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Battle of Narva
Part of the Great Northern War
Victory at Narva
The Swedish Victory at Narva by Gustaf Cederström, painted 1910
Date November 30, 1700 (November 20 Swedish transitional calendar)
Location Narva, present-day Estonia
Result Decisive Swedish victory
Naval Ensign of Sweden.svg Sweden Flag of Russia.svg Russia
Charles XII[1]
Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld[1]
Fyodor Golovin[1]
Ivan Trubetskoy[1]
Boris Sheremetev[1]
Charles Eugène de Croÿ  #
10.537 (5.889 infantry, 4314 cavalry, 334 artillery)[2] 30.000[2] to 35,000[3]
Casualties and losses
700–900 killed, 1.200 wounded[4] 8.000–10.000 killed[4]
20.000 captured and disarmed but later set free [5]
For other Battles of Narva, see Battle of Narva (disambiguation).

The Battle of Narva on 30 November 1700 was an early battle in the Great Northern War. A Swedish relief army under Charles XII of Sweden defeated a Russian siege force three times its size. Before, Charles XII had forced Denmark-Norway in the Treaty of Travendal. Narva was not followed by further advances of the Swedish army into Russia, instead, Charles XII turned southward to expel August the Strong from Livonia and Poland-Lithuania. Peter the Great took Narva in a second battle in 1704.



During the 17th century, Russia was less advanced than the rest of Europe. This extended to their armed forces..[6] Peter the Great of Russia was keen to expand his territory by conquering parts of the Swedish Baltic provinces. Russia joined an alliance with Denmark-Norway and August the Strong, king of Poland-Lithuania and elector of Saxony, to wage war against Sweden whereupon all three countries attacked Sweden from several directions.[7]

Charles XII, assisted by the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy, first landed in Humlebaek north of Copenhagen and forced Denmark-Norway to leave the alliance in August 1700 (until 1709).[8] He then moved part of the Swedish army across the Baltic Sea to Estonia where it was joined by Estonian and Finnish regiments of the Swedish army.

The new Russian Tsar, Peter I, would drastically modernize Russia in the coming years, but the army with which he traveled in 1700 was still poorly drilled. Peter had employed foreign generals and officers to improve his armed forces, but they were still far from seasoned. Sweden, on the other hand, possessed a well-drilled and well-equipped army. Charles XII of Sweden had the most complete military force in northern Europe, even if it wasn't the biggest, and Peter envied its capabilities.[6]

During November, Russian troops surrounded the Swedish city of Narva in Estonia (part of Sweden at the time), attempting to secure its surrender via siege. A Saxon-Polish army commanded by August II and Steinau was outside Riga in Swedish Livonia. The Saxon-Polish army however had gone into winter camp south of river Daugava so Charles XII decided to deal with the more immediate Russian threat against Narva.

King Charles moved to relieve the city and push Peter's forces back into Russia.

The battle

On 19 (OS) or 30 (NS) November 1700[9] (20 November in the Swedish transitional calendar), Charles XII positioned his 10,500 men opposite the besieging Russian army of about 33,000[10] to 35,000 troops.[3]

The Swedish army was commanded personally by Charles XII, assisted by General Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld.[1] The Russian forces were commanded by Tsar Peter and Charles Eugène de Croy. Claiming important domestic events in Russia to which he was required to attend, Peter had left Narva just days before and was therefore not present during the actual fighting. He trusted that his commanders would draw success from the battle, and presumed that Charles would not immediately attack his well fortified forces of superior number. Some interpretations view his flight from Narva days before the battle an act of cowardice; most of Europe mocked the Tsar after the battle for his departure. However, some scholars believe this accusation has little merit, as reportedly the Tsar had placed himself in physical danger too many times previously for his flight to be out of cowardice.[11]

For much of the day, a blizzard engulfed both armies, making attacks impossible. However, at midday, the winds changed and the snowstorm blew directly into the eyes of the Russians. Charles saw his opportunity and advanced on the Russian army under cover of the weather.[1] The Swedes attacked in two columns, quickly broke through the Russian lines cutting them in three, and rounded them up.[9] At one crucial point, a bridge over the Narova river collapsed under retreating Russian troops:[1] the stampede led to the death of 8,000 men and the loss of 145 guns.[9] The Russians remaining in Narva surrendered.[1]

The Russian surrender brought to Charles XII's army all of Peter's cannons, muskets and military supplies. This left Russia's remaining armed forces with essentially no equipment. If Sweden, or any other aggressor, had invaded Russia immediately after Narva, Peter would have been almost powerless to stop them.[6]

Second battle

Peter the Great leads the Russian troops capturing Narva in 1704

Four years after the first battle of Narva, Tsar Peter marched again in an attempt to capture Narva. Peter marched with 45,000 men. The garrison of Narva was under the Commandant Major-General Henning Rudolf Horn af Ranzien and consisted of 3,800 infantry and 1,300 cavalry. The Russians made a three-fronted attack and after a long battle they took Narva. General Horn, several officers and a large number of Swedish soldiers were captured, with about 3,200 casualties. The Russians, though successful, also suffered heavy losses — 13,000 men during the siege and final attack.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Black, Jeremy (1996). Warfare. Renaissance to revolution, 1492-1792. Cambridge Illustrated Atlases. 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 111. ISBN 0521470331.  
  2. ^ a b (Swedish) Christer Kuvaja: Karolinska krigare 1660–1721, p.139. Schildts Förlags AB 2008. ISBN 978-951-50-1823-6.
  3. ^ a b Frost, Robert I (2000). The Northern Wars. War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe 1558-1721. Longman. pp. 230,232. ISBN 978-0-582-06429-4.  
  4. ^ a b (Swedish) Christer Kuvaja: Karolinska krigare 1660–1721, p.147. Schildts Förlags AB 2008. ISBN 978-951-50-1823-6.
  5. ^ Only 134 higher officers and a few soldiers were taken as permanent prisoners.
  6. ^ a b c Peter The Great - Swift
  7. ^ Frost, Robert I (2000). The Northern Wars. War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe 1558-1721. Longman. pp. 228. ISBN 978-0-582-06429-4.  
  8. ^ Frost, Robert I (2000). The Northern Wars. War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe 1558-1721. Longman. pp. 229. ISBN 978-0-582-06429-4.  
  9. ^ a b c Frost, Robert I (2000). The Northern Wars. War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe 1558-1721. Longman. pp. 230. ISBN 978-0-582-06429-4.  
  10. ^ [[Peter Englund |Englund, Peter]] (2003). The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire. London: Taurus. p. 37. ISBN 1860648479.  
  11. ^ Massie, Robert K. (1980). Peter the Great, His Life and World. Ballantine Books. p 341.



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