Livonian War

Dafato Team | Nov 24, 2023

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The First Northern War or Livonian War (1558 - 1583) saw Russian troops invade Livonia: this was a conflict fought by the Russian Kingdom against the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation, allied to the Kingdom of Denmark and the Swedish Empire, whose aim was to gain supremacy in the Baltic Sea. The coast of Livonia (largely present-day Latvia) was of strategic value to the Russians for trade with Eastern Europe because of the Baltic islands.

The Polish-Lithuanian army was able to field more than 30,000 soldiers. In 1581 it had 9,000 cavalry (mainly hussars) and 12,000 infantrymen, as well as 10,000 Lithuanians.

The war ended unsuccessfully for Russia despite its initial victories against the Livonian Order as a result of economic and domestic political difficulties caused by the uprising of the boyars since 1565 and the invasion of the Crimean Tatars, who set fire to Moscow on May 24, 1571. In the Jam Zapolski armistice of January 15, 1582 with the Polish-Lithuanians, Tsar Ivan IV (known as The Terrible) renounced Livonia, but regained between 1579 and 1581 from King Stephen Báthory some territories occupied by the enemy, after the latter had given up the unsuccessful multi-month siege of the city of Pskov.

With the Peace of Pljussa on August 10, 1583 between Russia and Sweden, the latter was granted some territories bordering the Gulf of Finland, namely the Swedish provinces of Estonia, Ingria and Livonia.

Prewar Livonia

By the mid-16th century, the economically prosperous Mariana Land had been administratively reorganized and converted into the Livonian Confederation. The territories were administered by the Knights of Livonia, a branch of the Teutonic Order, the bishopric of Dorpat, Ösel-Wiek, as well as, in Courland, the Archdiocese of Riga and the city of Riga. Together with it, the cities of Dorpat and Reval (Tallinn), along with a number of fortresses, enjoyed a special status, enabling them to act almost independently. The main institutions, in time, became communal assemblies that were held regularly and were known as landtags. Power was to be shared equally between the clergy and the Order: however, disagreements often arose, particularly over the management of Riga, a prosperous settlement in a geographically favorable location. After two centuries of wartime disputes had passed, a new issue emerged in 1500, relating to Lutheranism: the Reformation spread rapidly in today's Baltic countries: from 1520 to 1550 the position taken by the Order (in the meantime detached from the Teutonic and became autonomous) was basically liberal, remaining faithful to Catholicism. Due to the numerous wars and internecine strife unleashed for power, Livonia became administratively weak, lacking adequate defenses and foreign allies that could support it in case of attack. Compounding a picture that already seemed compromised were the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which intended to pursue expansionist policies. English historian Robert I. Frost on the unstable situation, "Displaced by internal arguments and threatened by political machinations of neighboring states, Livonia was utterly unable to withstand an attack."

The Landmeister and the Gebietiger of the Order, together with the feudal lords who resided in the Livonian fortresses, formed a noble class that jealously guarded its privileges and prevented the formation of a bourgeoisie that would constitute a third pole besides the clergy. William of Brandenburg was appointed archbishop of Riga and Christopher of Mecklenburg his coadjutor, with the help of his brother Albert of Hohenzollern, the former Prussian Hochmeister who had secularized the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights and in 1525 proclaimed himself duke of Prussia. William and Christopher intended to pursue Albert's interests in Livonia, including the establishment of a hereditary Livonian duchy inspired by the Prussian model. At the same time, the Order worked for its reestablishment in Prussia (Rekuperation), opposed secularization and the creation of a hereditary duchy.

Aspirations of neighboring powers

By the time the Livonian War began, the Hanseatic League had lost its monopoly on the profitable and prosperous trade entertained in the Baltic Sea. Causing its decline was the entry into the market of European mercenary fleets, particularly from the Seventeen Dutch provinces and France. Hanseatic ships could not compete with the warships of the Western Europeans: since the league was unable to set up an adequate fleet because of the negative trade trends, the Livonian cities that were part of it (Riga, Reval and Narva) were left without sufficient protection. The Dano-Norwegian navy, the most powerful in the Baltic, controlled the entrance to the waters of the sea, and held possession of strategically important islands, such as Bornholm and Gotland.

