The Great Baltic War was a conflict, started by Novgorod, which at first appeared as though it would follow the course of innumerable previous encounters between it and Svealand. However it would soon evolve into a massive bid for Svealandic dominance under the aegis of the supremely ambitious Olaf IV, not just of the 'near-east' but of the whole of North-East Europe. Although Svealand would eventually be defeated, the experience would ultimately forge a renewed and strengthened Kalmar Union.
During the long period after the Fifty Years War the Kalmar Union had slowly slid into irrelevance. The badly conducted Kalmar-Wessex War (1681-1701) had shown up the faultlines within the Kalmar alliance. Denmark was mired in civil war during the 1720s and when the Leifian Kalmar states were attacked during the War of the League of Arcachon it would be the decidedly non-Kalmar nation of Portugal which would assist them not those of Scandinavia. Svealand had stayed aloof from much of this, pursuing its own agenda. The administrative and military reforms started after independence from Denmark were maintained and by the 1750s it was widely accepted that Svealand had the finest army in Europe. Without a large population to rely on Svealand had concentrated on seeking out the finest commanders, irrespective of their class and its small army was drilled to perfection allowing it to outclass and outfire armies twice its size. Indeed many friendly foreign armies were beginning to send their officers to Stockholm for instruction. The army did not rely on forced conscription like many other forces but on an allotment system which compelled groupings of farms to support a number of professional soldiers. The army struck fear into less-professional forces as its soldiers would march unfazed by volleys of gunfire until close, unleash a deadly close-range volley and then charge the stunned opponents with swords aloft, usually to victory. At the same time had built a fine fleet, furnished by the same land-team allotment system which bolstered the army, and this was put to use outside of the Baltic.
On the Scandinavian peninsula Hordaland looked decidedly west, becoming ever-more broken by its clumsy attempts at retaining its Irish holdings. Gothenland meanwhile had attempted to emulate Svealand's reforms but had neglected to take the leadership out of the hands of the self-interested nobility, leading to stagnation and its army was on the verge of obsolescence. Finally the Ladish Republic, although blessed with an even smaller but well-equipped and drilled army, appeared uninterested in anything but petty squabbles between Trondheim and Oulu. All in all Svealand was the pre-eminent power in Scandinavia and was more and more confident about showing it.
For centuries Svealand and Novgorod had been at loggerheads. While Novgorod wanted nothing more than unfettered access to the Baltic Svealand had little desire to see the full-scale collapse of Novgorod which would have probably benefitted Tver and Vladimir at Svealand's expense. Both states were considered poor but had 'inexhaustible reserves of man-power' and were considered little better than 'the Horde with Orthodox rulers'. Novgorod by contrast at least had the 'sheen of civilisation'. Previous rulers had therefore simply incrementally added land to Finland. The Ingrian War of 1723 had added Ingria to Svealand, by far the single largest gain and blocking Novgorod's Baltic access, and it had been skillfully defended by Gustav V Olaf in 1753-55. Gustav V Olaf's rule had angered many however with his seeking of absolutist rule, sidelining both the Riksdag and the Privy Council. In 1759 when Gustav V Olaf died, his heir was the 12-year old Louise, and her accession was seen by many Riksdag members as an opportunity to roll back his gains. They duly spent the early portion of her reign quickly shoring up their own powers.
First YearEffectively beholden to a confident Riksdag the minority of Queen Louise had stirred up passions amongst the Ingrian nobility. Unhappy at the way Gustav V Olaf had pushed through reforms in the province, including promoting Lutheranism and attempting to abolish serfdom, they agitated for a return to the old regime. The native Ingrians were soon outnumbered by Svealandic and Finnish migrants happy to take up farming in the sparsely inhabited land dispossessing the old families. In March 1761 the Svealandic-Ingrian nobleman Henrik Paykull negotiated terms with the Novgorodians confirming he would defect to their side in a potential future war in return for all of the Ingrian lands currently held by purely Svealandic nobles. They readily agreed and in May, much earlier than Paykull had expected, an incident was found on the border for which Novgorod declared war on Svealand. Paykull duly defected severely weakening the Svealandic mobilisation.
