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[1698 A.D.]

taire, from whom the account is taken, "but whatever revives the memory of ancient customs is, in some measure, worthy of being recorded."


Peter was preparing to continue his journey from Vienna to Venice and Rome when he was recalled to his own dominions by news of a general insurrection of the strelitz, who had quitted their posts on the frontiers, and marched on Moscow. Peter immediately left Vienna in secret, passed through Poland, where he had an interview with King Augustus, and arrived at Moscow in September, 1698, before anyone there knew of his having left Germany.e

When Peter I arrived from Vienna he found that his generals and the douma had acted with too great leniency. He cherished an old grudge against the strelitz; they had formed the army of Sophia which had been arrayed against that of the czar, and in his mind was still alive the memory of the invasion of the Kremlin, the murder of his maternal relatives, the terrors undergone by his mother in Troitsa, the plots that had well-nigh prevented his departure for the west, and the check placed by the mutineers on the plans he had matured for the good of his country during his journey through Europe. He resolved to seize the opportunity thus placed in his hands to crush all his enemies at one blow, and to inaugurate in old Russia a reign of terror that should recall the days of Ivan IV. The particular point of attack had been his taste for foreign fashions, for shaven chins, and abbreviated garments. These therefore should be the rallying-sign of the Russia of the future. Long beards had been the standard of revolt; long beards must fall. He ordered all the gentlemen of his realm to shave, and even performed that office with his own hand for some of the highest nobles of his court. On the same day the Red Square was covered with gibbets. The patriarch Adrian tried in vain to divert the anger of the czar. "My duty is to protect the people and to punish rebels," was the only answer he received.

On the 10th of October a first consignment of two hundred prisoners arrived in the Red Square, followed by their wives and children, who ran behind the carts chanting funeral dirges. The czar ordered several officers to assist the headsman in his work. Johann Korb, an Austrian who was an eye-witness of the scene, relates that the heads of "five rebels were struck off by the noblest hand in Russia." Seven more days were devoted to the executions, and in all about a thousand victims perished. Many were previously broken on the wheel or given up to other frightful tortures. The czar forbade the removal of any of the bodies, and for five months Moscow was given the spectacle of corpses hanging from the turrets of the Kremlin, or exposed in the public squares. Two of Sophia's female confidantes were buried alive, and Sophia herself and the repudiated czarina, Eudoxia Lapukhin, noted for her attachment to old customs, were confined in monasteries. After the revolt of the inhabitants of Astrakhan, who murdered their voyevod (1705), the militia was abolished and the way was clear for the establishment of a new army.9


The external relations as well as the domestic circumstances of the empire were at this juncture peculiarly favourable to the czar's grand design of opening a communication with the Baltic. He had just concluded a treaty of



[1699 A.D.] peace for thirty years with the Turks, and he found himself at the head of a numerous army, a portion, at least, of which was well disciplined, and eager for employment. The death of General Lefort, in 1699, at the early age of forty-six, slightly retarded the progress of his movements; but in the following year he prepared to avail himself of events that called other powers into action and afforded him a feasible excuse for taking the field.

Charles XII, then only eighteen years of age, had recently succeeded to the throne of Sweden. The occasion seemed to yield an auspicious opportunity to Poland and Denmark for the recovery of certain provinces that in the course of former wars had either been wrested from them by Sweden, or ceded by capitulation. Augustus, the elector of Saxony, called by choice to the throne of Poland, was the first to assert this doctrine of restitution, in which he was quickly followed by the Danish king. Livonia and Esthonia had been ceded by Poland to Charles XI, and the provinces of Holstein and Schleswig had been conquered from Denmark in the same reign, and annexed to the Swedish territories. The object of the allies was to recover those places. Sweden, thus assailed in two quarters, presented an apparently easy victory to the czar, whose purpose it was to possess himself of Ingria and Karelia, that lay between him and the sea. A confederacy was, therefore, entered into by the three powers for the specific view of recovering by war those provinces that had previously been lost by war. But Peter miscalculated his means. The arms of Sweden were crowned with triumphs, and her soldiery were experienced in the field. The Russian troops, on the contrary, were for the greater part but raw recruits, and, except against the Turks and Tatars, had as yet but little practice in military operations. The genius of Peter alone could have vanquished the difficulties of so unequal a contest.

