First posted on June 30th 2005

Narratives : New States

Definition : Popular chapter title in American textbooks of European history. The states
dealt with there are not new at the historical time at which they are covered, but rather
managed to gain historical significance beyond their borders, became important players in
the context of European history.

Sweden : Kingdom, from 1397 to 1523 claimed, and temporarily ruled by Denmark
(Union of Kalmar). Sweden, in 1523, included Finland, but Skåne (Scania) and
Gotland then belonged to Denmark.
Independence was restored in 1523; Lutheran Reformation introduced in 1527. Sweden
(with Finland) had an estimated population of c. 1,000,000 inhabitants, the population
mainly living in the countryside; the country's largest city, Stockholm, had c. 10,000
inhabitants. Sweden was a major producer of iron and copper. In the course of the 16th
century, Sweden, under the Wasa Dynasty, consolidated herself. Under King Gustavus II.
Adolphus (1611-1632), a military reform was introduced. Sweden quickly rose to the
status of a major military power, achieving victories over Russia (1617), Poland
(1621-1629), being a dominant force in the 30 Years' War (1630-1648), defeating Denmark
(1643-1645). Sweden had good, disciplined soldiers, good military leaders, but lacked
the economic structure which allowed her to maintain an armed force in peacetime. In
order to maintain the status of a Great Power, Sweden needed to be at war; the occupied
lands, and perhaps subsidies paid by her allies, would finance the undertaking.
The wars under Gustavus Adolphus, and those fought while Axel Oxenstjärna was
regent for Queen Christina (5 years old at the time her father died) brought territorial
acquisitions - Ingria, Livonia, Hither Pomerania, Gotland etc.; Sweden established the
Dominium Maris Baltici - at the expense of her neighbours (Poland, Russia, Denmark-
Norway) which would wait for an opportunity to pay the Swedes back, not just for the
territory the wedes had taken from them, but also for the rough treatment Swedish
soldiers had given their land under occupation. Another problem was the existence of
a Catholic branch of the Wasa Dynasty, holding on to the Polish throne (1587-1672). An
offspring of the Swedish royal dynasty, the Polish Wasas, if they acquired the military
force to back it up, could reclaim the Swedish throne and, if successful, could
introduce the Counterreformation. So the Swedes regarded Poland their archenemy.
Under Gustavus II. Adolphus and Axel Oxenstjärna steps were undertaken to
modernize and develop Sweden. Universities were founded, books acquired in Central
Europe (often simply confiscated by the Swedish armies), metal workers and other
craftsmen invited into the country. The city of Göteborg (1632) was founded, to
give Sweden access to the North Sea - rival Denmark controlled the Sound.
Oxenstjärna and Queen Christina - the philosopher Queen - invited a number
of famous scholars to Stockholm, Rene Descartes, Jan Amos Comenius, Samuel
von Pufendorf. Christina shocked her country by announcing her decision to abdicate
(1654); she left for Italy and converted to Catholicism.
Her successor Charles X. fought another war, the First Northern War (1655-1660)
which devastated Poland and gained Scania for Sweden. Charles XI., in 1675-1679,
militarily lost a war against Brandenburg and Denmark, and because of French
protection got away with minimal loss. Afterward, he introduced absolutism to
Sweden; when he died in 1697, his son Charles XII. was merely 15 years old.
Denmark, Russia, Poland saw the opportunity for payback, but young Charles XII.
was a military genius, in the Great Northern War 1700-1721, despite multiple enemies,
Sweden until 1709 kept the upper hand. The Battle of Poltava 1709 brought a decisive
Swedish defeat; Sweden no longer could afford to pursue the policy of a Great power.
Click here for more detailed files on the history of Sweden

Click here for more a series of maps featuring the history of the Austrian Habsburgs' complex of territories

