Two days after the battle Peter entered Poltava and celebrated his name day at the Spasskaya church with the commander of the garrison at his side.Following his return from receiving the mass surrender of the Swedes Menshikov was promoted to Field Marshall; all the Russian generals received promotions or estates. Peter allowed himself to be promoted to Lieutenant General and became a Rear Admiral in the navy. Moscow was en fête and Czarevich Alexis hosted a banquet for the foreign ambassadors at Preobrazhenskoe.
At a council of war, held between 14th and 16th July 1709, it was decided that Sheremetev would attack Riga and Menshikov would move into Poland to attack King Stanislaus and the Swedish army there.Peter’s victory at Poltava meant that the courts of Europe were now eager to ally with Russia. Louis XIV proposed to guarantee Russian conquests in the Baltic to injure English and Dutch trade; Hanover and Prussia indicated their desire to increase their ties with Russia. Denmark proposed a new anti Swedish alliance with Russia and following the agreement invaded southern Sweden.
Augustus of Saxony repudiated the Treaty of Altranstadt[i] and invaded with an army of 14,000, calling on his former subjects to renew their allegiance. The Polish nobles welcomed Augustus’s return and Stanislaus fled, finally joining Charles in the Ottoman Empire. Peter and Augustus signed a new treaty of alliance on 9th October 1709 at Thorn[ii].
Peter promised to help Augustus regain the throne of Poland and by the end of the month Menshikov had secured the greater part of the country without a fight, as the Swedish army retreated to Swedish Pomerania.From Thorn Peter travelled to Marienwerder to meet Frederick ! of Prussia; a treaty of defence was signed by the two countries and a marriage between Peter’s niece and the Duke of Courland[iii] was arranged.
Annexing the Baltic StatesOn 9th November Peter arrived at Riga, joining Sheremetev and his troops encircling the city. On the 13th Peter fired the first shots of the bombardment of the city. The city resisted fiercely and Peter ordered the troops into winter quarters, leaving the city blockaded.
VyborgIn the spring of 1710 Peter’s troops swept through the Baltic provinces. While Sheremetev besieged Riga; Apraxin and 18,000 men attacked Vyborg, a strategic town at the head of the Karelian isthmus. They were backed by the Russian Baltic fleet. Peter travelled with the fleet, bringing supplies and reinforcements.
After approving the siege plans Peter returned to St Petersburg, where once again he fell ill; he wrote to Apraxin at the beginning of June;
‘I hear you intend making the assault today. If this has already been ordered, God aid you. But if it is not fixed for today put it off until Sunday or Monday when I can get there, for this is the last day that I take medicine and tomorrow I shall be free.’[iv]On the 13th Vyborg fell; Peter was there to witness the surrender;
‘And thus through the taking of this town, final safety has been gained for St. Petersburg.’[v]On July 10th Riga surrendered to Sheremetev[vi] and three months later Reval capitulated; Peter was overjoyed
‘The last town has surrendered and Livonia and Estonia are entirely cleared of the enemy. In a word, the enemy does not now possess a single town on the left side of the Baltic, not even an inch of land. It is now incumbent upon us to pray the Lord God for a good peace.’[vii]Peter agreed that the churches could remain Lutheran, that German would remain the language of the local administration and allowed the nobles and merchants to keep all their former privileges, customs, possessions and immunities.
Charles and the Ottomans
Having sought sanctuary with the Ottomans, Charles was treated as an honoured guest; Sultan Ahmed III ordered a wagon train of supplies. Ahmed suggested that his guests moved to Bender on the Dniester, 150 miles to the south-west[viii].
‘’The Basha Ismael having brought the King to his Seraglio at Bender, gave him his own apartment, where he was served in state, but not without a guard of Janisaries at the chamber door.’[ix]Charles hoped to return to Poland as soon as his heel was healed, and take command of the Swedish armies left there to keep Stanislaus on the throne. He also believed that it would be possible to rejoin his troops left behind in the Ukraine. Charles sent orders to the governing council in Stockholm requiring the raising of new regiments to be sent across the Baltic.
Charles’s wound took a long time to heel and while he was waiting the news of the death of his elder sister[x] arrived; Charles was grief stricken and for days refused to see anyone. Then another disaster struck; Mazeppa died on 22nd September. And the news of Lewenhaupt’s surrender was followed by news of the events in Poland and the rest of northern Europe.Charles’s best option would have been to return to Sweden; Louis XIV, eager to have Sweden create mayhem in eastern Europe, several times proffered the use of a ship to ferry him home[xi]. Instead Charles hoped to persuade the Sultan to join him in an attack on Russia. He thought that one successful campaign would regain the losses of the previous year’s campaign.
Charles’s agents were working to overturn the Russian-Turkish agreement, while there were many of the Sultan’s advisers who wanted their master to accept Peter’s demand that Charles be expelled from the empire.
