Poltava Battle in 1709
Ukraine on the eve of the Northern war
In 1700-1721 Russia waged a fierce war with Sweden, so-called Northern war, in order to take control of the Baltic sea coast. Russia’s allies were Denmark, Saxony, Poland and Prussia. Also Ukraine was involved into a struggle for foreign interests.
During 1700-1704 the Ukrainian cossacks commanded by D. Apostle, H. Borokhovich, I. Iskra, Yu. Lyzohub, H. Miklashevsky, I. Obidovsky fought in Estland and Livonia (modern Estonia and Latvia), Lithuania. They took part in battles for Noteburg renamed by Peter І as Shlisselburg, Nienschanz (1703 Saint Petersburg was founded in that place) and other fortresses.
In the meantime, position of Russia’s ally Poland became complicated. The Swedish king Karl XII captured Warsaw and Krakov. The Warsaw Seim 1704 deprived August II of the Polish throne. The supporter of Swedes Stanislaw Leszczynski became the king. However, the part of Polish gentry kept supporting August II.
By order of Peter І, the hetman I. Mazepa set out with Left-Bank Ukraine’s regiments to assistance August II. The Ukrainian Cossacks fought against Swedes as well as Polish and Lithuanian groupings of magnates supporting the Swedish king over the territory of Recz Pospolita for a few years.
1706 Karl XII managed to force August II to dissolve the military alliance with Russia and abdicate from the Polish throne in favour of Stanislaw Leszczynsky. Position of Russia became threatened. The Russian regiments entered Ukraine to repulse possible offensive of Swedes. Construction of the Kyiv-Pechersk fortress was started.
The Northern war lay down heavy burden on the shoulders of the Ukrainian people. Thousands of Cossacks perished in the distant campaigns. Lots of them died from exhausting works at building the fortifications, digging the channels and construction of Saint Petersburg. The economy of Ukraine was exposed to destruction; a population was exhausted from extortions and duties of Tsar's troops.
Background of the Poltava battle
For that purpose, in spring 1708 his army launched the campaign through Byelorussian lands towards Smolensk and farther to Moscow. However, counter-actions of the Moscow troops and the course of secret negotiations between Charles XII, his ally Polish king S. Leszczynski and hetman I. Mazepa forced the Swedish Command to change the primary plan of military operations.
The Ukrainian hetman determined to negotiate in order to make the Ukrainian-Swedish military-political alliance since after he had found out the Muscovite tsar Peter І was intending to eliminate Ukraine’s political autonomy. Rapid increase in the tax, military and other burden which the Left-Bank Ukraine was suffering from in the Northern wartime from the side of Muscovy administration and also demand of tsar's government to give back the Right-Bank Ukraine to the Recz Pospolita. In addition, I. Mazepa was striving for independence of Ukraine providing the Swedes win victory in the war.
In October 1708 the Swedish army crossed the Ukrainian borders. These developments forced I. Mazepa to openly declare his allegiance to the Swedes and join the Swedish troops to fight together against Muscovy. More...
Conquest and destroying of Baturyn by the Russian troops
After Peter І had found out about I. Mazepa’s switching to the side of the Swedish king he ordered his favorite Alexander Menshikov to destroy the hetman capital Baturyn.
The town was protected by 3,000-strong Cossack detachment headed by a colonel Dmytro Chechel. There were a lot of cannons in Baturyn, gunpowder, large supplies of food. The demand of Menshikov to surrender was replied by the town defenders with their decisive refusal. the siege started in the morning on November, 12 1708. The fate of Baturyn was determined by the betrayal: it became known to Russians about a secret subterranean passage into the town.
At dawn, on November, 13, they invaded into Baturyn. After a bitter clash, resistance of the town defenders was overcome. The imprisoned Cossacks suffered from tortures, they were fastened to the logs and thrown into the Seim river for adherents of Mazepa to be frightened. Thousands of the town civilians were pitilessly killed.
