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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 19 January 2014
Otto Arnold von Paykul and Johann Reinhold Patkul
Topic: Livonia

In the standard Swedish biographical dictionary (Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon) it is suggested that the Livonian nobleman Otto Arnold von Paykul (1662-1707), who was executed for serving in the enemy's forces during the GNW, may have been the son of Johann Friedrich von Paykull and Elisabeth Lode. This information is taken from Genealogisches Handbuch der baltischen Ritterschaften. Teil Estland, 1, pp 717-720. However, it appears to be incorrect, as letters from 1692 which concern him and the Koskullshof estate (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 217) indicate that he had inherited it from cavalry captain George Paykul (died 1688) and that his stepmother had lived there since his father's death. This corresponds well with records from the same year in Estonian Historical Archive: Otto Arend Paykell contra seine Stiefmutter geb. Anna von Wolfframsdorf in puncto Vermögens-Auseinandersetzung (EAA.915.1.249). 

The LVVA fond 7349 is also enormously rich in material about Johann Reinhold Patkul (1660-1707). This is particulary true of opis 2, volumes  191-204, where one finds a lot of material both about Patkul's military service and his political activities in the first half of the 1690's. One example is a letter from Governor General Hastfehr to Governor Soop, dated 14 March 1693. Hastfehr writes that captain Patkul has complained to him about being sent to Kokenhusen. Patkul has indicated that this would cause him so much trouble that he would feel forced to ask for a discharge. But as Charles XI now had decided to remove Patkul not only from Hastfehr's regiment but also from Livonia and place him in Finland (as captain in the Åbo infantry regiment). So, Hastfehr writes, this had taken the matter entirely out of his own hands. If Patkul still wanted to resign he should request his discharge through the proper channels (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 217, pp. 62-63)





Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:26 PM CET
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Sunday, 5 January 2014
To know best
Topic: Interpretations

The number of Swedish historical magazines directed at the general public is quite remarkable. While most of them tend to focus heavily on World War II they occasionaly contain articles on the GNW. Populär historia, which started in 1991, probably does this more than the others. The latest example came in issue 2013:12, where Åsa Karlsson, Gunnar Åselius and Marie Lennersand got about 15 pages for articles about Charles XII and the GNW. Åselius article promptly provoked a reply from Sverker Oredsson, who belongs to the so called "Old school" in the tradition of Anders Fryxell, F. F. Carlson and Ernst Carlson. 

Oredsson's objections (published in issue 2014:1) are primarily the following:

1. Charles XII could have made peace after his victories against the Russians and the Saxons (presumably in late summer 1701), which was what the leading powers in Europe and his own advisors wanted.

2. By waging war against Poland Charles weakened the country and laid the foundation for future partitions of Poland. 

3. Charles should not have attempted a march towards Moscow. It would have been better to focus on recapturing "those Baltic provinces which had been lost during his time in Poland".

4. This resulted in the Czar eventually acquiring more land than he had wanted as the original intention was just to reach the Baltic sea.

5. Charles attacks on Norway in 1716 and 1718 were "unnecessary and unprovoked".  


Let's start with no 1. Well, assuming that it would indeed have been possible - on what terms? Both the Saxons and the Russians had launched surprise attacks, which eventually were beaten back in quite spectacular fashion. Should Charles have offered the Czar Narva and Augustus Riga or was it (in view of the victories at Narva and the Daugava) more reasonable to demand land or some sort of reparations? 

Number 2: Well, even if that was true Charles can hardly be blamed for putting what he believed was the in the Swedish interest first. In fact, the whole point with his policy towards Poland was to create an "eternal" Swedish-Polish alliance against Russia. There was no disagreement among his advisors on that point, but many of them seemingly believed that it could be achieved without dethroning Augustus.

3. The only Baltic province which had been lost was Ingria and Lybecker's campaign in 1708 showed how difficult it was to supply an army there. The King's main army was 3-4 times as large as Lybecker's, so such an undertaking would most likely have been totally impossible.  To bring 35-40,000 men into Livonia would have resulted in similar difficulties. Indeed, a march into Lithuania made every possible sense both politically and strategically and may indeed have been the only feasible alternative. 

