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Poltava battle history museum

The museum was started when the Russian Empire was getting ready for the pompous celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava. The painful defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the revolution of 1905-1907, the activation of the national liberation movements, has forced the authorities to strengthen the imperial patriotic upbringing of the population. For this purpose, the propaganda of the military-historical past, the glorification of the power of the Russian Empire and its army were broadly used. The empire continued to create the myth of the Poltava battle as a "glorious victory".

In August 1908 Tsar Nicholas II signed the decree on the establishment of an interdepartmental commission to prepare for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava, headed by General of the Cavalry Baron Alexander Bilderling. The venue for the planned celebrations was Poltava. A few monuments dedicated to the Battle of Poltava were built in the city by the date of celebration. A new museum dedicated to the Battle of Poltava was completed in the city suburb of “Swedish Grave”.

The Poltava Battle Museum was founded due to the efforts of its first director, Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Pavlovsky (1851-1922), who served for 39 years as a teacher of history at the Petrovsky Poltava cadet school. He was one of the founders and a longstanding secretary of the Poltava scientific archival commission, an active member of the Poltava Historical and Archeological Committee and besides he was repeatedly elected deputy of the Poltava City Duma (council). Modern historians still use bibliographic reference books on the history of Poltava region, published by Ivan Pavlovsky.

The catalog of the Poltava Battle Museum, issued in 1910, indicates that the museum's collection consisted of 339 objects among which were: portraits of famous historical figures, engravings, paintings, cold steel and firearms, mannequins of soldiers, etc. Ivan Pavlovsky's desire to describe the Battle of Poltava as fully as possible, contributed to filling the collection of the museum with exhibits that reflected all aspects of the military conflict. The visitors of the museum could see portraits of Swedish commanders, Cossack antiquities, and nine images of Hetman Ivan Mazepa (in the Soviet times, there were no Hetman’s portraits in the museum's collection.).

During the years 1917-1918, the museum was plundered several times. For this reason, Ivan Pavlovsky decided to move the remnants of the collection to the Central Proletarian Museum of Poltava (now the Poltava Regional Museum named after Vasyl Krychevsky). Starting from 1920 till 1940, when these exhibits were gathetred a separate hall named “The Battle of Poltava”, the attitude towards the exposition of this hall has been changed twice. In the period of Ukrainization (1920-1930), when Moscow pursued a policy of increasing the usage of the Ukrainian language and promoting other elements of Ukrainian culture, the idea was often expressed that this hall should be closed, because at that time the Battle of Poltava was regarded as one of the most tragic events in Ukrainian history.

In the 1930s, the Soviet ideological machine began to promote actively the idea of the fraternal heroic past of the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples. At a time when "the fascist war-mongers dreamed of enslaving a socialist Ukraine," the events of 1709 became particularly relevant. In the beginning of 1939 two resolutions of the Communist Party came out on the 230th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava and soon after that the exposition of the hall "The Battle of Poltava" was expanded significantly.

In September 1941, due to the approach of the German troops to Poltava, part of Ivan Pavlovsky's collection was evacuated to Ufa. The rest of this collection was left in Poltava and suffered from huge fire on the eve of the city's liberation. And already in July 1944, Poltava residents could get acquainted with the exhibition "The heroic past of our people" in the Poltava Regional museum. One part of this exhibition was dedicated to the Battle of Poltava.

In May 1949, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a decision "to renew the Museum of the Poltava Battle as a Museum of Republican Subordination of the II category". The museum was opened for the second time on September 23, 1950, in the premises of the Invalid House located at the suburb “Swedish grave”. The remains of the Pavlovsky’s collection were moved to the new museum. The collection was replenished with unique artifacts dated early 18th century delivered as gifts from other museums of the former Soviet Union, including the Hermitage (Saint Petersburg), the Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), Kyiv, Lviv, and Chernihiv Historical Museums.

In the post-war time a few monographs written on the order of J. Stalin by famous Soviet historians Boris Telpukhovsky, Eugene Porfirev, Eugene Tarle, dedicated to “The invasion of Russia by King Charles XII of Sweden” were published. In the newly recreated Soviet myth about march of events during the Great Northern war in Ukraine, a new notions of "people's war", "guerrilla war against the Swedish invaders", and "the class struggle of the people against exploiter Mazepa" were introduced. The emphasis was placed on the preservation of loyalty to the alliance with Russia by the Ukrainian people. These circumstances had a significant impact on the formation of the exposition of the Poltava Battle Museum. On the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the battle, a new hall with the diorama “The Battle of Poltava” was completed. This diorama was created by the artists of the Mitrofan Grekov Studio of Military Art. All walls of a newly inaugurated hall were covered with numerous military paintings that demonstrated the Soviet myth of the victory of Poltava. Thus, in the Soviet era, the museum actively promoted communist ideology.