The array of Danish territories in the south and the almost total lack of ports that did not freeze over during the cold months severely limited the ability of Sweden (a former member of the Kalmar Union) to aspire to trade in the area. However, the country still prospered through exports of lumber, iron, and especially copper: this made it possible to slowly build up fighting vessels, and it was realized that, having crossed the Gulf of Finland, the distance to Livonia's ports was not so limiting. A few years before the outbreak of the conflict, Sweden had tried to expand into Livonia (which it did for the first time during the Livonian crusade), but the intervention of Tsar Ivan IV temporarily blocked this attempted expansion by triggering the Russo-Swedish War (1554-1557), culminating in the Treaty of Novgorod.

Thanks to the absorption of the principalities of Novgorod (1478) and Pskov (1510), Muscovy had come to lap the eastern borders of the Livonian Confederation and was further strengthened after the annexation of the khanates of Kazan' (1552) and Astrachan' (1556). Conflict between Russia and the Western powers seemed to become further inevitable because the latter did not benefit from maritime trade. The new port of Ivangorod built by Ivan IV on the eastern bank of the Narva River in 1550 was soon rejected because of shallow waters. A few years later, the tsar demanded payment of about 6,000 marks from the Livonian Confederation to continue administering the Dorpat bishopric: this demand was proposed in the wake of what Pskov, as an independent state, had imposed on the clerics centuries earlier to avoid unpleasant consequences. The Livonians eventually promised to pay this sum to Ivan by 1557, but were invited by Moscow when this agreement was not fulfilled: this ended the negotiations. Ivan bluntly argued that the Order's existence would depend on the acceptance or rejection of his proposal: taxation in exchange for military support to repel any attacks from foreign powers or direct confrontation with Moscow. It was clear that either way the troops would march west. Russian intentions were to establish a corridor between the Baltic and the newly conquered territories on the Caspian Sea. If Russia had (and had) sights toward European trade, necessarily access to Livonian ports was needed.

Meanwhile, far southwest of Moscow, the Polish King and Lithuanian Grand Duke Sigismund II Augustus took a special interest in Russian military campaigns. The intended expansion into Livonia would have meant not only a political strengthening of his rival, but also the loss of profitable trade routes. Therefore, Sigismund supported his cousin William of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Riga, in his conflicts with William of Fürstenberg, Grand Master of the Order of Livonia. Sigismund hoped that Livonia, much like the Duchy of Prussia under Duke Albert, would in time propose to become a vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Union. Receiving little support in Livonia, Wilhelm of Brandenburg had to rely largely on outside allies. Among his few Livonian supporters was the landmarschall Jasper von Munster, with whom he planned an attack in April 1556 on his opponents that would have involved military aid from both Sigismund and Albert. However, the former hesitated in participating in the skirmish, fearing that by moving troops north the Kievan Voivodeship would remain exposed to a Russian attack. When Fürstenberg learned of the plan, he led troops into the archbishopric of Riga and in June 1556 captured the main strongholds of Kokenhusen and Ronneburg. Jasper von Munster fled to Lithuania, but William of Brandenburg and Christopher of Mecklenburg were captured and held in Adsel and Treiden. This initiated a diplomatic mission to move Scandinavian, German and Polish leaders (dukes of Pomerania, Danish king, Emperor Ferdinand I and nobles of the Holy Roman Empire) to take action to free the prisoners. A meeting initially convened in Lübeck to resolve the conflict was scheduled for April 1, 1557 and later cancelled due to squabbles that arose between Sigismund and the Danish guests. Sigismund used the killing of his herald Lancki by as requested by the Grandmaster's son as a pretext to invade the southern part of Livonia with an army of about 80,000. He forced the competing internal factions in Livonia to reconcile at his camp in Pozvol in September 1557. There, the treaty of the same name was signed, which inaugurated a mutual defensive and offensive alliance in an anti-Russian key and triggered the First Northern War.

Russian invasion of Livonia

Ivan IV viewed the mutual assistance agreement between Livonians and Poland-Lithuania born of the Treaty of Pozvol as a threat that justified a clear stance by the newly formed Russian Kingdom. In 1554, Livonia and Muscovy had signed a fifteen-year truce in which Livonia agreed as a condition not to enter into an alliance with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. On January 22, 1558, Russian troops initiated the invasion of Livonia. These were welcomed by local peasants as liberators from the German yoke on Livonia. Many Livonian fortresses surrendered without resistance while Russian troops took Dorpat in May, Narva in July. Supported by 1,200 lansquenets, 100 gunners and numerous munitions that arrived from Germany, Livonian forces regained command of Wesenberg (Rakvere) and other previously lost strongholds. The Germans also reported several successes in Russian territory, although Dorpat, Narva and other smaller fortresses were not taken. The first Russian advance was led by the Khan of Qasim Shahghali, assisted by two other Tatar princes at the head of a force that included Russian boyars, Tatars, Pomest'e horsemen and Cossacks, who at that time were mostly members of the infantry. Ivan gained further ground in campaigns launched during the years 1559 and 1560. In January 1559, Russian forces again invaded Livonia. A six-month truce was signed between May and November between Russia and Livonia as the former was engaged in the Russo-Crimean War.

