четверг, 8 июля 2010 г.
VICTORY AT POLTAVA
By Lyubov Tsarevskaya
In the late 17th century Russia faced the need to gain an outlet to the Baltic and Black Sea. The lack of such outlets, the lack of a Navy, was fraught with expansion on the part of naval powers and with the loss of national independence. Foreseeing this, Tsar Peter I set himself the task of regaining the inherent Russian lands on the Baltic coast, which had been seized by Sweden in the early 17th century. The Baltic Sea was the shortest route to Europe, and an outlet to it would be conducive to technical progress in Russia.
Having formed a union with Denmark and Poland, Russia started a war with Sweden in 1700. Called the Northern War, the hostilities continued for 21 years.
At that time Sweden was a formidable opponent. It had the best army in Europe and a powerful navy. So it was not surprising that in the very first battle fought outside Narva the Russian army, which was inferior to that of Sweden, suffered a crushing defeat. Thinking that Russia had been finished with, the Swedish King Charles XII marched on Poland, Russia's ally, and, as Peter I said, got stuck in it.
However the defeat he had suffered did not throw the Russian tsar into despair. On the contrary, he took advantage of the respite, managed to gather a new army and arm it. Soon the Russians resumed military action against the Swedes. Staging minor sea clashes they gradually recaptured territories and conquered Swedish fortresses. In the spring of 1703 they captured the fortress of Nienschanz, which guarded the mouth of the River Neva. Peter I founded the fortress of St.Petersburg, the future capital of the Russian empire, not far from it.
In the meantime, the Swedish king was waging a war in Poland. The upcoming war with Russia did not worry him. He was too confident of his lucky star and of his military genius. But his overconfidence let him down.
Having defeated Poland, Charles XII invaded Russia. His major goal was to capture Moscow. However Hetman Mazepa, who had secretly betrayed the Russian Tsar, urged him to come to Ukraine. Mazepa promised Charles XII to supply him with foods and help him to raise the entire south of Russia against Moscow. But these expectations did not materialize. Having been informed of Mazepa's betrayal, Peter I sent his troops to Baturin, Mazepa's central residence where substantial stocks of food and ammunition were kept. Baturin was conquered and destroyed, and so Charles XII was deprived of the promised aid. The Swedish and Russian troops came to face each other outside the city of Poltava, where a historic battle took place on July 10, 1709.
Fierce fighting raged for two hours. Peter I personally joint the battle. His hat and his saddle were hit by bullets.
Charles was confined to his carriage because of an injured leg. He was amid the ranks of his troops when his carriage was struck by a Russian cannon ball and the king fell to the ground. The soldiers surrounding him thought he had been killed. The Swedish regiments were dismayed and yielded to the onslaught of the Russians, Charles ordered his aides to lift him up. What he saw was general confusion. He cried in despair: "Swedes, Swedes!" But the Swedes fled not heeding the voice of their king.
Victory in the Battle of Poltava was of enormous importance to Russia. Europe was amazed to see how before its eyes an unknown nation in the east was turning into a powerful state.
However Sweden was still strong, and it refused to sign a peace treaty after its defeat in the Battle of Poltava. The war continued till 1721. It ended in signing the Niestad Peace under which Russia received a considerable part of the Baltic Sea coast: the territory of today's Estonia, Latvia, Karelia, St.Petersburg and the adjoining area. So Russia gained an outlet to the Baltic Sea. It joined the community of European nations and received an opportunity to freely communicate and trade with them.
Source:The Voice of Russia