Austria : In many history books covering the period 1556 to 1867, the term "Austria"
is used to describe the complex of territories ruled by the Austrian line of the Habsburg
Dynasty. Click here for a seris of maps on the history of the Austrian Habsburg's lands. In contemporary
documents, the Austrian rulers would sign as Holy Roman Emperor, King of
Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Styria, Count of Carinthia,
Carniola, Marchgrave of Moravia etc.
. Each one of the territories listed had its
own institutions, privileges, traditions. The Habsburgs did establish a central
administration seated in Vienna, which coexisted and competed with territorial
institutions. This complex of territories had been the result of centuries of Habsburg
diplomacy, in which marriage policy had ben more important than warfare,
according to the family motto "Felix Austria, nube !" (lucky Austria, marry !).
Habsburg Austria, in the mid 16th century, was not really a new power; the
Habsburgs had acquired Austria in 1288, held the Imperial crown since 1438.
However, until the reign of Charles V., the vast complex of territories, under
Charles V. including the Low Countries, Castile, Aragon, Naples, Milan, Franche
Comte, lacked a political center, a capital. Charles V. frequently had to travel,
from Madrid to Innsbruck to Brussels and back. Rather, the Ottoman threat and
the necessity to consolidate Habsburg rule over recently acquired, but
notoriously unruly Bohemia forced the Habsburg family to establish a permanent
residence and capital, for which they chose Vienna. This task was performed
by Charles V.' brother Ferdinand in c.1530, long before Charles V. in 1556
determined to split the Habsburg dominions into a Spanish and an Austrian
half, the latter going to Ferdinand.

While the Austrian Habsburgs had a hold on the title of Emperor and thus
outranked all other monarchs in Europe, by comparison to other Great Powers
of the time they were at a disadvantage. The proximity of the Ottoman Empire
required military preparedness. Many of the Austrian Habsburg territories
economically were poor, most notably the Alpine territories. Economically most
productive were the Bohemian lands, which combined fertile soil with a mining
and textile industry etc. Another aspect was the religious situation. While the
Habsburg Dynasty was Catholic, the population of their core territory of Austria,
in the mid 16th century, was, to c.90 %, Lutheran. The Bohemian Lands, since
the early 15th century, had developed into a religious caleidoscope. The early
Austrian Habsburg rulers were careful not to enforce the Counterreformation
(except for the line residing in Graz/Styria, since the 1570es), but during the
30 Years War, they did. The Counterreformation turned the Austrian Habsburg's
lands into Catholic lands, by forcing many protestants to emigrate, others to
convert; the process caused a few rebellions little noticed, because they
happened during the 30 Years' War. Many of those who emigrated were
craftsmen, some, in modern terms, entrepreneurs; the religious priority of
Habsburg policy had an impact on the economy of her lands.
The Thirty Years' War started an era of European diplomacy and wars; the
Austrian Habsburgs were forced by circumstances to play the role of a military
Great Power, which they hardly could afford. The Austrian and Spanish
Habsburgs were allied by family ties, France and the Ottoman Empire were
their usual enemies; in case of all other states it was a matter of diplomacy.
Until 1683, the Austrian Habsburgs were satisfied if they could hold their ground
and prevent their territories to break away (rebellions). Hungarian rebels in
1683 called for Ottoman aid, and the city of Vienna found herself under siege.
The siege went on for several months, the situation in the city became
desparate. Then, four relief armies appeared - three German, one Polish,
and the Ottoman forces were defeated in the Battle of Kahlenberg, the victors
commanded by Polish King Jan Sobiesky.
The war would last on until 1699, the Austrian side pushing deep into
Ottoman territory. In 1699 (Peace of Karlowitz), Austria gained Transylvania,
Hungary except for the Banat and territory in Croatia; the war roughly had
doubled Austrian Habsburg territory and removed the immediate threat the
Ottoman Turks had posed to the capital of Vienna. Much of the military
success was credited to Prince Eugene of Savoy.
Click here for more detailed files
on the history of the complex of territories ruled by the
Austrian branch of the Habsburg Dynasty

Click here for more a series of maps featuring the history of the Brandenburgian/Prussian state