In the second half of the 1980s the museum’s exposition was substantially modified by a group of artists led by the Honoured Artist of Ukraine Anatoly Scherbak. The chronological principle of showing the events of the Great Northern War was preserved and the influence of the Poltava battle on the course of European history was shown. The museum’s exposition was slightly modified in order to emphasize the participation of Ukraine in the Great Northern war. In 1994 a new hall devoted to the history of the Ukrainian Cossacks was opened. Due to the cooperation with the Swedish Society of Military History (Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek) the museum’s exposition is being constantly replenished with a new cold steel, firearms, uniforms and other artifacts connected with the Swedish army of early 18th century and its participation in the Russian campaign of King Charles XII. Tour guides working in the museum use the latest data on the history of the Great Northern War, published by Ukrainian and European historians. Today the museum's collection includes more than 7,000 items, 3200 of which are in the main fund. The museum exhibits unique paintings created by Denis Martens the Younger (1663 - 1742), Bernardo Bellotto (1721 - 1780), Jean-Marc Nattier (1685 - 1766), Yuri Repin (1877 - 1954), Nikolai Samokish (1860 - 1944), the original portraits of the state leaders and military commanders in the 18th century, engravings, authentic weapons, archaeological finds, and vintage household items.


The Hall No1 «The fateful field of European history and Ukraine in the geopolitical dimension of the 17th century»

The beginning of the Hall No1 exposition is devoted to the history of the field, where 30 ancient burial mounds and 4 ancient settlements were found. At various times, many battles that had far-reaching consequences took place on this field. Among them are the Battle of Vorskla River that was fought on August 12, 1399 between the Tatars, under Edigu and Temur Qutlugh, and the armies of Tokhtamysh and Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania, the decisive battle between Hetman of Ukraine Ivan Vygovsky and Poltava Colonel Martyn Pushkar (1658), the Battle of Poltava (1709). It should also be mentioned that during the shuttle bombing operation “Frantic Joe”, ran between June and September 1944, American heavy bombers B-17 based in Great Britain and southern Italy landed after attack on German military targets at three Soviet airfields in Ukraine including Poltava airfield located close to the battlefield.

Poltava region has always been one of the constituent parts of Ukraine. It was here that the Ukrainian nation was formed, whose interests in the 16th-17th centuries were expressed by the Cossacks. The main ideological and educational center of Ukraine was the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, founded in 1615. Sixteen Hetmans of Ukraine including Hetman Ivan Mazepa and Pylyp Orlyk, Ukrainian Cossack-nobility chroniclers Samiilo Velychko and Gregory Grabyanka were among its graduates.

The radical changes in the political balance of forces in Europe in the middle of the 17th century were connected with the name of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who in 1648 launched a national-liberation war against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which later turned into a Ukrainian national revolution.

An active and multi-vector foreign policy activity of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky resulted in the recreation of the Ukrainian state, whose policy was a serious factor in the interstate relations of that time.

At this hall, visitors can see many finds discovered during the archeological researches of Poltava battlefield, samples of weapons of 15th and 16th centuries, 17th century household items and sacred artworks, a copy of the map of Ukraine created in 1639 by William le Vasseur de Beauplan, French-Polish cartographer, engineer, and architect. In this hall there are many portraits of outstanding state and cultural figures of Ukraine and neighboring countries from 14th till 17th century. 


The Hall No2 «The Ukrainian state before the Great Northern war (1648 - 1700)»

Ukraine during the second half of the XVII century passed a difficult and dramatic way from an independent state in the time of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky to the autonomous part of the Moscow Tsardom at the time when the hetman's mace was given to Ivan Mazepa. During the time when Ukraine was under the rule of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the gradual process of the formation of the main institutes of the Kazak state took place. Created by Hetman Khmelnytsky Cossack Army gained in 1648 a number of brilliant victories over the army of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Battle of Zhovti Vody, Battle of Korsun, Battle of Pyliavtsi.

The territory of the state received a clearly defined regimental structure. Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky became a full-fledged head of state with all the attributes of power. The sovereign nature of this power was confirmed by numerous political alliances concluded with the leaders of different states (the Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Porte, Moscow Tsardom, Swedish Empire).

