GREAT NORTHERN WAR -
To understand the antecedents of the Great Northern War one must go back a
considerable way in Swedish- Muscovite relations, and also factor in the
relations both had with Poland over some centuries. In 1700 which power was the
"status-quo" power and which desirous of upsetting the current
stability? It is quite clear that Russia - Peter - was the actor bent on major
dislocation, indeed revolution, to the current status quo.
The struggle for the south-eastern Baltic coast between Sweden or Denmark on
the one hand and various Russian states went back to the time of Alexander
Nevski (1240) and even before. During the following 450 years the fortunes of
the sides waxed and waned, with Sweden or Denmark or the Teutonic - Livonian
Knights generally holding the upper hand along most of the coast line. Ivan III
was successful in extending Russian territory, but his gains were lost by Ivan
IV. Boris Gudonov, in turn, regained some areas, but these were lost again
during the "time of troubles". During all this period the struggle
for the coast was intertwined with the struggle for the region between Orsha
and Smolensk and even with the question of control over Ukraine. Reluctantly,
but to save wear and tear on everyone, I will skip over all this, and start
with the 17th century. Some day we will take up the activities of Charles X and
I can't do nearly as well to sumarize the recent past as of 1700 than to quote
Michael Florinsky, in his "Russia: A History and an Interpretation".
He is writing about the efforts of Peter's father, Tsar Alexei Mikahilovich.
"War with Poland was the immediate result of the
incorporation of Ukraine in the Muscovite state. On this occasion the Russian
troops, supported by the Cossacks, did uncommonly well. In 1654-56 they not
only took Smolensk but also occupied a large part of Lithuania, including the
cities of Vilna, Kovno, and Grodno. Russian victories were faciltiated by the
invasion of Poland from the north by Charles X of Sweden, who captured Warsaw
and Cracow and proclaimed himself king of Poland. The days of Jan Casimir's
rule appeared to be numbered, but the independence of Poland was saved by the
conflicing ambitions of her two enemies: Tsar Alexis coveted the Polish Crown,
while King Charles wanted Lithuania, which was occupied by the Russian troops.
Moscow suspended hostilities against Poland, turned against Sweden in a futile
attempt to establish itself on the shores of the Baltic sea. An inconclusive
Russo-Swedish war was brought to an end in December 1658, by an armistice which
led to the Peace of Cardis (1661) by which Russia abandoned the territories
held by here armies. ..."
Now lets turn to see what the great Russian historian, V. O. Kliuchevsky,
has to say about the Russian foreign policy during this period. Actually he has
many pages, but to summarize here is the conclusion. Writing about the policy
of Tsars Alexei Mikhailovich, Fedor Alexeivich and Sophia Alexievna he says.
"Here are the most important points of the program: 1. peace and even
alliance with Poland, (2) struggle against Sweden for the eastern shores of the
Baltic and against Turkey and the Crimea for south Russia: (3) final
reorganization of the military forces as a regular army; (4) replacement of the
old complicated system of direct taxation by two taxes - poll tax and land tax:
(5) development of the export trade and of home industries; (6) introduction of
municipal self- government with the object of improving the productivity and
welfare of the commercial and industrial class; (7) emancipation of the serfs
with their land; (8) establishing schools for general and religious education,
and technical schools adapted to the requirements of the state.
He continues, "It will be easily seen that these suggestions taken
together are identical with Peter's program of reform, and they were ready
before he began his work.... They not only created the spiritual environment in
which Peter grew up, but also drew up for him a plan of action - a plan that in
some respects went further than the reforms he introduced."
In this context I can contend that Peter began preparations for war against
Sweden when he was 8 or 9 years old, certainly before he became Tsar. He
inherited this fundamental cornerstone of his program from his father and
grandfather. Peter's famous "embassy" to the West was for no other
purpose than to assist in his preparation for war with Sweden. But lets be more
Turning back to Michael Florinsky we find the following remark, "The Azov
campaigns, however, were a mere prologue to the military struggle with Sweden
which lasted from 1700 to 1721. It seems likely that the idea of the Swedish
campaign originated in Peter's mind in Vienna in 1698, when it became clear
that Emperor Leopold and other European rulers had no desire to participate in
the anti-Turkish crusade sponsored by the tsar. The plans took a more definite
shape in the course of an interview between Peter and King Augustus II (The
Strong - also called "the father of his country for obvious reasons - my
remark) at Rawa, where the tsar for a while broke his return journey to Moscow.