Prussia : A narration of Prussian history has to begin with the core territory of
Brandenburg. One of the largest territories within the Holy Roman Empire.
The rulers of Brandenburg, since 1356, held one of the seven seats on the
electoral council. In all other aspects, Brandenburg was poor - poor farming
country (sandy soil), no mining industry, no seaports, cities of secondary
importance (and that included Berlin, which only grew to significance in the
18th century). Since 1415 the Zollern Dynasty, by historians of the early 19th
century renamed Hohenzollern, ruled Brandenburg.
During the Thirty Years' War, Brandenburg had suffered severe devastation.
In 1618 the Marchgrave of Brandenburg had gained the Duchy in Prussia
by the means of inheritance. The Treaty of Westphalia granted further
additions to the Elector of Brandenburg - Further Pomerania and the
prospect of acquiring the Stift Magdeburg.
Marchgrave Friedrich Wilhelm (the Great Elector), who ruled from 1640 to
1688, wanted to prevent the experience of the Thirty Years War from
repeating itself. The solution to the problem was the establishment and
maintenance of a standing army. This army made Brandenburg a
sought-after ally in European diplomacy. For the decades after 1648,
Brandenburg mostly served as ally to the Austrian Habsburgs, and in turn
received Habsburg support in case of a number of contested inheritances
of smaller German principalities. In 1701 the Elector of Brandenburg was
rewarded (by the Emperor) for his military support by being crowned
King in Prussia.
As the title of king outranked that of Marchgrave-Elector, the name of
Prussia came to be used for the entire complex of territories ruled by the
Brandenburg branch of the Zollern Dynasty.

Under Frederick the Great (1740-1786) Prussia would rise into the ranks
of a Great Power on her own merits, rather than a supplier of forces to
others. It has been said, that Prussia as not a state with an army, but an
army with a state.
The Great Elector lived a comparatively frugal lifestyle; state expenses
were organized in a way reserving the bulk for the maintenance of the
army. He also pursued a policy of attracting immigrants to repopulate the
vacant farmsteads in the countryside; when France expelled the
Huguenots in 1681/1685, the refugees were welcomed in Brandenburg.
Friedrich Wilhelm also attempted to stimulate the urban economy. Under
him a Brandenburgian Africa Company was founded, which, from the
port city of Stettin, traded with the Gold Coast.
Click here for more detailed files on the history of

Russia : geographically on the margin of Europe, Russia had largely been isolated
from western and central Europe. In 988 it had accepted Orthodox Christianity;
while western and central Europe focussed on Rome, Russia focussed on
Constantinople; the west used the Latin alphabet, Russia Cyrillic.
From 1240 into the 15th century, the various Russian principalities had paid
tribute to the Kipchak Tatars (the Golden Horde), which disintegrated in the 15th
century. While the western Russian principalities (including Kiev) were annexed
by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the northern and eastern Russian principalities
were annexed by the Grand Duchy of Muscovy. In 1547, Grand Duke Ivan
crowned himself Czar of all the Russias.
In Russia called Ivan the Great, in the wst he is known as Ivan the Terrible.
English merchants, via the port of Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, supplied him
with gunpowder; he used it to fight wars in all directions; Russia conquered the
Khanates of Kazan 1552 and Astrakhan 1556 (and later Sibir, in 1582); in the
west Russian armies devastated Livonia and eastern Lithuania. However, Ivan
had his own son tortured to death, and upon Ivan's death in 1584, Russia was
without an heir to the throne. The country descended into a civil war in which
several noble factions, some with foreign support, competed for the throne
(Time of Troubles). In 1613, Mikhail Romanov was crowned, beginning the
Romanov Dynasty which would last until 1917.
For most of the 17th century, Russia remained a country rather isolated from
the remainder of Europe, occasionally involved in wars with Sweden,
Poland-Lithuania or the Crimean Khanate/Ottoman Empire, supplying Europe
with products such as fur, honey, beeswax, rather passive in terms of trade
as Russia lacked permanently ice-free ports and a merchant fleet.
The Russian population, for the larger part, consisted of serfs (mushiks).
A clear distinction has to be made between Russian serfs and western
European serfs; the former often lived so far from the nearest town that they
rarely visited it. Often they lived on large estates belonging to Boyars or the
church; the serfs were accustomed to being told what to do, and lacked
initiative of their own. The cities of Russia were few, communication between
them poor (navigable rivers - which froze over during the winter; poor roads).
Russian cities lacked the autonomy western and central European cities
enjoyed; Novgorod declined after it lost that autonomy in 1478. Similarly,
Russian crafts lacked the structure western guilds provided. While technical
progress was made in western and central Europe, Russia remained
Russia's nobility, the Boyars, owned large estates, lived of the land
respectively of their serfs and unlike their English contemporaries (see under
Agricultural Revolution), did not worry about how to make their lands more
profitable. One way to expand was to take new lands under the plow, Russia
had plenty of land to be cultivated.
In the border regions to the Crimean Tatars lived the Cossacks, Christian
Orthodox Russians living the lifestyle of the Tatars - breeding horses,
defending Russia against Tatar raids, occasionally undertaking raids of their
own against the Tatars. The Cossacks were free men; they elected their own
leaders. They were notorious for violating laws and for being unreliable. The
Stroganoff family, when extending their fur collecting lands into Siberia, hired
Cossacks to do exploration and fighting; a Cossack was the first Russian to
reach the Pacific Ocean.

