In 1656 the diplomat Claes Rålamb was sent from Stockholm to Constantinople to become the first Swedish ambassador to the Porte.

Around thirty years later a large Ottoman army invaded Austria. The Habsburg Emperor Leopold I asked Christian kingdoms in Europe to contribute in defense of Austria. In reply Sweden’s King Charlex XI (the father of Charles XII) sent one of his most trusted generals, Niels Bielke. General Bielke took part in the Battle of Mohacs in 1687, in which he joined the storming of the camp of the Grand Vizier.

When Charles XII was in exile in today’s Moldavia (then part of the Ottoman Empire) the Swedish ambassador to the Ottoman Empire was Thomas Funck.

In 2001 the Royal Armory in Stockholm exhibited ts collection of diplomatic gifts to the Swedish monarchs from the Orient (“Gifts from the Orient”). Envoys of the Tartar Khan of Crimea arrived in Sweden already in the 1580s. 0)

The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic people who inhabited the Crimean peninsula for more than seven centuries, descendants of Tatars who moved west with the Mongols and other Turkic groups (Khazars, Petchenegs, and Kipchacks) who had settled in eastern Europe as early as the 7th century. The Crimean peninsula itself was inhabited by various peoples, such as the Goths. The ancient Greeks established colonies on the coast in the 6th century B.C., and later the control of the sea ports passed on to the Romans, the Goths and eventually the Byzantines. After the invasion of Crimea by the Golden Horde forces in the 1230s, the Genoese who had been trading in the Black Sea began paying tribute to the new rulers .

Following the disintegration of the Golden Horde a Crimean Khanate was established under Haci Giray in the 1440s. The Khanate became subject to the Ottoman influence in 1475, following the capture of the Genoese ports on the Crimean coast by the Ottoman naval forces. In the next three hundred years, the Crimean Khanate remained an important semiautonomous political power in eastern Europe, continuing to raid Muscovy and making alliances with Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden. The Ottoman influence on the Crimean society was profound. Early political conflicts within the ruling Giray family were often settled by the appointment of the Khan by the Ottoman court in Istanbul, and in the 16th century Ottoman appointments became a standard policy. In 1783, Russian forces occupied the Crimea, officially ending the rule of the Khanate. In the 1950s the Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine.

Early Swedish Contacts with the Crimean Khanate

The first diplomatic contacts between Sweden and the Crimean Tatars took place during the reign of King Johan III (1568 – 1592). A Tatar delegation arrived in Stockholm.

As a result, Swedish delegates Erik Falck and Sigfrid Raalamb were dispatched to Crimea to negotiate for a Swedish-Crimean Tatar alliance against Russia.

A Crimean Tatar delegation arrived in Stockholm in 1630. Chief Delegate Kamber Aga offered Sweden 40,000 men for an attack against Poland or Germany. The answer to the proposal by the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus is in the Swedish National Archive.

Swedish delegate Benjamin Baron arrived in Crimea in 1630. He was seeking the aid of the Khan for attacking King Sigismund of Poland. Baron remained in Crimea until 1631.

Baron returned to Stockholm in 1632, accompanied by a Crimean Tatar delegation. The gifts brought by the delegation are still in the Royal Armory in Stockholm, see above (“Gåvor från Österland”, catalogue of the exhibition in Tidskriften Livrustkammaren [Journal of the Royal Armory], Stockholm 2001, pp. 60-61).

The delegation continued to Germany. It returned to Sweden in 1633. An exchange of letters between the delegation and the Swedish government can be found in the Swedish National Archive.

The next Crimean Tatar delegation arrived in Stockholm in 1637.
Contacts were continued after 1637 and during the reign of Swedish Kings Charles X Gustavus, Charles XI and Charles XII.

For the period between 1709 – 1714, the Swedish Officer Sven Lagerberg (after 1717 Major General in the Swedish Army) was military advisor to the Crimean Khan Devlet Giray. General Lagerberg’s diary kept during his stay in Crimea (_Dagbok under vistelsen hos tatarchan Dowlet-Gherey 1710 – 1711_) was published in Sweden in 1896.