Galvanized by the invaded Russian lands, Livonia sought support: it turned first, unsuccessfully, to Emperor Ferdinand I, then to Poland and Lithuania. Grandmaster von Fürstenburg was dismissed from his post because he was accused of incompetence to be replaced by Gotthard Kettler. In June 1559, the Livonian possessions came under Polish-Lithuanian jurisdiction following the First Treaty of Vilnius. The Polish sejm refused to ratify it, believing it covered only the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In January 1560, Sigismund sent ambassador Martin Volodkov to Ivan's court in Moscow in an attempt to stop Russian cavalry that began to rage again in the Livonian countryside.

Russian successes arose because of a well-thought-out strategy: attacks and raids in different rural areas: musketeers played a key role in destroying fragile, often wooden defenses with effective artillery support. The tsar's forces acquired important fortresses such as Fellin (Viljandi), but lacked the means to conquer the major cities of Riga, Reval or Pernau. The Livonian knights suffered a bitter defeat facing the Russians at the Battle of Ergeme in August 1560. The road to invade Livonia seemed paved, but no one pushed on to the innermost parts of Lithuania-some historians believe that this stalling was due to the fact that the Russian nobility was divided over when to carry out the invasion.

Erik XIV, the new king of Sweden, rejected Kettler's and Poland's requests for assistance. The Landmeister thus turned to Sigismund for help. The Livonian order, now hopelessly weakened and left to its own devices, was dissolved by the Second Treaty of Vilnius in 1561. The lands owned by the former sword-bearing knights were secularized into the Duchy of Livonia and the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and assigned to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Kettler became the first duke of Curlandia and Semigallia, also converting to Lutheranism. The treaty included the Privilegium Sigismundi Augusti by which Sigismund guaranteed the privileges previously possessed by the Livonian fortresses and their feudal lords (whose "set" of titles and powers was called Indygenat), including religious freedom with respect to the Augustan confession, and the continuation of the traditional German administration. Accepting religious freedom also prohibited any regulation of the Protestant order at the hands of clerical authorities.

Some members of the Lithuanian nobility objected to the former Kingdom of Poland's growing authority over the Baltic country and offered the Lithuanian crown to Ivan IV. The tsar publicized this news as much as possible, both because he took the offer seriously and because he needed time to strengthen his Livonian troops and the proposal allowed him to shift general attentions elsewhere. Throughout 1561, the Russo-Lithuanian truce (with an expected termination date of 1562) was respected by both sides.

Roars between Danes and Swedes

In exchange for a loan and the protection of the Danish crown, Bishop Johann von Münchhausen signed a document on September 26, 1559, giving Frederick II of Denmark the right to appoint the bishop of Ösel - Wiek: in addition, the possessions of the diocese were purchased at a cost of 30,000 thalers. Frederick II appointed his brother, Duke Magnus of Holstein as bishop, who took office in April 1560. Aware that Magnus' actions created problems with Sweden, Denmark attempted to broker peace in the region. Magnus continued to pursue his interests on the strength of the crown's military support, acquiring the Diocese of Courland (but without Frederick's consent) and sought to expand into Harrien and Wierland (Harjumaa and Virumaa). Such actions brought him into direct conflict with Erik.

In 1561 Swedish forces arrived and the noble guilds of Harrien - Wierland and Jerwen (Järva) ceded to Sweden to form the Duchy of Estonia. Reval also accepted yellow-blue rule. Denmark had secured dominion over a large slice of the Baltic for centuries, and the policy implemented by Sweden posed a threat to the Danes, not least because all trade relations maintained with Russia would be severed. In 1561 Frederick II publicly opposed the presence of the Swedes in Reval, pointing out that the region, for historical reasons, belonged to Denmark. After Swedish forces made their entry into Pernau in June 1562, Erik XIV and his diplomats attempted to study moves aimed at subjugating Riga: it was clear that Sigismund, now reigning over Livonia, would not approve.