‘The King of Sweden has fallen like a heavy weight on the shoulders of the Sublime Porte.’[xii]For Charles to have any real influence in the empire he needed a Swedish army ready to influence events in Europe and beyond. His demands for fresh regiments abroad caused consternation in Stockholm, already trying to fight off the Danes in the south. Charles was informed that no troops could be spared to further his ambitions.
The Ottoman Turks Go to War
The Valide Sultan Emetullah
There was a pro-war faction in Constantinople; one of the foremost was Devlet Gerey, Khan of the Crimea. He and the Sultan’s mother Emetullah had been persuaded by Charles’s envoys to look kindly on the idea of crushing Russia. Peter’s continued demands for Charles’s expulsion played into the hands of the war party and on 21st November 1710 the Ottomans declared war on Russia. But when the troops marched to war Charles was unable to play an active part in the campaign.
Selimye Mosque at Adrianople
Peter had decided that his troops would march through Bulgaria and threaten the second city of the Ottoman Turks, Adrianople. The army of 54,000 would be dwarfed by the armies that the Turks could put into the field. But Peter planned to call on the Christians in the Balkan provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia to rise up and join his army. It was estimated that up to 40,000 might be expected to fight against their Muslim overlords.Peter’s proclamation called upon the Sultan’s vassals to ensure that
‘The descendents of the heathen Mohammed were driven out into their old homeland, the sands and steppes of Arabia.’[xiii]
But Peter’s call did not have the ultimate success he might have hoped for. His bold move was far from his normal defensive policy and eventually in October 1713, after four declarations of war by the Turks and a disastrous defeat at Pruth in July 1711 for the Russians, a treaty was signed between the two nations; the terms were in the victor’s favour and the Ukraine passed back into Turkish hands; the forts at Taganrog and Azov were destroyed.
‘The Lord God drove me out of this place, like Adam out of Paradise’[xiv]Peter wrote of the loss of these vital possessions and there would be no Russian Black Sea fleet in Peter’s lifetime. But for him his border in the west was vital for the future of his country and St Petersburg and the Baltic were more important than Azov and the Black Sea.
Cathedral at Bender
Peter’s envoys continued to press for Charles to be expelled from Turkish territories. Throughout his stay in the Ottoman Empire Charles resided in Bender. He was paid an allowance by the Sultan, but in July 1711 Charles fell out with the Grand Vizier, putting paid to Charles’s attempts to lead an army against the Russians[xv]. His allowance was cut off, his mail was intercepted and merchants were forbidden to sell goods to the Swedes.
In retaliation Charles complained to Ahmed of his vizier’s behaviour and his agents in Constantinople spread rumours that the vizier had allowed Peter and his army to escape after Pruth, because he had been bribed to do so. Charles helped incite the three further short wars the Ottomans declared on the Russians but his chance to regain his losses slipped away after the first campaign.On 15th June 1713 the Russians and the Turks signed a treaty at Adrianople, pledging peace for twenty-five years. Charles was now invited to leave Turkish territory. He decided to travel incognito and travel light, leaving his entourage to bring the gifts from Sultan Ahmed;
‘The presents they brought him from the Grand Signor were, a large tent of scarlet embroidered with gold, a sabre set with jewels, eight beautiful Arabian horses with fine salles and stirrups of massive silver.’[xvi]
Charles’s departure was delayed until September 1714 and he made the journey to Stralsund[xvii] in two weeks, travelling by coach and on horseback. It had been fifteen years since he had last set foot on the territories he ruled and it was not until the following summer, after the fall of Stralsund to a joint Prussian-Danish-Saxon enemy, that Charles finally returned to his native land.Bibliography
Natasha’s Dance – Orlando Figes, Penguin Books Ltd 2002Russia and the Russians – Geoffrey Hosking, The Penguin Press 2001
Peter the Great – Robert K Massie, Abacus 1992The History of Charles XII of Sweden – Mr de Voltaire, C Davis & A Lyon 1732
[i] Whereby he had been forced to give up the Polish crown
[ii] His trip had been delayed by yet another bout of ill-health
[iii] Frederick’s nephew
[iv] Peter the Great - Massie
[vi] Originally the city had been allocated to Augustus, but as it had been gained with Russian troops and Peter claimed that the city and province were gained as the result of the Russian victory at Poltava, he decided it would be Russian, not Polish
[vii] Peter the Great - Massie
[viii] Now called Bessarabia
[ix] The History of Charles XII of Sweden – Voltaire
[x] The widowed Duchess of Holstein
[xi] Charles’s refusal was part in concern that he might be captured by pirates and that accepting the offer would mean choosing sides in the War of the Spanish Succession
[xii] Peter the Great - Massie
[xv] The Vizier informs Charles that an unbeliever could not lead Ottoman troops
[xvi] The History of Charles XII of Sweden – Voltaire
[xvii] A Swedish territory