Sweden, the Crimean Khanate, and Ukraine after 1709

When the Turkish Grand Vizier Mehemed Baltadshi marched out of Constantinople on 6 March 1711, leading an army of perhaps 80,000 soldiers (1), Swedish King Charles XII, in exile in Bendery (in the present republic of Moldova then part of the Ottoman empire), was greatly relieved. His representatives (2) at the court of Sultan Ahmed III had been working hard for a follow up of the Ottoman declaration of war in November 1710 against Russia. It had been the main reason for his stay in the northern outskirts of the Ottoman empire.

After Czar Peter’s defeat of the Swedish-Ukrainian armies at Poltava in June 1709 and the Swedish capitulation at Perevolochna a few days later, around 1,000 Swedish troops and the remnants of the army of Hetman Ivan Mazepa and Koshovyi Ataman Konstantin Hordienko, leader of the Zaphorozhian Kozaks, had crossed the river Dnepr and via Shvedinovka, Reshetilovka, Poltavka, Peski and Fedorovka crossed the river Bug and reached the Turkish territory.

The policy of Charles XII, Mazepa (from the spring of 1710 his successor Hetman Pylyp Orlyk) and Hordienko during the forced exile in Bendery was to find Turkish aid against Russia. The Swedish mission in Constantinople worked hard to persuade Sultan Ahmed to take military action against Czar Peter. The goal was a formal Swedish-Ukrainian-Turkish-Crimean Tartar alliance.

The Sultan promised Charles an escort of 50,000 soldiers for the safe return home of the Swedes via Poland. The strategy would be to have a Turkish army invade Poland. At the same time a Swedish army would attack Poland from the west, from Swedish Pomerania, a Swedish territory in northern Germany (3). A Turkish attack in Ukraine would draw Russian troops from Poland leaving it less defended and Peter’s ally, King Augustus II, unsupported. Allied troops would then drive Augustus from Poland and replace him with the alliance supporter and Swedish ally, King Stanislaus I, and add Poland to the coalition aiming at containing Russia. Among the European powers, England, the Netherlands and the German emperor were at best neutral. The only supporter of the alliance was France.

Constantinople was now the center of intensive intrigue. On one side Swedish, French and Ukrainian diplomats attempting to persuade Turkey to join the alliance. On the other, hand Polish (loyal to King Augustus) and Russian representantives tried to prevent it. Targets of influence were the grand vizier and other high Turkish officials.

In 1710 the Russians managed to conclude a peace treaty with Turkey. As a result Charles tried to find ways to topple the grand vizier. At work for Swedish interests in Constantinople at that time was a formidable Polish nobleman and long time admirer of Charles XII, Major General Stanislaus Poniatowski. (4) His amiable ways, intelligence and mastery of Near East intrigue made him an excellent choice. The grand vizier was later sacked and replaced with a pro-Swedish successor. Poniatowski presented Charles as a manly, impressive hero and managed to win over the Sultan’s mother, Gylnysh, and the high ladies of the harem. Also the Sultan’s lifeguard and elite troop, the Janissar Corps, was pro-Swedish admiring Charles for his military accomplishments.

French diplomats as well were active in the Ottoman capital. Their goal was to persuade the Sultan to have Turkish troops attack Austria and Poland to relieve the pressure on France. General Poniatowski and the French ambassador, Marquis Des Alleurs, frequently met to discuss policy. Swedish agents were active in Constantinople spreading propaganda pamphlets depicting Charles as a strong leader and hero.

Ukrainians also took part in the grand strategy game. On 10 May 10 1710, Charles XII had welcomed Pylyp Orlyk’s election in April as hetman in a letter of confirmation in Latin. (5) In the letter, Orlyk was lauded as the leader of “the heroic Ukrainian people, who are suffering terribly powerless under Muscovite rule.” Charles promised not to lay down arms against “Czarus Moskovia”, to seek to reestablish Kozak freedom, to safeguard the Kozaks of Ukraine and to defend them against mutual enemies.