With Ingrian help Novgorod conquered the province over the course of the summer overwhelming the Svealandic force through sheer weight of numbers. Then it turned northwards towards Finland and Karelia. The Riksdag dithered and the Svealand's Livonian army was sent in to attempt to salvage the situation. Its able commander had recently been replaced by a Riksdag appointee who soon proved incapable of defeating a flanking army barrelling out of Ingria.
The Battle of Valmiera was a rout with the Novgorodians slaughtering the garrison of the fort before Grand Prince Feodor VI sent urgent word to stop the massacre. Riga was left open for attack. At this the Riksdag virtually imploded in recriminations paralysing the country. Eventually in January 1762 a cabal of nobles, army chiefs and Riksdag members pushed the charismatic and ambitious Olaf IV, Earl of Närke to the forefront. Louise and her regents were forced to sign their own abdication.
The MeteorOlaf was married to Gustav V Olaf's youngest sister Catharina, he himself was Gustav V Olaf and Catharina's cousin and as Louise's uncle he had essentially risen to be the most senior male member of the Svealandic royal family. Already a decorated commander, he had participated in the Siege of Malta (1755) and was passionate about maintaining Svealand's military edge. He had also read his sagas well and knew that the Rus' states had their roots in Norse warrior kingdoms. He was therefore more disposed to pushing Svealand's military advantage to reclaim 'lost' territory on the Dnieper and Volga.
With the Novgorodian army approaching Viborg and simultaneously entering Livonia Olaf was granted emergency powers. A full mobilisation of the Svealandic allotments followed. Olaf personally picked the commanders reversing, with exceptions, most of the Riksdag's appointees. Foreign students, apart from those well-thought of and well-disposed to take up arms for Svealand, were unceremoniously thrown out of Stockholm. The allotments were also rolled out properly across Livonia and Güstrow too (those these would take a few years to come to fruition).
By late-Spring Olaf had a potential 45,000 men under arms. While this crack army was slowly convened in Riga (which Novgorod bizarrely did not press their advantage for) Olaf took command of a Finnish battalion and forced Novgorod into several set-piece battles around Viborg. This culminated in the Battle of the Neva in January 1763, as the Svealanders, some 8,000 strong and their backs against the river utterly routed a 30,000 strong Novgorod army in a blinding snowstorm. This delivered a good proportion of the Novgorodian cannon into Svealandic hands. Next the Livonian army crept into action smashing through to begin a long siege of Luga, the main Novgorodian fortress before Novgorod itself. Olaf himself supervised the Siege of Nöteborg.
Meanwhile he ordered the Baltic to be cleared of non-friendly ships. Whilst not an extraordinary decree (Denmark had made similar demands during the Fifty Years War) it riled the Saaremese as they had traditionally enjoyed neutrality of the Baltic and they soon refused to allow Svealandic marines on to their vessels. Despite impassioned pleas from Duchess Loviisa Saaremaa was occupied and its small but well-provisioned navy confiscated.The city of Novgorod finally fell in May 1765. By this point Svealand's armies were matching through the Novgorodian hinterland with impunity. However the city was mysteriously set on fire denying the Svealanders shelter and supplies. Meanwhile Grand Prince Feodor VI, along with much of his family and the government, had managed to slip through into Poland-Lithuania. Paykull was captured, brought to Stockholm and executed after a well-publicised trial. Although almost utterly broken Novgorod refused to come to terms, at least not the terms Olaf was offering. He promised peace in return for Luga, Karelia and Kola, and finally Arkhangelsk, which would have left Novgorod without any ports and turned it into a virtual dependency. Poland-Lithuania had been watching the events to the North with some trepidation and broadly supported Novgorod as a balance on its old enemy Tver. It was however afraid that openly confronting Olaf would push him to ally with Hungary which it was currently battling during the 2nd Hungarian War. Finding no help forthcoming from Copenhagen instead it turned to the Empire, petitioning it to intervene. Emperor Frederick VII duly agreed arguing that Olaf had usurped the throne and his possessions (as Livonia was an Imperial territory) should be confiscated. Gustrow soon was, its small force overwhelmed, after which the well-regarded Saxon army flying the Imperial banner turned eastwards. This Imperial army soon threatened Livonia and Olaf pulled his armies out of Novgorod to meet the threat.
