By the time of the Battle of Poltava, the Northern War had lasted for nine years, in which Russia was opposed to Sweden. The main cause of the war was the redistribution of territories in Northern Europe and in the Baltic States. The young Russian state sought to regain access to the Baltic Sea, and Sweden actively opposed this Russian aspiration.
The next stage of the Northern War began after the defeat of the Saxon Elector and the Polish King Augustus II, which he suffered from the Swedish troops in 1706, having lost the crown of the Commonwealth. This circumstance allowed Charles XII to begin the implementation of his long-standing plan - a campaign to the east. Charles XII aimed to completely defeat the Russian troops, capture Peter I and destroy Russia as a strong and centralized state. As the scouts informed Karl XII of the growing discontent of various sections of the population of Russia with the policies of Peter the Great, the Swedish king was increasingly convinced that the time had come for the march. Even then, the external enemy of Russia was counting not only on its own forces, but also on the destabilization of the internal political situation in the country, including the betrayal of a part of the political elite. For example, Charles XII, planning the collapse of the Russian state, considered it possible to implant Tsarevich Alexei, the son of Peter, in Moscow, if he “behaves well,” that is, betrays his own father.
One of the most high-ranking traitors who came over to the side of Charles XII was Hetman Ivan Mazepa. He made his choice as early as the fall of 1708, promising the king of Sweden full support. It is noteworthy that for a long time Ivan Mazepa was considered a supporter of Peter, who was convinced of the sincere devotion of the Zaporozhye hetman. And the hetman himself really stressed his loyalty to Russia, participating in numerous battles on the side of the Russian troops. At the same time, while maintaining loyalty to Peter, Mazepa showed growing discontent with the increasing centralization of the Russian state. He was afraid of limiting the autonomy of the Zaporozhian Army, which contradicted his own interests and ambitions.
Another reason for the betrayal of Mazepa was his conviction that Peter would lose the war to Charles XII. Getman found it necessary in time to enlist the support of a stronger party, which he mistakenly saw in the Swedish king. The internal struggle for power in the Zaporozhian Army also played a role, which was aggravated by numerous denunciations that Mazepa and his opponents sent “to the center” - Peter I. Nevertheless, Mazepa enjoyed the confidence of the Russian sovereign in the fall of 1708. Peter called Mazepa to join the Russian troops at the head of the Zaporizhzhya Cossacks. The elderly hetman was in no hurry, explaining his delay in old age diseases and internal problems of the troops. In fact, the hetman was talking with Charles XII, trying to bargain for the most favorable conditions of cooperation. In the meantime, the closest ally of Peter Menshikov decided to visit the elderly and it seems like a sick hetman - after all, a person should be visited according to all the rules of decency. Ivan Mazepa, having learned that Menshikov was to arrive, and fearing that Menshikov and Peter would become aware of the secret talks with the Swedish king, decided to flee to Charles XII. In October, 1708, at the head of one and a half thousand Cossacks, taking the hetman's treasury, Mazepa fled to the location of the troops of Charles XII. In response, the Russian troops under the command of Menshikov 2 (13) on November 1708 of the year seized the bid of the hetman in Baturin. Four days later, 6 (17) in November was elected the new hetman of the Zaporozhye army - Ivan Ilyich Skoropadsky, whose candidacy was supported by Peter I.
The betrayal of the hetman Mazepa was accomplished, which greatly pleased Charles XII, who was counting on sending his troops "for the winter" to the Hetmanate. But still, the stay of the Swedish army in the Little Russian lands turned out to be very difficult. This was due to the actions of the local population, which, unlike the hetman, was in no hurry to express loyal attitudes towards foreigners. Karl XII faced the same problems that other foreign invaders, who later tried to conquer Russia - Napoleon and Hitler, did not take into account. Although no serious partisan actions were taken against the Swedish army, the peasants destroyed bread, took the horses away, and as a result, Charles XII’s troops simply had nothing to eat. The personnel of the Swedish troops did not tolerate the "wintering" in the Hetman region, and not so much because of the climate, but because of the diseases and the lack of the necessary amount of provisions. By the spring of 1709, the army of Charles XII had lost almost a third of its former personnel. It was a serious loss for the Swedish troops, but the king preferred not to pay attention to it, believing that he could defeat Russia with less strength.
