понедельник, 18 апреля 2022 г.

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The 18th century in northern Europe promised to begin with the thunder of cannons. Russia, Denmark and Saxony claimed territories belonging to the Kingdom of Sweden and its ally, the Duchy of Holstein-Gottorp. These lands were located on the southern and eastern coasts of the Baltic Sea. Russia showed the greatest interest, since Swedish dominance in the Baltics closed Russia's access to the sea and hindered ties with Western Europe. The three powers concluded a treaty between themselves against Sweden, which served as a prologue to the war. In February 1700, Saxon troops invaded Livonia (the territory of modern Latvia), in March the Danes launched an offensive against Holstein, in August Russia declared war on Sweden. Thus began the Northern War - the war to which King Charles XII of Sweden devoted his whole life.

In 1700, Charles XII was 18 years old. He did not have time to become famous for anything, except for his masterful and scandalous character, which only the courtiers knew about. From his father, he inherited absolute power over a strong kingdom, where economic and financial order reigned, guarded by one of the best armies in Europe. The outbreak of war forced the young king to forget the palace entertainment - his possessions were in serious danger. Circumstances called for quick and decisive action. The rapid landing of the Swedish troops on the Danish coast forced Denmark to capitulate. In Livonia, the Saxons failed to take Riga. But in the fall of 1700, the Russian Tsar Peter I with 40 thousand soldiers laid siege to the main fortress of the Swedes - Narva. Karl with a 10,000-strong army rushed to her aid. He began his first serious battle contrary to all the rules of military art, immediately throwing infantry against the main fortifications of the Russian camp. A fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued - the Swedes pressed the bravely and fiercely resisting enemy on the flanks. In the midst of the battle, a snowstorm shot up, blinding the combatants, but the fierceness of the fight only increased. The soldiers stabbed and chopped almost blindly. And when the wind died down, the Swedish cavalry swept across the field, chasing the remnants of the enemy behind the line of trenches. The last Russian units surrendered. Karl, slowly circling the field, examined the trophies and prisoners. Turning in the saddle to Lieutenant-General Rehnskiöld, the young king sneered contemptuously and pointed at the disarmed Russian soldiers with a wave of his glove: “There is no pleasure in fighting the Russians - they don’t resist like others, but run.”
The young king really amazed his contemporaries: he did not tolerate luxury, walked in a simple blue uniform, without a wig, led a Spartan lifestyle and was distinguished by reckless courage. This courage sometimes looked like boyish hooliganism and baffled those close to him. It cost nothing to Charles, shouting to his retinue “Follow me!”, Without any explanation, gallop for several miles to appear before Augustus II, whom he had just forced to abdicate the Polish throne. And all this in order to declare with a seductive smile that he, they say, “came to say goodbye”, wave his hat and disappear. People from the retinue who accompanied Charles on his adventure told with horror that the king was not killed or captured only because Augustus was dumbfounded and speechless with surprise. Carl, who believed in his genius, checked fate to see if she was keeping him. And fate kept him.

In 1707 Charles XII was at the zenith of his glory. However, his military affairs in the east were far from being brilliant: Peter I recaptured the bases in Estonia and Livonia (modern Estonia and Latvia) from the Swedes, in 1704 Narva fell. But the Europeans did not attach any importance to this and still did not take Russia seriously. Karl, learning about the construction of St. Petersburg, grinned: “Let him build. It will still be ours." He lived with memories of the Narva victory and the easy reprisals against Denmark and Poland, surrounded by reverence and flattery. He allowed himself to interfere in the affairs of the Austrian Empire under the pretext of protecting the Austrian Protestants - his fellow believers. The instrument of influence was the army, which stood at the borders of the country. The Austrian emperor Joseph said bitterly that, thank God, Charles XII did not demand that he himself become a Protestant.