Imperial PhaseAlthough Olaf's forces had near doubled by this point the Imperial army was still larger and was fresh instead of having had to eke out a living in increasingly precarious conditions in Ingria. Their arrival pushed the Svealandic army into Danish Estonia where it forcibly requisitioned provisions from the Estonians. Denmark complained but ultimately acquiesced. They had their own issues with the Empire and several ministers cynically welcomed Frederick VII being given a bloody nose. Indeed Olaf soon had the upper-hand against the Imperial troops too with victories at Kirishi and Hrodna again giving him breathing space. However his concentration on Livonia lost him certain fortresses in Novgorod.
Frederick VII lost considerable face with these losses however, through another round of conscription from Saxony, plus levies from the Brunswick duchies, soon raised another army, larger than Svealand's entire force to bolster the Imperial troops now wintering in Lithuania. Hannes Nordegren lost a considerable battle at Saldus, a defeat which led to full conscription being levied in Svealand, lowering the effectiveness of the army. However Olaf himself commanded the army at First and Second Battles of Aizkraukle, and at Nereta in 1767. In these battles the Saxons, though numerically superior, were lured into poor positions and comprehensively beaten.
By mid-1768 Denmark had finally had enough. Anglia had already complained to it bitterly about restrictions in trade on the Baltic and to Arkhangelsk. The governors of Estonia had sent detailed complaints about the abuses and damage caused by the Svealanders and Olaf turned down demands for compensation. For the first time in decades the Anglia agreed a joint campaign with Denmark. Olaf however was ahead of his enemies as usual; while the Danish ministers were still drawing up the declaration to present before the Riksdag Olaf had sent his own declaration and crossed into Viken. Oslo was soon under siege and the Kalmar navy was at the bottom of the Baltic. Estonia's treasury was raided. Denmark had no response other than hope the defenses ringing Copenhagen would be enough to put Olaf off from advancing on the capital.With Novgorod still refusing terms, the Empire rapidly raising a new army and the war against Denmark and Anglia barely even begun it seemed as though Olaf could have sat back and allowed his enemies to come to him. However he had bigger plans and on 15th August 1769 he allied with Hungary and declared war on Poland-Lithuania. Citing a distant Jagiellonian ancestor he made claim to the Lithuanian crown (not the Polish one which would have conflicted with Nikolaus I's aims for Hungary). In the ever fractuous Sejm some nobles opposed the rule of their 'king' Konstancja and were well-disposed to the idea and he definitely received a certain degree of support as Olaf ploughed his way towards Warsaw and, potentially, Saxony. Warsaw was captured in March 1770 but the Svealandic command appeared unsure of how to proceed further. Feints towards the Empire produced victories but Olaf was about unsure about entering Bohemia or Sorbia lest Austria bury its hostility to Frederick VII and enter the war. A brief excursion into Pomerania was abandoned after Anglia landed a force at Stettin. Krakow was approached in early 1771, however Queen Konstancja refused to flee and rallied the population.
By this point the Svealandic army was at breaking point. Although it could still effectively beat the forces sent against it could not replace its losses as quickly as needed. New recruits raised by conscription did not have the discipline of the older regiments and the tactics which worked so well now became a liability. Olaf retreated from Krakow realising he would not be able to capture the city before being trapped by the Imperial and Anglian armies. Looking for an easier target he settled on Minsk in the north-east of the Rzeczpospolita.
The Siege of Minsk proved Olaf's undoing however and surveying the siege lines early on 11th August, he was shot and killed by a Polish musketeer. His empire was perhaps already about to unravel anyway. The day before, his flag ship the Leijonhufvud was sunk by an Anglian squadron off the coast of Bornholm. A week earlier an Anglian-Manx army had landed in Oslo overwhelming the unprepared garrison and were soon deep in Dalarna. The Livonian army was severely overstretched and low on provisions. Novgorod had begun to made advances too, reinvesting Nöteborg. By Christmas Svealand itself was overrun and Stockholm in flames.
