Sweden wins the Great Northern War

Sep 2016
Not inevitably. But perhaps!
Pro-western reforms have already started under his father Aleksey Mikhailovich. Especially in military matters.

Russian principalities also had close ties to Byzantine Empire from the beginning and Moscow was called a ,, Third Rome ''.

Plus let's not forget, that Peter I was defeated by the Ottomans in 1711 and had to abandon all the gains that were made in Azov campaigns.
Likes: Futurist
Apr 2018
Upland, Sweden
Do you think that Sweden is going to be able to prevent the Partitions of Poland in this scenario?

Also, how many Swedes and other Scandinavians do you see moving to Livonia and Estonia in this scenario over the next couple of centuries?

Finally, is Sweden also going to aim for Courland, Lithuania, and/or East Prussia?
I'm not sure Sweden would be able to stop the partitions of Poland, no. Perhaps Sweden would join in and help instead, but perhaps not. From what I've understood the underlying reasons for Poland's division would still be there, except now they'd be even stronger. Just generally I think it will be difficult for Sweden to take too great a role in Poland longterm: Poland is catholic, Poland is quite a bit larger in population than its other holdings, Poland has a history of a very unruly aristocracy and dynastic conflicts - besides, it's not even territorially continuous with Sweden. All of these things just make me question the ability of any Swedish or Swedish-tied monarch Charles XII might put on the throne to hold things together longterm. Poland is just tricky generally, I don't see Sweden realistically integrating its lands, I don't see Sweden realistically holding on to it for a very long time, and yet obviously Sweden has some use of it as a buffer-state. It's a suboptimal situation...

As for emigration, from what I've understood migration to Estonia/Livonia was mainly an aristocratic thing, although not entirely. I have to say, my initial answer was "I don't think there are enough Swedes for large scale migration" - however, after looking more at the relative population numbers (admittedly some numbers are from Wiki as well as a bunch of second-rate Swedish sources aimed at schoolkids or amateurs - but they all tend to tell the same story, so I'm okay with them) I am not so sure anymore. There seems to have been around 1,7 million people in Sweden and Finland in 1718, according to this data. Estonia in particular seems to have been very sparsely populated (less than 200 000 people) after the great northern war. All English-language Latvian population numbers I've been able to find go back to 1811 (when it's 1,2 million), but I know that for a very long time Riga was the largest or at least the wealthiest city in Swedish hands, so a killgissning puts the population numbers there to... maybe 700 000?

There are still lots of political problems with "Swedefying" the Baltic holdings though. In Sweden and Finland a large chunk - I'd wager the plurality - of the regular population were either yeoman farmers or torpare - think about the term as meaning smallholding mainly free peasants with a cottage, often ex-soldiers. Even the poorest and most downtrodden among these groups had priviliges and rights which were quite extensive, in a 1700s century area context anyway. This is especially true after Charles XI basically pulls up one of the longest middle fingers in history to the landed aristocracy and more or less confiscates much of their land in the mid-late 1600s.

So, why would the aristocracy want to bring lots of Swedish farmers, fishermen or craftsmen to Estonia or Latvia? After the war the Swedish government is going to have to maintain domestic stability somehow. The commoners have lost a lot of people, the aristocracy have lost a lot of people - and remember, the aristocracy is living under a form of government that is historically quite un-Swedish. Charles XII had much more personal power than any previous monarch in history, and while it wasn't absolutism in the sense of Louis XIV - people often mistakenly assume that - it was still quite absolute by Swedish standards. How do you maintain the aristocracy's loyalty after the war? The geopolitical situation is still quite fragile, we still have Prussia, the Dutch and the probably some revisionist Dane as well as a bunch of angry Polish noblemen somewhere who wouldn't mind a fight even in the most optimistic scenario imaginable. Internal political unrest at this point in time would be very bad news for the Swedish Kingdom.

Anyway, one obvious answer I can think of is to give the aristocracy land or estates partially in Estonia and Latvia (and maybe Courland and Lithuania, although Lithuania will perhaps be more difficult). Another interesting thing which I can see happening is to give the Danish nobility land there as well, as a step towards integrating them into a common framework and securing their loyalties. Under this scenario I do not see extensive Swedish migration, except perhaps that of some entrepreneurially minded people evading the tax-man to the islands outside of Estonia.

All of this touches upon a question which I find interesting, which is how is Sweden going to look politically after this victory? I really don't know right of the bat, and would probably have to think about it...
Last edited:


Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
What about if Sweden will offer to partition Poland together with its neighbors as a way of buying itself some additional time and manpower?
But Sweden never envisioned anything of the sort historically, and Charles won his war in Poland and so we know what kind of outcome was looked for – replacing August with Stanislav Lezczynski, and a Poland accepting peace with Sweden on pretty much status quo ante (peace, August out, Stanislaw in, alliance with Russia reneged on, Johan Patkul extradited to Sweden, and the Protestants in Silesia guaranteed freedom of religion (guaranteed by England and the Netherlands too) – and that's about it). Russia is an even bigger piece of meat to try to take chunks out of, meaning the stakes for failure to hold it is even higher – which why the reasonable assumption is that Peter gets the boot, and someone more amenable to making peace with Sweden, and willing to stop trying to take Swedish territory gets promoted.

With the exception MAYBE of Denmark, where Charles clearly felt Norway might be ripe for the taking, the fact is that the Swedish war-aims in the GNW were defensive – to hold on to its Baltic empire, rather than some mad dash for expansion.