4. Yes, Ingria was all the Czar originally wanted, but Augustus was to have Livonia.

5. A most peculiar criticism as the Danes (and Norwegians) had entered the war in 1709. As the Norwegians had launched an invasion of Bohuslän in 1711, surely Charles XII's invasions in 1716 and 1718 were not "unprovoked"? Whether they were "necessary" is an other matter, considering the situation it could hardly be worthless to capture some part of Norway for use as a bargaining chip. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:34 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 5 January 2014 9:04 PM CET
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Monday, 4 November 2013
Krigskollegii brevböcker
Topic: Archives

The series Krigskollegii brevböcker is one the more interesting GNW collections available online (for a fee) through Riksarkivet. These very large volumes contain incoming letters to Krigskollegium (College of War). This administrative body did not have the authority it once had, particularly after the creation of the so called Defensionskommissionen, a committee consisting of several members of the Council of the Realm. Krigskollegium came to handle mostly issues of equipment, production of war materiel and fortifications. It also dealt with military trophies, which can be seen from such items as 1701:2345 ff., various lists of material taken from the Russian camp after the battle of Narva. Among the items one notes 3,569 muskets, 4 barrels of tar and two iron cauldrons. In 1701 there is also a letter from Medicinska Societeten (1701:429), which complains about the situation in regard to barber-surgeons. It's difficult to find qualified men as the pay is too low in view of the fact that the requirements in Sweden are higher than anywhere else in Europe. On 11 July Johan Sjöblad reports (1701:2179) about the succesful crossing of the Daugava etc.



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:54 PM CET
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Wednesday, 2 October 2013
The Courland trade
Topic: Diplomacy

Voltaire famously claimed that Charles XII only conquered to give his conquests to someone else, i.e. Stanisław Leszczyński. This is obviously a complete misunderstanding - the King's goals were much more ambitious than that. The gradual occupation of Courland which started in the summer of 1701 was intended to become permanent. This was also in line with the wishes of the merchants in Riga, who did not like the commercial ambitions of the Dukes of Courland. In the work Der baltische Getreidehandel im 17. Jahrhundert (1961) Arnold Soom briefly discusses some of the more "militant" attempts to limit the trade through Courland. One such attempt was made in 1690, when a Swedish man-of-war during the summer cruised off the coast of Courlandin an attempt to control the traffic. In 1691 the experiment was continued with the intent of stopping any trade to private ports. The Swedish captain Hans Ankarcrantz managed to capture two ships, which the Duke claimed belonged to him. A Swedish investigation found that this was not true, but the two vessels were nevertheless released for the sake of "good neighbourly relations". The Swedish Governor General of Livonia Hastfer was despite this incident determined to make an other effort in 1692. 

These events can be followed in LVVA, fond 7349. In op. 1, vol. 237 one finds for example an inventory of the two captured ships, a brief journal of the expeditions in 1690 and 1691 as well as letters and other documents dealing with similar naval expeditions later in the 1690's. In the Swedish copy book for 1697 (op. 1, vol. 69) there is the instruction issued to captain Michael Albrechtson in May 1697, when he was about to embark on one of these. Albrechtson is instructed to stop all trade from other ports than Libau and Windau, but make it quite clear to anyone he stops that he is just protecting ancient rights and privileges. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:57 PM MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 2 October 2013 9:58 PM MEST
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Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Passenger lists
Topic: Archives

In Bienemann's Katalog des Schwedischen Generalgouverneur-Archivs zu Riga (1908) there is a subseries called IX. Städtesachen. In this one finds for instance a number of volumes dealing with Riga (1-15). Some of these can be identified in LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1. They are volumes 177-189:

IX: 1 =?

IX:2 = 177

IX:3 = ?

IX:4 = 178

IX:5 = 180

IX:6 = ?

IX:7 = 181

IX:8 = 182

IX:9 = 183

IX:10 = 184

IX:11 = 185

IX:12 = 186

IX:13 = 187

IX:14 = 188

IX:15 = 189


According to Bienemann's catalogue volume IX:3  contained miscellaneous items concerning Riga dating from 1642-1708. The modern volume 179 still bears the old mark "IX:3, but nowadays only contains material from 1700 to 1708. Where has the rest gone? Even more unfortunate is the loss (?) of volume IX:6, which according to the old catalogue contained passenger lists and other documents concerning in- and outgoing ships between 1691 and 1706.  What has happened to that volume? 

As far as I know a lot of material from Baltic archives were during WWII transported to Troppau (Opava). In some older Soviet works on the matter it's stated that losses were suffered as a result of "enemy action", but I have yet to find an explanation of what that means. In this particularly case it seems a bit peculiar that volumes which belong to the same subseries and presumably were kept together could have suffered very different fates during this period. 