After the death of Bohdan Khmelnytsky hetman’s mace was given to Ivan Vyhovsky, elected on the military council in Chyhyryn. At the same time, an opposition to the newly elected hetman led by Poltava colonel Martin Pushkar and Zaporozhian Cossack Ataman Iakiv Barabash emerged in Ukraine. The opposition was supported by the Moscow authorities. The decisive battle between Vyhovsky’s forces and Martin Pushkar’s Cossacks took place on June 1, 1658, near Poltava and ended with the victory of the hetman's army. This event marked the beginning of a civilian confrontation in Ukraine. Since then, an important factor in Ukrainian politics has become the constant interference in the affairs of the Hetmanate from the Moscow Tsardom, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Ottoman Porte. Hetman Ivan Vyhovsky's attempt to find an understanding with the Polish king by signing the Hadiach Treaty of 1658 was not successful. Even a bright victory of the Ukrainian army in the Battle of Konotop (1659) did not help him to hold the hetman’s mace.

The next period in the history of Ukraine is characterized by the political division of Ukraine into Left and Right Banks and the gradual advance of the tsarist power on the freedom of the Ukrainian Cossacks. During this time, Ukraine turned into an arena of armed confrontation of both internal and external forces. The period of partial stabilization of the Cossacks State comes at a time when Ukraine was under the rule of Hetman Ivan Samoylovych.

When Hetman Ivan Mazepa came to power in Left-Bank Ukraine (1687), this event marked the end of the civil war and the beginning of the economic and cultural revival of Ukraine. Signed by the hetman Kolomatsky and Moscovski articles finally approved the Hetmanate's autonomous status and obliged it to take an active part in all armed conflicts of the Moscow Tsardom.

An important role in the formation of the Ukrainian state played the regiments of the Poltava region:  Myrgorod, Lubny, Hadiach, and Poltava. The Poltava Regiment was formed in 1648 and became an active participant in the Ukrainian National Revolution. Its territory was an important economic base of the young state. As the southernmost administrative and military unit of the Hetmanate, the Poltava Regiment took an active part in the fight against the Turkish-Tatar troops and repeatedly suffered losses. At the same time, the Poltava Regiment remained interested in maintaining mutually beneficial trade relations with the Crimean Khanate. The political preferences of the Cossacks of this regiment traditionally tended to the democratic principles of the Zaporozhian Sich, which contemporaries often called as “The Cossack Christian republic” and “The knight order”. The most famous Cossack ataman was Ivan Sirko (1605-1680), who repeatedly elected the Koshovyi Otaman of the Zaporozhian Sich. However, protecting primarily the freedom of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and being the armed force of the Ukrainian people, the Zaporozhian Cossacks simultaneously played a destructive role in the process of Ukrainian state formation. The Cossack era in the history of Ukraine left not only the memory of military victories and struggle for the Ukrainian State, but also had significant influence on culture and everyday life. The Poltava region is considered to be the center for the development of Ukrainian culture. That is why many household items used in the Poltava region are recognized as typically Ukrainian. Many events of the Cossack era in the history of Ukraine were described by the famous Cossack chronicler Samiilo Velychko, who was our fellow countryman.

In the hall dedicated to the Cossack state on the eve of the Great Northern war, visitors can see many portraits of hetmans and the most famous Cossack commanders, traditional Cossack weapons and regalia, household items, archaeological finds, documents dated 17th and 18th  centuries, maps of Ukraine, etc. 


The Hall No3 « Prerequisites and causes of the Great Northern war (1700 - 1721)»

The Ukrainian national revolution changed the balance of forces in Europe. Due to this Moscow Tsardom began to follow a policy of active expansion in Eastern Europe. The title of Moscow monarchs has been changed. Since early 18th century a new title was introduced: “The Sovereign of all Rus': the Great, the Little, and the White”. For the Moscow Tsardom this period was a spell of constant and protracted wars: with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth - for the Ukraine, with the Swedish Empire - for the Baltic, with the Ottoman Porte - for Ukraine and the Black Sea coast.

The Cossack state was forced to send troops to participate in armed conflicts campaigns on the side of the Moscow Tsardom. During the Azov campaigns of Tsar Peter I, Hetman Ivan Mazepa proved to be a gifted commander. In 1700 he became a second recipient of the newly created Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called. The first recipient of the order was Count Fyodor Golovin who was a head of the foreign policy department in the government of Tsar Peter I. 

Since the 16th century, the center of gravity of the world trade is gradually moving from the Mediterranean to the Baltic and North Seas. The main task of the diplomatic and power structures of European countries in the 17th and early 18th centuries was to struggle for the trade and political domination in the Baltic region, which at that time was controlled by the Swedish Empire.