The preparations that were thus in course of organisation awakened the energies of Charles. Without waiting for the signal of attack from the enemy, he sent a force of eight thousand men into Pomerania, and, embarking with a fleet of forty sail, he suddenly appeared before Copenhagen, compelled the king of Denmark within six weeks to sign a peace by which the possession of Holstein was confirmed to the reigning duke, and a full indemnity obtained for all the expenses of the war. He had no sooner overthrown the designs of the Danish monarch than he turned his arms against Poland. Augustus had laid siege to Riga, the capital of Livonia; but that city was defended with such obstinacy by Count Dalberg that the Polish general was glad to abandon the enterprise, upon the shallow pretext that he wished to spare the Dutch merchandise which was at that time stored in the port. Thus the confederation was dissolved, and the struggle was left single-handed between the Russians and the Swedes.

Peter, undismayed by the reverses of his allies, poured into Ingria an army of sixty thousand men. Of these troops there were but twelve thousand disciplined soldiers; the remainder consisted of serfs and fresh levies, gathered from all quarters, rudely clad, armed only with clubs and pikes, and unacquainted with the use of fire-arms. The Swedish army, on the other hand, was only eight thousand strong; but it was composed of experienced battalions, flushed by recent successes, and commanded by able generals. The advanced guards of the Russians were dispersed on their progress, in some skirmishes with the Swedes; but the main body penetrated to the interior, and intrenched itself before the walls of Narva, a fortified place on the banks of the Narova, a river that flowed from Lake Peipus into the Baltic Sea. For two months they lay before the town, when Peter, finding it necessary to hasten the movements of some regiments that were on their march from

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[1701 A.D.]

Novogorod, as well as to confer with the king of Poland in consequence of his abandonment of the siege of Riga, left the camp, delegating the command to the duke of Croy, a Flemish officer, and prince Dolgoruki, the commissarygeneral.

His absence was fatal to this undertaking. Charles, during a violent snow-storm, that blew directly in the face of the Russians, attacked the enemy in their intrenchements. The besiegers were filled with consternation. The duke of Croy issued orders which the prince Dolgoruki refused to execute, and the utmost confusion prevailed amongst the troops. The Russian officers rose against the Germans and massacred the duke's secretary, Colonel Lyons, and several others. The presence of the sovereign was necessary to restore confidence and order, and, in the absence of a controlling mind the soldiers, flying from their posts and impeding each other in their attempts to escape, were slaughtered in detail by the Swedes. In this exigency, the duke of Croy, as much alarmed by the temper of the Russians as by the superiority of the enemy, together with almost all the German officers in the service, surrendered to the victorious Charles, who, affecting to despise his antagonist, contented himself with retaining a few general officers and some of the Saxon auxiliaries, as prisoners to grace his ovation at Stockholm, and suffered the vanquished troops to return home. Thus failed the first descent upon Ingria, which cost Russia, even on the statement of the czar himself, between five thousand and six thousand men. The loss of the Swedes is estimated by Peter at three thousand, but Voltaire reduces the number to twelve hundred, which, considering the relative positions of both armies, and the disadvantages of other kinds under which the Russians were placed, is more likely to be accurate.

This unpropitious event did not discourage Peter. "The Swedes," he observed, "will have the advantage of us for some time, but they will teach us, at last, how to beat them." If Charles, however, had followed up his success, and pushed his fortunes into the heart of Russia immediately after this victory, he might have decided the fate of the empire at the gates of Moscow. But, elated with his triumphs in Denmark, and tempted by the weakness of the Poles, he embraced the more facile and dazzling project of concentrating his whole power against Augustus, declaring that he would never withdraw his army from Poland until he had deprived the elector of his throne. The opportunity he thus afforded Peter of recruiting his shattered forces, and organising fresh means of aggression, was the most remarkable mistake in the whole career of that vain but heroic monarch.


While Charles was engaged in Poland, Peter gained time for the accomplishment of those measures which his situation suggested. Despatching a body of troops to protect the frontiers at Pskov, he repaired in person to Moscow, and occupied himself throughout the ensuing winter in raising and training six regiments of infantry, consisting of 1000 men each, and several regiments of dragoons. Having lost 145 pieces of cannon in the affair at Narva he ordered a certain proportion of the bells of the convents and churches to be cast into field pieces; and was prepared in the spring of the year 1701 to resume hostilities with increased strength, and an artillery of 100 pieces of cannon, 142 field pieces, 12 mortars, and 13 howitzers.

Nor did he confine his attention to the improvement of the army. Conscious of the importance of diffusing employment amongst his subjects, and increasing their domestic prosperity, he introduced into the country flocks of

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