Passenger lists can however also be found in the letters from the garrison commander at Neumünde to the Governor General in Riga. Unfortunately this collection (Bienemann XX:25 - 6 volumes) has encountered other difficulties. In the Estonian Historical Archive in Tartu one finds XX:25b, 25c and 25f, while in the LVVA there are not only op. 1., vol. 298, 299 and 300 but also op. 2, vol. 235. To make things even more complicated some of Albedyhl's letters from 1706 and 1707 form the basis for Bienemann's volume IX:13 and a few others are preserved among the Lewenhaupt papers in Linköping and in the so called Riga-Tartu collection in Uppsala. The latter were most likely taken from Riga after 1908. 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:19 PM MEST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 September 2013 8:21 PM MEST
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Tuesday, 17 September 2013
An angry exchange
Topic: Diplomacy

Among the records of the Livonian Governor General there is a large number of very fragmentary volumes concerning Swedish-Russian relations during the second part of the 17th century (Riga, LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 57-102 and op. 3, vol. 15-27). While the material belonging to op. 1 roughly constitutes the material catalogued around 1900 (with the exception of the volumes kept in Tartu), the content of op. 2 and 3 are said to have been found after the Bienemann catalogue was published in 1908. To me it seems like op. 2 and 3 predominately consist of records that at some point have been taken from their original volumes in op. 1 and arranged in a new way. Considering that the records were moved during both World War I and II this would seem logical and it's also clear that the occasional document from the archive of the Dukes of Courland (LVVA, Fond 554) have erroneously be moved to fond 7349.

One of these rather strange volumes is op. 3, volume 22. It mainly contains material dating from 1661 to 1685, but starts with something much older - a copy of one of the letters from de famous correspondence between Ivan the Terrible and the Swedish King Johan III. In these letters the two rulers hurled abuse at each other, with Ivan for example suggesting that Johan's father Gustaf I had been a simple peasant and not of noble birth. To this Johan reacted by describing the careers of some of his more distinguished ancestors, explaining their high rank by comparing them to distinguished officials in France, Poland and Lithuania.

I am not sure what role such material could play in Swedish-Russian negotiations almost 100 years later, but apparently someone on the Swedish side must have felt that it would be useful to have at least one of these letters copied. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:40 PM MEST
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Common misunderstandings
Topic: Factoids

It is always interesting to take a look at how the Great Northern War (GNW) is described in new history books. Recently I happened to come across a recently published work, which is intended for history students at university level. The GNW had only been given a few pages, but the authors still manage to make quite a few remarkable mistakes:

1.  Denmark, Saxony-Poland and Russia strengthened their relations, supported by the nobility of Livonia, jointly attacked Sweden in 1700. Saxony and Russia certainly attacked, with some unofficial military support from Lithuania and Poland, but there was no formal state of war between Sweden and Poland. Denmark only attacked the Duke of Holstein.

2. Sweden, supported by the Dutch and the English, rapidly defeated Denmark and forced the Danes to sign a separate peace treaty. Yes, but the treaty was with the Duke of Holstein as Sweden, the Netherlands and England only acted in accordance with their position as guarantors of the Treaty of Altona in 1689.

3. After Narva Charles XII decided to attack Poland.  He rather decided to march into Poland in order to put added pressure on the Poles to support the idea of dethroning Augustus II. There was at that time no state of war between the two countries.

4. After the dethronement of Augustus Poland became a vassal state to Sweden. It was certainly the intention, but Charles never got that far.

5. While Charles was busy in Poland the Czar managed to reach the Baltic, where he built ports and towns. Hardly "towns" in plural...

6. In the autumn of 1707, after the peace with Poland... Which undoubtedly refers to the Treaty of Altranstadt, which of course wasn't a peace treaty with Poland.

7. The Russians defended by burning their own land. It may possibly be true of certain areas west of Smolensk, but in 1707-08 the Russian army mostly defended itself on the territory of Poland-Lithuania.

8. An uprising in Poland tied down some units of the Swedish army.  Those opposing Charles had of course not recognized Stanislaw, so the armed struggle was ongoing. It also seems possible that the main reason for leaving Krassow's corps in Poland was distrust of Augustus, i.e. it should act as a deterrent against any attempt by him to make a comeback.

9. After his return to Sweden in December 1715 Charles XII refused to get involved in the diplomatic game, which the Council had advocated during nearly 10 years. The Council played no independent role in foreign policy until 1709 and the King certainly did not turn away from diplomacy - he only followed (through Goertz) a different agenda.

Of these mistakes no 1 and 2 are extremely common in Swedish literature. Almost nobody seem to understand why the Dutch and the English got involved and in what capacity they (and Sweden) acted. 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:50 PM MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 11 September 2013 9:08 PM MEST
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Monday, 2 September 2013
The Governor General of Estonia
Topic: Archives

During the last few years I have gradually worked my way through the GNW volumes of LVVA, fond 7349 - the Riga part of the archive of the Governor General of Livonia. Recently I decided to take a look at some of the volumes from his colleague in Estonia, preserved in the Estonian Historical Archive in Tartu as fond 1. These records have, generally speaking, fared better than the Livonian ones, but certain problems derive from the fact that they were evacuated to Sweden before the Russian conquest in 1709-10 and only partly returned after 1721. This means for example that a large number of letters from Henning Rudolf Horn in Narva to Governor General de la Gardie in Reval from the period 1702-1704 are preserved in Stockholm, while most of the letters from Governor Vellingk to de la Gardie during the campaign of 1700 appear to be in Tartu. The latter were used by Hendrik Sepp for his study Narva piiramine ja lahing a. 1700 (1930), but as far as I know not by any Swedish historian.