Nevertheless, a significant part of the Zaporozhye Cossacks, yielding to the calls of Mazepa, went over to the side of Charles XII. Although initially only about 1,500 people left Mazepa, by March 1709 about 7,000 Cossacks had crossed over to the Swedish side. Already 11 April 1709, the Cossacks participated on the side of the Swedish troops in the battle against the Russian troops. In response, the Russian troops took quite tough measures. Keleberda, Perevolochna, Old and New Kodak and Sich herself were burned. This circumstance also contributed to the growth of anti-Russian sentiments among the Cossacks and the transition to the Swedish side of more and more Cossacks.
Nevertheless, the Swedish command remained very low opinion of the fighting qualities of the Cossacks. After the experience of several battles in which all the minuses of the Cossacks in front of the modern regular army became clear, the Swedish generals transferred them to earthworks and security and convoy service. Pay for it were, of course, less than for participation in the battles. The cossacks were given 10 kopecks per day of escorting prisoners or earthworks. Naturally, this caused discontent of the Cossacks. The exodus of the Cossacks from the Swedish army began. After a short time, 10 of thousands of Cossacks, who had sided with Charles XII, left only around 2 thousand people at the disposal of the Swedish king. They were still not allowed into battle, using them in auxiliary works. Only a small number of the most courageous and proven Cossacks succeeded in obtaining permission to participate in hostilities as part of the Swedish army. It is noteworthy that Peter I did not trust the Cossacks and Peter I. Although he had set a new hetman of Skoropadsky after Mazepa’s treason, the sovereign did not have this confidence in the Cossacks. Therefore, they also did not take part in combat operations as part of the Russian troops, moreover, as many as six dragoon regiments were supervised to watch them, under the general command of Major General Prince Gregory Volkonsky.
Karl XII planned the capture of Poltava by Swedish forces. The general leadership of the siege of Poltava was entrusted to the Quartermaster-General of the Swedish Army, Guards Colonel Axel Gillenkrok, a fairly experienced officer who had previously served in the French army and then returned to the Swedish service. However, the siege begun by 6 (17) on April was rather sluggish, which was explained by the small number of troops allocated by Charles XII for this purpose.
In the meantime, Russian troops continued to go to Poltava — first the Menshikov's army, then the troops under the command of Boris Sheremetev. 4 (15) June, Peter I. himself arrived at Poltava. Initially, he did not plan a frontal collision with the Swedish troops, trying to help Poltava out another way, but then decided to have a direct clash with the army of the Swedish king.
By this time, Swedish troops numbered about 37 thousands of people, including approximately 2 thousands of registered and grassroots Cossacks. In the Battle of Poltava 18 infantry battalions (8 thousands of soldiers and officers), 109 cavalry squadrons (7800 people), about a thousand Vallah cavalry took part. Russia possessed large forces. In Poltava, troops concentrated in total from 60 to 80 thousand people. But 25, thousands of infantry and 21, thousands of cavalry, as well as the Kalmyk detachment, took part in the battle.
27 June (8 July) 1709, the battle began. Its detailed descriptions are contained in many textbooks on military history. It is only to be noted that the Cossacks of Skoropadsky, as Peter I had expected, showed their insecurity during the battle. As soon as the first stage of the battle gave the impression that the Swedes would soon prevail over the Russian army, some of the Cossacks of Skoropadsky expressed a desire to go over to the side of Charles. This did not happen only because the closest ally of Karl, Prince Maximilian Emanuel Württemberg-Vinental, who commanded the Swedish dragoons, did not consider it possible to decide on the admission of the Cossacks to the Swedish army without Karl XII’s knowledge.
