From Narva to Poltava
The enmity that had existed between Russia and Sweden since the time of the Vikings and the princes of Novgorod intensified during the reign of Peter I and culminated in the twenty-year long Great Northern War. Russia had no ships on the Baltic and was struggling to gain entrance into this key sea link with Europe. With a fleet of 39 ships of the line, Sweden dominated the Baltic and, under King Charles XII, fought to maintain its supremacy against what the Swedes considered the encroachments of Tsar Peter's forces. In 1700 the exhausted army of Peter I was routed at Narva. Driven back from Swedish-held territory, Peter I was only briefly disappointed and quickly resumed the planning of fresh military campaigns. When Charles XII, meanwhile encouraged by his successes, sent an invading army into Poland, Peter I and his advisors were convinced that a Swedish naval attack was imminent.
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