Augustus, elector of Saxony, tall, handsome, athletic, and one of the most
unscrupulous scoundrels ever to ascend the ill fated throne of Poland, at once
captured the imagination of the tsar and they became intimate friends." He
continues, "A secret coalition against Sweden was formed in the autumn of
1699 by Russia, Poland, and Denmark, the latter country nursing a grudge
against Holstein-Gottorp, whose Duke Frederick enjoyed the support of his
brother-in-law and friend, Charles XII of Sweden."
See Ian Grey's biography of Peter as well for a discussion of the secret
planning. Alex de Jong also as adamant in stating that it was Peter's idea to
start the GNW and by treachery and surprise attack. His official excuse was in
revenge for the poor treatment he received from the governor of Riga during his
Florinsky in discussing the course of the war uses some of the same language
Kenneth Gauck does to describe the view of Charles that emerged during its
course. " a reputed military genius inspired his small, but well trained,
and well equipped and well disciplined army to perform military deeds that
threatened for a time the established order in Europe."
But this cannot have been in anyone's mind prior to the war, in fact most
likely the opposite. Charles XI only died in 1697 leaving the throne to his 15
year old son. According to Hatton, the common opinion of the time was that
Charles had, "inherited the passionate and uxorious nature of his father
and would wear out his health and strength on the marriage bed." Without
the minutes of the meeting of 1698 I can only speculate, but is certainly
appears to be "no coincidence" as they say that the presence of an
inexperienced youth on the Swedish throne raised such irrestible expectations
that Peter, Augustus, et. al. decided the time to strike would never be better.
As it turned out they were badly mistaken, but that subsequent events proved
that they had acted prematurely, before their full preparations were complete,
does not relieve them of the responsibility of striking the first blow. In the
case of Peter, one might sympathize with the ruler whose life-long ambition
drummed into him as part of his inheritance suddenly appears ripe for picking
with little risk and by the use of allied forces. We must remember that it was
a central feature of Muscovite strategy at least since the time of Ivan I to
find ways to have allies and even enemies do the heavy fighting for them. If
his own army proved to be a disappointment, it must be said that he was
justifiably even more disappointed in the performance or the Danes and Saxons.
I prepared an extensive bibliography of sources on the entire span of
Russian military history in 1970. Here are a few extracts from that related to
the GNW plus some more recent titles.
Aberg, Alf and Gote Goransson, _Karoliner_, Forlags AB Wiken, 1989. A
heavly illustrated book on the Swedish army of the period. One need not read
Swedish to appreciate the marvelous color illustrations and detailed diagrams
showing uniforms, equipment, tactics, logistics and the like. The campaigns are
only sketched. Of interest is the description of the fate of the army as
prisoners of war after Poltava.
Agrenich, A. A. _Ot Kamny do sovremennogo snaryada (From Rocks to
contemporary Shells), Moscow: Military Publishing House, 1954. A history of
missile firing weapons from ancient times. The section of the Great Northern
War and Peter I is excellent. It provides correct Russian terminology for
ammunition types known in the West.
Alston, Patrick, Education and the State in Tsarist Russia. Stanford
Univ Press, 1969. This contains a brief account of the era of Peter I. The
author remarks that "The battle-tested Army became the primary agency of
social stability and individual advancement" under Peter I. A point still
worth noting today.
Anderson, Matthew, S. _Britain's Discovery of Russia, 1553-1815. London,
MacMillian and Co, 1958. Much British interest centered on the Russian army and
navy. The image of Russia during the Northern War is covered.
Andreev, A. I. ed. Petr Velikii (Peter the Great), Moscow, Academy of
Science, USSR, 1947. This is a useful collection of articles. The one by P. P.
Epifanov, "The Military Regulations of Peter the Great" has been
languishing in my cabinet awaiting translation for 20 some years.
Bain, Nisbet, _The First Romanovs_, London, 1905. A general, popular
style account that includes considerable information on the Great Northern War.
But there are numerous discrepancies, especially in dates.
Beskrovnii, L. G., _Poltava: k 250- letiyu poltavskogo srazheniya - sbornik
statyei_. Moscow, Izdatyel'stvo akademii nauk SSSR, 1959. This is an
interesting set of articles on widely separated but detailed aspects of the
campaign and Russian society at the time. As is to be expected with a
thoroughly Marxist-Leninist approach much attention is focused on economics and
class issues. Probably the must useful articles are on the Russian artillery,
the strategy and tactics during this period, Peter's Military council, the
Military Chancelory (Prikaz) and its role in supervising recruiting, and
industrial production to supply uniforms, arms, and ammunition for the army.
