Swedish victory at Poltava
The first part: The Battle, and how to get away with it
This particular matter has been discussed several times before, but
there's always room for another try. Especially since I recently stumbled
upon a TL starting with the Swedish victory at Poltava and ending with Sweden pushing her borders all the way to the Pacific coast and
colonizing Australia... but seriously, What If Sweden had won the battle of Poltava on June 28th, 1709? Did the Swedes stand any chance
of winning, and how were they planning to continue the war, had they won the battle?
One fact that we know is that due to the acute shortage of supplies,
the Swedish high command had forsaken the idea of resuming the advance
towards Moscow already before the battle. The only logical alternative was to withdraw the army from Ukraine back to Poland, and this was
realized by field-marshal Carl Gustaf Rehnsk?ld and the King Carl XII himself, that much is clear. But even still, to ensure the safe exit, the Tsar
and his army had to be taken out first, Swedes had to fight to get away. The plans for the battle are well-known. The Swedish infantry was to
break through the Russian fortifications between the Forests of Yakovtsy and Budishchi, after which the cavalry was to proceed by cutting the
Russian northward retreat route on the bank of Vorskla. The infantry would attack directly against the main Russian force, with the cavalry
supporting the attack on the northern flank; thus, caught between the hammer and the anvil, with their backs against the river, the Russians
would be totally destroyed and the Swedes would have a free journey back home.
The chances of Swedish victory weren't good. The Swedes were seriously
exhausted by years of campaigning, whereas the Russians were rested
and ready, and far better trained and led than in Narva. Above all, the Russian artillery had an overwhelming superiority, with 102 guns on the field;
the heavy pieces included twelve 8-pound and two 12-pound cannons, 20-pound and 40-pound howitzer, and one 20-pound and two 40-pound
mortars, with virtually unlimited munitions. In contrast, Swedes had _four_ 3-pound cannons on the field, and the munitions were, quite simply,
running out; the infantry and the artillery had enough firepower for _one_ strike, after which all bets were off.
Aside the material shortage, the Swedish ordre de bataille went about
as wrong as possible from the very beginning. Three regiments under general
major Roos, a third of the Swedish infantry, were locked in a bloody and unnecessary assault against the third Russian fortress, eventually went astray,
lost the contact with the main army and had to surrender. The initially succesful concentration of the Swedish cavalry ended with the squadrons caught
in an absolute organizational chaos on the worst possible terrain between the forest of Budishchi and the nearby swamp. And, as general Adam Ludvig
Lewenhaupt led the remaining 4'000 men to the final bayonet charge against 22'000 Russians, the left and the right flank of the Swedish infantry drifted
apart, and the enemy was free to do a variation of the classic Cannae, encircling and finally routing the Swedish army - but even in the last moment, it at
least _seemed_ that the Swedish assault might make it and break the Russian ranks, force the enemy to retreat and win the day for the Carolins.
Now, let's do some vigorous handwaving and throw in the "if"-factors.
Roos behaves less rigidly, and after the breakthrough, all of the infantry
in an orderly formation directly against the Russian main army. The Swedish cavalry gets through succesfully, keeps its act together and backs up the final
attack. The assault with cold weapons is well-ordered and succesful, and the Russians are smashed against Vorskla. No doubt Rehnsk?ld will give the
Russians the same treatment he did in Fraustadt, which means that no prisoners will be taken; the entire Russian army of 44'000 men is destroyed/routed,
those who try to surrender executed, Poltava stormed, and Tsar Peter forced to retreat (IIRC, he had a hat shot off his head during the battle in OTL, so
perhaps killing him might also be an option, but I'll save that variant for someone else). The summer of 1709 is beautiful, the Swedish armies are still unbeaten
in the field, and the road is clear for them to withdraw in peace and cross the Dnepr safely on Perevolochna.
The difficult march from Poltava back to Poland on low rations would
no doubt take a heavy toll and bear close resemblance to the Napoleonic
catastrophe hundred-and-two years later. What's more, Swedes would be marching
towards another fight; taking the direct route would mean a collision with
Russian garrison stationed in Kiev. This could be avoided by taking the more southern route, but even in that case, there'd be one more obstacle between
the main army and general Krassow's troops in Jaroslowicze; general Goltz's Russian force, supported by the Lithuanian troops of hetman Sienawski, were occupying Lw?w. But well, let's be broad-minded and assume that the news of the victory will allow Krassow an opportunity of action. As soon as general Ridderhielm's regiments from Wismar (en route to Wolyn since March 1709, inevitably under another commander later on, since Ridderhielm died in OTL
August 1709) arrive, Krassow takes Lw?w and clears the stage for the triumphant return of Carl XII on, say, November 1709. As an estimate, ca. 10'000
men would have probably survived the march from Poltava to Poland. Roughly 50% casualties on the road back, with a total of 75% on the whole Russian campaign; not a good ratio, but still hell of a lot better than OTL's total annihilation.
The end result is that Carl XII has won yet another battle of epic proportions,
but he still hasn't won the war. The Russian campaign of 1708-1709 has
in a strategic defeat for Sweden, but the King can still claim victory; hardly anyone will notice the truth in the afterglow of Poltava. By autumn 1709, the King
is once again in Poland, free to redeploy his forces wherever they're needed. The next subject to be examined is what kind of an impact the above-described developments would have on the international relations between the European powers; I'll save that for the second part.
The second part: The Friends and the Enemies
One immediate political consequence of the Swedish victory at Poltava
would undoubtedly be the entry of the Crimean Tatars and the Ottoman Empire
war. Khan Devlet-Giray had expressed his enthusiasm to commence hostilities against the Tsar all through the summer of 1709, but the Porte had restrained
him, preferring to wait for the outcome of the Ukrainian campaign first. The struggle between grand vizier Corlulu Ali's doves, backed by Britain and Russia,
and Devlet-Gerai's hawks, backed by France and Sweden, ended with the victory of the latter party and the ascendancy of Baltaci Mehmet as the grand vizier
in OTL's August 1710. In this ATL, we can expect the talks in Bender to restart immediately after the battle, with the usual bribes and Stanislaw Poniatowski's infiltration of the court included, and the result would be an earlier Turkish attack against Russia; Poltava would provide a powerful argument for the war party,
the chance to exploit the situation and take revenge would simply be too good to pass. In this case, the Tsar would be facing another threat from the south, _at
the time when his main army in Ukraine has just been destroyed_. Considering that the Turks can throw in an army of ca. 150'000 men and were able to inflict
a near-catastrophe on the Russians on Prut in OTL 1711, the southern threat will most certainly require a good part of Peter's attention for the winter of
1709-1710; the difference to OTL will be that this time, the Ottomans will strike first, both on Prut and against Azov.