The Russians captured the State standards, artillery, munitions and archives. Afterwards the town with its churches and hetman Palace grew into a continuous fire. The tsar took revenge in such a barbarian way on fighters for freedom of Ukraine, who rebelled against Russian enslavement.
The Cossacks lead by К. Gordienko joining the Swedish-Ukrainian union
Mazepa did his best to involve the Zaporozhian Cossacks to stand for him. In March, 1709 his commissioners arrived to the Zaporozhian fortress of Perevolochna situated lower than the place Vorskla flows into Dnieper. There were the ataman Kost’ Gordienko and part of the Cossacks there. Regardless of old hostile relations between the hetman and the Zaporozhian Cossacks, the latter ones decided to support Mazepa in his anti-Russian struggle.
At the beginning of April К. Gordienko met Mazepa in town of Dykan'ka and Karl XII in the village of Velyki Budyshcha. The Ukrainian-Swedish Alliance Treaty signed by Mazepa, Gordienko and Karl XII was concluded between them on April, 8. As per the treaty, the Swedish king asserted Ukrainian State’s rights and liberties. The Zaporozhian Sich became a participant of the Swedish-Polish-Ukrainian Alliance. Karl XII pledged not to come into any peace negotiations with Russia till Ukraine is not free.
Destruction of the Chortomlyk Sich
Peter І understood the Zaporozhian Cossacks joining I. Mazepa and Karl XII can substantially influence on the course of the war. He decided to shatter the stronghold of the Cossacks – Sich. The Cossacks remaining there elected the new ataman Petro Sorochynsky. He had anti-Russian attitude, too.
In April, 1709 the tsar sent the large punitive detachment headed by the colonel Yakovlev against the Cossacks. Going Dniepr down, Yakovlev first destroyed the small town of Keleberda and then assaulted and captured the fortress of Perevolochna.
Its defenders and also women and children were chopped up. The Russians burned down the Cossack fleet stationed at the crossing.
On May, 9 Yakovlev succeeded in breaking the Zaporozhian cossacks’ resistance due to the treacherous acts of colonel Hnat Galagan. The Chortomlyk Sich existed no more. The Cossack prisoners were massacred. Only a few Zaporozhians succeeded in saving their lives.
By devastating the Sich Peter І wanted to undermine the moral spirit of the Cossacks who joined Mazepa and all the Ukrainian people that the Zaporozhian Sich symbolized freedom for , as well.
Defense of Poltava
Poltava played an important strategic part in the military campaign 1709. You see it lied at crossing of ways that conducted to Moscow, Slobidska Ukraine, Zaporozhian Sich, Right-Bank Ukraine, Crimea and Turkey.
At the beginning of May, 1709 the Swedish troops attempted to take the town by assaulting it, but that failure forced them to lay the long-lasting siege to Poltava. The fierce defense of the town by the Muscovite garrison restricted the main long time forces of Karl XII for long time and inflicted them considerable losses (over 6 thousand of the killed persons).
It enabled the Moscow Command to concentrate its forces and prepare for the General fight that Peter І planned to conduct on June, 29 (on July, 10) 1709. The troops of Peter I built the fortified camp, approaches to it 6 transversal and 4 longitudinal redoubts guarded.
Forces of the opponents were unequal. Peter had over 50 000 warriors with 102 cannons together with the Ukrainian regiments led by Skoropadsky. The colonel Semen Paliy was released from Siberian exile and able to return to the army of Skoropadsky, now as a colonel of Cavalry Volunteer Regiment. More...
Aftermath of the battle
On the 27th of June 1709 the Poltava battle that would has been far-going effects for Europe has taken place From the day of the Poltava battle, according to Peter Englund, Swedish historian, “the time of Swedish supremacy was over. Russia began getting free of its old enemy, mighty neighbour who was closing outlet to the Baltic see for it. At the same time, the Poltava battle became enormous disaster not for only Sweden but for Europe, as well; it broke the former power balance, - potency goes from Sweden to Russia after the Poltava. The latter grows stronger and transforms into the great power.” Since 1709 Ukraine has lost its independence, legal and international legal factors and therefore it existed no longer as a state.