The same year the Zaporozhian Kozaks in Bendery under Hordienko signed a treaty with Sultan Ahmed III, a “pacta conventa”. The treaty was signed in the presence of the Khan of Crimea, Devlet Geray, a representative of the Sultan and Pasha Ismail of Moldavia. Hordienko later established a new Zaporozhian fortress by the Lake Jalpuch in Moldavia.

In May 1710 a Zaporozhian delegation travelled to Constantinople to sign a formal treaty of alliance with Turkey against Russia. According to the document in the Swedish National archive (Riksarkivet) the members of the delegation were: Koshovyi Ataman Konstantin Hordienko, Colonel Dimitryi Horlenko, Judge General Kilian Dolhopoly, General Asaul Grigoryi Hertsik and Chancellor Jean Maximovicz and a Colonel Kyryl.

When the Turks in the spring of 1711 marched toward Ukraine from the southwest, Charles sent a Swedish military adviser to the Ottoman military forces in the east, Major General Karl-Gustaf Haard (6), an experienced cavalry fighter. Ismail Pasha had been detailed by the grand vizier to attack the Russian strongholds of Taganrog and Azov on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. 5,000 Ukrainians under Pylyp Orlyk, 4,000 Poles commanded by General Joseph Potocki (7) and 1,000 Swedes joined the Turkish forces.

Meanwhile in late spring 1711, 40,000 Crimean Tartars led by the son of the Crimean Khan with Swedish military adviser Major Sven Lagerberg (8) moved northward into Ukraine to join the Turkish forces advancing from the southwest. Czar Peter’s 38,000 Russian troops now faced 170,000 alliance troops. On 11 July, 1711, Czar Peter found himself trapped on the banks of the river Pruth. The Russian army was low on provisions. The horses were unfed. Czar Peter, often prone to rages, according to a pro-Russian Danish source, was running around the camp tearing his hair.

When the news reached King Charles on the evening of 12 July that the Russians under Peter were trapped, he immediately took off on horse for the Turkish camp on the River Pruth, riding for 17 hours with little rest. He arrived at 3 p.m. on 13 July with members of the Swedish staff at Bendery, Muellern (9), Feif (10), Bunge (11), von Kochen (12) and the secretary Hoegvall. Already in the Turkish camp were the Swedes Sparre (13), Daldorff (14), Zuelich (15), Lagerberg, Bousquet (16), Duvall (17) and Hierta (18).

The grand vizier and the Turkish generals had by then already signed the peace treaty with Czar Peter allowing him to retreat with his troops northward. The Turks had even provided the Russian army with provisions for one week during the retreat. There are several accounts of a meeting that afternoon between Charles, the grand vizier and the Khan. A popular, and not implausible, Swedish account reports the following conversation (translated from Swedish) (19):

Though filled with rage Charles managed to keep cool and calm when the grand vizier offered him Turkish coffee. The same day the king started back to Bendery. His first attempt to bring about an anti-Russian alliance after the battle of Poltava had failed.

But he continued the attempts to persuade Turkey to start hostilities once again during the second half of 1711 and 1712. Charles promised the Sultan that a Swedish army would attack Poland from the west if only Ahmed would send his army against Poland from the south. But problems continued. Russian and Augustus’ Polish agents in Turkey had managed to influence the grand vizier. Charles ordered the Swedish representatives in Constantinople to double their efforts to have the Grand Vizier Yussuf Pasha, removed. On 31 October 1712, he had to resign and was replaced by Soliman Pasha. The Russian representatives were thrown in jail. Once more Turkey declared war on Russia. A Turkish army was to march northward in the spring of 1713. The prospects of an alliance against Moscow seemed good. Charles sent orders to Sweden for Count Magnus Stenbock (20) to prepare the shipment of a Swedish army from the homeland across the Baltic Sea to Swedish Pomerania. But the Royal Council in Stockholm refused to fund the enterprise. Count Stenbock had to persuade the good burghers of Stockholm to lend him the money to equip and transport the Swedish troops.