Regretfully not even the victory at Poltava could save Sweden's Ukrainian
allies. The destruction of Baturin in 1708 had already deprived Zaporogis
prospects of succesful resistance, and hetman Ivan Mazepa's 1'500 poor, depressed cossacks were mostly used as cannon fodder by the Swedes during the Ukrainian campaign. Under hetman Pilip Orlik, the cossacks would still continue to play a modest part, in coalition with the Tatars - after the Russian occupation
of Ukraine, a new Sech had been established in the mouth of Dnepr, on Crimean territory - and back up the Turkish invasion with cavalry raids in 1709-1710,
but it'd be little more than a prolonged death-struggle with no real hope of succeeding. Likewise, the last peasant uprisings following Bulavin's rebellion in Don
would inevitably be extinguished also in this ATL's 1709.
Whereas the Turkish participation would be accelerated, it's fairly
certain that with a major Russian defeat, Denmark-Norway would choose not
to re-enter the
war at this point; thus, ?resund will remain open for Swedish commerce, there won't be any Danish incursion in Sk?ne in November 1709, no Danish naval attacks against Swedish transports in the southern Baltic, and the forces raised by Magnus Stenbock in Sk?ne and Blekinge will be free for operations elsewhere. The
Danes will certainly continue the preparations to recommence the hostilities, keeping a watchful eye on the developments.
Poland-Saxony is another matter. Stanislaw Leszczynski's position was
already crumbling well before OTL's Poltava and the Confederation of Sandomierz
was beginning to raise its head once again, although August II's Polish
supporters weren't willing to accept the return of the Saxon Elector unconditionally.
in this ATL, Stanislaw wouldn't have any urgent need to retreat, and without the support of field-marshal Aleksandr Menshikov's troops - who'd be either
decimated in Ukraine or concentrated against the Turks by now - it's unlikely that August would dare to intervene alone in the winter of 1709-1710. Also, it's doubtful whether the Poles of Sandomierz could pose anything more than a bloody nuisance at this point. And, as soon as Carl XII returns, his presence within
the Polish borders will be more than enough to keep Stanislaw on the throne, maintain order in the Rzeczpospolita and forestall all attacks from Saxony.
The less important events in the periphery known as the Western Europe
would no doubt continue very much as in the history we remember. The outcome
of Malplaquet on September 11th, 1709 will be similar to OTL, the War of
Spanish succession will continue its due course and the autumn of 1710
bring the Tories back in power in Britain. Odds are that both Louis XIV and the Western Allies will once again approach the invincible King of Sweden, but IMO Carl XII would, once again, refuse to join with either side. - The rather different setup of the Great Northern War will still have some effects on the international European relations. Without the Saxon re-entry to the war and Krassow's subsequent retreat to Pomerania, there won't be any substantial Swedish military presence within the German borders, and thus no direct threat to the peace of the Empire and diversion of German forces away from the Rhine. Consequently, as the maritime powers won't have any reason to get antagonized against Sweden, the Convention of The Hague won't take place in March 1710. Even if the war against France would prompt the Allies to take some similar action to secure the neutrality of the Empire, it's possible that Carl XII might choose to _accept_ such an arrangement. In OTL, he refused it mostly because it'd have effectively interned the Swedish army in Pomerania and compromised his freedom of action in an already intolerable predicament. This would hardly be the case in a situation where Russia remains as Sweden's only active enemy.
Likewise, it's a safe bet that the Baltic trade won't be as seriously
disrupted as it was after OTL's Poltava, and the Baltic naval stores will
continue to be secured
for the maritime powers. Despite the Naval Stores Act of 1705 and the continuing attempts of the Navy Board to develop Ireland and the North American colonies as suppliers of hemp, flax, tar and timber, Britain was still largely dependent on the resources from Estonia and Livonia. This, of course, gives a certain diplomatic advantage to anyone who controls the provinces; the issue of who dominates the Baltic lands in 1710 will be dealt with more closely in the third part.
The third part: The Gains and the Losses
Peter's Turkish distraction won't entirely deflect the Russians from
pressing their goals on the Baltic. Field-marshal Boris Sheremetyev's army
will certainly march against Kurland and lay siege on Riga on the autumn
1709; in the north, Russians will also tighten the noose around Pernau
(P?rnu) and Reval (Tallinn). Due to the commercial importance of Riga -
see the previous part about the Livonian trade and the naval stores - and
Sweden's plans of incorporating Kurland into the realm, the Swedes would
definitely consider this as the most important threat to deal with. With
the Danish and Saxon threat not materializing in this ATL, support from
Stenbock and Krassow could, if not relieve, at least allow the city to hold out until such time that Carl XII would arrive to take command of his armies; even in
OTL, Riga didn't surrender until July 1710. The presence of the King himself on the field would enable the Swedes to move their forces from Poland - which, by now, include the remains of the main army, Krassow's troops, Ridderhielm's regiments from Wismar together with Swedish garrison troops from Elbing and Poznan, and possibly also Polish troops loyal to Stanislaw, a total of approx. 25'000-30'000 men - and counterattack in Kurland and Livonia, thus defeating the Russians once again in the Baltic provinces in the midwinter of 1709-1710. I know, Swedes would be all the more exhausted, but with fresh reinforcements, they could still face the Russians on numerically equal terms, and with Carl XII himself in command - well, Swedes were able to win on far worsse odds (witness Lewenhaupt
against Sheremetyev in 1705, although granted, by 1710 the Russians were better prepared, having learned from their enemies).
At the beginning of 1710, Sweden is once again the master of Livonia.
Since the province and the port of Riga have been spared the Russian occupation,
won't be any Swedish ban on Livonian trade and no Swedish privateer activity to block the British commerce on the Baltic; thus, most of OTL's deterioration in
the Anglo-Swedish relations will be avoided. With the exception of the tar port of Narva - occupied by the Russians in 1704 and blockaded by the Swedes ever since - the naval stores remain under Swedish control. - As a side note, the renewed Swedish occuppation of Kurland in 1710, together with their intention to annex the Duchy, might also result in a divergence in matrimonial relations; instead of the Russian Grand-Duchess Anna Ivanovna, the young Duke Friedrich Wilhelm (aetas 17) might instead be married to the Swedish Princess Ulrika Eleonora (aetas 22). I'm not making it canon just yet, even though the butterfly potential is very tempting.
