Military Wiki
The Invasion of Russia by Charles XII
Part of Great Northern War
The Battle of Poltava by Denis Martens the Younger, painted 1726
The Battle of Poltava by Denis Martens the Younger, painted 1726
Result Decisive Russian victory
Sweden Swedish Empire Russia Russian Empire
Flag of the Cossack Hetmanat.svg Cossack Hetmanate
Golden Horde flag 1339.svg Kalmyk Khanate
Commanders and leaders
SwedenKarl XII
Sweden Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld
Sweden Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt
Russia Peter the Great
Russia Aleksandr Menshikov
Russia Boris Sheremetev
Flag of the Cossack Hetmanat.svg Ivan Mazepa
Golden Horde flag 1339.svg Ayuka Khan
43,035 Caroleans 110,000 Russians[1]
30,000 Cossacks[1]
Casualties and losses
In major battles:
5,690 killed
7,367 wounded
15,676 captured

13,759 froze to death
In major battles:
10,464 killed
15,502 wounded

Many thousands froze to death

The invasion of Russia by Charles XII of Sweden was a campaign undertaken during the Great Northern War between Sweden and the allied states of Russia, Poland, and Denmark. The invasion began with Charles's crossing of the Vistula on 1 January 1708, and effectively ended with the Swedish defeat in the Battle of Poltava on 8 July 1709, though Charles continued to pose a military threat to Russia for several years while under the protection of the Ottoman Turks.

In the years preceding the invasion of Russia, Charles had inflicted significant defeats on the Danish and Polish forces, and enthroned the puppet king Stanislas Leszczyński in Poland. Having consolidated his victories there, Charles turned his attentions to Russia. He entered Russia by crossing the frozen Vistula River at the head of 40,000 men, approximately half of them cavalry. This tactic was characteristic of his military style, which relied on moving armies with great speed over unexpected terrain. As a consequence of this rapid initiation of the campaign, Charles nearly gave battle with Peter the Great just one month into the campaign, reaching Hrodna, now in Belarus, a mere two hours after Russian forces had abandoned it.

Charles was a skilled military leader, and probably considered the invasion to be a risky enterprise; he had resisted the advice of his generals to invade during the Russian winter following the first Battle of Narva (1700). He chose to continue his invasion now because he expected Swedish reinforcements and the alliance of the Cossacks under Ivan Mazepa. The reinforcing Swedish army, however, was ambushed by Russians, and a Russian army under Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov had destroyed Mazepa's capital and chased him to Charles with just thirteen hundred men.

The invasion was further complicated by the scorched earth strategy formulated by Peter and his generals. The Russian armies retreated continuously, dispersing the cattle and hiding the grain in the peasant towns they passed, burning unharvested crops, and leaving no resources for the Swedish army to stave off the Russian winter. By the end of the winter of 1708–1709, the "Great Frost of 1709" had devastated the Swedish army and shrunk it to 24,000 men. In May 1709, the Swedish forces caught up to the Russians, and the two armies clashed in the Battle of Poltava. The Swedish were defeated, and the greater part of Charles's army, some 19,000 men, were forced to surrender.

Charles fled with his surviving 543 men to the protection of the Ottoman Turks to the south, who were traditionally hostile to Russia. Here, Charles was eventually able to persuade the Sultan Ahmed III to declare war on Russia. Backed by a Turkish army of 200,000 men, Charles led the Turks into the Russo-Turkish War (1710–1711). Before Charles could give battle, though, Peter was able to bribe the Turkish vizier to peace; with this, Charles's ambitions to invade Russia were ended.

The consequences of the failed invasion were far-reaching. The Swedish Empire never added new territory after the Battle of Poltava. George I of Great Britain led Great Britain and Prussia into war against Sweden, and Denmark reentered the war. Russia gained prestige in Europe, and won Louis XIV as an ally.