Meanwhile King Augustus was busy trying to convince the Crimean Khan and Governor General Ismail Pasha in Bendery to join him and Czar Peter. Charles tried to borrow money from the Sultan to equip Swedes, Ukrainians and Poles in Moldavia. To complete the intrigues the Bendery pasha was active in persuading Poles and Ukrainians with Charles to defect. The Turks and Tartars in Moldavia instead of following the orders of the Sultan to help Charles equip his army sabotaged the efforts. In Constantinople, the grand vizier moved to isolate the Swedish embassy no doubt pressed on by the Russians and Augustus’ Poles.

In the beginning of 1713 Count Stenbock won a decisive military victory at Gadebusch in northern Germany against a Danish-Saxonian army allied to Czar Peter. The route seemed to open for the 14,000 man strong Swedish army to march eastward and meet Swedish and Turkish armies entering Poland from the south to finish Augustus and at last capture the evasive Czar Peter.

Turkish dignitaries and agents of the Crimean Khan meanwhile were active spreading the rumour that Charles was joining with his arch enemy Peter to march on Constantinople, the old dream of the Russian czars.

On 31 July 31 1713, Charles received a letter from the Sultan. The Khan and Ismail Pasha had orders to escort him to Poland. If he refused he would be forced to leave. The king barricaded himself and the staff in the Swedish camp in Bendery. During the following attack Charles was taken prisoner.

What happened in Bendery even upset the British and the ambassador of England in Constantinople, Lord Sutton, who for the first time lent support to the Swedish king. The Sultan reacted by firing the grand vizier and the Crimean Khan. They were exiled. Also the pasha of Bendery was removed. The Turkish Great Admiral Ibrahim Pasha was appointed grand vizier and he promised that the war with Russia would be commenced as soon as possible. Ibrahim mobilised 30,000 Bosnians (in present day Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina then part of the Ottoman empire). But his enemies in Constantinople managed to convince the Sultan that Ibrahim Pasha planned to march on Constantinople with the Bosnian troops and seize power for himself. Ibrahim was arrested and executed. Ali Kumurdji was appointed grand vizier in his place. He immediately changed Turkish policy altogether negotiating peace with Poland and Russia. A peace treaty was signed with Moscow in 1713 and with Warsaw in April 1714. Augustus was recognised by Turkey as Poland’s rightful king.

The grand alliance to contain Russia sought by Charles had collapsed. In the autumn of 1714 he rode north through Europe toward Sweden returning to fight new battles until he was killed by a bullet in the trenches outside the Norwegian fortress of Fredrikshald in 1718. It is still not determined if it was an enemy bullet or an assassin’s bullet. Maybe some Swedish soldier believed that 18 years of war was enough.


0) Gifts from the Crimean Khan at the exhibition in 2001 in Stockholm (see above) are listed here:

No. 15 Tartar saddle, Crimea, c 1660, in the collection of the Royal Armory

No 16 Saddle and holster, c 1670, (Royal Armory)

No. 17 Axe, shekan, Tartar, (Royal Armory)

No. 18 Bow and arrow quiver, Tartar, Crimea, the sixteentwenties, (Royal Armory)

No. 19 Letter and letterbags, Tartar, mid seventeenth century, (National Archive)

No. 20 Bow and arrow quiver, Tartar, Crimea, in the sixteentwenties, (Royal Armory)
No. 22 Sabre of Turkish type, kilij, Crimea?, sixteenth century

No. 30 Turkish caftan belonging to Gustaf Celsing the Elder. Gift from Sultan Ahmed III in 1711 to be worn at audiences. (Royal Armory)

No. 35 Ottoman or russian snaphauncee lock gun, seventeenth century, (Royal Armory. Before 1716 at Gripsholm Castle)

No. 37 Gun barrel, Ottoman Empire, seventeenth century. At Gripsholm Castle before 1716.