Notwithstanding the Swedish military victory, it should be remembered
that the Plague which infested the Baltic provinces in 1710 would be cutting
swathes through their forces at this point, and the cost of sustaining
the army on the field in wintertime would once again impose its own terms
on the King. After the Russian destruction of the provinces - Dorpat (Tartu)
was razed to the ground, with most of the rural population deported to
central Russia - and the harvest disaster of 1708-1709, there'd be no resources
left to maintain the troops, and it's hard to see how the generalkrigskommissariat
could provide the army with adequate rations from home, either. Most likely
we'd see ca. 25-30% of the Swedish forces going down from diseases and
starvation, and the hardships of the native population would be beyond
imagination; at a guess, we might actually have a decent shot at the total
extirpation of Latvians and Estonians as nations (ca. 70% of the
population in Estonia and 50% in Livonia died from the Plague, starvation and war in OTL's 1710). Also, the repeated victories over numerically superior Russian forces and the triumph over Peter _himself_ in Poltava would no doubt seriously boost Carl XII's hubris. So, the King would be less and less likely to recognize the Tsar as his equal and turn down all proposals of mediation, which means that the war would drag on and on...
Further in the north, the Russian success would be guaranteed. General
Georg Henrik Lybecker's expedition against St. Petersburg in the summer
of 1708 had
been a total fiasco, and admiral Fedor Apraksin's galley fleet had operated undisturbed on the Gulf of Finland. Regardless of the events in the south, Apraksin can still lay siege with 13'000 men on Viborg (Viipuri) in March 1710, while the King is still reasserting Sweden's presence in Poland and Livonia. Even without the Tsar's presence on the field, both Viipuri and Kexholm (K?kisalmi) will have to surrender to the Russians by June 1710. This will no doubt be followed with a
quiet period similar to OTL, during which Russians will concentrate on the threats in the south/southwest, while still continuing their naval buildup on Ladoga
and Onega. Given Sweden's inability to counter the Russian naval superiority, Finnish - and ultimately, Swedish - coasts would be dangerously exposed to the
raids of Apraksin's archipelago fleet.
(IMO, the absence of Danish participation in this ATL still couldn't
prevent the balance of naval power from swinging to Russia's favour. Despite
the treaty of Traventhal, Swedes would still have to keep most of their
sailing fleet in the south just to watch out for a potential Danish attack
and ensure that the lines of communication to Pomerania and the Baltic
provinces remain open. It must also be remembered that the maritime powers
were counting on Danish support
against France, so Sweden couldn't rely on Britain's assistance in parrying the Danes. The Swedish battleships in the north can blockade the Russian ports, but
not engage the Russians on shallow waters. By 1710, Apraksin had hundred galleys and gunboats under his command, whereas the Swedish archipelago flotilla
on the Gulf of Finland consisted of only twenty vessels; the pre-war Swedish concentration on sailing battle fleet efficiency was something of a strategic miscalculation, ignoring the archipelago operations and the threat from the east. And, even though the size of the largely inexperienced Russian sailing fleet on the Baltic was still small - three battleships with a total displacement of 5'000 tons against the thirty-nine vessels and 58'000 tons of the Swedish navy - by 1715, it had
increased to twenty-nine vessels with 34'000 tons, and by 1720, its size finally surpassed Sweden once and for all.)
The question what course the war would take after the succesful Swedish
operations in the Baltic provinces will be answered in the fourth part
of the story.
The fourth part: The Death of the King
A quick summary of the events so far: the Russians have experienced
a major defeat at Poltava and another one in the Baltic provinces, are
dealing with Ottoman threat from the south, and their allies aren't showing
any sign of re-entering the war - but on the other hand, they can easily
replace their losses, have conquered considerable territory in eastern
Finland, their galley fleet operates freely in the Finnish archipelagoes
and most importantly, the security of St. Petersburg is
guaranteed. The Swedes are still unbeatable on the field, their armies have secured Kurland and Livonia, and the checks against their potential enemies are still holding - but on the other hand, they've had to forsake their invasion of central Russia, they've experienced severe losses, have little resources to replace them, and the King's determination to fight to the death is stronger than ever. So, what happens next? We'll close the loose ends in the south first.
The Tsar's dealings with the Turks should be settled by the summer of
1710. Presumably, the war has been less dramatic in this ATL. Peter's near-capture
Prut in OTL 1711 resulted very much from his hasty and ill-prepared attack and equally hasty and unorganized retreat in the Danubian Principalities. After
obtaining promises of support from the Princes of Moldavia and Valakia, he was counting on a general uprising of the Sultan's Christian subjects, which, however, did not materialize; this effectively destroyed the Russian chances of success. This time the Ottomans have launched the offensive, and the Tsar is keeping in
defensive, so Peter has most likely managed to avoid getting caught. On the other hand, the initially favourable Turkish advance will soon start to suffer from
supply problems and organizational disintegration, with the Russians scorching everything and the Tatars pursuing their own goals. It won't take long until both
sides will want to end the conflict as soon as possible, and the maritime powers will readily offer mediation; fearing that Turkish victory over Russia might turn beneficial for France, The Hague dispatched Colyer to mediate the peace negotiations between Moscow and Constantinople in OTL, and the same will no doubt happen this time around. We can expect the treaty to be concluded sometime in April-May 1710, with broadly OTL's terms; the Russians will have to give up their
conquests on Azov, Taganrog and the right bank, and dismantle their fleet on the Don. Baltaci Mehmet can claim a victory and concentrate on his second goal - the war against Venice - while the Tsar will once again be able to focus on Sweden.
(Once again, there seems to be some butterfly potential here. OTL's peace settlement at least partly contributed to Baltaci Mehmet's dismissal by Ahmet III. Considering that the Tsar had been totally at Grand Vizier's mercy on Prut, the peace terms were seen as awfully lenient to the Russians; this led the ulema to accuse Baltaci Mehmet of accepting bribes and betraying Islam, after which the Sultan had to give him the boot. Since the campaign has been slightly different in this ATL, Baltaci Mehmet could perhaps avoid these suspicions, emerge with a clean shield and maintain his position. What kind of an impact this would have on the Ottoman Wars against Venice and Austria - both of which would probably also be somewhat accelerated in this ATL - is a matter to which we'll return later on.)
(The Danubian Principalities are also in line for divergence. As told
above, OTL's Russian victory at Poltava and Peter's subsequent preparations
for a campaign all the way to Constantinople prompted the rulers of Moldavia
and Valakia to promise assistance for the Russians. After the peace of
Prut, the Ottomans supplanted
the untrustworthy native princes with new rulers appointed from the Greek Fanariote families, which led to an increased presence of Greek language and culture in the administration of the Principalities. This time, the Russians experienced a defeat at Poltava, which was followed by an immediate Turkish incursion in southern Ukraine. Thus, odds are that the native Princes might have had the good sense to keep their mouths shot, and maintain their posts.)
