The Battle of


The Birth of the Russian Empire

Peter Englund


'This victory', exulted Peter the Great, 'has laid the final stone in the foundations of St Petersburg!' The Battle of Poltava, 1709, marks the birth of the Tsar's vast Russian Empire. In 1700, seeking to open Russian trade routes to the West, the Tsar combined with Denmark, Saxony and Poland to attack Swedish hegemony in the North.

Against the odds, King Charles XII of Sweden subdued the hostile coalition for nearly a decade, but in 1708 took his fatal decision to march for Moscow. His defeat at Poltava, in the Ukraine, proved the turning-point of the Great Northern War, heralding the collapse of the Swedish Empire and the rise of Russia. For almost three hundred years, from the Baltic states through Poland and the Ukraine down to the Black Sea, the future of millions was sealed by this decisive battle.

Swedish historian Peter Englund's vivid account of three violent days relives the drama from the viewpoint of the ordinary man - and woman - in the defeated Swedish army. His narrative looks beyond national politics and the tactics of the commanders: it addresses wide issues of humanity - suffering, slaughter and enslavement of thousands of men, women and children. The Battle of Poltava is an indictment of the savagery of wars, and the forces that cause them.

ISBN 0-575-05107-8


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