Battles during the invasion of Russia by Charles XII
Battle Swedish numbers Russian numbers Swedish casualties Russian casualties Result
Grodno 800[2] 9,000[2] Unknown Unknown Swedish victory
Holowczyn 12,500[3][4] 39,000[4] 265 killed
1,028 wounded
5,000[5][6][7][8][9][10] Swedish victory
Neva 2,000[11] 8,000[12] 380[13] 900[12] Swedish victory
Malatitze 4,000[14] 13,000[14] 260 killed
750 wounded[15]
1,500 killed
2,000 wounded[16]
Swedish victory
Rajovka 2,400[17] 10,000[11] Light[11] 375[18] Swedish victory
Lesnaya 10,914[19] 23,076[20][21] 1,000 killed
1,124 wounded
876 captured[19]
9,000[19] Russian victory
Desna 2,000[12] 4,000[12] 50 killed
150 wounded[22]
356 killed
1,000 wounded[22][23]
Swedish victory
Veprik 3,000 1,500 400 killed
600 wounded
1,500 Swedish victory
Oposhnya 2,000[11] 6,000[11] 19[11] 450[11] Swedish victory
Krasnokutsk-Gorodnoye 2,500[24] 10,000[24] 132[25] 1,200[26][27] Swedish victory
Poltava 16,500[21] 42,100[21] 6,900 killed/wounded
2,800 captured[28][29]
1,345 killed
3,290 wounded[30][31]
Decisive Russian victory
Perevolochna 12,000 9,000 12,000 captured 0 Swedish surrender


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  2. 2.0 2.1 Peter From, Katastrofen vid Poltava (2007), Lund, Historiska media. pp. 77.
  3. Liljegren, B "Karl XII: En Biografi", 2000, p. 156
  4. 4.0 4.1 Nationalencyklopedin
  5. Ericson, Lars (ed) (2003) (in Swedish). Svenska slagfält. Wahlström & Widstrand. p. 280. ISBN 91-46-21087-3. 
  6. Kuvaja, Christer (2008) (in Swedish). Karolinska krigare 1660–1721. Helsingfors: Schildts Förlags AB. p. 181. ISBN 978-951-50-1823-6. 
  7. Ullgren, Peter (2008) (in Swedish). Det stora nordiska kriget 1700–1721. Stockholm: Prisma. p. 169. ISBN 978-91-518-5107-5. 
  8. Englund, Peter (1988) (in Swedish). Poltava. Stockholm: Atlantis. p. 38. ISBN 91-7486-834-9. 
  9. Cooper, Leonard (1968). Many Roads to Moscow: Three Historic Invasions. London: Hamish Hamilton. p. 42. ISBN 0-241-01574-X. 
  10. Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire, 1682- 1719 - R. Nisbet Bain
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Dorrell, Nicholas. The Dawn of the Tsarist Empire: Poltava & the Russian Campaigns of 1708—1709, Partizan Press (2009). pp 121 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "dorrell" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "dorrell" defined multiple times with different content
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Ett kort dock tydeligit utdrag utur then öfwer konung Carl den Tolftes lefwerne och konglida dater, Jöran Andersson Nordberg (1745). pp 585 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Nordberg" defined multiple times with different content
  13. Peter From, Katastrofen vid Poltava (2007), Lund, Historiska media. pp. 174.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Clodfelter, Micheal (2002). Warfare and Armed Conflict. McFarland. 
  15. Peter From, Katastrofen vid Poltava (2007), Lund, Historiska media. pp. 196.
  16. Swedish Wikipedia
  17. Bengt Liljegren, Karl XII: En biografi. (2000) Lund, Historiska media. pp 159. ISBN 91-85377-14-7
  18. Тарле Евгений Викторович Северная война и шведское нашествие на Россию. — Сочинения. — Москва: Издательство Академии Наук СССР, 1959. — Т. 10. — С. 363—800. — 841 с.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Konovaltjuk & Lyth (2009)
  20. Nicholas Dorrell (2009)
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Moltusov, Valerij Aleksejevitj (2009) (in Swedish). Poltava 1709: Vändpunkten. SMB. p. 83. ISBN 978-91-85789-75-7.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Poltava 1709" defined multiple times with different content
  22. 22.0 22.1 Peter From, Katastrofen vid Poltava (2007), Lund, Historiska media. pp. 240.
  23. Karl XII:s ryska fälttåg: källstudier, Hans Villius (1951). pp 60
  24. 24.0 24.1 Lanciai Christian, Segern och nederlaget (1974) p. 107
  25. Nordisk Familjebok
  26. Anders Fryxell: Berättelser ur svenska historien, Volym 15. p. 166, 1861
  27. Peter Frost, Katastrofen vid Poltava (2007) p. 259
  28. Peter Englund: Poltava, p.215. Atlantis 1988. ISBN 91-7486-834-9.
  29. (Swedish) Christer Kuvaja: Karolinska krigare 1660–1721, p.192. Schildts Förlags AB 2008. ISBN 978-951-50-1823-6.
  30. Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  31. (Russian) Istorīia Petra Velikago, p. 355

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