Sigismund maintained close relations with Erik XIV's brother John, Duke of Finland (later John III): in October 1562 John married Sigismund's sister Catherine, thus averting any possibility that she would end up marrying Ivan IV. Just as Erik XIV sealed the marriage, he was shocked to learn that John had loaned Sigismund 120,000 riksdaler by becoming the owner of seven castles in Livonia as security for the debt. A diplomatic incident ensued, leading to John's capture and imprisonment in August 1563 on the orders of Erik XIV. Therefore, Sigismund allied with Denmark and Lübeck against Erik XIV in October of the same year. The ensuing conflict went down in history as the Three Crowns War.

The intervention of Denmark, Sweden, and the Polish-Lithuanian Union in Livonia initiated a period of struggle for control of the Baltic (referred to at that time as the Baltic dominium maris). While the first 12-24 months of the war were characterized by intense fighting, there was a less warlike period from 1562 to 1570, when fighting once again resumed with great frequency. Denmark, Sweden and, admittedly not congruently, the Union were simultaneously occupied in the seven-year Northern War (1563-1570) that took place in the western Baltic: Livonia remained strategically important. In 1562, Denmark and Russia entered into the Treaty of Mozhaysk, in which they acknowledged their mutual claims to Livonia without, however, compromising peaceful relations between the two countries. In 1564, Sweden and Russia concluded a seven-year truce. Both Ivan IV and Eric XIV showed signs of mental disorder: the former rebelled against part of the Tsardom nobility and the inhabitants of Opričnina (established in 1565), leaving Russia in a state of political chaos and civil war.

Russo-Lithuanian War

When the Russo-Lithuanian truce ended in 1562, Ivan IV rejected Sigismund's offer of extension. The tsar had used the truce period to invade Livonia on a large scale, but he first crept into Lithuania. His army scampered through Vicebsk and, after a series of border clashes, conquered Polack in 1563. Two important Lithuanian victories came at the Battle of Ula in 1564 and at Čašniki (Chashniki) in 1567. Ivan tried to regain ground by crossing towns and villages in central Livonia, but was stopped before he reached the coast from Lithuania. The defeats at Ula and Czasniki, combined with the rebellion engulfed by Andrei Kurbsky, prompted the tsar to move his capital to the Alexandrov Kremlin: the opposition was suppressed by his oprichniki.

Some ambassadors left Lithuania for Moscow in May 1566. Lithuania was ready to partition Livonia with Russia, and then, in the event, drive Sweden out of the area. However, this move was perceived by the tsar's advisers as a sign of weakness, who suggested conquering the entire region, including Riga, by penetrating Kurlandia, southern Livonia and Polotsk. Conquering Riga and, consequently, access to the Daugava River, troubled the Lithuanians, since much of their trade depended on that passage, made more secure by the construction of several defensive fortifications. Ivan expanded his demands in July, coveting Ösel, Dorpat and Narva. No understanding was reached, and a ten-day break was taken during the negotiations, during which several meetings were held in Muscovy (including the first meeting of the Zemsky sobor, the "land assembly") to discuss outstanding external and internal issues. Within the assembly, the clergy representative emphasized the need to "not change" the Riga status (thus not conquering it for the time being), while the boyars turned out to be less enthusiastic about the idea of reaching a peace with Lithuania, noting the danger posed by a united Poland and Lithuania that would surely be able to reorganize and not lose today's Latvian capital. The talks were therefore broken off and hostilities resumed when the ambassadors returned to Lithuania.

In 1569, the Treaty of Lublin unified Poland and Lithuania into a confederation. The Duchy of Livonia, linked to Lithuania in a royal union by the Grodno Union of 1566, came under joint Polish-Lithuanian sovereignty. A three-year truce with Russia was signed in June 1570. Sigimund II, the first King and Grand Duke of the Confederation, died in 1572 leaving the Polish throne without a clear successor for the first time since 1382: thus began the first royal elections in Polish history. Some Lithuanian nobles, in an attempt to maintain Baltic autonomy, proposed a Russian candidate. Ivan, however, demanded the return of Kiev, the conversion of the people to Orthodoxy, and a hereditary monarchy on a par with the Russian one, whose first leader would be his son Fyodor. The electorate rejected these demands and instead chose Henry III of Valois (Henryk Walezy), brother of King Charles IX of France.