The man to realize Russia's need for modernization was Czar Peter the
Great (1696-1725). While still competing for power (his simple-minded brother
Ivan also was Czar; his sister Sophia intrigued against him and, for a number
of years, was regent) he established his own bodyguard and regiment. He
sought foreign teachers and advisors in Moscow's community of foreign
merchants. Peter realized that key to modernization was to improve contact
with Europe, the pursuance of an active trade policy. Therefore, seaports
were essential, as well as a shipbuilding industry, a mining and arms
industry. In order to achieve this aim, wars were unavoidable.
Peter, incognito, travelled Europe in order to see modern industries first
hand and to recruit craftsmen, in Germany, the Dutch Republic, England.
He had a fleet contructed on the River Don, which saild down the river and
took the Crimean city of Asov (1696; the Russian boats stayed out of reach
of the Turkish cannons; Asov was within the reach of the Russian cannons).
Russia had access to the sea, but could not make use of it, because the
Ottoman Empire could still block any Russian ship at Kerch or Istanbul.
In 1697 King Charles XI. of Sweden died, leaving behind his 15 year old
son. Czar Peter believed that this was an opportunity, in alliance with
Denmark and Poland, to gain costland on the Baltic Sea from Sweden. A
Russian army 30,000 men strong laid siege to the city of Narva, in Swedish
Estonia; Swedish king Charles XII., with merely 8,000 men, appeared,
defeated the Russians and broke the siege, winning all his battles until
Poltava (1709). Czar Peter, in 1702, began with the construction of St.
Petersburg, on swampland on the banks of the Neva, on land which
technically still was Swedish. The victory at Poltava 1709 was decisive,
although it took until 1721 until peace was signed, which gained Ingria,
Eastern Karelia, Estonia and Livonia for Russia.
Like Charles XII., Peter the Great spent much of his time as a ruler in
army camps. He imposed his reforms - the establishment of a naval
academy, of a shipyard, a mining industry, of a new (western) dress and
beard code, without considering the sentiment of the Russians.
The Russian clergy despised the foreigners who came into Russia,
whom they labelled as heretics. The Patriarch of Moscow and priests
charged with the education of Peter's son Alexey tried to teach the latter
that Peter himself was posessed by the devil. Alexey got involved in a
palace conspiracy, which was uncovered; Alexey was tortured to
Under Peter, Russia had taken several steps on the road to
modernization. Several of her industries were modernized; Russia's
nobility would have their children tutored western style (in French,
which became the language of the Russian nobility), and adapted the
lifestyle and fashion of French nobility. Yet, these changes affected
only a tiny minority within Russian society; Russia remained a
predominantly agricultural society, lacked an effective system of higher
education. Russia did have a respectable army and was drawn into
the European wars of the 18th century.
After Peter, Russia was ruled by four women - Catherine I., Anne,
Elizabeth and Catherine II. (the Great). Under Elizabeth, Russia
acquired Alaska (1741); she founded the University of Moscow (1755).
Catherine the Great will be dealt with in another chapter.
Click here for more detailed files on Russian history

REFERENCE Simon Dixon, The Modernization of Russia 1676-1825, Cambridge : UP 1999, KMLA Lib.Sign.: 947 D621t
Michael Roberts, Gustavus Adolphus, Harlow (Essex) : Longman, Profiles in Power (1973) 1992 [G]

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