Skip to main content
Select Source:

Poltava, Battle of

POLTAVA, BATTLE OF

The Battle of Poltava was the defining battle of the Great Northern War (17001721), fought on June 27, 1709, between the Swedish and Russian armies along the River Vorskla to the north of the Ukrainian city of Poltava.

After the rejection of a Russian peace offer in 1707, the Swedish King Karl (Charles) XII spent much of the summer of 1708 in Lithuania waiting for supplies for an assault on Russia. However, in September he decided to move down to the Ukraine where he expected to gain the support of the Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa. In the meantime, Tsar Peter I managed to defeat the Swedish forces Charles had been waiting for (the battle of Lesnaia, September 28, 1708) and seized the supplies. The Swedish forces suffered a great deal during the cold winter of 1709 and were regularly attacked by Russian units. Even though the Swedish forces had been besieging Poltava since April 1709, they were severely weakened by the time Peter was ready to attack.

Three days before the battle Charles XII was immobilized by a leg wound caused by a stray bullet and was thus unable to personally lead the Swedish forces into battle. It had, moreover, become apparent that no help would be arriving in time from either the Polish-Lithuanian forces of Stanislaw Leszczyn´ski or other Swedish units. In spite of this, a Swedish victory presented the prospect of easing supply problems, of helping Leszczyn´ski, andpossiblyof inducing Ottomans and Tatars to commit to the Swedish side. Moreover, a Swedish withdrawal would have presented serious risks.

The Swedish force of 22,00028,000 responded to a Russian challenge with a major assault, although Peterat the helm of a much larger force of some 45,000 menappears to have viewed Poltava as primarily a defensive encounter. However, confusing orders left part of the Swedish force attacking Russian T-shaped redoubts rather than the main camp. These Swedish units, led by Carl Gustav Roos, lost contact with the main force as well as two-fifths of their men. They eventually retreated and were forced to surrender. The other two-thirds of the Swedish force successfully regrouped for an attack on the camp awaiting Roos. The Swedes, however, lost their momentum during the two-hour wait, whereas the Russians were revitalized by news of the surrender. A Russian force of 22,000 men and sixty-eight field guns now attacked the remaining four thousand Swedes led by Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt. Disorganization and inferior numbers ultimately led to a chaotic Swedish retreat. The Swedes lost 6,901 dead or wounded and 2,760 captured. The Russian losses were 1,345 dead and 3,290 wounded.

Three days after the battle, Charles went into exile in the Ottoman Empire and the Swedish force of 14,00017,000 surrendered at Perevolochna. Even though the Treaty of Nystad was only concluded twelve years later, the defeat suffered at Poltava marks the end of Sweden as a great power.

See also: great northern war

bibliography

Frost, Robert I. (2000). The Northern Wars: War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe, 15581721. Harlow, UK, and New York: Longman.

Hughes, Lindsey. (1998). Russia in the Age of Peter the Great. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Jarmo T. Kotilaine

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poltava, Battle of." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poltava, Battle of." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poltava-battle

"Poltava, Battle of." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poltava-battle

Poltava

Poltava (pəltä´və), city (1989 pop. 315,000), capital of Poltava region, E Ukraine, on the Kiev-Kharkiv highway and on the Vorskla River, a tributary of the Dnieper. It is an industrial center and important rail junction in the rich black-earth agricultural region. The city has railroad shops, food- and tobacco-processing plants, and factories that produce machinery, railroad equipment, automobiles, tractors, building materials, footwear, leather goods, textiles, and wood products. One of the oldest Ukrainian cities, Poltava was the site of a Slavic settlement in the 8th and 9th cent. It became part of Lithuania in 1430. In the 17th cent., under Bohdan Chmielnicki, it was the chief town of a Ukrainian Cossack regiment. Poltava was a flourishing commercial center in the 18th and 19th cent., a principal focus of the Ukrainian literary and national movement, and, under Czar Nicholas I, a place of exile. Nearby lies the battlefield where Czar Peter I defeated Charles XII of Sweden and the hetman Mazeppa of Ukraine in 1709 (see Northern War) in a battle that marked Russia's emergence as a major European power. Poltava was the home of the writer Nikolai Gogol, many of whose stories are set in the nearby village of Dikanka. The city is the location of the gravitational observatory of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poltava." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poltava." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poltava

"Poltava." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/poltava

Poltava

Poltava a city in east central Ukraine which was besieged unsuccessfully in 1709 by Charles XII's Swedish forces; they were defeated by the Russians under Peter the Great.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Poltava." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Poltava." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/poltava

"Poltava." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/poltava