The Battle of Poltava

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The Battle of Poltava is the most famous and significant episode in the Great
Northern War (1700-1721). The battle which took place on July 8th 1709 fell directly in
the middle of the Great Northern War and is seen as the turning point in the war. Czar
Peter I own cause to end Sweden’s possession of its Baltic empire showed his strong will
and determination. This battle in fact established Russia as an impressive European
power and Czar Peter I as a great leader in the eyes of his country and all of Europe. The
success of the battle opened Russia economically and politically to all European countries
to the west. The success of the Russian army in the Battle of Poltava helped to spark the
creation of a westernized, efficient nation.
The victory of the Battle of Poltava proved to Russia and all of Europe Czar Peter
I was a strong and determined leader. In the first years of his rule Peter learned about the
art of war from several small naval encounters with the Turkish on the Black Sea. These
skirmishes taught Peter the importance of defending his country and having a strong
military. When the Great Northern War began after Russia joined the European Alliance
against Sweden as a prominent power, the war was unfavorable for the Russian army.
This was mainly due to Peter’s troops being greatly under trained and unseasoned. He
saw that men he could trust on the field would have to be recruited after they went
through training in newly opened educational institutions or guard regiments. This
helped to sustain the army against the Swedish while it battled for eight years, only to
produce a number of unsuccessful campaigns. The better trained Swedes under the
commanding rule of King Charles XII fought off the Russian troops over a dozen times
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but could never cripple the army enough end the constant battling. On the morning of the
attack nineteen thousand Swedish assaulted the fortified camp of Poltava, which was
defended by Peter's forty-five thousand men. Peter's victory was so astonishing that
Charles barely had the time to flee to Ottoman Empire, which left the remnants of his
army to surrender. The Battle of Poltava changed the face of the war for all of Europe, as
Sweden fell to Russia it proved that Czar Peter I could be trusted and was a competent
leader for Russia.

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For his victory he was nick-named Peter the Great as even the Russian
people were surprised at his conquest.
     Peter I was able to prove his valuable role as Czar by implementing successful
political, economical, and social reforms as a result of his success in the Battle of Poltava.
The people of Russia felt that Peter was able to lead them and their country in a positive
direction and supported him with little resistance. Peter was a great visionary with an
aspiration to see Russia fulfill his dreams for the nation. The building and prosperity of
St. Petersburg was mainly due to the will and devoted passion that Peter the Great
invested in the city. The amount of resources and people he mustered for the project
makes the cost of St. Petersburg immeasurable. It consisted of the efforts of Peter,
countless amounts of Russians, and foreigners who were recruited to help. There was
danger however when one of the greatest fighting forces in the world at the time,
Sweden, was at St. Petersburg’s doorstep. Although, the glorious victory over Sweden at
the Battle of Poltava named Russia as a new superpower and secured the safety of St.
Petersburg. Peter built a dream with his bare hands and his own mind that exists today as
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one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
     The Battle of Poltava was an enormous help to the country as it helped to
establish Russia as a new superpower of Europe. Before the victory over the Swedish, the
Great Northern War had been taking great toll on the resources and morale of the Russian
people. The timing of the successful battle being a great driving force for Russia, and was
also a crushing blow to Sweden. Although Sweden did not suffer a significant strategic
loss, and the Great Northern War continued for another twelve years, the psychological
impact of the battle was enormous. The news of Charles's defeat resounded through
Europe and won Russia respect as a European superpower.
     The Battle of Poltava also allowed Russia to gain a geographical and economical
opening to the powerful countries of Western Europe. Peter I hoped to further the
relations with other nations by entering into negotiations with France and Prussia to ally
against Sweden. The negotiations between Russia and Sweden began in 1721 in neutral
Finland. The Peace of Nystad, signed August 30th 1721, ended the Great Northern War
between Sweden and Russia, giving Russia considerably more power in the Baltic region.
Between Russia and Sweden forever had been established an understanding of peace and
friendship. Into the possession of Russia there was placed, as terms of the treaty outlined
a part of Karelia, Estland, and Lifland with the seashore from Viborg to Riga and some
islands in the Baltic Sea had been passed. Russia had acquired the safe access to the
5
Baltic Sea, obtained a number of the first-class ports and put in favorable conditions for
its trade relations with Western Europe.
     Russia worked diligently for a number of years to also further their social make-
up and bring it up to the present way the rest of Europe functioned. Peter maintained that
Russia must use the wealth of knowledge and sophistication that Western Europe did to
help bring Russia up to par. He sought to “westernize” his nation which simply meant
that the idea of the westernization he had for Russia was the modernization. Peter
alarmed the nobility and churchmen with his new objective, and saw to it that legislation
had passed to affect them greatly. Peter saw that the beards came off of the Boyars, land-
owning men of influence and wealth, and ended their sway in government. Peter was
determined to “civilize” the nobility and even composed a book of manners to keep them
civil. Peter also promoted courtly discussions between men and women to bring an end to
rigid gender roles, but not so much to upset social life. The fortification of Russia’s army
and navy to ensure a strong military brought a great respect from surrounding nations.
Other modernization techniques included establishing a modern iron industry to promote
production, and expanding and adding additional roads and canals for the purpose of
stimulating trade.
     The impact of the Battle of Poltava is impossible disregard and its effects on
the Russian nation hold a great testament to past successes. Had it not been for this battle
which gave rise to Russia’s greatest leader, Czar Peter I, Russia may still be in the
troubled times of Ivan the Terrible. The victory over the Swedish empire and recognition
of the rest of Europe drastically changed Russia irreversibly. Those who study the history
6
of the Russian empire will forever mark the Battle of Poltava and the significance it holds
in the evolution of the nation.


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