The introduction is a bibliographic study.
Beskrovnii, L. G. "Production of Armaments and Ammunition in Russian
Factories in the First Half of the 18th Century," in Istoricheskiye
Zapiski, XXXVI, 1951. The article contains more information than the title
indicates. In order to provide contrast to the previous period a complete
picture of arms production in the 17th century is also provided. Maps and
tables provide much detail. Beskrovnii includes the metalurgy industry as well
with maps showing the main centers of production i nthe central Urals and
Beskrovnii, L. G. "Review of book 'The People's War in the Ukraine against
the Swedish Invaders in 1708-9', by V. Shutoi, Kiev, 1951, in Voprosi
Istorii, V 1952. The reviewer finds little wrong with this book on the
peasant war against Charles XII. He notes that the war was not only one against
a foreign invader but also a class war against Mazeppa and the wealthy cossack
leadership. Then Beskrovnii makes a very interesting observation. He notes that
the author characterized the war as "progressive" from Russia's point
of view, but failed to declare it was also "just". Beskrovnii says
this is a mistake because ALL PROGRESSIVE WARS ARE BY NATURE JUST." Good
Beskrovnii, L. G. _Russkaya Armiya i flot v XVIII Veke (The Russian Army
and Navy in the 18th Century)_. Moscow, Military Publishing House, MOD, 1958.
The authoritative Soviet period work on the subject by the dean of Soviet
military historians. I wrote 25 years ago that the book ought to be translated
into English, and I still think so. The introduction is an outstanding
bibliographical essay on works on this topic from the 18th century on.
Beskrovnii, L. G. _Stranitsi Voyenogo Proshlogo (Pages of the Military
Past), Moscow, nauka Publishing, 1968. This is a collection of essays on Russia
from the 13th century to WWI. There are several on the Great Northern War. I
have to note, however, that Professor Klokman manages to jump right over the
Pruth Campaign. Also, the Swedes are accused of every crime imaginable, but no
mention is made of the atrocities perpetrated by the Tatar -Kalmuk troops
purposely used for this purpose by Peter I.
Beskrovnii, L. G. "The Victory at Poltava", Voprosi Istorii,
XII, Dec, 1959, pp, 41-57. A brief article turned out for the occasion of the
250th anniversary of the battle. It is quite propagandistic, but has useful
footnotes. More on the subsequent significance of the battle than on its
course. One finds here unusual details such as the presence of 3,500 Kalmuk
warriors in the 40,000 man Russian force. His figures on Swedish strength don't
even match with the tabular data on dead, captured and escaped.
Beskrovnii, L. G. "Military Schools in Russia in the First Half of the
18th Century", Istoricheskii Zapiski, XLII, 1953. Contains
considerable information on officer training. Beskrovnii wants to play down the
role of foreign officers and complains that pre- revolutionary historians gave
them too much credit. Yet he has to indicate that Peter continued to call for
foreign officers as late ad 1702. Also, he cleverly focuses on "influence
of foreigners" rather than "foreign influence" thus ignoring the
role of Russians sent abroad and of westerners born in Russia.
Beskrovnii, L. G. "Russkaya Voyennaya Kniga" (Russian Military
Books", in _Krasnaya Zvezda_, 26 Feb 1964. Only Peter's Ustav
Voinski is mentioned for that period.
Beskrovnii, L. G., _Atlas Kart i Skhyem po russkoi voyennoi istorii_,
Voyennoye izdatel'stvo narodnogo komissarita vooruzhyennikh sil, Moscow,
1946. A fine, color set of maps, tables and diagrams including nine related to
the Great Northern War.
Bobrovskii, P. O. _Perekhod Rossii k Regularnoi Armii, (Transition of
Russia to the Regular Army), St. Petersburg, V. S. Balashev. 1885. This is the
standard prerevolutionary work on the subject. It complements that of Chernov.
He paints a dismal picture of the Russian army in the last half of hte 17th
century as it struggled to adopt the new techniques from the west but also
refused to abandon the old. He gives an excellent explaination of the creation
of hte Russian army by Peter I. According to Bobrovskii, the first attempt in
1999-1700 was based on the German model. When this army was practically
destroyed at Narva and its officers captured, Peter tried again on the French
model. General Ogilive and many new officers from Saxony were prominent. But
most foreigners had left by 1708 due to the insults from Menshikov and
generally poor treatment. Finally, for the 1709 campaign, Peter adopted the
Swedish model for his units.