The dissatisfaction of the Baltic states with the strengthening of the position of Sweden in the Baltic led to the creation of anti-Swedish Northern Alliance which was finally formed at the end of 17th century and included Denmark-Norway, Saxony-Poland-Lithuania and Moscow Tsardom. It was this alliance that in 1700 began an armed struggle with Sweden for redistribution of possessions in the Baltic, which later became known as the Great Northern war.

In the hall dedicated to the Prerequisites and causes of the Great Northern war (1700-1721), visitors can see many portraits of historical figures, sample of warrior’s armour, cold steel, firearms, and a model of the frontal part of the early 18th century warship. 


The Hall No4 « The first period of the Great Northern war (1700 - 1708)»

At the beginning of the war, the Swedish King Charles XII, was only 18 years old. He took command of the army created by his father and began his participation in the war with defeat of Denmark (August 1700). Then he defeated the Russian army of Tsar Peter It in the Battle of Narva (November 18, 1700). 

In the spring of 1701 King Charles XII turned south to fight the army of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. After a few victories over his counterpart the Swedish king forced August II to sign the Treaty of Altranstädt (1706) in which he made peace with the Swedish Empire, renounced his claims to the Polish crown, accepted Stanislaw Leszczynski as King of Poland, and ended his alliance with Russia. After the brilliant completion of the Polish campaign, King Charles XII reached the peak of his might, and in 1707 he decided to enter Moscow Tsardom and start his Russian campaign. However, on his way, the Swedish army met the ruined and burned by the Russian army territory of Belarus and in the fall of 1708 Charles XII was forced to make a temporary stop.

Tsar Peter I began the war at the age of 28. While getting ready for the war, Tsar Peter I created a new army of the European type, and build a new Russia's navy. At the time when King Charles XII "got stuck" in Poland, Tsar Peter I drew his attention to the Baltic provinces of Sweden and due to significant numerical superiority he recaptured Ingermanland and laid down on May 16, 1703 a new northwestern outpost of his country - the city of St. Petersburg. Tsar Peter I moved the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1712. 

Fulfilling the conditions of Kolomak articles, Hetman Mazepa provided Tsar Peter I with substantial military assistance from the very beginning of the Great Northern war. Many Cossack regiments participated in the combat actions while other regiments carried an auxiliary service.

Ukraine not only participated in the war with its armed forces, but also suffered economic losses and provided human resources for the implementation of Tsar Peter I's construction projects (the Ladoga Canal, St. Petersburg, Pechersk Fortress). All this led to the growth of anti-Moscow sentiments in the Ukrainian society and to the dissatisfaction of the Cossack Commanders with the Russian Tsar's policy towards Ukraine. When the Swedish king took a decision to advance his army into Ukraine, Hetman Mazepa allied with King Charles XII on October 28, 1708.

It should be noted that this decision, which was taken by the Swedish king, was the result of the implementation of the so-called "Zhovkva plan of scorched earth", which Tsar Peter I used against advancing Swedes on their way towards Moscow.

The main reason why Hetman Ivan Mazepa took such a difficult decision was the centralization policy of Tsar Peter I, the main elements of which were: an offensive on Cossack rights and freedoms, the restriction of the rights of the Ukrainian administration, heavy tax and economic pressure on the Cossack state, Tsar Peter I's intention to eliminate the regimental administrative system in Ukraine and transform the Cossack army into regular Russian regiments. While entering Ukraine, King Charles XII hoped to receive, first of all, winter quarters and food supplies because he planned to resume an advance on Moscow in the spring of 1709.

Visitors of the museum can see in this hall many portraits of King Charles XII, Tsar Peter I, King August II, King Stanislaw Leszczynski. Particular attention is paid to the participation of Ukrainian Cossacks under the command of the Colonel Danylo Apostol in the Great Northern war. Visitors can also see a few samples of the Cossack uniform. They can also learn about the development of new lands on the Baltic Sea coast and participation of Ukrainian Cossacks in this process. Medallions and medals from the time of the Great Northern war are important testimonies to history. They show us a powerful ideological war of Tsar Peter I, for whom it was very important to propagandize Russian victories earned in the Baltic region. 


The Hall No5 « The Ukrainian campaign (October 1708 – June 1708)»

In early October 1708, the Swedish army of King Charles XII entered the land of Ukraine. Hetman Ivan Mazepa's army and all Cossack commanders joined the Swedish forces. On October 29-30, 1708, a Ukrainian-Swedish treaty was signed in the village of Gorky near Novgorod-Siversky.

