The failed invasion of Russia by Hitler and Napoleon are well known. Less well-known is invasion of Russia by the Swedes under their most famous king, Charles XII. Sweden in 1700 was the greatest Northern European power and this provoked the jealousy of its neighbors. This led to the Great Northern War.
The culmination of this war was the Swedish monarch’s invasion of Russia and his subsequent defeat by Tsar Peter the Great at Poltava (1709). The failed invasion of the Russian Empire by Charles XII has been largely forgotten but had he succeeded the fate of Europe could have been different. This article discussed the background the Swedish invasion, the military campaign and the defeat of Charles and his army at Poltava. It demonstrates that the failure of the Swedish army’s invasion was due to the geography of Russia, bad luck and the dogged stubbornness of the Russian people.
Today we associate Sweden with liberal values and a peaceful society. It has not been involved in a war since the Napoleonic era. However, in the Early Modern Period the Kingdom of Sweden was one of the powerhouses of Europe and the greatest power in Northern Europe. Under the House of Vassa the kingdom had expanded greatly. It had emerged as one of the real winners from the Thirty Years War. By the 1660s the Kingdom of Sweden directly controlled the modern states of Finland and the Baltic States. It also had extensive possessions in Northern Germany, Poland and Russia. Its fleet also dominated the Baltic. Charles XI of Sweden had managed to defend the extensive Empire and had greatly expanded its influence. This able king died while still a relatively young man. His son became king of Sweden at the age of fifteen. The young monarch belonged to the Royal German House of Palatinate. Charles was the only surviving son of Charles XI and his German wife Ulrika Eleonora the Elder.
Categories: Military History