Russo-Swedish War

In 1564, Sweden and Russia signed the Treaty of Dorpat, under which Russia recognized Sweden's jurisdiction over Reval and other fortifications, while Sweden deemed legitimate the possessions already obtained and Russia's claims to the rest of Livonia. A seven-year truce was also signed between Russia and Sweden in 1565. Erik XIV was dethroned in 1568 after ordering the execution of several nobles (Sturemorden) in 1567, and was replaced by his half-brother John III. Each of the two powers had more pressing issues to settle and wished to avoid a costly and exhausting continuation of the war in Livonia. Ivan IV had requested the surrender of John's wife, the Polish-Lithuanian princess Catherine Jagellona, to Muscovy because the Swede had compromised the already combined union between the tsar and the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation. In July 1569 John sent a delegation to Russia led by Paul Juusten, bishop of Åbo, who arrived in Novgorod in September. Before arriving in Moscow, the ambassadors previously sent by Ivan to Sweden to resolve the Catherine issue in 1567 were expected to return there. Ivan refused to meet with the delegation, forcing them to negotiate instead with the Governor of Novgorod. The tsar demanded that the Swedish envoys greet the governor as if he were "the brother of their king," but Juusten refused to do so. The governor then ordered that the Stockholm delegation be attacked, that their clothes and money be taken, and that they be deprived of food and drink and be forced to parade naked through the streets. Although the Swedes planned to travel to Moscow anyway, fortunately for them at the same time Ivan and his oprichniki left to assault the Novgorod boyars, but were unable to meet him.

Upon his return to the Kremlin in May 1570, Ivan again refused to discuss the matter with the Swedes: moreover, with the signing of a three-year truce in June 1570 with the Confederation he no longer feared conflict with Poland and Lithuania. Russia regarded Catherine's surrender as a precondition for any agreement, and the Swedes, who had meanwhile moved back to Novgorod, agreed to meet to debate the issue. According to Juusten, during the meeting the Swedes were asked to abandon their claims on Reval, provide 200

Impact of the seven-year war in the North

Disputes between Denmark and Sweden led, as mentioned, to the Seven Years' Northern War in 1563, which ended in 1570 with the Treaty of Szczecin. Primarily fought in western and southern Scandinavia, the war saw major naval battles fought in the Baltic. When the Danish-flagged fortress of Varberg surrendered to the Swedes in 1565, 150 Danish mercenaries escaped the subsequent massacre of the garrison by deserting and joining the ranks of Sweden. Among them was Pontus de la Gardie, who later became an important yellow-blooded commander in the Livonian War. The latter region was also affected by the naval campaign of Danish Admiral Per Munck, who bombarded Swedish Tallinn from the sea in July 1569.

The Treaty of Szczecin made Denmark very powerful in Northern Europe, although it failed to restore the Kalmar Union. The series of unfavorable conditions that arose for Sweden led to a series of conflicts that ended with the subsequent Great Northern War of 1720. Sweden agreed to give up its possessions in Livonia in exchange for a payment from Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II. Maximilian failed, after agreeing, to pay the promised compensation and lost his influence over Baltic affairs. The terms of the proposed Livonian understanding were ignored and thus the Livonian War continued. If one were to analyze the issue from a Russocentric point of view, the document would have allowed the powers involved to baste an alliance against Tsar Ivan, the disputes that had affected the Western states being appeased.

During the early 1570s, King John III of Sweden faced a Russian offensive aimed at attacking his possessions in Estonia. Reval withstood a Russian siege and in 1570 and 1571, but several smaller towns fell into enemy hands. On January 23 a Swedish army of 700 infantry and 600 cavalry commanded by Clas Åkesson Tott (called the Elder) clashed with a Russian and Tatar army of 16,000 men under the command of Khan Sain-Bulat at the Battle of Lode near Koluvere. The Russian advance ended with the sacking of Weissenstein (Paide) in 1573, at which, after seizing the settlement, troops roasted alive some of the Swedish garrison leaders, including the commander. This triggered a campaign of reprisals by John III based on Wesenberg as a starting point, from which the army departed in November 1573 with Klas Åkesson Tott in overall command and Pontus de la Gardie as field commander. There were also Russian incursions into Finland, including one that happened at Helsingfors (Helsinki) in 1572. Subsequently, a two-year truce was signed on this front in 1575.

John III's counteroffensive stopped at the siege of Wesenberg in 1574, when some Scottish and German mercenaries turned against each other. The cause of these quarrels was due, according to historians, to the difficulties that had exasperated the men in fighting during very harsh winters, with particular hardships arising for the infantry. The war in Livonia represented a huge financial outlay for Stockholm's coffers, and by the end of 1573 the German mercenaries in the pay of the Swedes had a claim of about 200,000 riksdaler. John III handed them the castles of Hapsal, Leal and Lode as security, but when he realized that despite his efforts he was unable to pay he decided to sell them to Denmark.