This provoked the rapid pre-emptive actions of Tsar Peter I. On November 2, 1708 Moscow troops destroyed the hetman's residence - the city of Baturyn, where, according to estimates of modern Ukrainian historians, 7.5 thousand defenders of the fortress and the same number of civilian population were killed. At the same time, Petro I appealed to the Ukrainian people with a manifesto accusing Hetman Ivan Mazepa of intending to return Ukraine to Poland, unite Orthodox Church with the Catholic, and declared himself the only protector of the Orthodox faith and "Cossack State’s rights and freedoms". By the order of Tsar Peter I, the Moscow church pronounced an anathema against Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Ivan Skoropadsky was declared a new Hetman. Hetman Ivan Mazepa and King Charles XII also addressed their appeals to Ukrainians, but the population, being intimidated by bloody events in Baturyn, perceived these appeals with disbelief. Thus, the so-called "war of manifestos" was lost by Hetman Mazepa and King Charles XII.

The Ukrainian Cossacks were divided into two camps. Hetman Ivan Mazepa was supported by up to forty thousand Cossacks including Cossacks, headed by Kost Hordiyenko, whereas Ivan Skoropadsky got a support of up to four thousand Cossacks. Many active supporters of Hetman Ivan Mazepa were arrested and conveyed to Glukhov and Lebedin, where they were executed after being brutal tortured.

The Swedish Army in Ukraine, supported by Hetman Ivan Mazepa and Cossack commanders, met the tolerant attitude of the local inhabitants who supplied food to the army of King Charles XII. At the same time, Swedish army units were subjected constantly to attacks from the Russian army. The majority of Ukrainian cities tended to maintain neutrality and opened the fortress gates to the detachment that came first.

The same decision was taken by the Colonel of Poltava regiment Ivan Levenets, who was a passionate supporter of Hetman Ivan Mazepa. In the absence of many companies of the Poltava Regiment, the Russian troops entered Poltava freely on December 3, 1708. It resulted in turning the city into the one of the main outposts of Tsar Peter I in the Left Bank Ukraine. Russian detachment numbered about 4,000 soldiers under the command of Colonel Alexei Kelin was garrisoned in the fortress of Poltava.

Most of the Poltava Cossacks and their commanders supported the hetman’s decision to ally with King Charles XII. Ivan Levenets with his family was sent by Tsar Peter I to Kharkiv, where he was detained as an unreliable person and placed under house arrest.

In January 1709, King Charles XII tried to resume the march on Moscow through the Sloboda Ukraine, however, Tsar Peter I's tactics of "scorched earth" and early thaw forced the Swedish king to return to Opishne. In March 1709, Zaporizhian Cossacks led by their ataman Kost Gordienko, joined King Charles XII and Hetman Ivan Mazepa. 

The march of the Zaporizhian Cossacks to join the Swedish-Ukrainian forces was secured by the Cossack squadrons of the Poltava regiment, which were deployed in the southern part of the Poltava region. On March 27, 1709, a Ukrainian-Swedish treaty was concluded in the village of Velyky Budyshchi. The main idea of the treaty was to unite the Right Bank and Left-Bank Ukraine under protection of the Swedish crown.

When Tsar Peter I learned that the detachment of Zaporizhian Cossacks under the command of Kost Gordienko joined Hetman Mazepa’s army, he ordered to raze Chortomlytska Sich to the ground. This order was executed by the troops under the command of Petr Yakovlev and Gnat Galagan on May 14, 1709.

Starting from the late April 1709, the Swedish army and its allies began to concentrate near Poltava. The city's siege lasted from May 1 until the very Battle of Poltava. King Charles XII was waiting for the help from allies (Stanislaus Leschinsky from Poland and Devlet-Girei from the Crimea). The siege of the fortress was prolonged with single surges of activity. During one of such surges (May 15, 1709) the Russian detachment of 1000 men under the command of Brigadier Alexei Golovin succeeded in entering the fortress of Poltava to reinforce its garrison.

At the end of May 1709, the whole Russian army was located near Poltava. Tsar Peter I arrived to his headquarters on June 4, 1709 after completing negotiating with Ottoman Porte. Since then, the Moscow Tsar, who on May 2, 1709, offered King Charles XII to sign a peace treaty, started preparations for the upcoming battle.

Fifth Hall exposition describes the fortress of Poltava in the beginning of 18th century. In this hall visitors can see fire arms and cold steel, uniforms, maps and painting showing the fortress of Poltava laid in siege by King Charles XII’s army. 


