'This victory', exulted Peter the Great, 'has
laid the final stone in the foundations of St Petersburg!'
The Battle of Poltava, 1709, marks the birth of the
Tsar's vast Russian Empire. In 1700, seeking to open
Russian trade routes to the West, the Tsar combined
with Denmark, Saxony and Poland to attack Swedish hegemony
in the North.
Against the odds, King
Charles XII of Sweden subdued the hostile coalition
for nearly a decade, but in 1708 took his fatal decision
to march for Moscow. His defeat at Poltava, in the Ukraine,
proved the turning-point of the Great Northern War,
heralding the collapse of the Swedish Empire and the
rise of Russia. For almost three hundred years, from
the Baltic states through Poland and the Ukraine down
to the Black Sea, the future of millions was sealed
by this decisive battle.
Swedish historian Peter
Englund's vivid account of three violent days relives
the drama from the viewpoint of the ordinary man - and
woman - in the defeated Swedish army. His narrative
looks beyond national politics and the tactics of the
commanders: it addresses wide issues of humanity - suffering,
slaughter and enslavement of thousands of men, women
and children. The Battle of Poltava is an indictment
of the savagery of wars, and the forces that cause them.