Meanwhile, Magnus's efforts to besiege Swedish-held Reval were encountering difficulties: without the support of Magnus's brother and Ivan IV, Frederick II of Denmark decided to set sail for the Baltic states. The tsar's attention was focused elsewhere, while Frederick's reluctance, perhaps, was due to his choice of a peaceful policy that prompted him to feel no need to concoct a plan to invade Livonia on behalf of Magnus, whose state was a vassal of Russia. The siege was abandoned in March 1561, resulting in an intensification of Swedish action in the Baltic, with the passive support of Sigismund, John's brother-in-law.

At the same time, the Crimean Tatars devastated Russian territories, even going so far as to burn and loot the capital during the Russo-Crimean Wars. Drought and epidemics had severely affected the Moscow economy, while the opričnina had completely disrupted political-administrative management. Following the defeat of the Crimean and Nogai forces in 1572, the opričnina was abolished and with it also changed the way Russian armies would be composed from then on. Ivan IV had introduced a new draft under which tens of thousands of native troops, Cossacks and Tatars, were relied upon, dispensing with mercenaries, who sometimes proved to be better trained, as was customary in Europe.

The campaign set in motion by Ivan reached a climax in 1576 when another 30,000 Russian soldiers crossed into Livonia in 1577 and ravaged Danish areas in retaliation for the White-ruled takeover of Hapsal, Leal, and Lode. Danish influence in Livonia ceased as Frederick accepted agreements with Swedes and Poles to end all jurisdictional ties over it. Forces sent from Sweden were besieged at Reval and desisted as well as central Livonia as far as Dünaburg (Daugavpils), formally under Polish-Lithuanian control as a statute in the 1561 Treaty of Vilnius. The conquered territories submitted to Ivan or his vassal, Magnus, who was declared monarch of the Kingdom of Livonia in 1570. Magnus became estranged from Ivan IV during the same year, having begun appropriating castles on his own initiative, without consulting the tsar. Nevertheless, Ivan IV was tolerant when Kokenhusen (Koknese) submitted to Magnus and, to avoid new clashes with the Russian army, the town was sacked and the German commanders executed. The campaign then focused on Wenden (Cēsis, Võnnu), "the heart of Livonia," which as the former capital of the religious order of knighthood was not only strategically important: conquering its castle would also take on a strong symbolic impact within Latvian borders and beyond.

Swedish and Polish-Lithuanian alliance and counteroffensive

In 1576 the Prince of Transylvania Stephen I Báthory became King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania after a hotly contested election with Habsburg Emperor Maximilian II. Both Batory's consort Anna Jagellona and Maximilian II had been proclaimed as elected to the same throne in December 1575, three days before Stephen. Maximilian's untimely death in October 1576 prevented the political situation from evolving into something worse. Batory, eager to expel Ivan IV from Livonia, was thwarted by opposition moved by Danzig (Gdańsk), which denied Batory's legitimacy on the strength of Danish support. The resulting Gdańsk War of 1577 ended only when Batory granted additional autonomy rights to the city in exchange for a huge payment of 200,000 złoty. With a further payment of 200,000 złoty, Stephen I appointed George Frederick of Brandenburg-Ansbach as regent in Prussia and secured the latter's military support in the planned campaign against Russia.

However, Batory received only a few soldiers from his Polish vassals and was forced to recruit mercenaries, mainly Poles, Hungarians, Bohemians, Germans, and Wallachians. He also fought a separate Szekler brigade in Livonia.

Swedish King John III and Stephen Batory made an alliance against Ivan IV in December 1577, despite the problems caused by Sigismund's death: this event in fact left unresolved the issue concerning the division of the hereditary dowry of John's wife, Catherine. Poland also claimed the whole of Livonia, without recognizing any Swedish territorial claim to it. The 120,000 riksdaler loaned in 1562 had still not been repaid, despite Sigismund's best intentions to settle the obligation.

In November, Lithuanian forces pushed north had captured Dünaburg, while a (almost paradoxical given the political rusties) joint Polish-Swedish force had captured the town and castle of Wenden in early 1578. The Russian forces failed to recapture the city in February: that ineffective attempt was then followed by a Swedish offensive that struck Pernau (Pärnu), Dorpat, and Novgorod, among other major centers. In September, Ivan responded by sending an army of 18,000 men who recaptured Oberpahlen (Põltsamaa) at the expense of Sweden and then marched on Wenden. Arriving there, the Russian army besieged the town, but was unable to beat the approximately 6,000 German, Polish and Swedish reinforcements that had arrived to garrison the walls. In the siege of Wenden, Russian losses were severe: several armaments and horses were looted, resulting in Ivan IV's first brutal defeat on Livonian soil.