The Hall No6 « State and military elite of the countries that participated in the Battle of Poltava»

History preserved the names of outstanding state and military leaders of the Great Northern war. Among associates of Tsar Peter I the most famous are:

  • Boris Sheremetyev (1652-1719) - by June 1709 he was only Russian field marshal, appointed army commander.
  • Mikhail Golitsyn (1675-1730) – commander of Semyonovsky Lifeguard Regiment. In the battle of Poltava in 1709, he commanded the whole Russian guard.
  • Yacob Bruce (1670-1735) – in the Battle of Poltava he was a commander of the Russian artillery.
  • Anikita Repnin (1668-1726) - one of the most famous commanders of the Russian infantry.
  • Aleksandr Menshikov (1673-1729) - in the Battle of Poltava he was a commander of the Russian cavalry and was promoted field marshal.
  • The Swedish King Charles XII had been wounded on his birthday (June 17, 1709) and was unable to lead personally the Swedish forces in the Battle of Poltava on June 27, 1709.

Inner circle of King Charles XI included:

  • Carl Piper (1647-1716) - chief of Charles XII's perambulating chancellery.
  • Olof Hermelin (1658-1709) - state secretary and councilor. He was a chief ideologue and propagandist of the Swedish King.
  • Carl Rehnsköld (1651-1722) - Field Marshal, Commander in Chief of the Swedish army in the Battle of Poltava.
  • Adam Lewenhaupt (1659-1719) - General of the Infantry. General Lewenhaupt was in command of the Swedish infantry in the Battle of Poltava.

Ukrainian Cossacks under Hetman Ivan Skoropadsky fought on the side of the Russian army of Tsar Peter I, while Ukrainian Cossacks under the command of Hetman Ivan Mazepa and Cossacks under the ataman Gordienko fought on the side of the King Charles XII’s army.

  • Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1639-1709) with his force during the Battle of Poltava was ordered by the Swedish King to secure a baggage train of the Swedish army near the village of Pushkarivka. Part of his Cossacks together with Zaporizhian Cossacks were fighting in the Battle of Poltava on the left wing of the Swedish army.
  • Ivan Skoropadsky (1646-1722), who was appointed Hetman of Ukraine by Tsar Peter I, on the eve of the battle, was stationed with his force near the villages Zhuky and Takhtaulove under the supervision of Prince Volkonsky’s dragoon regiments. During the battle Hetman Skoropadsky’s detachment was placed on the right wing of the Russian army close to the villages Maly Budyschy and Ivonchentsy.

Visitors can see at this hall many portraits of historical figures that became famous due to the Great Northern war. Some portraits are original while others are copies created for the museum. This hall also displays an armament of warring parties. 


The Hall No7 « The Battle of Poltava»

On December 22, 1709 Tsar Peter I summoned a council of war to resolve the question of rendering assistance to the Russian garrison of the fortress of Poltava. Also, a decision to inflict a combined blow on Allied troops near Poltava was taken on this council. On the night from 13 to 14 June 1709 a few units of the Russian army attacked Swedish outposts but failed to cross the Vorskla River. Skirmishes between Russians and Swedes were common that time. On the night on June 20, 1709 Tsar Peter I’s army crossed the Vorskla River and built fortified camp near the village Semenivka. When the Russians realized that the Swedes did not intend to attack a fortified camp, they moved south and encamp close to the village Yakivtsy between Yakivtsy and Maly Budyschy forests for the better protection against enemy’s infantry. The second camp was built on June 25th and was surrounded with ditches and ramparts from three sides. It was open at the rear, overlooking the Vorskla River. The line of fortifications of the Russian camp was not continuous and had 16 exits, which enabled the troops deployed inside to leave quickly the camp. On the left side of the camp, the Russians built two redoubts. To cover the open  approach to the plain in front of the camp, Russians also built a system of square or rectangular redoubts spaced no more than 150 meters apart. Each redoubt was about 50 meters on each side and consisted of a 3 meter high parapet with a 2,5 m deep ditch in front of it, the ditch being surrounded with cheval de frise.

The Russian army numbered 33,000 infantry, 21,000 cavalry (total 54,000 regular troops) and 23,000 irregular troops (Kalmyks, Chuhuiv, Don and Ural Cossacks, 4,000 Ukrainian Cossacks of Ivan Skoropadsky). The modern Russian historian P.Krotov holds that the Russian artillery numbered 302 cannons, mortars and howitzers. Swedish army of King Charles XII numbered about 17,000 soldiers (8,170 infantry, 7,800 cavalry, 1000 Vlachs), 5000 irregular formations (Zaporizhzhia Cossacks and Cossacks of Hetman Ivan Mazepa).

The final battle that took place on June 27, 1709 is traditionally divided by historians into two stages.