Bogoyavleshkii, S. K. "Vooruzhenie Russkikh Voisk v XVI - XVII Veka",
(The Armament of the Russian Forces in the 16th and 17th Centuries"),
_Istoricheski Zapiskii_, #71. This is an especially remarkable article
because the author contradicts the vast majority of Soviet writers and flatly
states that the Russians copied the weapons of their enemies, but not before
they had been defeated in battles by enemies using these weapons. It is well
Brieckner, A. G. "The Life of Patrick Gordon and His Diary,"
Zhurnal Ministerstvo Narodnogo Proveshcheniye , Dec. 1877 and March 1878.
In citing passages from Patrick Gordon's diary and in describing its contents
the author whets our desire to obtain the diary itself. (A desire partially
accompished now!) Gordon spent enormous sums on purchase of the latest books on
military affairs including Vauban on fortifications. Many of his books were
passed on to Peter I.
Bruce, Peter Henry, _Memoirs of Peter Henry Bruce, esq., A Military Officer
in the Services of Prussia, Russia and Great Britain, containing an Account of
His Travels in German, Russia and Tatary.._ London, T. Payne and Sons,
1782. this is an eyewitness account written in the homey, popular style of the
day by a soldier of fortune who entered the Prussian service in his teens,
fought under Marlborough in France and Holland, served as artillery and
engineer officer and as aide de camp in the Russian Army under Peter I, and
then fortified the Bahama Islands for his Britannic Majesty. While in Russia,
he went on the Pruth and Persian campaigns, surveyed the Caspian Sea, fortified
the Baltic seaports and served in the army on campaigns in Denmark, Germany and
Sweden. His accounts contain much interesting information on campaigns, court
life, and personalities. I have a Xerox of the original but it has now been put
complete on the Internet. An unknown gem.
Buxholveden, Sophie Baroness, _A Cavalier in Muiscovy_, London,
MacMillan and Co, 1932. So far this is still the only biography of General
Patrick Gordon, a Scottish adventurer who rose to the position of
Quarter-master General and division commander in the Russian Army of Peter I.
He had a long and distinguished career under Alexis, Feodor, Sophie and Peter.
He was present on two campaigns to Crimea, both sieges of Azov, and was the
leading general responsible for both Peter's initial victories over Sophia and
for suppression of the Streltsi rebellion of 1698. His diary, upon which this
biography is based, would be a very valuable source ofmaterial on the Russian
Army of the 17th century and Western influences in it. The diary has never been
published in full in English, although a German edition exists.
Chebotarev, B. V. and Kazakova, L. M. "Azov, A Strong City,"
Voprosi Istorii, VIII, Aug 1967, pp. 210-212. This is a short but useful
article which gives the basic military history of this port and trading post
that played an important role in the Russo- Turkish struggle for the Black Sea.
It contains the basic facts on the many sieges and other battles in the region.
Chernov, A. V. _Vooruzheniye Sili Russkogo Gosudastrva v XV-XVII Veke,
(The Armed Forces of the Russian State in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries).
Moscow, 1954. The book is a detailed account of the important changes that took
place in the Russian armed forces during this period. It is a major source of
information, but is badly marred by the author's insistence that Russia's armed
forces developed without any external influence and were at all times superior
in quality and techniques to all others. It is an extremely xenophobic and
tendentious work, filled with Russian chauvinism, not to mention Marxist
preconception. Nevertheless, it is an important and basic guide to the period.
Chernov, A. V. "Tsentral'nii Gosudastrvennii Arkhiv Drevnikh Aktov, kak
istochnik po voyennoi istorii russkogo Gosudastrva do XVIII Veka", (The
Central State Archive of Ancient Acts, as a source for the Military History of
the Russian state prior to the 18th Century", Trudi Istoriko-Arkhivnogo
Instituta, IV, June 1948. All the military historical materials relateing
to hte period prior to Peter I's reorganization of the government are collected
in this archive. The author is an expert on the military hisotyr of Russia in
the 15th - 17th Centuries. In this article he gives an extremely well done
picture of the complex nature of these archives, which should be of great
benefit to researchers. In the course of his explanation of what types of
documentary materials are available, the author actually gives an excellent,
concise description of the armed forces themselves and of the administrative
organs which controlled them. These archives were subject to many disasterous
losses such as the fire of 1626, yet from this description, it appears that
much more was preserved than one might expect.
Condray, Pat, _Swedish and Russian Armies of the Great Northern War_,
Second Edition, Alexandria, VA. editions Brokaw, 1990. In this small pamphlet
Pat Condray has compiled the basic information available from Zweiguitzow,
Aberg, Arteus, and others. It is meant for individuals anxious to create
credible wargame armies.