But among the glory and groveling of diplomats, Charles XII did not forget about the intentions that were born to him after the Narva victory and have been kept secret since then. “I never mentioned these plans to any person in the world,” he later wrote. The new Alexander remembered his eastern country, Russia.
Peter I learned a lesson from his defeat and took up the transformation of the state and the army. But for Charles, the victory at Narva had fatal consequences. The 18-year-old king, still inexperienced in state affairs, saw his true calling in leading victorious armies on the battlefield. To win, war is necessary, and this business becomes his manic passion. Karl seriously believed that a new Alexander of Macedon had come to earth in his person. The flattery of the courtiers fueled this dangerous idea. After some time, General Stenbock, an entourage of the king, wrote in alarm: “The king no longer thinks about anything, as soon as about the war, he no longer listens to advice; he takes on the appearance that God directly inspires him what he should do.

The victory near Narva attracted the attention of Europe to Sweden. France and its rivals, the "sea powers" England and Holland, who fought for the Spanish inheritance, saw a possible ally in the warlike king. They tried their best to win him over to their side. Karl was offered mediation in concluding a profitable peace with Russia, allocated subsidies and, of course, praised his military genius. The king listened to flattering speeches, accepted money, but did not enter the war for the Spanish succession, since he was not assigned the main role in this enterprise. Karl wanted to control the fate of peoples, and such an opportunity was provided to him in the East. Before the Macedonian king lay the power of the Achaemenids, before Charles XII - Russia.

V 1701 g. Karl reshal, kem iz nedobitykh vragov zanyat'sya. Yego vybor ostanovilsya na saksonskom kurfyurste Avguste II, kotoryy odnovremenno yavlyalsya korolem Pol'shi. Voyennyye deystviya razvernulis' na territorii sovremennoy Pribaltiki. Karl XII deystvoval ves'ma uspeshno, odnako dostat' Avgusta okazalos' ne tak prosto, poskol'ku tot vol voynu ot litsa Saksonii. S Pol'skim zhe gosudarstvom Shvetsiya ne voyevala. Karl nashel vykhod iz etogo strannogo polozheniya: on potreboval, ni mnogo ni malo, chtoby polyaki lishili Avgusta prestola. Polyaki otkazalis', no shvedskiy korol' ne znal slova «net». On bez promedleniya vtorgsya v Pol'shu. Vytesniv Avgusta v Saksoniyu, Karl reshil «sostryapat' polyakam novogo korolya». I deystvitel'no «sostryapal» — molodogo, maloizvestnogo dvoryanina Stanislava Leshchinskogo, gotovogo otstaivat' shvedskiye interesy. Pol'sha sdelalas' soyuznitsey Shvetsii. Voyna prodolzhalas' na territorii Saksonii, i vskore Avgust II byl vynuzhden prinyat' ul'timatum Shvetsii, soglasno kotoromu on otkazyvalsya na vse vremena ot pol'skoy korony i rastorgal vse vrazhdebnyye Shvetsii soyuzy.
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Translation results
In 1701, Karl decided which of the unfinished enemies to deal with. His choice settled on the Saxon elector Augustus II, who was also the king of Poland. Military operations unfolded on the territory of the modern Baltic states. Charles XII acted very successfully, but it was not so easy to get Augustus, since he waged war on behalf of Saxony. Sweden did not fight with the Polish state. Karl found a way out of this strange situation: he demanded, no less, that the Poles dethrone Augustus. The Poles refused, but the Swedish king did not know the word "no". He immediately invaded Poland. After driving Augustus into Saxony, Charles decided to "concoct a new king for the Poles." And he really “concocted” a young, little-known nobleman Stanislav Leshchinsky, who was ready to defend Swedish interests. Poland became an ally of Sweden. The war continued on the territory of Saxony, and soon Augustus II was forced to accept an ultimatum from Sweden, according to which he renounced the Polish crown for all time and terminated all alliances hostile to Sweden.

In his person, Russia lost an important ally, and Peter I lost a friend. The Treaty of Altranstadt in 1706 put an end to the struggle against the Saxon elector. A tense silence settled in the east of Europe. The European rulers waited, not without fear, where the new Alexander of Macedon would send his victorious troops. The town of Alt Ranstadt near Leipzig, where Charles XII set up his headquarters, became the diplomatic center of Europe. Ambassadors gathered there to testify to the Swedish king the respect of their sovereigns.

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