In the Battle of Poltava, Swedish troops suffered a crushing defeat. The king was saved from captivity by the actions of his Drabant - the royal guard corps, as well as the cavalry under the command of Major General Karl Gustav Kreutz. During the breakthrough of the royal retinue through the Russian redoubts, chamberlain Gustav Adlerfeld, who accompanied the Swedish king, died. He left a valuable diary describing the course of the events of the Northern War - from the start of hostilities to the start of the battle of Poltava. The total human losses of the Swedish army amounted to approximately from 6,7 thousand to 9,2 thousand people killed and wounded, another 2,8 thousand people were captured during the Poltava battle. A number of prominent Swedish military leaders and statesmen were taken prisoner, including the first minister of Sweden Karl Pipper, two state secretaries, field marshal Karl Gustav Renschild, Prince Maximilian Emanuel Württemberg-Vinental, major major Berndt Ottto Stakelberg, and I’m i'm going to i'm i'm wearing a body and I’m I’m going to i'm i'm i'm going to i'm i'm i'm going to i'm not i Colonel Gustav Gorne of the Skon Dragoon Regiment, Colonel Anders Appelgren’s Estgütka Regiment, Colonel Niels Yullenshtern’s own Dragoon Regiment. Russian troops lost a lot less - 1345 soldiers and officers killed and 3290 people wounded.
The defeat of the Swedish army at Poltava was of decisive importance for the entire subsequent course of the Northern War. In fact, the Swedish army suffered such a crushing defeat that it no longer constituted the threat to Russian statehood as serious as before. The battle of Poltava incredibly raised the international prestige of the Russian state. In particular, Saxony and Denmark - the long-standing political opponents and military enemies of Sweden - immediately chose to resume the coalition with Russia against Charles XII.
The significance of the Battle of Poltava is great for Russia itself. Even now, after three centuries that have passed since the defeat of the Swedish army near Poltava, this battle remains one of the most ambitious examples of the valor of Russian soldiers and officers, the commanding talent of Russian military commanders. Later, after a hundred, two hundred, two hundred and fifty years after the Battle of Poltava, the Russian (and then Soviet) troops would repeatedly win victories over the strongest regular armies of Europe.
The events in Poltava and the miserable fate of the traitors, who are ready to switch to the side of the enemy for their own political and financial gains, clearly demonstrate. After the fatal defeat of the Swedish army, hetman Ivan Mazepa fled to the Ottoman Empire. He died a few months later, in September 1709, in Bender. Despite attempts by the Russian authorities to secure the extradition of Mazepa, the sultan did not refuse to grant political asylum to the disgraced hetman. As for Charles XII, for him the defeat at Poltava had far more far-reaching consequences. He also fled to the Ottoman Empire and tried to persuade the Sultan to begin hostilities against the Russian Empire. But the sultan did not like this idea of the Swedish king, and he even ordered to put Charles XII under arrest. While the king was in Ottoman possessions, the position of Sweden was seriously weakened. The defeat of the royal troops from Russia took advantage of numerous other opponents and even former allies of the Swedish crown. For example, England abandoned its allied obligations, realizing that Karl XII was no longer a serious political player. Prussia appropriated the Swedish possession in Germany. The Saxon Elector Augustus again became king of the Commonwealth.
In 1713, Charles XII was expelled from Bender by the decision of the Ottoman Sultan. Moreover, he did not want to leave the city, that there was even a skirmish between the janissaries who had fulfilled the will of the Sultan and the royal guard, as a result of which the Swedish king lost his nose. After the Battle of Poltava, Charles XII was no longer not only an adversary, but also a large-scale political figure. He actually lost real power even in Sweden, and in 1718, he was killed in an assassination attempt planned by his own entourage. The Swedish elite was tired of the endless war, which he was going to wage in the east, concerned only with the realization of his leadership ambitions, Karl XII, so it was decided to eliminate the overly militant king.