Stage No1 includes a fighting near the Russian redoubts that started about 4a.m. and featured a storming of the Russian redoubts by the Swedish infantry and a few skirmishes between Russian and Swedish cavalry units;

Stage No2 includes a fighting on the plain between Yakivtsy and Maly Budyschy forests in front of the Russian fortified camp. In some Swedish sources an unsuccessful attempt of the part of Skoropadsky’s Cossacks to join Swedish-Ukrainian forces was mentioned. By 11a.m. the battle was over, and all Swedish troops and their allies were pushed out of the battlefield.

In the second half of the day, while Russian Army was celebrating its victory on the battlefield, all Swedish and Ukrainian units were being gathered in their camp near the village Pushkarivka. From there, on the evening of the same day they started an orderly retreat along the Vorskla River towards the Dnipro River. When the celebration on the evening of June 27 was over, Tsar Peter I ordered to pursue the enemy that had already left his camp and removed the siege from the fortress of Poltava.

According to the estimates of the modern Ukrainian, Swedish and Russian historians, the losses of opponents in the bloody battle were:

Russian army: 1650 killed and 3290 wounded

Swedish army: 6900killed and 2800 wounded

Hetman Ivan Mazepa’s Cossacks and Zaporizhzhia Cossacks: 1000 killed.

In this hall visitors can see many paintings of Battle and War created in the Soviet time by Ivan Krylov, Masnavi Khaertdinov. The main exhibit of this hall is a diorama “The Battle of Poltava” created by The Grekov Studio of Military Art. Special place in this hall occupy: the painting “The Battle of Poltava” created in 1726 by Denis Martens the Younger (1663-1742), and engraving “The Battle of Poltava” by Nicolas de Larmessin (1684-1755). There are also a few samples of fire arms, cold steel, and uniforms in this hall. 


The Hall No8 «The second period of the Great Northern war (1709-1721)»

The surrender of King Charles XII’s army near the village Perevolochna marked an end of the Russian campaign for the Swedish army. The retreating Swedes and Cossacks reached the village Perevolochna in the evening of June 29, 1709. There they found a fortress destroyed to the ground and the lack of means for crossing the Dnipro River.

There were still some fishing boats and on the following day the Swedish King and Hetman of Ukraine were ferried across the river in their carriages, each placed on two boats lashed together.

When the Russian army numbered 19,000 under the command of Prince Alexander Menshikov reached the village Perevolochna, the remnants of the Swedish army under the command of General Adam Lewenhaupt eventually surrendered themselves to the Russians. Besides, General Lewenhaupt delivered all his Ukrainan allies over to Russians. These Cossacks were at once executed in sight of Swedish prisoners of war. After the long retreatment through the wild steppe King Charles XII and Hetman Mazepa managed to take refuge in Moldavia, a country ruled at that time by Turkish Sultan Ahmed III. With permission of Turkish authorities, the Swedish camp was deployed in the outskirt of Bender.

Hetman Ivan Mazepa passed away on September 22nd, 1709. 

Pylyp Orlyk became his successor, and the Hetman in exile. He not only restored the treaties with Sweden and the Crimea, but also signed on April 5th 1710 a treaty between the Hetman of Ukraine and the Zaporozhian Sich, which went down in history under the name of “The Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk”. Long before the American Constitution, the constitution of Pylyp Orlyk enunciated the priority of democratic principles. For the rest of his life Pylyp Orlyk, together with his trusty comrades (many of which originated from Poltava), remained dedicated to the struggle for an independent Ukraine.

In Ukraine, enslaved by Russia after the Battle of Poltava, Ivan Skoropadsky was finally appointed the Hetman of Ukraine. Tsar Peter I abandoned the traditional practice of concluding bilateral agreements with the Hetman’s government. Hetman Skoropadsky got so-called «Reshetylivka articles», which turned Ukraine into the nominal autonomous part of Russia.

Soon after the Battle of Poltava, all commanders of Poltava regiment who supported or sympathized with the decision of Hetman Ivan Mazepa were dismissed. 

After the decisive battle the Great Northern war continued for another twelve years. One of the little-known pages of the second period of the war was the so-called "Pruth River Campaign" of the Russian Tsar Peter I in 1711. It became the result of the Ottoman Porte's entry into the war against Moscow Tsardom. The Ottoman Porte was concerned about the strengthening of the Russian positions after the Battle of Poltava. The war with Turkey and its allies ended for Muscovy with the military catastrophe and signing a humiliating peace treaty, after which the Russian fortresses Azov, Taganrog, Kamyany Zaton were ceded to the Ottoman Porte. Another condition of the Treaty was recognizing Pylyp Orlyk as the Hetman of the Right Bank Ukraine. Although the basic conditions of the Prut Peace Treaty in relation to Ukraine have not been fulfilled, the position of the Moscow Tsardom in the region has been weakened significantly. At the same time, the interests of King Charles XII, the Ottoman Porte’s ally, were ignored by the Turkish diplomacy, which resulted in switching Tsar Peter I to the conquest of the Baltic.