By the summer of 1710, everything will be ready for the big showdown in the north. The Swedes have the initiative, and Carl XII wants to finish the war and strike Russia down once and for all. The Russians have advanced in the north, so that's the direction where they'd also have to be defeated. And since the invasion to the Russian heartland has already failed, the solution now would be to destroy the very symbol of Tsar's power and ambitions, St. Petersburg. So, sometime in May-June 1710, a few months or so after the fall of Viipuri and a month after the Russo-Turkish peace treaty, the Swedish main army in Livonia will begin its advance towards the new Russian capital.
How many men can Sweden scrape up at this point? Even with the previously-described
losses from military campaigns, diseases and famine, we could still assume
some 25'000-30'000 men under Carl XII in Kurland, most of them fresh reinforcements
raised by Stenbock in Sweden. To these, we can add ca. 10'000 men or
so under general Carl Gustaf Nieroth in Finland (Nieroth replaced Lybecker as the C-in-C in Finland after the fall of Viipuri in OTL, and was a master in impossible; the man managed to muster an army of 9'000 men from the virtually exhausted country in the spring of 1711 - of these, 2'600 men had already been raised in Ostrobothnia during the spring of 1710). The obvious Grand Strategy would be to mount a two-pronged attack against St. Petersburg; Nieroth will do his best to harass the Russian lines in Viipuri and the Karelian Isthmus, while the King himself will arrive from the south, smash through the Russian forces in Ivangorod and Narva and burn St. Petersburg to the ground. After this disgrace of a city has been erased from the Swedish soil, His Majesty will be free to dictate his peace terms to the Tsar. I know, not terribly realistic, but as I said, by now Carl XII would believe that he can walk on waters.
What does the Tsar do? Most likely he has managed to find time to raise
more troops during the autumn of 1709 and the spring of 1710; in OTL, a
total of 280'000 men were drafted to the Russian army during the war, and
at the end of Peter's reign, its size had reached 350'000 men (130'000
regulars in the field army and 80'000 in the garrison troops, 110'000 cossacks
and irregulars, and 30'000 in the navy). We can assume that even after
Sheremetyev's defeat, Peter is ready to move additional 40'000 men to the
northwest, so together with Apraksin's forces this would add up to an army
of ca. 55'000-60'000 men. As the summer of 1710 arrives, the Tsar sees
the Swedish Lion moving against his own city, his beloved Petersburg. He's
definitely going to lead its defence personally - which means that
we're looking at the final death-match somewhere near Narva in June-July 1710, with both sovereigns personally in command of their armies once again.
IMO, there's no doubt of the result of the battle. Peter has learned
from all his previous defeats, is defending a sacred ground he has claimed
as his own, has once again absolute superiority in numbers and materi?l,
whereas Carl XII is attempting yet another bold gamble with massive self-confidence
and meagre resources.
It's a decisive defeat for the Swedes, in every sense. The whole Swedish army is decimated, and more. The King himself is killed. He got away in OTL's Poltava, and made it to refuge in Turkey, and he made his ride to Stralsund - but where could he go from here? To Sweden? The Russian navy controls the sea exits out of
the Neva estuary. To Finland? The Russian army is in front of him. To Poland? A long, long way to a potentially hostile country, and the Russians would be pursuing him. Will he surrender? No chance in hell. As the battle ends, Carl XII lies among the fallen.
What consequences the Swedish defeat and the death of the King would
have on Sweden's internal politics, the foreign relations and the overall
course of the
Great Northern War, will be a subject to analysis in the fifth part.
The fifth part: After the Defeat
The decisive Swedish military defeat on the gates of St. Petersburg
on July 1710, combined with the death of Carl XII himself, will undoubtedly
unleash another round of hostilities, similar to those which followed OTL's
Poltava; simultaneously, it'll also raise the question of succession and
see the estates' attempt to strengthen their position, restore some degree
of constitutional rule and negotiate a quick peace. We'll pay attention
to the renewed conflicts first, and the Swedish domestic
August the Strong will re-emerge to contest the Polish-Lithuanian crown.
As soon as the dust has settled in the north, the Confederation of Sandomierz
will commence its onslaught, which should be more than enough to force
Stanislaw Leszczynski to abdicate and flee from the country. The Confederation
will be dissolved, and the Saxon troops will march to Poland on late July 1710. August's position is still going to be far from secure, and he'll be desperate for Russian military assistance in the future. As in OTL, the Saxon elector will most definitely be in no position to enforce his claims over Sweden's Baltic possessions - a matter which will be dealt with more closely later on.
Denmark-Norway will rejoin the war and launch an assault against Holstein-Gottorp,
which will be overrun in a week or two; there are no Swedish forces to
speak of in Northern Gemany in this ATL. As in OTL, the Danes will also
make a bid for their lost territories beyond ?resund and land on Helsingborg
by November 1710, with the slogan "aut nunc aut nuncquam" painted on their
supply trains. Stenbock may be able to deal with the attack on Sk?ne, but
since some of his original forces were dispatched to Riga in this ATL's
1709, he'll have to raise another army. On sea, the Swedes will have a
run for their money. - The Danish naval threat shouldn't be exaggerated,
though; at the time, the Danish-Norwegian battle fleet was numerically
equal to Sweden's, with thirty-nine vessels and a total displacement of
61'000 tons. Furthermore, the Danes were surprisingly unwilling to risk
a main battle in OTL; both K?ge Bugt and R?gen were very much draws and
in the latter one,
Danes had both the strategic advantage _and_ quantitative superiority, and still failed to convert it into victory. Likewise, Gyldenl?ve's success against the Swedish transports in 1712 was mostly a lucky strike. The undeniably major Swedish defeats in the hands of Tordenskjold - Dynekilen 1716, et al - resulted probably just as much from Carl XII's strategically disastrous decisions - as a naval commander, the King was really below standards - as they did from the admitted brilliance of the Norwegian admiral.
(Incidentally, I'm going with the scenario where Sweden's German possessions - Hither Pomerania, Wismar, Bremen, Verden - are neutralized and outside the war; see the second part for details. Two alternatives: either the Convention of the Hague did take place after this ATL's Poltava, and Carl XII recognized it - as explained, he could have easily chosen to accept such a settlement this time around, since he wasn't locked in Bender with the Pomeranian bridgehead as his only chance of forcing the way out - or, a similar kind of declaration will be made by Sweden, Britain and Netherlands after Carl XII's death. Thus, we can, at the very least, remove Brandenburg-Prussia and Hannover from the equation - of the latter one, more information will be given further below.)