Batory had the training and enlistment of hussars accelerated: this move revolutionized light cavalry, built on the Hungarian model in deployment, but with heavy armor and long spears as a compact mass to break through enemy lines. At the same time, he improved an already effective artillery system and recruited Cossacks. Batory gathered 56,000 troops (including 30,000 from Lithuania) for his first assault on the Tsarate near Polack as part of a larger campaign. As Ivan's rear guard garrisoned Pskov and Novgorod to ward off a possible Swedish invasion, the city capitulated on August 30, 1579. Batory then appointed a trusted ally and powerful member of his court, Jan Zamoyski, as leader of a force of 48,000 (including 25,000 Lithuanians): he headed for the gates of the fortress of Velikie Luki and successfully penetrated it on September 5, 1580. Finding no further resistance of any magnitude, the garrisons located at Sokol, Veliž and Usvjaty quickly surrendered. In 1581, Zamoyski besieged Pskov, a well-fortified and strongly defended fortress. However, economic support from Polish coffers was waning, and Batory failed to draw the Russian forces stationed in Livonia into the open field before the onset of winter. Fearing the worst and not realizing that the Polish-Lithuanian forces were now exhausted, Ivan signed the Jam Zapolski armistice.

The failed Swedish siege of Narva in 1579 led to the appointment of commander-in-chief Pontus de la Gardie. Kexholm and Padise were captured by Swedish forces in 1580: the following year, coinciding with the fall of Wesenberg, a mercenary army hired by the Scandinavians finally recaptured the strategic city of Narva (located on today's Estonia-Russia border). Among the goals of John III's campaigns, since he could be attacked from both land and sea, was to test the numerically sizable fleet at his disposal, but as a result of discussions about long-term control of the waters, a formal alliance with Poland never arose. De La Gardie was guilty of avenging previous Russian massacres with reprisals: 7,000 men were killed according to Balthasar Russow's contemporary chronicle. After Narva, Ivangorod, Jama and Kopor'e also desisted. Such conquests enabled the Stockholm crown to obtain numerous lands in Livonia.

Armistice of Jam Zapolski and Peace of Pljussa

Subsequent negotiations, led by the Jesuit papal legate Antonio Possevino, led to the Jam Zapolski armistice of 1582 between Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation. This truce was a half-humiliation for the tsar, primarily because he asked for it. Under the agreement then, Russia would cede all Livonian lands it still held and the town of Dorpat to the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation: it would also renounce any claim to Polotsk. Any captured Swedish territory (especially Narva) would belong to the Russians, and Velike Luki would be returned by Batory to the Czarate. Possevino tried with titanic effort to consider John III's claims, but when such an intention emerged from the Jesuit it was immediately followed by Moscow's veto, probably also endorsed by Batory. The armistice, which did not count as a final peace agreement, was originally intended to last three years; it was later extended to 1590, made valid for a decade and renewed twice: in 1591 and 1601. Batory failed in his attempts to convince Sweden to give up its conquests in Livonia, particularly Narva.

John III decided to end the war with Russia when he concluded the Peace of Pljussa (in Swedish Stilleståndsfördrag vid Narva å och Plusa) with the tsar on August 10, 1583. Russia ceded most of Ingria, Narva and Ivangorod to the Swedes. During the negotiations, Sweden had not inconsiderable claims on Russian territory, including Novgorod. Although these conditions were probably set to achieve the greatest possible result, it cannot be entirely ruled out that these were demands that actually reflected Swedish aspirations for western Russia.

The portion of the post-war Duchy of Curlandia and Semigallia located south of the Düna (Daugava) River experienced a period of political stability under the 1561 Treaty of Vilnius, later amended by the Formula regiminis and Statuta Curlandiae (both 1617), which granted additional rights to local nobles at the expense of the duke. North of the Düna, Batory reduced the privileges Sigismund had granted to the Duchy of Livonia, considering the regained territories as spoils of war. Riga's privileges, recognized and attempted to be trampled on for centuries by Livonian knights and clergy, were reduced by the 1581 Treaty of Drohiczyn. Polish gradually replaced German as the administrative language, and the establishment of voivodeships reduced the influence still exerted by the Balto-Teutonic. Local clergy and Jesuits in Livonia embraced the Counter-Reformation in a process assisted by Batory, who handed back to the Catholic Church revenues and property previously confiscated by Protestants and launched a largely unsuccessful recruitment campaign for Catholic settlers. Despite these measures, the population did not convert en masse, while in the meantime several local estates had been alienated.