Denmark now dictated terms to Svealand. Olaf had no legitimate offspring and so the ex-queen Louise was bought back from exile and installed in the still smoldering capital. The Svealandic Riksdag was handed back considerable power in a hastily written constitution. The Livonian army had retreated from Minsk, harassed by Imperial and Polish columns, to Livonia. After the inconclusive clash at Jelgava Queen Louise sent urgent word to surrender to the Saxon forces.
At this point the Poland-Lithuania signed peace with Svealand and Denmark. Hungary had taken advantage of Olaf's humiliation of the Polish army to secure Slovakia and the Sejm was desperate not to have to fight on two fronts. Louise expressly gave up whatever claims Svealand had (real or imaginary) over any part of Poland-Lithuania and they were satisfied with leaving it at that. The Empire too jumped at the chance of peace. Frederick had not found the prestige he had desired out of the war and was happy merely to extract various trade rights out of the Baltic.
Saaremaa was released too and what remained of the ships Svealand had confiscated would eventually be returned. Alone amongst Olaf's opponents Novgorod still refused to come to peaceful terms. With the Livonian army incapacitated the Novgorodians advanced into Finland having already eradicated opposition in Ingria and even attempting to seize Danish Reval (Tallinn). With little choice Anglia and Denmark declared war on Novgorod.
Picking up the pieces of the Svealandic army the Danes moved through Finland to relieve Vyborg in May 1772 and Nöteborg in September. By November the Livonian army under Anglian/Svealandic command had re-entered Ingria. Most of the actual fighting was conducted on Estonian soil as the Novgorodians dug themselves in and repelled sustained attack from all sides. Thwarted, Christopher VII eventually scored a convincing victory at Narva on 8th August 1773 and from there Novgorodian resistance crumpled. The city of Novgorod fell once more to the alliance in October. This time Feodor VI welcomed peace however a final treaty took three months of wrangling.
The Treaty of Lubeck was chiefly a means to stop the war and satisfy Novgorod's medium-term aims. It was not a document meant to restrain Svealand, and as all of Novgorod's allies had dropped out by this point there was little interference from other parties.
Under the main clause Ingria was handed back to Novgorod. The Svealandic nobility were given a month to evacuate their property if they desired, an option not given to the lower classes. Although deeply divisive the Svealandic Riksdag agreed to it knowing the potential loss of Finland and Livonia could have been much worse. This did however create an over-whelming defensiveness about its remaining Baltic territory. The massive cost of improvements planned to turn Vyborg into an impenetrable fortress would by the end of the century turn loyal Finland to rebellion. For the time being many of the families who had emigrated from Finland and Svealand to Ingria in previous generations now fled the transferred territory fearing reprisals. Many would end up in Álengiamark which was opening up its own under-used farmland to outsiders, creating a agricultural boom on which its own temporary financial dominance rested.
Some 30% of the Estonian population was killed either directly in the war or as a result of it. In the second clause of the treaty Novgorod promised to pay substantial reparations to the Danish duchy. Poor relief would still be being paid out from this fund even by the signing of the Treaty of Rae (1848) which gave Estonia independence.
Güstrow, under Emperor Frederick VII's personal control since its seizure in 1765, was returned to Svealand in 1779. Frederick had briefly advocated making it an Imperial fief directly passed from Emperor to Emperor but Danish hostility to this plan soon led him to drop the idea. Güstrow would soon become independent after the Svealandic possessions were split between Louise's three sons.
Three days after the treaty's signing Louise ordered her ministers to begin arrangements to rejoin the Kalmar Union. Signalling that Svealand was no longer a 'lone wolf' it would begin the 'Fourth' Kalmar Union, a much more integrated and co-operative alliance than those that had come before. It would not long before the Svealandic 'allotment' system for the armed forces was copied out across the alliance and a central 'Kalmar' academy was producing well-trained officers bringing the separate national armies up to the same high standards.