As soon as the news of the King's death reach Stockholm, the R?d will
summon the estates, and the Riksdag will convene on, say, early August
1710; the main initiative to end the war will be made by Arvid Horn, the
[Finnish] Chancery President and Sven Lejonmarck, the Chief Justice in
the ?bo Court of Appeals. All
the four estates will unequivocally support peace and voice their opinions in the question of succession, which, for one, will be concluded with considerably less
fuss than in OTL; according to the resolution of Norrk?ping, unmarried princesses are second in line for the throne, and since Ulrika Eleonora is still single, she's
the undisputed, legitimate candidate. I've decided to skip the idea of his marriage to the duke of Kurland, but the Hessian Landgrave will still commence his courtship on this year. Other than that, Ulrika Eleonora will be crowned as the Queen of Sweden on autumn 1710. With the King already dead and the estates pressing for
her candidature, Horn cannot plausibly torpedo her ascendancy. Also, due to Ulrika Eleonora's solid right to the throne, the Holstein faction will have no arguments whatsoever to back their own claim.
(In fact, it could be argued that there's no Holstein faction at all
in this ATL. Carl XII never had the chance to acquaint himself with Georg
Heinrich von G?rtz; he
met the man after his ride to Stralsund in OTL 1714. Quite obviously, G?rtz has never entered Swedish service in this ATL and never will, the knock-on effects
of which will be immensive. With the absence of his near-despotic regime in OTL's final war years, the relations between the estates and the ruler won't be as strained as in OTL, and odds are that the demise of the Royal Power won't be as radical this time around. In fact, I'm on sadistic mood today, so I'll have the
Danes to execute G?rtz as Holstein-Gottorp falls. There!)
When it comes to peace negotiations, there's one factor working on Sweden's
favour: the relations between Sweden and Britain are definitely better
than in OTL.
As we've noted, there hasn't been any Swedish ban on Livonian trade, no Swedish privateer ordinances or attacks on British and Dutch merchantmen on the Baltic, and since Carl XII is out of the business and G?rtz is butterflied out, there's no Swedish backing of the Jacobites. Supporting Sweden and maintaining the Balance
of the North will still be in Britain's best interests, and the possible Russian dominion over the Baltic will still be regarded with apprehension in Britain. Also, the
accession of King George I - who, as the Elector of Hannover, has his own designs for Sweden's North German possessions in Bremen and Verden - is still very much in the future, and eveen if the bishoprics should become an issue, it's not impossible that the R?d would be ready to bargain them away in exchange for diplomatic and military assistance in this ATL. The new Tory government will no doubt offer to mediate with the same sincerity it did in OTL, and whereas Carl XII refused the mediation, the R?d will most certainly accept it.
Whether the Tsar would be ready to agree to the British mediation for
negotiated peace at the time when he has won a decisive victory and could
easily reach his claims without settlement is another matter. However,
Britain can always use one option to press the issue, the same which was
used a multitude of times during 1709-1721: a naval expedition to the Baltic.
The War of Spanish succession is already reaching its closing stage - from
the contemporary perspective, of course, anything can still happen - and
some of the distractions which hampered the British assistance for Sweden
in 1719-1721, such as the South Sea Bubble Crisis,
haven't materialized at this earlier date, so chances are that Britain will be able to throw a bit more concrete aid for Sweden this time around. The Swedish-British cooperation will be advocated by the Queen, Horn, and the British ambassadour in Stockholm, who, at this stage, is John Carteret. The possible British intervention in the north will be one aspect of the following parts.
The sixth part: Warding off the Blows
While the Queen and the R?d are making a scramble for peace, and the
Swedish mainland is coping with a Danish-Norwegian incursion, the eastern
parts of the realm will have to defend themselves alone, without any help
from the mother country. After the destruction and rout of the main Swedish
army on the gates of St. Petersburg, the Tsar will move to an immediate
offensive against the Baltic provinces on August 1710. In a month or so,
the Russians will have once again besieged Reval, Pernau and Riga, and
the starved, half-dead shreds of Sweden's Baltic army - including the last
Swedish troops from Poland, which have by now retreated
in front of August II's Saxon forces - will be locked in the plague-infested Estonian and Livonian garrisons, liable to fall like skittles by the spring of 1711 at the latest. Despite of their upper hand, the invading Russians will also suffer from the winter, diseases and supply problems, which should prolong the siege somewhat.
Aside the Baltic provinces, Finland will also face another Russian attack.
The repeated crop failures in 1704-1709 have left the country in a rather
sorry state, and
in addition, Carl XII has been drafting Finns like there's no tomorrow - the pre-war Finnish population was aroundd 350'000, of whom 50'000 men were drafted during the war; a few thousand survived. However, as noted, the Finnish army still amounts to ca. 10'000 men at this point - 6'500 infantry, 3'500 cavalry - and is under the command of general Carl Gustaf Nieroth, who replaced Georg Henrik Lybecker after the fall of Viipuri. Nieroth kept the post until his death in 1712,
after which Lybecker returned. Lybecker's incompetence quite simply cannot be exaggerated - for example, Apraksin's landing on Tervik in May 1713 owed
its success almost entirely to Lybecker's passiveness; the arrival of the Russian reinforcements was delayed by a month, but the Swedish general made no attempt whatsoever to either attack the Russian bridgehead _or_ to prevent the Russian cavalry from linking with Apraksin's main army. After abandoning the Finnish coastline without any real resistance, Lybecker withdrew to inland, effectively severing his _own_ supply lines. The morale of the Finnish troops was totally wrecked, and in August 1713, Stockholm finally had the good sense to remove Lybecker, but by then, it was already too late and the damage had been done. - However,
in this ATL, Nieroth is still in command, and he's highly competent, one of the best Swedish generals of the day.
We've already established that Nieroth's army participated in the offensive against St. Petersburg by attempting to divert the Russian forces to the Karelian Isthmus and harassing their communication and supply lines; even in OTL, the Finnish detachments under colonels Johan Stiernschantz and Carl Gustaf Armfelt were able to control the Viipuri-St. Petersburg highway for most of the summer. The Russians can, however, maintain their garrison in Viipuri by sea, and come August 1710, Apraksin will concentrate an army of ca. 15'000 men, of whom 5'000 cavalry, in the northwest. The Russian infantry will man their galleys and mount an amphibious landing on the west bank of the Kymi river, whereas the cavalry will advance overland, destroying everything as it moves on. Nieroth will be sharp enough to anticipate the landing and prepare accordingly. As in OTL, the Russians will most likely choose to disembark their forces on Helsingfors (Helsinki), which will be defended by Armfelt's detachment. The first landing attempts can be repulsed, but eventually Armfelt will have to withdraw and torch the town to the ground; not a great loss, the place was already ridden by the plague, which killed 30% of the inhabitants during the autumn of 1710.
Although the sight of Helsinki in flames is beautiful, Apraksin won't
spend too much time admiring it, but instead head his fleet towards Borg?
