Karelia, Ingria, Estonia, and Livonia. During the Thirty Years' War Sweden gained tracts in Germany as well, including Western Pomerania, Wismar, the Duchy of Bremen, and Verden. At the same period Sweden conquered Danish and Norwegian provinces north of the Sound (1645; 1658). These victories may be ascribed to a good training of the army, which, despite its comparatively small size, was far more professional than most continental armies, in particular able to maintain a high rate of small arms fire due to proficient drilling. However, the Swedish state was unable to support and maintain its army as the war was prolonged and the costs of warfare could not be passed to occupied countries.
The foreign interventions during the Time of Troubles resulted in Sweden's gains in the Treaty of Stolbovo (1617). The treaty deprived Russia of direct access to the Baltic Sea, meaning that the Russians were not in a position to challenge the Swedish regional hegemony. Russian fortunes reversed during the later half of the 17th century, notably with the rise to power of Peter the Great, who looked to address the earlier losses and re-establish a Baltic presence. In the late 1690s, the adventurer Johann Patkul managed to ally Russia with Denmark and Saxony by the Treaty of Preobrazhenskoye and in 1700 the three powers attacked.
 Swedish victories
From the very beginning of the Great Northern War, Sweden suffered from the inability of Charles XII to view the situation from anything but a purely personal point of view. His determination to avenge himself on enemies overpowered every other consideration. Time and again during the eighteen years of warfare it was in his power to dictate an advantageous peace, but he neglected to do so. The early part of the war consisted of a continual string of Swedish victories under Charles XII. Denmark was defeated in the summer of 1700, in what was to be the first major campaign of the war, and in such a way that she could not participate in the war for a number of years. Russia then suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Narva in November.
After the dissipation of the first coalition through the peace of Travendal and the victory at Narva, the Swedish chancellor, Benedict Oxenstjerna, rightly regarded the universal bidding for the favor of Sweden by France and the maritime powers, then on the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession, as a golden opportunity of ending this present lean war and making his majesty the arbiter of Europe. At that time, the representatives of Poland-Lithuania (which considered itself neutral despite its king's active participation in the anti-Swedish coalition) offered to serve as mediators between the Swedish king and Augustus. But Charles, intent on dethroning Augustus of Saxony from the Polish throne, held haughtily aloof and attacked Poland, therefore ending the official neutrality of Poland-Lithuania. Five years later, on September 24, 1706, he concluded the Polish War through the treaty of Altranstadt, but, as this treaty brought no advantage to Sweden, not even compensation for the expenses of six years of warfare, it was politically condemnable.
 Russian victories
During the years between 1700 and 1707, two of Sweden's Baltic provinces, Estonia and Ingria, had been seized by the Tsar, and a third, Livonia, had been essentially ruined. To secure his acquisitions, Peter founded the city of Saint Petersburg in Ingria in 1703. He began to build a navy and a modern-style army, based primarily on infantry drilled in the use of firearms.
Yet even now Charles, by a stroke of the pen, could have recovered nearly everything he had lost. In 1707, Peter was ready to retrocede everything except St. Petersburg and the line of the Neva, and again Charles preferred risking the whole to saving the greater part of his Baltic possessions. The year following, he invaded Russia, but was frustrated in Smolensk by Generalissimo Menshikov and headed to Ukraine for the winter. However, the abilities of his force were sapped by the cold weather and Peter's use of scorched earth tactics. When the campaign started again in the spring of 1709, a third of his force had been lost, and he was crushingly defeated by Peter in the Battle of Poltava, fleeing to the Ottoman Empire and spending five years in exile. Peter's victory shook all European courts. In just one day, Russia emerged as a major European power.
This shattering defeat did not end the war, although it decided it. Denmark and Saxony joined the war again and Augustus the Strong, through the crafty politics of Boris Kurakin, regained the Polish throne. Peter continued his campaigns in the Baltics, and eventually he built up a powerful navy. In 1714, Peter's galley navy managed to capture a small detachment of the Swedish navy in the first Russian naval victory near Hangö udde (see Battle of Gangut for details).
 The Fall of Stralsund
Only the firmness of the Chancellor, Count Arvid Horn, held Sweden in the war until Charles finally returned from the Ottoman Empire, arriving in Swedish held Stralsund in November 1714 on the south shore of the Baltic. Charles was by now at war with all of Northern Europe, and Stralsund was doomed. Charles remained there until December, 1715, escaping only days before Stralsund fell.
By this point, Charles was considered mad by many, as he would not consider peace and the price Sweden had paid was already dear, with no hope in sight. All of Sweden’s Baltic and German possessions were lost.
Though Charles returned from the Ottoman Empire and resumed personal control of the war effort, he accomplished little before his death in 1718. Over the next few years little changed, but a series of raids on Sweden itself demonstrated that there was little fight left, and soon Prussia and Hanover entered the war in the hope of gaining territory when peace was made. Eventually a series of massive seaborne invasions by combined Danish and Russian navies of the Swedish homeland forced the issue.
The war was finally concluded by the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. Sweden had lost almost all of her "overseas" holdings gained in the 17th century, and was no longer a major power. Russia gained her Baltic territories, and from then on was the greatest power in Eastern Europe. Sweden's dissatisfaction with the result would lead to its fruitless attempts at recovering the lost territories, such as Hats' Russian War, Gustav III's Russian War, and the Finnish War.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Sweden and the Baltic, 1523 - 1721, by Andrina Stiles, Hodder & Stoughton, 1992 ISBN 0-340-54644-1
- The Struggle for Supremacy in the Baltic: 1600-1725 by Jill Lisk; Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1967
- The Northern Wars, 1558-1721 by Robert I. Frost; Longman, Harlow, England; 2000 ISBN 0-582-06429-5
- Norges festninger by Guthorm Kavli; Universitetsforlaget; 1987; ISBN 82-00-18430-7
- Admiral Thunderbolt by Hans Christian Adamson, Chilton Company, 1958
- East Norway and its Frontier by Frank Noel Stagg, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. 1956
 See also
Extensive information on the major battles and campaigns of the Great Northern War can be found as part of these articles:
- Peter I of Russia | Charles XII of Sweden | Battle of Narva | Battle of Holowczyn | Battle of Lesnaya | Battle of Poltava | Battle of Gangut | Battle of Gadebusch | Treaty of Nystad | Great Northern War and Norway | Russo-Turkish War, 1710-1711
 External links
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