Condray, Pat, _Danes, Bavarians and Prussians_, Alexandria, Va. editions
Brokaw, 1986. Of the three armies included in this pamphlet, the Danes figured
in the Great Northern War, however briefly. The author has compiled information
from a variety of references and individuals for use by war gamers.
Denisov, M. M. _Russkoe Oruzhenie, XI-XIX Vekov, (Russian Weapons: A
Short Account of Russian Military Armaments in the 11th to 19th Centuries),
Moscow, 1953. This is the best book available on the subject. It is extremely
well illustrated, a very important point when trying to differentiate between
various types of swords or different types of muskets, etc. The author gives
detailed descriptions of the weapons, and explains their uses. He also
describes their manufacture. Most importantly, he also indicates which type of
unit was armed with which weapons and gives the dates when each new weapon was
introduced and old weapons phased out. The book contains the usual assertions,
(which can easily be discounted) of Russian superiority and foreign, especially
Donnelly, Alton, _The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria, 1552-1740_, New
Haven, Yale Univ Press, 1968. This is a thorough, well written study of Russian
expansion into and across the Urals and of the resistance offered by the
Bashkirs and other local inhabitants. The author has used an extensive
bibliogrpahy of primary sources. The study shows two characteristic Russian
techniques in operation: obtain as much military support as possible from
elements of the conquered people themselves, and denounce anyone who resists
Russian expansion as a traitor to the best interests of his own people and as a
troublemaker for everyone. The author discusses the military techniques
involved in the campaigns to subdue the Bashkirs. Of particular interest is the
discussion of the massive fortified lines and zones constructed by the Russians
to surround and seal off the areas being conquered.
Dotsyenko. V. D. _Russkii Morskoi Mundir 1696-1917_ (Russian Naval
Uniforms), St. Petersburg, Logos Publishing, 1994. The introduction in this
fine book points out that heretofore no general study existed even in Russia of
the development of Russian naval uniforms during the entire period covered
here. This excellent text certainly fills the gap, both with its comprehensive
discussion and the many fine, full-color illustrations.
Duffy, Christopher, _Russia's Military Way to the West_, London,
Routledge &Keegan Paul, 1981.
Ozhincharadze, V. Z. "Bor'ba s Inostrannim Shpionazhem v Rossii v XVII
Veke", (The Struggle with Foreign Espionage in Russia in the 17th
Century", _Istoricheski Zapiskii_, XXXIX, 1952, pp. 229-258. This
is a very interesting article for the Russian attitudes it reveals. The author
contends that Russia was subjected to an espionage campaign conducted above all
by the foreign diplomats accredited to Moscow. The diplomats used secret agents
to gather information. The foreigners living in Russia were used in this way
and even some Russians were subverted and used as spies. Gregory Kotoshikin, to
whom present day historians are grateful for his having written an account of
Russia in the 1660's is singled out as an example of the traitors who fled the
country and gave valuable information to Russia's enemies. Besides
reconnaissance, the author gives examples of Polish attempts at
"disinformation", underground activity, and sabotage. The Russian
government, however, knew about all this activity and countered it effectively.
The author describes some of these measures, especially the fortification of
frontier posts and the Kremlin. The government also took measures to prevent
foreign efforts at starting uprisings among the people. The author gives many
interesting details about specific espionage incidents and the biographies of
Englund, Peter, _The Battle of Poltava: The Birth of the Russian
Empire_, London, Victor Gollancz, 1992. This is an extraordinary book on
several levels.See our review.
Epifanov, P. P. _Sbornik Dokumentov-Voyennie Ustavi Petra Velikogo_,
(The Military Regulations of Peter the Great), Moscow, 1946. This small booklet
contains reprints of five of the basic military regulations or orders
pertaining thereto, issued by Peter I from 1700 to 1714. The author's
introductory article is unusually (for its era) free from ideological arguments
that Russian military science was entirely self-developed. He does not hesitate
to show that Peter sought military experience from foreign sources. This
approach enhances his evaluation of the purely Russian elements in Peter's
military regulations. It is unfortunate that the author - editor did not
republish the other military documents pertaining to this subject, especially
the report by A. Weide given to Peter on Weide's return from study of and
service in foreign armies in the 1690's.