(Porvoo). Meanwhile, Nieroth will seize the opportunity to take action
against the Russian cavalry (commanded by either Robert Bruce or Mikhail
Golitsyn... I'll choose the first candidate). The initial Russian advance
will be harassed by guerillas - again, something that Nieroth had realized
but Lybecker hadn't - until the Finnish main army will engage the enemy
at Ahvenkoski and defeat it on the riverbanks; with 8'000 men against 5'000,
shouldn't be too much of a problem. The victory will be a welcome boost
for the overall morale, and testify to the Finnish troops that despite
the grievous losses of the past ten years, the country can still be defended.
By the time when Apraksin's army disembarks on Borg? or Pern? (Pernaja),
Nieroth can attack it from the east. Apraksin will no doubt be quick to
realize that his reinforcements won't be arriving and be smart enough to
not risk a battle, but instead re-embark his troops and withdraw the fleet
back to the archipelago. Vice-admiral Nils Ehrenskj?ld's small Swedish-Finnish
galley flotilla has presumably also made an entrance by this point, but
will hardly dare to pursue Apraksin. Nevertheless, the
end result is that the Russian invasion has been fought back.
As September arrives, Nieroth's forces have ground the Russian offensive
against Finland to a halt, the morale and discipline of the Finnish troops
will be high,
and the desertions and resentment which plagued the army under Lybecker won't be an issue. The harvest of 1710 will provide adequate rations for the soldiers,
the arms shipments from Sweden will reach Finland, the lev?e-en-masse will add 2'500-3'000 men to Nieroth's ranks later on the same year, and the diseases will ease off as the winter finally arrives. The deteriorated condition of the roads after the autumn rains, together with an organized guerilla action, will pose an obstacle
to a renewed Russian overland advance, which can still be met with one-on-one odds on the battlefield. In the west, Nieroth will keep a watchful eye for another landing attempt; Apraksin definitely won't discontinue ravaging the coast whenever he gets the chance. The Swedish archipelago flotilla and admiral Gustaf Wattrang's battle fleet squadron should still be able to block the Gulf at least up to Helsinki, denying the Russian access to ?bo and ?land archipelago; as the Gulf of Finland
eventually freezes, the naval operations will effectively end for the year. The Russians can raid the territory all the way to the Kymi river, but otherwise they'll have to postpone the invasion of Finland either to the late winter or the spring 1711. By then, the Tsar himself will arrive to take command of his armies.
The Russo-Swedish negotiations will begin in January 1711, with count
Andrei Ostermann as the Russian representative, Arvid Horn as the Swedish
representative, and the British ambassadour John Carteret as the mediator;
all three will have clear instructions and opening positions. The Tsar
will demand Ingria, Karelia, Viipuri included, Estonia and Livonia - the
latter one in direct violation of his treaty with August II, but as told,
at this point, Peter won't much care of the feelings of his Saxon ally
anymore. Sweden will be ready to cede St. Petersburg, Ingria, K?kisalmi
and perhaps compromise the territories of the Treaty of Vallisaari - signed
1657, it granted Kokenhausen, Marienburg, Neuhausen, Dorpat and Vasknarva
in East Estonia to Tsar Aleksei for three years. However, Ulrika Eleonora
be ready to swallow the loss of the western half of the Karelian Isthmus and the Baltic provinces quite yet; the Baltic garrisons are still holding out, the military success in Finland has strengthened the Crown's determination to press for more honourable terms, and there's a fair chance that Britain will assist Sweden in retaining Estonia and Livonia. The Russians will take note of the last factor, and aside of enforcing his terms by military means, the Tsar will also begin a diplomatic offensive; Boris Kurakin, the Russian ambassadour in London, will be given the task of persuading Britain to accept Peter's conquest of the Eastern Baltic littoral. Threatening to cut off the Archangelsk trade is always one option to pursue - at the time, Britain imported ca. 75% of its hemp from Archangelsk, and the remaining 25% from Riga; one of the reasons why Britain objected to the Russian supremacy on the Baltic was precisely because it would have given the Tsar a total control
of the British naval stores.
The events in the west will no doubt facilitate the Russian decision
to resume the advance against Finland as fast as possible. By March 1711,
Stenbock will have defeated the Danes in Sk?ne, forcing the blistered remains
of King Frederik's army to withdraw back to Sj?lland. The Danish offensive
to reconquer the lost territories, conducted under the slogan "now or never",
has ended with a definite "never". At the same time, Louis XIV will inform
Harley and the Tory government
of his preliminary peace terms, negotiations between Britain and France will begin, the death of Emperor Josef will bring the War of Spanish Succession to its final
closing stage, and the maritime powers will once again have the freedom of action to concentrate on terminating the bothersome northern conflict. On May 1711, a fleet of sixteen British warships, commanded by admiral Sir John Norris, will sail to the Baltic. Stanhope's orders to Norris and Carteret will be unambiguos; preserve the Northern Balance, defend Sweden's interests in the peace negotiations, and, if necessary, destroy the Tsar's Baltic Fleet.
The seventh part: The Peace Offensive
The sudden appearance of sixteen British ships-of-the-line in ?resund
on May 1711 has a sobering effect on King Frederik IV. Although Norris
makes it clear to Stenbock that the Royal Navy won't assist the Swedes
in a landing on Sj?lland, the mere presence of the fleet is enough to raise
the bad memories of the lightning strike Denmark suffered eleven years
ago. Despite a sense of betrayal - Danish soldiers have fought in Marlborough's
forces, after all - the sovereign of Denmark- Norway reluctantly decides
that the most sensible course of action would be to meet the British demands
and sign a peace with Sweden. A six-months' armistice is declared in June,
and the negotiations begin. The Danish-Norwegian territorial demands in
Sk?ne are bluntly brushed aside by Carteret, and the one and the only
gain that L?ven?rne manages to secure for the conglomerate kingdom is the ducal part of Slesvig; neither the Queen nor Horn have any interest in the vexing alliance with Holstein-Gottorp, and readily sacrifice the Duke's possessions. The Danish acquisition is officially recognized by Sweden and guaranteed by Britain; pressured by the British demands for an equal competition in the Baltic trade, Sweden also has to renounce her exemption from ?resund dues. The final peace treaty is signed
in Fredriksborg in the first week of December, by which time the situation in the north will have been long resolved.
Regardless of the brief break after Apraksin's raid against Helsinki,
Finland's condition will continue to deteriorate as the winter of 1710-1711
passes. Generalkrigskommissariat will turn down Nieroth's requests for
reinforcements and statskontoret will refuse to give him any money; all
remaining men and
cash in the mother country are earmarked for the defence against Denmark and the planned expedition to recover the Baltic provinces. The sad truth is that the dirt-poor eastern borderland has to base its defence on its own, exhausted human and economic resources. Except for a few thousand militiamen, the army has virtually no reserves and has to rely its financial maintenance on a variety of contributions, auxiliary taxes and a few Dutch credits delivered by merchant Johan Henrik Frisius. The situation is untenable; past the spring of 1711, Finland will be unable to maintain its army, and her defences will collapse even without a Russian attack. The only real hope is a quick peace - but the twisted irony of the history is that the succesful resistance of the Finnish army on the autumn of 1710 has backfired on the country, by encouraging the Swedish Crown to turn down the Tsar's terms and reconsider continuing the war against Russia.
