An Honest Deal. How Peter I Bought the Baltic Territories from Sweden. With a bonus about an earlier purchase of Kiev.

Seeing how the Baltic states (and Ukraine) jumped on the anti-Russian bandwagon, it is worth taking a historical detour into the not so distant past and take a look at a certain fact that those states are trying to erase…

First is a translation of an article from a St.Petersburg edition of “Argumenty i Fakty”, followed by fragment of a related historical article, and concluding with an even deeper dive to the time of the purchase of Kiev from Poland. What is common for these two cases is the fact, that Russia chose to buy the territories at a fair price, despite it having a position of a war winner, enabling it to “just take” those lands. Another aspect of that history is, well, a historical parallel that no one among the Western leadership wants to learn from, maybe because they have not studied history at school.

A fair deal. How Peter I bought the Baltic States from Sweden

Weekly magazine “Arguments and Facts” No. 35. Arguments and facts – Petersburg 31/08/2022

Peter the Great announces the Peace of Nystad (Nishtadt) on Trinity Square in St. Petersburg

The destruction of the monuments to the Soviet soldiers in the Baltic states drew the attention of the Russian society, and at the same time reminded of how these territories came to be a part of the Russian state.

The Northern Russian-Swedish War was concluded on September 10, 1721 with the signing of the Peace of Nystad (Nishtadt), as a result of which Peter the Great actually bought Livonia and Estlandia (modern Latvia and Estonia) from the Swedish Kingdom. Why did the tsar still decide to pay for the territories that were by that time already under the control of the Russian army?

The Pan-European War

The Northern War of 1700-1721 proved to be long and very exhausting for both sides. The scales were constantly tipping, and the fighting covered a gigantic territory of Northern and Eastern Europe. At various times, not only Sweden and Russia took part in the conflict, but also Denmark, Prussia, various German principalities, Poland, Holland, England and Turkey. The fighting split the Ukrainian (translator note: Zaporozhie at the time) Cossacks; the ancestors of modern Estonians, Latvians and Finns were drawn into the war.

The Swedish Kingdom is better called an Empire at the time when the war started, and the Baltic Sea as a Swedish Lake. This state, which reigned in the north of Europe, included not only modern Sweden, but also Finland, as well as the entire coast of the Gulf of Finland, the modern Baltic States (without Lithuania and Kaliningrad), part of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. It is clear that neighbouring countries did not like this state of affairs, and they tried to change the situation by force. And Peter the Great, who dreamed of returning the ancient Novgorod lands, captured by the Swedes half a century earlier, willingly joined the existing anti-Swedish coalition. Thus, Denmark, Saxony, Poland and Russia united in an attempt to challenge the dominance of the Swedes in the Baltic region.

However, the 18-year–old Charles XII, whom they began to compare with Alexander the Great, managed to deal with the opponents one at a time – Denmark was the first to sign a peace treaty, then Swedish troops inflicted a humiliating defeat on Russia near Narva. The siege of Riga, which was part of Sweden, by Saxon troops was unsuccessful. And then, a few years later Charles XII managed to throw the Polish king off the throne. Russia actually remained one-on-one with the Swedes, and up to the Poltava victory, the Northern War is more correctly called the Russian-Swedish War.

The Surrender of Riga

Then, after Poltava, the coalition was restored, and the war resumed with renewed vigour. Russia gradually, step by step, occupied new lands – established itself on the banks of the Neva, occupied Ingermanland. Then Russian troops took Vyborg and entered the territory of Finland.

The offensive was also developing in the Baltic States. Russians finally took Narva in 1704, and in November 1709 the Russian corps appeared near Riga. At that time it was one of the best defended fortresses in Europe, and the Swedish garrison counting thousands of troops was not going to capitulate. However, the residents of Riga themselves did not want the destruction of the city during the assault, and the influential German nobility began negotiations with the besiegers.

The commander of the Russian army, First Field Marshal Boris Petrovich Sheremetyev, promised to restore all administrative and economic privileges of the Germans in the Baltic States. And on July 4, 1710, the Riga garrison capitulated on honourable terms. The keys to Riga were solemnly handed to Sheremetyev, which are still kept in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin. By the way, Peter the Great kept his word and granted the German aristocracy “accord points”, according to which their rights were restored. The Baltic Germans appreciated this and until the very end of the Russian Empire remained one of the main pillars of the state, giving our country dozens of outstanding military leaders, scientists and public figures.

A War of Attrition

It seemed that after the victories of the Russian army on land, the occupation of the Baltic territories and Finland, as well as the restoration of the anti-Swedish coalition, Charles XII had to make peace, but that was not to be. Sweden received help from the West. The British Empire did not like the course of the events in Eastern Europe and the appearance of a new strong European power on the world map, so London began to provide full support to Stockholm. The goal of the British was to exhaust both belligerents and, thus, eliminate competitors in the Baltic region.

It was the Swedes who had the hardest time as a result of this. The war and mobilizations left only old people, women and children in the villages and towns. The population of the kingdom almost halved from 1700 to 1718 – from 1.2 million people to 600-700 thousand people (the lands on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea were lost). Industry and trade declined. The merchant fleet reduced to a 1/3 of its former self – from 775 ships in 1697 to 209 in 1718. The treasury was empty. At the same time in Russia there was, on the contrary, a rapid growth of the economy – new production facilities were opened, a fleet was built, new territories were developed. The position of the Russian authorities on the possible conditions of a peace treaty has also become tougher. If before Poltava, Peter the Great offered modest terms of peace: to leave the Izhora land (Ingria-Ingermanland) with St. Petersburg and Narva, for which the tsar was ready to pay a ransom, then each year, as Russia strengthened and Sweden weakened, the demands grew.