Esper, Thomas, "Military Self-sufficiency and Weapons Technology in
Muscovite Russia", Slavic Review, XXVIII, No 2, June 1969. This is
an extremely well-written and thoroughly documented study of the changing and
increasing requirements for firearms and the measures taken to obtain or make
them in Russia from the first appearances of firearms in the late 1300's to the
end of the Northern War in the 1720's. The author shows the causes of these
increased requirements, discusses the general militarzy problems facing Russia
in the period, and details the combination of foreign and domestic resources
which were employed to secure the needed arms. His conclusion that despite a
general level of economic backwardness, Russia was able to achieve a
satisfactory level of arms production, should be of current interest today.
Falls, Cyril, ed, _Great Military Battles_, New York, MacMillan Co,
1954. This contains an article by John Adair on Poltava. The book is
beautifully illustrated. The section on Poltava is recounted from the losing,
Swedish, point of view, contrary to the general practice, is itself indicateve
of the unavailability of Russian sources for Western writers. He gives much
detail on the Swedish Army and quotes from eyewitness reports. He repeats an
opinion ofWestern writers that Peter discouraged the Turks from entering the
war by sailing hisfleet out into theBlack Sea. The soviet historian, A. P.
Blagok. hasshown that this is not the case. Peter avoided all chances of
proviking the Turks by such war-like demonstrations and instead kept them
neutral by the opposite technique of being extraordinarily peaceful until after
Florinsky, Michael, _Russia, A History and an Interpretation_, New York,
MacMillan Co, 1947. It is still the best terxtbook on pre-revolutionary Russia.
It does not contain much on military details but it certainly places them into
the political, economic and social context.
Fuller, J. F. C. _A Military History of the Western World_, This
standard survey contains an account of Poltava. When comparing Fuller's
description with Soviet sources it is hard to believe they are discussing the
Golobutskii, V. A. _Zaporozhskoye Kazachestvo_, (The Zaporozhie
Cossacks), Kiev, State Publishing House for Political Literature, 1957. The
book covers the entire history of the Cossacks from the Marxist point of view.
There is a section on the Northern War. It is interesting to note how
positively he views every uprising against the Tsar's government, such as the
Bulavin revolt in 1708 and how quickly the same oponents of Peter I are viewed
negatively when the Swedes come onto the scene. The effective use of Kalmyks by
Peter to suppress rebels is also noted.
Gordon, Alexander, _The History of Peter the Great_, Aberdeen, Scotland,
F. Douglass and W, Murray, 1755. Here is another fine, eye-witness account that
is generally overlooked. The author arrived in Russia in 1693 and soon made
lieutenant colonel in the Russian Army. He was given command of a regiment
after three years service. He fought the Tatars in the campaign of 1696. At
Narva, he was captured. He was exchanged and upon return to Russia was promoted
to brigadier general. He blocked Charles XII crossing of the Desniya River in
1706, but was in command of a detachment operating in Poland during the battle
at Poltava. He married the daughter of General Patrick Gordon. This history of
Peter the Great was one of the best accounts of the Tsar to appear in the 18th
century. It deserves to be reprinted. He gives interesting personal
observations and comments, such as the remark that the Russians hated
foreigners, especially the Scots. Seems that he is frequently confused with
Patrick Gordon by writers today.
Gordon, Patrick, _Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon of
Auchlenchries_, Aberdeen, The Spaulding Club, 1859, reprinted in London by
Frank Cass in 1968. This is an extremely valuable account of the service in the
armies of Poland, Sweden, and especially Russia, in the 17th century by one of
the most famous teachers of Peter I. This book contains selections from an
extensive diary preserved in the Russian archives. Unfortunately, the Scottish
editors in the 1850's were more interested in Gordon's remarks about life in
Scotland than in his detailed account of military life in Muscovy, so the later
are merely summarized. The original diary is a terrific source on Muscovite
military affairs during the reigns of Alexis, Feodor, and Sophia. The original
diary was published in Russian and German translations under the following
_Tagebuch des Generals Patrick Gordon, ed and trans from English
original by Prince M. A. Obolensky and M. C. Poselt, Vol I parts 1-2 Vol II
Part 3, Moscow 1849-1851.
Denevnik Generala Patricka Gordona, in Chteniya Imperatorskom
Obshchestve istorii i Drevnostei, Book IV, 1891, Book I 1892. Unfortunately
only certain parts are published in this edition. Vol IV for 1891 has the years
1635 to 1661 and Book I of 1892 contains the years 1661 to 1683, except for the
parts of the diary which were never found. It also contains a biographical note
on each of the Gordons who served in Russia in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
General Gordon created a problem for those wishing to publish and those wishing
to use his diary. He recorded in it every event in such extreme detail that it
is impossible to publish the whole work, the editor, therefore, faced a problem
in selecting what to print, and the user is left wondering what was left out.