At this point I have only looked at volumes EAA 1.2.284-286, which contain incoming correspondence for 1700 and the first seven months of 1701. It's quite obvious that these only contain a very limited part of incoming letters, predominantely those from Vellingk, the garrison commanders at Pernau and Dorpat as well as some from Dahlbergh in Riga, County Governors Lindehielm in Vyborg and Örnekloo in Arensburg and various local commanders.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:17 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 2 September 2013 10:39 PM MEST
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Monday, 26 August 2013
Topic: Diplomacy

One of the more interesting works of propaganda during the GNW is Petr Shafirov's A discourse concerning the just causes of the war between Sweden and Russia. The first Russian edition appeared in 1717 and it was later translated both into German and into English. A Discourse attempts to prove that the Czar was justified in attacking Sweden by cataloguing past Swedish aggression against Russia and listing recent transgressions, such as the bad treatment the Czar supposedly received during his vist to Riga.

I think it's fair to say that some of the statements cannot stand up to scrutiny, such as the version that the Czar only after patiently waiting for more than a year after the discussions with the Swedish embassy in 1699 decided that he would seek satisfaction through an alliance with Saxony and Denmark. Another example is the claim that Sweden attempted to influence the Sultan to continue the war against Russia through the Polish envoy Rafał Leszczyński. In this case it was rather the other way around. Leszczynski had been equipped with two instructions. One from King Augustus, which told him to try and facilitate an agreement between the Czar and the Sultan and another from the Polish Great Chancellor, which told Leszczynski to do the exact opposite. Apparently the envoy favored the second course of action, so he met with Mauritz Vellingk and attempted to persuade him to use Swedish contacts in France for the purpose of getting French assistance in Constantinople. 

Other statements seem more plausible, such as the story that Major General Axel Sparre during a visit to Berlin (in 1706 or 1707) boasted that the Swedes would drive the Russians out of the world by using only their whips. Sparre also produced a letter of appointment signed by Charles XII to be Governor of the city of Moscow. Axel Sparre was one of the King's favorites and a great joker, who once send a bill to Charles for damages as a result of Sparre not (as the King had promised) having been killed in action. It is very likely that Charles, half jokingly, had actually signed such a letter in much the same vein as he once had paid Sparre's bill. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:09 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 26 August 2013 9:10 PM MEST
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Sunday, 18 August 2013
A political decision : Narva 1704

In the summer of 1704 some of the local commanders and officials in the Baltic provinces, most notably Major General Schlippenbach and Governor General Frölich, pleaded with Major General Lewenhaupt to move his forces from Courland and join in an effort to relieve Dorpat or Narva. Lewenhaupt firmly refused, stating that he could not possibly convince Hetman Sapieha to join such an enterprise and the it was quite out of the question to leave the Lithuanian forces on their own as the enemy would then soon threaten the fortresses in Courland as well as Riga. It was also important to convince more Lithuanians to join the Warsaw Confederacy and this would be quite impossible if Lewenhaupt's army left the area. The General also pointed out the weakness of his force and the difficulty of supplying the troops during the march.

I think it's quite obvious that Lewenhaupt interpreted the King's wishes correctly. The most pressing matter in 1704 was, in Charles XII's opinion, to assist in rallying Poland and Lithuania against Augustus II. This does not mean that he took the fate of Narva and Dorpat lightly - he had during late 1703 and early 1704 repeatedly urged both the government in Stockholm and Governor General de la Gardie in Estonia to support Narva and was quite upset when little was done. However, I believe it is quite obvious that Charles in 1701-1702 had made a choice and that was to pursue the war with Augustus to a successful conclusion, i.e. to have him replaced by a new King (who had to be a native Pole). In order to reach this goal Charles was fully prepared to temporally sacrifice parts of the Baltic provinces, so that he in the end would be able to concentrate all available forces against one remaining enemy.

This is also, in my opinion, where critics of his Polish policy often err. Their conclusion is generally that Charles underestimated the Russian threat and marched into Poland believing that the forces he left in Ingria, Livonia and Courland would be able to protect the provinces. I think that's unlikely as the first heavy Russian attacks came as early as in September 1701 and Schlippenbach's army suffered its first big defeat in late December the same year. At that time the main army was not further away than Courland and it would still have been entirely possible to cut short the involvement in the Lithuanian civil war and return north. But the decision had already been made. Once it had, it was imperative to have the bulk of the reinforcements go to the King's own army rather than to Ingria or Livonia. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:56 PM MEST
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