Thus, Finland is blessed with the final blaze of glory and Nieroth is
given the chance to go down as a true warrior, as the new Russian offensive
comes in the late winter of 1711, immediately after the five-months long
siege of Reval has ended with governor Hans Henrik von Liewen's surrender
- and this time the attack against Finland will be far, far harder than
the previous one. Stenbock's victory in Sk?ne, the temporary deadlock in
the peace negotiations and rumours of British naval
intervention have convinced Peter that the war has to be taken on the Swedish mainland as soon as possible, which means that Finland has to be conquered before the sea opens in the spring. On March, the Tsar leads an army of 18'000 men from Reval to Helsinki, over the frozen Gulf of Finland, and begins to construct a military base in the town. Simultaneously, Apraksin moves once again out from Viipuri with an equal force; the winter will make the supplying of the army a difficult task, but it can be done. As usual, the Russians will make a good use of their ski troops; they had lots of those, recruited from the Fenno-Ugrian and other indigenous peoples of the Empire.
In a sudden, Nieroth is faced with an enemy almost four times of his
size, threatening him from two directions, and Stockholm _still_ won't
send any help, but nonetheless orders him to stand his ground. Withdrawing
inland is out of the question, the past experience under Lybecker has shown
that retreat has a devastating effect on the Finnish troops, and the store-houses
in the south can't be abandoned, either. Nieroth has to fight, so win or
lose, he leads his men against the Tsar. The fate of Finland is decided
in the ensuing Battle of M?nts?l?, fought amid the snow-drifts in the bitter
cold of the Northern winter. Nieroth's forces put up a fierce struggle,
several Russian guns are captured in near-suicidal charges, but in the
end, the outcome is what it is; the battle turns to a massacre as the Finnish
infantry steadfastly refuses to surrender and fights to the death. By the
end of the day, 5'000 Finns and Nieroth himself lie dead on the battlefield.
Kaleva's son is struck down, permanently. In the frenzy of victory, the
Tsar orders Golitsyn to loot and raid the nearby parishes. Before the Easter,
the Russians march to ?bo (Turku)
and secure their control over southern Finland. Inter arma silent leges; as the Finnish army collapses, so does the social order. Provincial governors, judges, priests and other crown officials cross the Gulf of Bothnia to Sweden as fast as they can, the farmers living in the battle zones scramble for their hideouts in the forests, and the surviving soldiers begin a bitter guerilla campaign against the invaders. The "Great Wrath" begins.
As the sea opens in May, the Russian galley fleet ships more and more
men and material over the Gulf of Finland, building the Finnish southern
coastline into a springboard for the planned invasion of the Swedish mainland.
However, the preparations become a subject to reconsideration, as Wattrang's
Swedish battle fleet squadron returns to patrol the Gulf on early June.
The deep waters off Helsinki and Porkkala favour the large Swedish vessels,
and despite his numerical superiority, Apraksin dares not to take his gunboats
within the firing zone of the Swedish battleships. The fate deals its final,
cruel card on early July, as Norris' British fleet finally arrives to the
?bo archipelago. Facing the threat of a combined Anglo-Swedish fleet, Peter
decides to abandon his plans of naval action against Stockholm, and instead,
gives an order to raze the conquered Finnish territories and deprive Sweden
of a base for a possible future offensive against Viipuri or St. Petersburg.
Starting from the late summer of 1711, the eastern half of the Swedish
realm shares the fate of the other trans-Baltic lands, and experiences
a total, systematic
destruction. ?bo is burned to the ground, half of the farmsteads in the region between Aura and Kymi scorched, fields destroyed, cattle killed, 15'000 men, women and children taken to slavery in Russia, and 3'500 people murdered.
As the autumn of 1711 passes by, peace with Russia begins once again
to seem like a good idea. Finland is bleeding to death, the number of refugees
in Stockholm has hit 10'000, the Bank of the Estates has suspended all
loans, the loss of the Baltic provinces and Finland has deprived the Crown
of some half of the next year's revenues, and the upcoming winter will
raise the threat of the Russian attack against the Swedish mainland over
the frozen Sea of ?land. Continuing the war with
British support doesn't appear a viable option; despite the naval assistance, Sweden would have to organize the reconquest of the Eastern Baltic littoral with her
own land army, and indelningsverket is already creaking under the strain - G?rtz is out of the picture, and I doubt that the R?d would dare to risk issuing a forced draft. The British promise of an annual subsidy of 300'000 rdr is a cold comfort when the Swedish wartime budget is beginning to swallow _thirty millions_, and the state revenue is barely over three and a half millions. Furthermore, the British determination to preserve the balance of the North has its limits; after ending one costly war against France, the Townshend-Stanhope ministry is reluctant to start another one against the Russian Empire. Also, the Tsar and Kurakin will be quick to find out the right strings from which to pull in order to persuade Britain to agree to the new status quo. The cold truth is that Sweden is in no position to recover her losses, which even the Queen and the R?d are finally beginning to realize. So, the negotiations restart in earnest in November 1711, with all sides united in their
desire for peace.
The final peace treaty between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian
Empire is signed in a conference held on ?land islands in January 1712.
The Tsar gets all
his demands; Narva, Ingria and K?kisalmi as "ancient Russian lands", Viipuri and the western half of the Karelian Isthmus as a new buffer for the reconquests, and the Baltic provinces of Estonia and Livonia in exchange for a compensation of two million riksdalers paid by Russia to Sweden, and the free right for Sweden to import Baltic grain free of duty. The rest of Finland is returned to Sweden. After twelve years of continuous fighting, the Great Northern War is over.
The eventual peace settlement between Sweden and Russia was essentially similar to the one signed in OTL; some people may find this resolution boring and blame me for a lack of imagination. Maybe there's no need for me to make any justifications, but it's perhaps still best to mention that I was never aiming for any particular outcome, and if the end was close to OTL, well, the more the things change, the more they remain the same. I started to proceed from the presumed Swedish victory in the battle of Poltava, and at every possible turning-point in the subsequent course of events I chose the alternative which seemed the most probable option. Thus, the Russo-Turkish War of 1709-1710, the Swedish reconquest of the Baltic provinces in 1710, Carl XII's offensive against St. Petersburg and his death on the same year, the neutralization of Sweden's German territories, Ulrika Eleonora's coronation, the Danish failure to reconquer Sk?ne, the anticlimactic British intervention, the year's deadlock in the Russo-Swedish peace negotiations and its tragic consequences. The death of Carl XII on the battlefield is probably the one element which could be questioned the most, even though I explained why I thought it'd be the most likely outcome in the script. "What If Carl XII had survived the battle of St. Petersburg in 1710?" is certainly another, perfectly acceptable scenario.