The problem for Sweden with Denmark in the 18th c. is that both hate each other viscerally. The Danes will never accept Swedish domination in any kind of good grace. Which is where it's possible – on the condition that Poland and Russia have been defeated and are now peaceful and Sweden free to act – that Charles might attempt the liquidation of Denmark that his grandfather Charles X tried and almost achieved, before things fell apart for him (thanks to Dutch intervention – along with the Poles, Austrians and Russians – on behalf of the Danes).

ND had the right idea, that for a spate of Swedish expansion and some kind of augmented Swedish Baltic empire for the future, Denmark would actually be key. But that requires the other powers invested in avoiding either Sweden or Denmark to become too regionally dominant to be defeated. Poland and Russia being sent out of the equation is a good start. But then there's the Dutch, the English and increasingly the Prussians. If it lack of harbours in the Baltic was a problem for Russia, then Sweden a century earlier had the exact same problem; a lack of harbours on the North Sea, and Denmark blocking it. The Swedish turn eastwards was less a matter of choice and more a necessity because that's where the new, large military threat came from. If that could be seen off, the orientation westwards could reassert itself.

Even then nothing indicates Charles had any actual designs of conquest and liquidation of other states. Of course, the appetite tends to grow with the eating, and a Charles successful at all things he endeavored might have grown more ambitious. But from what we know from history his territorial ambitions doesn't seem to have stretched beyond Norway.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
My take on the topic... Had Sweden won the Great Northern War.

It very much depends on how that would have occurred. Via military or political means, and when exactly. For example there would have been a small chance of actually end the war quite swiftly had Charles pursued Peter instead of going off to campaign in Poland. With Denmark and Russia out of the picture it is quite likely that Poland would not have continued the war. On the other hand Swedes could also have won by crushing the newly built St. Petersburg had the never-ending Polish campaigns simply been ended. It would have an immense blow military, politically and emotionally for Peter to have his 'crown jewel' that he named for himself been brought to ruin.

I suspect that there might have been some chance of Sweden actually staking a more solid - perhaps even lasting - claim on Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Ingria and (modern-day) Latvia. But this would have required actually consolidating the gains. It might have also required some more forward thinking moves like partially devolving powers (i.e. letting Danes be Danes but bow to the Swedish crown, kinda like Norway was in later on) or similar which did not seem to anywhere near Charles' mind.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
Where else didn't it develop?
Feudalism? Norway. No aristocracy in Norway. Bit of a matter of pride with the Norwegians.

Iceland is the same thing. (The Swedish island of Gotland is similar – no nobles there. You find some feller named "Kolmodin" in the records, and while he proudly lists himself as "farmer", you need to keep in mind he might still own a third of the island.)

As ND said, feudalism in Sweden was always a bit faked. The 1280 "Alsnö Charter" established an hereditary military aristocracy, mounted knights serving in exchange from exemption from taxes. But that noble class was always too small to be able to dominate militarily. The county levies of peasants were a battle and war-winning factors, and they knew it, and used their continued military relevance to defend their political influence. Sweden remained and elective monarchy to 1547, and the free peasantry had an equal vote as one of the Four Estates.

The peasantry kept their parliamentary representation in the early modern period too. The entire Swedish Great Power period of military expansion can actually also be seen as a Swedish attempt to solve its internal problems of conflict between the royal government and the high nobility, by directing things outwards. The successful wars and expansion allowed the royal government to expand and centralize, gaining massive amounts of new power, while keeping the still powerful high nobility occupied, and happy with material gains from all the warfare.

The crunch for the Swedish aristocracy came under Charles XI, Charles XII's father (possibly Sweden's most important and underrated monarch in the period). Charles XI managed to get parliament to vote to suspend its own legislative powers and hand them to the king, the executive power. The king then used these powers to prune back aristocratic landholding and privileges, through litigation – by using the laws and independent judiciary branch, the courts, to successfully argue the illegality of a lot of the noble privileges and property. It's known as the Great Revision. (It's been pointed out as an almost unique event in history in that the royal power managed it without suspending any laws, or dictatorial expropriations.)

The end result was the breaking of the high nobility as a political factor in Sweden in the 1680's. The lower nobility ALSO voted for the extraordinary royal powers at a pinch – because they recognized the new reality created by the wars and the expansion of the central government; that the aristocracy rather than a landed class of independents had become a salaried class of civilian and military government employees, and as such had an interest in the process of strengthening the centralized royal government even further. The only losers was the traditional higher nobility – the counts and the dukes.

Charles XII inherited the situation in internal politics, and does seem to have had ambitions for domestic reforms – but then the wars quickly got in the way.

Otoh, we should be grateful he became so occupied. The plans for how he wanted to raze and totally rebuild Stockholm as an imperial capital were pretty horrific. (Nicodemus Tessin drew them up – an attempt to out-Versailles Louis XIV.)
Apr 2018
Upland, Sweden
Where else didn't it develop?
To add on that point about Sweden: traditionally the peasants had representation in the Riksdag, and while our Riksdag was in some ways more similar to the French "Three Estates" than the English Parliament, it is nonetheless quite striking that it was FOUR and NOT three estates. I.e. the peasants had separate representation. In some ways it was arguably more egalitarian than the English system, although clearly not as functional. Of course the peasants' political importance was secondary to the burghers and aristocracy, but they were not totally powerless. I read a few interesting papers on this a year ago but I think they're all in Swedish...
Likes: Gvelion

Similar History Discussions