In 1718, Charles XII was killed during the storming of a small Norwegian fortress, and in 1719 Sweden itself received the last warning – the fleet under Admiral Apraksin landed troops in the Stockholm area. Russian troops did not waste time on the siege of the fortresses, swirling through the suburbs of the Swedish capital. The lesson turned out to be notable, at least in Sweden itself they still remember how Russian Cossacks pranced around the outskirts of Stockholm. After such a demonstration, those in London realized that it was pointless to hope for the exhaustion of Russia. The British did not plan to engage in a direct collision with the Russian fleet, and therefore their behaviour completely changed – now the British allies themselves were forcing the Swedes to peace.

The Purchase of Livonia

On August 30 (September 10, new style), 1721, in the city of Nystad (Nishtadt in Russian, the current Finnish town of Uusikaupunki), a peace treaty was signed between Sweden and Russia, according to which Russia received the territories of Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland, and parts of Karelia. The coast from Vyborg to the borders with East Prussia was transferred to Peter the Great – this was the very “window to Europe” that the Russian tsar cut open.

It is curious that Peter actually bought the Baltic States at the same time – for the concession of Livonia, Russia paid Sweden 2 million thalers – a fairly significant amount for that time, about a third of the annual state budget of our country and the annual budget of Sweden itself. But why would the victor pay the vanquished for those lands that were already under his control? According to the historian, Professor of St. Petersburg State University Pavel Krotov, it was a cunning diplomatic move. The fact is that Poland continued to claim Livonia, which was part of it until 1629. And according to the agreement at the beginning of the war, Russia had to cede this territory after the victory over Sweden.

“Peter I considered himself free from obligations towards the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita), after the Polish King August II withdrew from the war against Sweden in 1706, having committed a treacherous act. And by buying Livonia from the sovereign state of Sweden, he was thereby securing Livonia for Russia,” Pavel Krotov explained.

In return, the Swedes pledged to never again claim the restoration of control over the Baltics. After the victory, Peter the Great founded in Riga the Orthodox monastery of Alexy, the man of God – in honour of his father. A bloody and difficult 21-year war, which Peter himself called “the thrice-period (editor note: pupils studied at schools for 7 years at that time), bloody and very dangerous school”, was completed.

By the way

Swedish thalers in Russia were called “efimki”. These silver coins began to be minted in the XIV century in Bohemia, in the village of Joachimstal, they were called, respectively, “Joachimsthaler” and due to the high silver content they became the standard of the then European currency. In the West, they gradually began to be called “thalers” (hence, by the way, the word “dollar”), but in Russia they used the first part of the word, changing the name to “efimki”. This coin weighing 28 grams was the first in our country with a nominal value of one rouble.

The second part is a fragment of an article at Its interest lies in the reference to the text of the Nystad Treaty.

How Peter Alekseevich bought the Baltics from the Swedes. The Treaty of Nystad
May 5, 2019

As of late, some started frequently demanding money for the so-called “annexations” and “occupations”. Russia has become indebted to too many people. Therefore, today I would like to talk about our brothers, the Balts. All their talk about “independence”, invoicing for the “Soviet occupation”, is nothing more than the mumbling of a student who has not learned a lesson in history. They should be reminded of their history.

…for himself and his descendants and heirs of the Svea throne and the kingdom of Svea to His Royal Majesty and His descendants and heirs of the Russian state in perfect and UNQUESTIONING AND ETERNAL POSSESSION AND PROPERTY in this war, through His Royal Majesty’s arms from the crown of Svea conquered provinces: Livonia, Estlandia, Ingermanland and part of Karelia with the district of Vyborg län, which is indicated below this in the article of differentiation, and is described with cities and fortresses: Riga, Dunamind, Pernava, Revel, Dorpat, Narva, Vyborg, Kexholm, and all the others to the mentioned provinces with proper cities, fortresses, harbours, places, districts, shores with islands: Ezel, Dago and Men and all others from the Courland border along the Livonia, Estlandia and Ingermanland coasts and on the east side from Revel to Farvat and Vyborg on the South side and the remaining islands with all so on these islands, as in the above-mentioned provinces, cities and places by residents and settlements

This is the text of the Nystad (Nishtad) Treaty of 1721, signed by the King of Sweden on the transfer of the Baltic territories, Karelia with Ingermanland and other Swedish lands to Russia. Russia paid Sweden two million thalers (efimki), and only in full—weight silver coins — zweidrittelstir – and exactly on time (February 1722, December 1722, October 1723, September 1724). Historians say that today it amounts to $350 billion. The money was paid and a lot of money. By the way, Peter I could simply take these lands from the defeated Sweden for free, but for the full legality of the acquisition of these lands, he bought them, and also returned most of Finland. Your property has just declared itself independent, and even yaps incessantly! And what would happen if Alaska declared its sovereignty and began to oppress Americans!

And finally, a glance at an even more distant past, seen on Telegram… Just saying…

The official acquisition of Kiev by the Russian Kingdom as a result of an agreement with the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth within the framework of the “Eternal Peace” of 1686 and the payment of 146,000 roubles to it.

The Polish side, which needed money and military support against the Turks and Tatars, and also did not see the possibility of taking Kiev by force, agreed to discuss the amount for which it was ready to officially forfeit it.

The parties began long negotiations on the price that Moscow would pay to Warsaw “out of brotherly friendship and love” — this is how diplomats officially formulated the purpose of the payment in 1686. The bargaining for Kiev went on for several months. The negotiations led to the final amount for which Kiev was officially recognized as Russian — 146,000 roubles. It was about 10% of Russia’s annual budget.

The provision on the purchase of Kiev was included in the “Eternal Peace” of 1686.