With all the reprinting that is being done today of rare and out- of-print
books, it is hoped here that someone will reprint the entire diary. I obtained
a Xerox of the Russian edition from St. Petersburg, but that won't help the
Grey, Ian, _Peter the Great_, New York, Lippincott, 1962. This was the
standard biography until Robert Massie's wonderful work. Grey included a good
bibliography andextensive notes. It appears that he relied most on Bogoslovski,
Solov'ev and Ustryalov for the general course of eventsbut he also uses a great
many other sources for details. The accounts of the campaigns, especially the
Poltava and Pruth Campaigns, are among the most judicious I have found. He
gives Peter much more credit as a leader and organizer than does Professor
Florinsky. But he does not omit the faults as Soviet writers do. He especially
emphasizes the treacherous way Peter and his allies secretly prepared and
attcked Sweden, hoping to take advantage of the boy-king, Charles XII. Mazepa
likewise is treated objectively as is the whole issue of the Ukrainian and
Cossack participation in the war. His remarks on Peter's use of foreign
assistance includes three main points worth mentioning: the assistance was
desperately needed and Peter did not hesitate to seek it, many of the
individuals who arrived from the West were rejects from their own countries and
incompetent, and Peter had no intention to remain dependent on foreign
assistance any longer than necessary.
Hatton, R. M. _Charles XII of Sweden_, Weybright and Talley, New York,
1968. The importance of this biography has been mentioned. The author has made
extensive use of Swedish sources, but very little of Russian ones. The accounts
of the campaigns could have been more complete with some views from the Russian
side. The Northern War is seen as an unprovoked, sneak attack on Sweden by
three opportunists hoping to use the international situation to cover their
seizure of Swedish lands. There are interesting descriptions of Charles' early
military training and of the Swedish national army organization.
Jackson, W. G. _Seven Roads to Moscow_, London, eyre and Spottiswood,
1957. This is included for the sake of completeness. The author tries to cover
too much territory, (pun intended) (Russia is a big place) in a small volume by
relating the various invasions to the geographic routes. Much analysis and
opinion based on scanty sources.
Jones, David R. editor and major contributor, _The Military-naval Encyclopedia
of Russia and the Soviet Union_ Gulf Breeze, Academic International Press, 1978
and following. As far as I know only four volumes of the projected encyclopedia
were published. But these contain absolutely first-rate entries, some of which
relate to the GNW. Jones' entry on "Advanced Detachments" is
Jonge, Alex de, _Fire and Water: A Life of Peter the Great_, New York,
Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1979. This is a shorter, lively biography that
emphasizes the military aspects of Peter's reign. He stresses the deceitful
nature of Peter's dealings with the Swedes on the eve of the war.
_Khrestomatiya, po Istgorii SSSR (reader in the History of the USSR),
Vol II. 1682-1856_. Moscow, State Pedagogical Press, 1949. This reader has a
number of interesting documents pertaining to military affairs. Especially so
are the popular poems and soldier's songs from various wars. There are excerpts
from Peter's military regulations and Suvorov's Science of Victory.
Kliuchevski, Vasilii, _A History of Russia_ Five Volumes, New York,
Russell and Russell, 1960.
Kliuchevski, Vasilii, _Peter the Great_, trans by Liliana Archibaad, New York,
Random House, 1962.
Kliuchevski, Vasilii, _Course in Russian History - 17th Century_,
trans Natalie Duddington, Chicago, Quadrangle, 1968. Still the best source for
a general view of Russian history from the Russian perspective, the works of
the great mid-19th century historian, Professor Kliuchevski, contain a
ballanced appraisal of many issues since clouded by most post revolutionary
controversy. He includes both judicious general apparaisals of the Russian
military forces and details ofcampaigns, personalities, techniques, etc.
Kochyenovskii, Oleg, _Narva: Gradostroityel'noye razvitiyi i
arkhityektura_, Tallin, Valgus, 1991. A heavly illustrated history of the
city from its founding as a Danish castle fortification around 1255. The
section on Narva in 1680-1710 provides many plans and illustrations of the
fortifications. During our visit in July 1992 the Swedish officers in the party
marveled, saying that it is still a better example of the fortification genius
of Erick Dal'berg than anything remaining in Sweden.
Koltsov, E. E. "Razvitie Artilleriiskogo Vooruzheniya i Rossia po Vtoroi
Polovina XVII Veke", (The Development of Artillery armament in Russia in
the Second Half of the 17th Century), Istoricheski Zapiskii, LXXI, 1962.