So, what's different in this ATL? First and foremost, Sweden is still,
at least nominally, an absolute monarchy. Since Ulrika Eleonora's claim
as an unmarried princess was solid, the estates were in no position to
extract concessions from her by threatening to approve the Holstein succession;
the death of the King had also made
his sister's coronation rather urgent, and the rivalries between the R?d and the estates still persisted, allowing the new Queen to retain most of the Royal power. There's no Holstein faction, and the peace treaty has granted the Russian Empire no excuse to meddle in Sweden's internal affairs as a guarantor of the constitutional order. Nonetheless, the defeat has still discredited the absolutist rule and both the Council and the estates have re-emerged as competing centres of power, with the will and the intention to exercise their authority in the future. The new Queen doesn't have the same talent in atomizing her opponents as her brother and father had, but she could solve this by delegating most of the power in Horn's hands. As the next King rises on the throne, the estates will definitely insist on including the ratification of some kind of a Constitution in the Royal Oath. Whether this happens after Ulrika Eleonora's marriage in 1720 or after her death in 1741, is open for questions; as a nominally absolute monarch, she might decide not to concede the crown to her husband Fredrik this time around. In both cases, the transitional monarchia mixta-period marking the gradual demise of the absolute rule might cause the following "Age of Liberty" to be somewhat less plagued by party strife than in OTL, even though the question of Ulrika Eleonora's succession will still constitute a potential stumbling-block for the realm. It's speculating, but if these dangers
can be avoided, Sweden might be able to produce a stable parliamentary form of government which could survive continuously from the 18th century up to
the present day.
In some ways, Finland has suffered more than in OTL; the events in the
last months of the war made the Russians resort to mass destruction in
a far larger scale
than in our history. On the other hand, the total occupation period has been considerably shorter in this ATL (1711-1712 instead of 1713-1721), so the country
will be able to recover from the wartime disasters fairly quickly. Even still, the wartime experiences have undermined the Finnish confidence in the mother country, marking the first step in the road towards the separation of the two parts of the realm. However, this doesn't _need_ to happen; if the Crown manages to avoid
engaging in revanchist wars against Russia during the 18th century, it can also regain and even strengthen the trust of its Finnish subjects. The unitary state will last
as long as the governments are responsible and the international situation favourable.
Rather curiously, Sweden has retained exactly one piece of territory
which was lost in OTL; the city of Stettin, due to the neutralization of
Sweden's North German possessions. Regretfully, this will only serve to
increase the Prussian ambitions towards Pomerania and bind Sweden closer
to France as the century passes. Remaining outside any Central European
War is going to be difficult, and ending up entangled in at least one of
them will be inevitable. - Denmark has failed to
regain her lost territories, and as in OTL, will have to finally settle for the status of a minor neutral power. The imminent Russian connection to the house of
Holstein-Gottorp will certainly materialize also in this ATL, and may yet threaten the very existence of the conglomerate kingdom; even in our history, the Danish salvation depended almost entirely on chance. - Needless to say, this ATL has left the Norwegians without one important part of OTL's national history.
As in OTL, the Great Northern War has sealed the fate of the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth. The restoration of August II and his Saxon Guard at
of the Confederates of Sandomierz will continue to divide the Rzeczpospolita against itself, and the Polish animosity against the German King will rise fairly quickly. The resistance of the Szlachta will be organized in the Confederation of Tarnogr?d in 1715-1717, and the King-Elector will require Russian assistance in suppressing the rokosz. The subsequent events will materialize largely in accordance to the history we remember; the Silent Sejm will assemble under the watchful eye of Menshikov's soldiers, and effectively transform Poland-Lithuania into a Russian protectorate. Stanislaw Leszczynski's return after August II's death will be thwarted by all the three future partitioning powers; most likely Sweden can manage to avoid involvement in the War of Polish Succession also in this ATL, especially if Horn
is in charge of the foreign policy.
Curiously, although the victory at Poltava hasn't prevented the downfall
of Sweden's great power status, it has produced a positive outcome for
the Danubian principalities. As told, in OTL, Peter the Great's triumph
over Carl XII in Ukraine motivated the princes to seek Russian help in
overthrowing the Ottoman
suzerainty; this cooperation with the enemy led to the removal of the native leadership by the Porte and the beginning of the so-called Fanariot regim? in the principalities. In this ATL, the Russian defeat at Poltava, followed by the short, victorious Turkish campaign against Azov, caused the hospodars to abandon all hopes of Russian rescue, and thus, both Dimitriu Cantemir in Moldavia and Constantin Br?ncoveanu in Valakia will hold on to their posts somewhat longer - the
latter may yet end up decapitated, Br?ncoveanu had already earned a reputation as an unreliable double-dealer well before 1709, and the Sultan had made provisions for his elimination in favour of Cantemir. But, for the time being, at least, the Romanian principalities will continue to maintain their political, economic and cultural ties with the Central Europe, keep up with the positive developments begun in the 17th century and avoid the corruption, excessive taxation, degradation of the peasantry and overall anarchy which burdened them under the Fanariot rule.
The events in the southwestern Europe and elsewhere will follow their
due course, with the potential for variation increasing every year. As
we've seen, the Swedish agitation for a renewed Turkish attack against
Russia discontinued in 1710, leaving the victor of Azov, Grand Vizier Baltaci
Mehmet, and his Fanariot supporters free to pursue their another favourite
goal, which is to regain the losses of Karlowitz. So, on November 1711,
the Ottoman Empire will commence hostilities against Venice, and recapture
Morea with a quick land-sea expedition in the summer of 1712. The Spanish
interests will dictate a continued Habsburg peace with the Porte until
the final conclusion of peace between Vienna and Paris; chances are that
the settlement would be accelerated this time around, especially since
the Ottoman action in the southeast would coincide with Villars' success
over Prinz Eugen at Denain. The peace between Louis XIV and the Emperor
might be signed already in Utrecht, after which Austria would turn to deal
with the Turks; in this situation, the Romanian princes might opt for Austrian
support, which would, in many respects, be a more viable alternative than
the Russian assistance. I wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility of
the principalities falling within the Austrian sphere of influence in this
ATL's equivalent of Passarowitz, particularly since the above-described
Polish situation could distract the Tsar from intervening in the Balkans
at the moment. Even still, Peter has many good years left, so he might
eventually be able to restore the Russian access to the Black Sea in this