After the defeat in the battle of Poltava (1709), Charles XII was forced to retreat to the Bendery town in the Ottoman Empire.

The conflict known as the Great Northern War began in 1700. Swedish king Charles opposed Russian tsar Peter the Great, Danish king Frederick IV, and Saxon elector Augustus II. While Russia and Peter the Great were of much interest to Sweden, Denmark and Saxony were not. The most difficult test was the famous battle of Poltava on June 27, 1709, when 30,000 Swedes of Charles XII were defeated by almost twice the superior army of Peter the Great. The Russians then took several thousand prisoners, while Charles XII and his ally Hetman Mazepa managed to escape by crossing the border of the Ottoman Empire and arriving in the town of Bendery with about 1,500 troops.

The arrival in Bendery

Certain difficulties arose when crossing the Bug river, and the Royal convoy had to resort to buying extremely expensive, but, nevertheless, extremely necessary food from Pasha of Ochakov . Charles XII reached Bendery on 1 August 1709, where he was received with Royal honors by his friend seraskier (General) Yusuf Pasha. Initially, the Swedes were offered tents to live in, as was usually the case for military camps of the time. Gunfire thundered in honor of the new guests, and Yusuf Pasha warmly welcomed them on behalf of Sultan Ahmed III, even offering Charles XII the keys to the town and inviting him to live within the town walls.

Why did Charles XII stay in the Ottoman Empire?

If king Charles XII really wanted to return to his lands, it is hard to believe that he would have been stopped. The ongoing War of the Spanish Succession was coming to an end, which meant that the attention of other European powers would once again turn to the East, and therefore to limit the rise of Peter the Great. Almost all the great powers, when they received news of his retreat to the Ottoman Empire, offered to help Charles XII: France offered to send a ship to the Black sea to bring him home, and the Dutch also made a similar offer; Austria offered him free passage through Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire. But Charles XII declined all these offers, perhaps in a desire to avoid the ignominy of appearing in his capital after so many victories had been achieved in the past.

Peter the Great and the battle of Stanilesti-Prut campaign (1711)

In 1711, the army of Peter the Great was joined by the army of the Moldavian ruler Dmitry Cantemir. Together they suffered a defeat at Stenilesti on the Prut river (July 18-22, 1711), which the tsar remarked was exactly the same as the defeat of Charles XII at Poltava. Charles XII rushed to the camp of Grand vizier Mehmed Pasha Baltaji and Khan Devlet Giray II and congratulated them on the large army they had gathered, remarking with irony that it was a pity that such a great army would not actually enter the battle. He was referring to the Peace Treaty that was agreed upon between the Ottoman Empire and the Russians on July 21, 1711.

Departure of Charles XII and return to Sweden

Peter the Great's violation of the Treaty of Prut forced Sultan Ahmed III to remove Mehmed Baltaji from the position of Grand vizier, to which Yusuf Pasha, a statesman sympathetic to Charles XII, was appointed. When it looked like there would be a new war between the Russian and Ottoman empires, a new Treaty was signed, much to the dismay of Charles XII. He began to think that maybe it was time to go back to Sweden. But now the Polish king Augustus II the Strong and Peter the Great refused him the safe passage. At the same time, the Turks were also not prepared to meet his increasing demands (and an escort of 6,000 sipahs [heavy cavalry] and 30,000 Tatars plus a loan of money). Thus, king Charles XII of Sweden remained in the Ottoman Empire for another 2 years. V. Pikul wrote about the stay of the Swedish king in Bendery in the historical miniature “"Iron Head" after Poltava”. The Sultan ordered to force Charles out of Bendery, during which there was an armed clash between the Swedes and the Janissaries, the so-called "kalabalyk". Charles XII was arrested. Initially, on February 12, 1713, he was "invited" to the castle of Demurtas, near Adrianople (today Edirne), from where he left on September 20, 1714. After traversing the Holy Roman Empire through Walachia in just 15 days, he arrived in Swedish-controlled Stralsund in Pomerania, and then in Sweden itself. What happened to once-flourishing Sweden? What did Charles find at home after his long absence? Crop failures, plagues, wars and raids decimated the population, and the best healthy forces of the nation, torn from the grain fields and iron mines, died on the battlefields, in the snows of Siberia or on Venetian galleys…

Death of Charles XII

In November 1718, Charles invaded Norway, back then belonging to the Danes. His troops besieged the fortress of Fredriksten. On the night of November 30, Charles XII went to inspect the construction of siege trenches and fortifications, and was suddenly struck by a bullet that hit right in the temple. Death was instantaneous. At that moment there were only two people at his side: Sigur, his private Secretary, and Maigret, the French engineer. The bullet hit him in the right temple; his head fell back, his right eye went in, and the left eye completely popped out of its orbit. At the sight of the dead king, Maigret, an original and cold man, found nothing else to say: "the comedy is over, let's go to dinner."

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