1) The army later grew to 120,000 with the addition of fresh troops from Asia and Egypt.

2) Tomas Funck (1672 – 1713) took part in the Russian campaign. Commissioned Colonel in 1710. The same year he was appointed Swedish representative in Constantinople. The delegate who had the real trust of the king was, however, replaced by General Poniatowski (see below note 4).

3) Swedish Pomerania was a German territory held at that time by Sweden. It is now part of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the United Germany.

4) Stanislaus Poniatowski (1676 – 1762), Polish count and Swedish Major General. Joined Charles XII in 1702. His son became Polish King as Stanislaus II. In 1741 he published his memoirs, Remarques d’un Seigneur polonais.

5) It is preserved in the Swedish National Archive (Riksarkivet) under “Cossacica”.

6) Karl Gustaf Haard (af Segerstad) (1674 – 1744) rose through the ranks in the Swedish army from Corporal. Joined Charles in Turkey after defeat at Poltava. Lieutenant General in 1717. Appointed Governor General of the province of the southernmost Swedish province of Scania the same year. Royal Counsel 1727. Badly wounded at Poltava and in Bendery when the King was taken prisoner.

7) Joseph Potocki (1675 – 1751), general and Polish crown hetman. Joined Stanislaus Leszcynski in 1704. Was with Charles in Bendery 1709 – 1714.

8) Sven Lagerberg (1672 – 1746), sergeant in 1690. He was commissioned Colonel in 1714, major general in 1717 and Royal Counsel. In 1723 he finally was appointed president of the Goeta Court of Appeal, Joenkoeping.

9) Gustaf Henrik von Muellern (1664 – 1719) was of German-Baltic origin. Member of the Swedish Field Chancery during the Russian campaign and joined Charles in Turkey. Made Turkish prisoner with the king, but he was released later to return to Sweden and made State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry.

10) Carsten Feif (1662 – 1739) was of Finnish descent. Joined Charles in Turkey. Headed the efforts to rearm Sweden in 1716 – 1719 to fend off a Russian invasion. President of the Office of the Paymaster General in 1723.

11) Henrik Bunge (1662 – 1737) was raised to nobility in 1710. Stayed with the king in Turkey. Baron in 1731 and was ministerial state secretary.

12) Johan Henrik von Kochen (1681 – 1758) was in the Field Chancery during the Russian campaign. Imprisoned in Bendery with the King but soon released. Personal secretary to Charles. Later ministerial secretary and Royal Counsel.

13) Axel Sparre (1652 – 1728), baron, soldier and painter. Commissioned colonel in 1699 and major general of the infantry in 1705. He fought in the Russian campaign. Joining the King in Turkey, he rose to general in 1713. In charge of the Swedish troops and civilians in Turkey after Charles had left for Sweden in 1714 and in command of the transfer to Sweden in 1714-1715. Baron in 1720 and field marshal in 1721.

14) Johan Valentin von Daldorff (? – 1715) of North German stock. Joined Swedish service in 1697 after an adventurous youth. Commissioned colonel in 1705. Was sent as military adviser by the king with the Poles who joined the Turkish army in 1711. Taken prisoner but later released and commissioned general of the cavalry in 1713. While fighting in northern Germany, he was killed in the battle of Stresow on 4 November, 1715.

15) Gustaf Zuelich (1659 – 1743) was of German origin. Swedish knighthood was conferred upon him in 1705. He was later colonel of a French mercenary Dragoon Regiment captured in its entirety by the Swedes and joined the Swedish army. Was left in Poland during the Russian campaign in command of a Swedish army in support of Joseph Potocki and King Stanislaus. Later joined Charles in Turkey. Baron in 1711 and commissioned major general, he was sent by Charles with Daldorff (see above) as military advisor along with soldiers and officers of the Swedish Royal Lifeguard to join the Ukrainian and Polish armies with the Turkish and Crimean Khanate troops in the east during the Pruth campaign. Fought with the King at the tumult at Bendery. Returning to Sweden, he was commissioned Lieutenant General in 1720. Appointed Swedish Minister to the Saxonian court, he was commissioned general in 1740 and took part in the next Russo-Swedish war at the age of 81.

