Thirteen Years' War

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The Thirteen Years' War (16541667) consisted of three phases of conflict between Muscovy, Poland-Lithuania, and Sweden. Its roots can be found in Bogdan Khmelnitsky's Cossack revolt against Poland-Lithuania, which began in 1648. The Russians supported the Cossacks initially with favorable trade contacts and military supplies, and then eventually, following the 1653 Polish invasion of Ukraine, the Russians allied themselves formally with the Cossacks and entered the war in 1654.

Muscovy's Tsar Alexei led around 100,000 men, including his Zaporozhian Cossack allies, into Polish-Lithuanian territory and thus began the first phase of the war. The Russians enjoyed initial success, overwhelming the Polish forces and taking several important towns, such as Smolensk, Mogilev, and Vitebsk. Russian and Cossack forces regained much of the Ukrainian territories and even invaded Poland as far as the town of Brest. The Polish-Lithuanians counterattacked but could not dislodge the Russians. Poland's King John II Casimir, who had fled the country, managed to negotiate a truce with the Russians, and hostilities temporarily ended between the two nations with a three-year truce (1656).

At this point, while Sweden was involved in the First Northern War (16551660) against Poland and Denmark, Muscovy sought to regain territory it had formerly lost to the Swedes and moved to capture several towns, including Dinaburg, Dorpat, and Keksholm. The Russians failed, however, to take Riga, which they besieged during the summer of 1656, because they had no naval force and could not cut Riga off from its lines of supply. The Swedes launched a powerful counterattack, scattering the Russian army and forcing the tsar to flee for his life. When the war with Denmark took a turn for the worse in 1657, the Swedes sought peace with Muscovy (Truce of Valiesari, 1658).

The third and final phase of the war began when the truce between Muscovy and Poland-Lithuania ended in 1658. The Russians fought a series of fierce battles with the Poles in Lithuania and Belarus, defeating them at Vilnius, Kaunas, and Grodno, but losing twice at Mogilev (1661, 1666), and Vitebsk (1664). In the Ukrainian lands, the Russians suffered significant defeats at Konotop (1659), Lubar (1660), and Kushliki (1661). Complicating factors in the south included the defection of the Russians' Cossack allies under Vyhovsky, which isolated the Russians against the Poles, and Lubomirsky's Rebellion, which weakened the government of King John II Casimir at a critical moment and forced the Poles to accept peace with Muscovy. Early in 1664, the tsar approached the Poles to begin negotiations, but it was not until 1667 that a provisional peace agreement was signed at Andrusovo. Despite its losses, Muscovy came out of the war with sizeable gains in territory, not least of which included the key cities of Smolensk and Kiev.

See also: new-formation regiments; smolensk war


Longworth, Philip. (1984). Alexis, Tsar of All the Russias. New York: Franklin Watts.

O'Brien, Carl Bickford. (1963). Muscovy and the Ukraine, 16541667. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rady, Martyn. (1990). Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine, 14621725. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

W. M. Reger IV