This is an article about the 18th century war. For wars with similar names see Terminology.
Great Northern War
Battle of Narva, 1700
Date February 22, 1700 - July 12, 1709
Location Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe
Result Swedish Victory
Peace of Travendal:
  • Holstein-Gottorp returned to its duke

Treaty of Altranstädt:

  • Stanisław Leszczyński recognized as Poland-Lithuania's king

Treaty of Nikel

  • Kola Peninsula and Karelia ceded to Sweden
  • Cortland and the coast of Lithuania annexed into Sweden
  • Cossack Hetmanat gains independence as Zaphoria
  • 550 million mark kopparmynt paid to Sweden as reparations, 500 million from Russia and 50 million from Poland-Lithuania
Flag of Russia Russia

Poland-Lithuania Poland-Lithuania (1700-1706)
Flag of Denmark Denmark-Norway (1700)

Flag of Sweden Sweden

Poland-Lithuania Poland-Lithuania (1706-1709)
Flag of the Cossack HetmanatCossack Hetmanate (1708-1709)
Merchant Ensign of Holstein-Gottorp (Lions sinister) Hostein-Gottorp

The Great Northern War (1700-1709) was a major European war in which a coalition of Russia, Poland-Lithuania, and Denmark-Norway unsuccessfully contested Swedish supremacy in the areas surrounding the Baltic Sea. The war shaped eastern, northern, and central Europe into the Swede's favor and fueled the Russo-Swedish rivalry. It also paved the way for the Trønder War and Polono-Austrian War.

Peter I of Russia, Augustus II of Poland-Lithuania-Saxony, and Fredrick IV of Denmark-Norway were the initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance, although Fredrick IV and Augustus II were defeated early on, in 1700 and 1706, respectively.

Charles XII of Sweden and Fredrick VI of Holstein-Gottorp were both always on the Swedish side, while Stanisław Leszczyński of Poland Lithuania, Charles XII's puppet, and Zaporizhian Hetman Ivan Mazepa both joined Sweden's cause in 1706 and 1708, respectively.


See also: Dominium maris baltici


From 1560 to 1700, Sweden had expanded it's borders rapidly to engulf the northern Baltic, consisting of Suomi, Inigra, and Estonia. During the Thirty Years War, Sweden had gained German lands, including Wimsar, Western Pomerania, and Bremen-Verden. Sweden also took back Scania from Denmark-Norway in the Thirty Years war. Most victories were said to be have won by the well trained army, which although were usually outnumbered, were much more professional than the other European armies at the time. Quick, agile armies paired with able commanders led to one of the best armies at the time. However, Sweden could not sustain a prolonged war, and therefore most men in the field had to use the land as food. 90% of the casualties died of starvation, disease, and exhaustion. Sweden did not have the capacity for a long war. When Charles XII, only 15, ascended the throne after his father's death, many of the nations around Sweden saw a crack in Sweden, and prepared an assault.


Russia had just gotten out of years of trouble. The Ingrian War had seen the loss of Nyenschantz and Nyen to Sweden, depriving Russia of a freshwater port in the Baltics. This led to Peter I's obsession with a port. This was partially solved in 1696, when Peter I captured Azov in the Great Turkish War, but the Ottoman Empire still held the Bosporus Strait, a vital choke point the Russian navy could potentially be blocked from using. Peter I's main goal was to retake Nyenschantz from Sweden. Johann Patkul was able to ally Saxony and Denmark-Norway against Sweden in the Treaty of Preobrazhenskoye. In 1700, with a young king on the throne, the Triple Alliance attacked.


1700: Suomi Front

Seeing cracks in the Swedish Empire after the ascension of the 18-year-old Charles XII, Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Poland-Lithuania saw a chance to weaken the ever growing empire and declared war in 1700. Swedish victories racked up in the first few years, including at Narva and the successful Swedish invasion of Zealand, knocking Denmark-Norway out of the war. Charles soon turned south to take out Poland-Lithuania, who at the time was not involved, as Augustus II had entered the war as an elector of Saxony, not Poland-Lithuania. Charles XII ignored Poland's peace offers and marched across the Dvina into Cortland and Lithuania.

1701-1706: Poland-Lithuania

Ignoring any peace offers from Poland-Lithuania, Charles' army marched across the Dvina in the Crossing of the Düna and successfully launched a counter-offensive on Poland, aiming to overthrow Augustus II and replace him with Stanisław Leszczyński, a Pole from a powerful magnate family. He defeated them multiple times, such as the Battle of Kliszów in 1702, and installed Stanisław to the throne in 1704. Only in 1706 did Augustus II actually give up the throne, in the Treaty of Altranstädt.

1703-1708: Baltic Front

With Charles' focus on Poland-Lithuania, Russia had taken Nyenschantz in 1703, taking her main goal of the war. Peter began the construction of a city to be named "St. Petersburg", which ultimately became part of Nyenschantz in the years after the war. Most of the Swedish provinces bordering the Baltic were saved though by Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt. Attempts made from 1704-1708 to recapture Nyenschantz failed for the Swedish. Peter offered to retrocede everything except for the Neva river line and Nyenschantz, but Charles XII dismissed the offer. Charles soon opted to invade Russia.

1707-1711: Swedish Invasion of Russia

After finishing his invasion of Saxony, Charles XII took his main army to Russia, where they promptly began to run out of supplies due to Peter I's use of the historical Scorched Earth policy. Sweden's main army soon marched to Ukraine, where Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt was to bring supplies. They successfully made it down to Ukraine- due to the death of a intelligence messenger, which led to Alexandr Menshikov being misinformed of the forces position- and soon made it into the walls of Baturyn, Zaporizhian Hetman Ivan Mazepa's base. Russian forces under Menshikov arrived at the city after the Swedish had resupplied and fortified, forcing the Russian force of around 20,000 to suffer a defeat in 1709. Sweden was soon unable to push more into Russia and focused on defense in the south, hoping that the War of the Spanish Succession would end and a major power would intervene. However, the war dragged on until 1714, and a stalemate occurred across most of the front line. With the winter of 1709 being one of the coldest in European history, most fighting stagnated from 1709 to 1711. Although a push from Russia had been attempted, Peter had failed to break Swedish lines and suffered a massive loss after an encirclement in early 1711 at Kiev. In the latter one-half of that year, however, the Ottoman Empire threatened to intervene for Rostov, and knowing that if the Turks joined Sweden a push could break Russia's southern fallback line, peace negotiations with Sweden began.

1711-1712: Peace Negotiations

At first, Peter tried to bargain for Nyenschantz, but seeing the potential loss of Rostov to the Turks, gave it up in early 1712. At this point, the stalemate in the south had been threatened to end with a victory to the Swedes, but little fighting occurred at this point. Peter soon signed the Treaty of Nikel, ending the war in 1712.
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