16) Jean Louis Bousquet (1664 – 1747) was a French protestant who joined the Swedish service in 1706. Was with Charles in Turkey. Commissioned colonel in 1717, major general in 1741 and lieutenant general in 1743. He lived to fight the next Swedish war with Russia.

17) Axel Duvall (1667 – 1750) joined the Swedish Royal Lifeguard in 1689. Of Scottish descent he was with the king in Turkey. Took part in the tumult at Bendery. In 1715 commissioned colonel. Made major general in 1722, but he left the army the same year.

18) Lars Hierta (1668 – 1733) joined the Royal Lifeguard in 1707. Took part in the Russian campaign and fought at Poltava. Took part in the Russian campaign and fought at Poltava. Followed the King to Turkey and was involved in the tumult at Bendery. Commissioned Colonel in 1720, he later joined Hessian service.

19) See the essay “On Pruth” by Professor August Quennerstedt in Karolinska foerbundets aarsbok 1910, p. 192-193, quoting notes by von Kochen and Nordberg, a Swedish diarist.

Present in the tent of the grand vizier were probably the Swedish interpreter, Frenchman J.B. Savary and General Poniatowski. There are no records indicating the presence of the Swedes.

20) Magnus Stenbock (1665 – 1717), Count and field marshal. Commissioned second lieutenant in Dutch service in 1683, colonel in German imperial service in 1693 and Swedish colonel in 1699. Fought with King Charles in the battle of Narva 1700 (today’s Estonia) against the Russians, a Swedish victory. Promoted to Lieutenant General in 1704 and general of the infantry in 1705. The same year he was appointed Governor General of the province of Scania, Sweden’s southernmost province. Defeated invading Danish troops (Denmark was allied to Russia) at Helsingborg in 1710 in the bloodiest battle ever on the Scandinavian land. After the victory at Gadebusch (see above) he marched into Holstein on Denmark’s southern border with his army. Surrounded with his army in Toenningen he had to surrender to the Danes in 1713. He died imprisoned in Copenhagen, Denmark, under harsh prison conditions.


Among the Swedish sources not mentioned above, the most important is the essay by Professor A.Stille, Karl XII och Porten (Charles XII and Turkey) in Karl XII. Edited by S.E. Bring on the 200th Anniversary of the Death of Charles XII, Uppsala 1918.

Other sources of interest are E. Tengberg, Från Poltava till Bender(From Poltava to Bendery), Lund 1953 and the Norwegian Rolf Laache, Karl XII og hans trofaste Grev Poniatowski (Charles XII and His Faithful Count Poniatowski), Oslo 1959.

Ivar Stafsing, who was the Bulgarian Consul in Stockholm before World War II, was asked by King Boris III in 1939 to do research on what happened when Charles travelled through Bulgaria (Turkish until the 19th century). Stafsing’s material was published in 1960 under the title Kalabaliken i Bender – De gatfulla motiven i ny belysning (The Tumult in Bendery – The Mysterious Motives in a New Light).

Bertil Haggman, “Poltava’nin neticesi: Rusya’yi yenmeye yönelik isvec-ukrain-osmanli-kirim tatar stratejileri 1709 – 1714” (The Sequel to Poltava – Swedish-Ukrainian-Turkish-Crimean Khanate Strategy 1709 – 1714), Emel (Crimean Tartar Journal), Ankara, Turkey, May – July, 1997, pp. 10 – 16.

Gunnar Jarring, “Gustaf II Adolf och tatarerna på Krim” (Gustavus II Adolphus and the Crimean Tartars), Ny Militär Tidskrift, vol. 5, Stockholm 1932.

Sven Lagerbergs dagbok under vistelsen hos Tartar-Chan Dowlet Gerey 1710-1711. Utgiven av Magnus Lagerberg. Gothenburg 1896.


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