In 1590, the Peace of Pljussa ended, and fighting between the two signatory powers resumed with the Russo-Swedish War (under it, Sweden had to cede Ingria and Kexholm back to the Russian Kingdom. The Swedish-Polish alliance began to crumble when the Polish King and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund III, who as the son of John III of Sweden (died 1592) and Catherine Jagellona was the legitimate claimant to the yellow-blue throne, met resistance from a faction headed by his uncle, Charles of Södermanland (later Charles IX), claimed the crown of Sweden for himself. The nation became The scene of a civil war in 1597, followed by the 1598-1599 war against Sigismund, which ended with the latter's deposition by the Swedish riksdag.

Local nobles turned to Charles IX, invoking his protection in 1600, when the conflict shifted to Livonia, where Sigismund had sought to incorporate Swedish Estonia into the Duchy of Livonia. The ruler expelled Polish forces from Estonia and invaded the duchy of Livonia, beginning a series of Polish-Swedish wars. At the same time, Russia was involved in a civil war to sit on the vacant Russian throne (so-called "turbid period"), when none of the many pretenders had succeeded in prevailing. The conflict was interspersed when Stockholm forces (which initiated the aforementioned clashes when the Peace of Pljussa ended) and Polish-Lithuanian forces intervened from different geographical points, the latter causing the Polish-Moscow War. Charles IX's forces were expelled from Livonia after their two major defeats at the Battle of Kircholm (1605), respectively. During the subsequent Ingrian War, Charles' successor Gustavus II Adolphus regained possession of Ingria and Kexholm, which were formally ceded to Sweden under the 1617 Peace of Stolbovo along with most of the Duchy of Livonia. In 1617, when Sweden reasserted itself after the Kalmar War waged against Denmark, several towns in Livonia were captured, but only Pernau remained under Swedish control after a Polish-Lithuanian counteroffensive: a second campaign, unleashed by the Swedes, arisen to the latter, leading to the capture of Riga in 1621 and the removal of the Polish-Lithuanian army from most of Livonia, where Swedish Livonia was formed. Swedish forces then advanced further south through Royal Prussia, and the Confederation was forced to recognize Swedish merits in Livonia in the 1629 Treaty of Altmark.

The Danish province of Øsel was ceded to Sweden under the terms of the 1645 Peace of Brömsebro, which ended Torstenson's War, part of the Thirty Years' War. A similar political situation was reaffirmed after the Treaty of Oliva and the Treaty of Copenhagen, both in 1660. The situation remained unchanged until 1710, when Estonia and Livonia surrendered to Russia during the Great Northern War: this territorial change was later formalized in the Treaty of Nystad (1721).


  1. Livonian War
  2. Prima guerra del nord
  3. ^ (EN) Robert O. Crummey, The Formation of Muscovy 1300 - 1613, Routledge, 2014, p. 173, ISBN 978-13-17-87200-9.
  4. ^ a b c d Rabe, p. 306.
  5. ^ Dybaś (2009), p. 193.
  6. ^ a b c Bülow, p. 73.
  7. ^ Kreem, pp. 46, 51–53.
  8. ^ The Order was led by a Hochmeister, an office that since 1525 had been executed by the Deutschmeister responsible for the bailiwicks in the Holy Roman Empire; the Order's organisation in Livonia was led by a circle of Gebietigers headed by a Landmeister elected from amongst the membership
  9. La orden la presidía en Gran maestre de la Orden Teutónica, puesto que desde 1525 había desempeñado eldeutschmeister responsable de las bailías del Sacro Imperio Romano Germánico; en Livonia la orden la encabezaba el maestre (landmeister), que dirigía un círculo de gebietiger, que se elegían entre sus miembros.
  10. ^ Ordinul era condus de un hochmeister⁠(en), funcție care din 1525 fusese exercitată de un deutschmeister responsabil cu subdiviziunile din Sfântul Imperiu Roman; organizația din Livonia a ordinului era condusă de un cerc de gebietigers conduși de un landmeister ales dintre aceștia.
  11. ^ De Madariaga 2006, p. 128. spune că Narva în mai și Dorpat în iulie.

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