This is a scholarly study using archival materials to give a very clear yet
detailed picture of the development of Russian artillery in the 1600's. The
articleis filled with data, dates and specific information on production and
use of each type of artillery piece. Of special interest is the re-arming of
the Russian regimental artillery by 1699 with three-pounder cannon of 76mm
caliber, which greatly improved the regimental artillery. The author indicates
that the role of Peter I in improving Russian artillery was great already
before the Northern War. On the basis of early experiments and new models
tested in theAxov campaigns, the Russian ordnance factories were already
producing new artillery in the 1697-99 period. In 1700 they produced 100
three-pounder cannon and 100 mortars.
Konstam, Angus, _Poltava 1709_, in the Campaign Series as number 34,
London, Osprey Publishing, 1994. The author's confusion of Alexander for
Patrick Gordon at the very beginning of this study does not encourage the
reader. However, I did not note any other similar errors. The book is in the
usual Osprey standard format, which constricts authors somewhat, but at least
ensures an even handed treatment of both sides. There are detailed orders of
battle for both armies, however, I noted that the Kalymuks were missing from
the Tsar's forces. The many illustrations are taken from near contemporary
prints, the great Viskovatov work on Russian uniforms, and specially
commissioned paintings by David Rickman. There are several of the excellent
colored maps of the main phases of the battle. The bibliography is limited.
Mostly these are general works mentioned in this listing, except for Peter
Englund's wonderful book.
Konstam, Angus, _Peter the Great's Army_, in the Men-at-Arms series, two
volumes, London, Osprey Publishing, 1993. This is a fine effort, confined only
by the standard Osprey format. However, the author inexplicably mentions
Patrick Gordon correctly on page 9 only to revert to the first name, Alexander,
on page 15. Alexander Gordon was a colonel, no relation of Patrick's, who
arrived much later and was not among the foreign advisors to Tsar Alexis
Michaelovich. (see entry in this list under that name) The author provides no
sources or references, but it is clear he has used Russian ones. Most of the
uniform illustrations are from Viskovatov, with the exception of David
Rickman's colorful paintings. While limited by the 47 page length of each
volume (Infantry and Cavalry), this is certainly sufficient for most purposes.
Mishlayevskii, A. Z. General Major, _Severnaya Voina (Northern War) Year
1708_ St. Petersburg, Byeryezhlivost Publishing, 1901. This was published
by the Military Education committee of the General Staff. The basic text runs
to 186 pages, then there are over 80 pages of documents including extracts and
letters by Sheremetyev and Repnin. And there are many tables, diagrams, and
maps. Practically all English language books on the Great Northern War skip
past the 1708 campaign quickly to get to Poltava. This book provides a much
needed source of excellent material on which to base a detailed account of this
important campaign, that lead up to Charles's decision to shift his advance to
Perry, John, _The State of Russia under the Present Tsar_, London, Perry
was one of the English officers who served Peter. His eye-witness account
provides much insight.
Schorr, Dan, _The Saxon-Polish Army During the Great Northern War_,
Alexandria VA. Editions Brokaw, 1987. The author is a meticulous researcher in
this period, who has uncovered much original source material. Information in
this pamphlet is drawn from Austrian, Danish, and Swedish General Staff
documents. Dan also has a web site devoted to this period.
Schorr, Dan, _Swedish Colors and Standars of the Great Northern War_,
Alexandria VA. Editions Brokaw, 1987. The author has done pioneering work in
English on the Scandinavian armies of the early 18th century. This pamphlet
contains line drawing illustrations of many Swedish battle flags. The source
citations include Bertil Wennerholm's and Leif Tornquist's articles in the
_Meddelande_ of the Swedish Armemuseum.
Tikhonov, Yu. A. "Azovskoye sedeniye (Azov Meeting)", _Voprosii
istorii, #8, April 1970, pp. 99-110. This interesting article describes
Peter's campaigns to Azov on the eve of the Great Northern War. There is a fine
plan of the city and siege works.
Zhyelyenikh, V. I. and A. F. Khryenov, _Voyenno-inzhyenyernoye iskusstvo i
inzhyenyerniye voiska russkoi armii_ (Military engineering art and engineer
troops in the Russian Army), Moscow, Military Publishing House, 1958. This is a
series of individual essays on specific aspects of the general title. The
articles by D. I. Shor, and N. T. Derzhitikii are most relevant to the Great
Northern War. The organizational structure of engineer troops is discussed.
There are several diagrams of field fortifications and siege works from this