The second period of the war is characterized by the return of King August II to Poland; renewal of his alliance with Tsar Peter I; and entry into the war against Sweden, Denmark, Prussia and Hanover. During this period the Swedish Empire was deprived of its possessions outside the Scandinavian Peninsula. In 1716-1718 the Swedish King launched two military campaigns against Norway. On December 11th 1718 while inspecting the siege trenches near the fortress of Fredriksten, King Charles XII was killed. To force Sweden to sign a Peace Treaty, Russia sent a large fleet to the Swedish east coast in July 1719. During this raid a coastal towns Norrtälje, Södertälje, Nyköping and Norrköping were devastated, and almost all the buildings in the archipelago of Stockholm were burned to ashes. As negotiations for peace did not progress, the Russian fleet in 1721 was once again sent to raid the Swedish coast between Gävle and Piteå. The Great Northern was finally concluded by signing the Treaty of Nystad between Russia and Sweden on August 30th, 1721.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Nystad, Russia not only received an access to the Baltic Sea, but also took a control over a significant part of this region. The Moscow Tsardom began to turn into the mighty Russian Empire, which subsequently absorbed Ukraine, Poland, Crimea and Finland.

In this hall visitors can get acquainted with many documents and maps of the sea battles that took place during the second part of the Great Northern war. A substantial part of the exposition is dedicated to Norwegian campaigns of King Charles XII during 1716-1718 and his death near the fortress of Fredriksten on December 11th 1718. There is a high resolution copy of the first page of the Nystad Peace Treaty concluded between the Moscow Tsardom and the Swedish Empire in 1721. Another part of the exposition describes a galley fleet and its artillery armament. 


The Hall No9 «On the scale of time»

For the main participants in the Battle of Poltava (Russia, Sweden, Ukraine), the event had diametrically opposite consequences, and, as a result, different points of view on what happened on June 27th, 1709 near Poltava was formed. Russia immediately began to create a heroic myth about the battle, which responded to the ideological interests of the newly appeared empire.

Due to the decisive battle of the Great Northern war, Poltava acquired the status of provincial capital in 1802 and gradually turned into a peculiar monument to the Battle of Poltava. Since 1909, the empire and subsequently the Soviet Union, were celebrating all the anniversaries of the battle.

At the same time, Ukrainian society shaped its view on the Battle of Poltava, which nationally-conscious Ukrainians opposed to pompous imperial celebrations. Without having the state-administrative levers of influence on the social consciousness of the Ukrainian nation, the supporters of the Ukrainian idea in their artistic works, political pamphlets, and historical studies showed the tragic consequences of the Battle of Poltava for the future fate of Ukrainians and objective obstacles on Ukraine's way to the independence. In 1908, nationally-conscious scholars, artists, general public, and different youth organizations celebrated the anniversary of the military-political alliance formed by King Charles XII and Hetman Ivan Mazepa in 1708. Their protests against the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava were published in 1909 in the newspapers "Rada" and "Dilo". 

Many fundamental works written by Mikhail Hrushevsky, Stepan Tomashivsky, Alfred Jensen and other famous scholars were published in the Proceedings of the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Society in 1908-1909. Many special envelopes, postcards, and postal stamps dedicated to Hetman Ivan Mazepa and his time were issued at that time. 

Sweden, after being defeated in the Battle of Poltava and the Northern War, focused on the objective study of all aspects of the King Charles XII’s era on the basis of archival sources. Diaries of direct participants in the Battle of Poltava, maps prepared by the General Staff of the Swedish Army, papers by Arthur Stille, Carl Bennedich, Peter Englund and other documents were prepared for the publication and published.

For the purpose of reexamination by Ukrainian society of events of 1708-1709 in Ukraine, the role of Hetman Ivan Mazepa, his intentions as a man and a politician, many events were organized on the eve of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava. Among them were: the exhibition “The Battle of Poltava”, the international scientific and practical conference "The Poltava Battle of 1709 in the Historical Destiny of Ukraine, Russia, Sweden and other States", etc.

The exposition of the hall with the help of paintings, archival documents, rare editions and photographs shows the process of the emergence and making of the fundamentally opposing views on the Battle of Poltava. 



The museum offers a number of different excursions that will be interesting for both adults and children

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Державний історико-культурний заповідник «Поле Полтавської битви»

вул. Шведська Могила, 32, м. Полтава, 36013, Україна

їхати автобусом №4, №5 до зупинки «Музей історії Полтавської битви»

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