The Perfect Victory. Dedication to the 300th Anniversary
of the Battle of Poltava
29 May 2009, a new exhibition dedicated to the anniversary
of the Battle of Poltava opened in the Great
(Nicholas) Hall (Hall N 191) of the Winter Palace. The exhibition
was organized by the State Hermitage together with the State
Historical and Cultural
Over 300 exhibits are presented; among them there are memorabilia of combatants, clothing items, ammunition and armament of the Russian and of the Swedish armies, banners, portraits and battle paintings, graphic works.
The Battle of Poltava that took place July 8th (27 June old
calendar) 1709 became a decisive battle that determined the outcome
of the Great Northern War
In "The Detailed Report..." that tells about the battle between the Russian and the Swedish armies the victory is called ‘the perfect victory’. This report translated into German, French and English was spread through Europe in the summer of 1709 produced an impression of a bombshell. The formidable Swedish Army ceased to exist; at the same time a new great power, Russia, made a solid statement for itself.
The first section of the exhibition introduces to the audience the main characters and political situation in Europe prior to the Great Northern War. Among the exhibits of this section the gifts from the Swedish Embassy sent to Moscow in 1698 can be pointed out.
The second section - Way to Poltava - illustrates war events
that took place from 1700 till 1708, from the crushing
defeat near Narva to the victory near Lesnaya that Peter the Great
called ‘the mother of the victory of Poltava’. A number
of engravings depicting the battles, sieges of the fortresses
represent a chronicle of formation of the young Russian
army. The engravings are presented alongside with portraits
of military leaders
The next section of the exhibition - The Battle
- is the centre of the exhibition in terms of its
message and composition. Its background is created by two
monumental canvases - Battle of Poltava by Louise Caravaque
and Victory near Poltava by Alexander Kotzebue. There are examples
of armament and ammunition of the Russian and Swedish
armies in two big
The full dress uniform of Karl XII provided by the Royal Armoury Chamber
(Stockholm, Sweden) has no direct connection to the Battle of Poltava;
however, it is the only preserved full dress uniform of the Swedish
The Poltava trophies present a full complex of exhibits. Among them there are silver timpani captured from the Swedish Horse Guards regiment that attract special attention. These timpani were given to The General Squadron of Prince Menshikov and afterwards belonged to Life Guards Horse regiment where they were used up until 1917.
The fourth section of the exhibition is dedicated to the celebration of the victory of Poltava. The engravings depicting the gala entrance of the army in Moscow and the Arch of Triumph erected for the occasion are among those presented here as well as medals stroke in honour of the victory of Poltava and awards given to the combatants.
Peter the Great used to say that the victory of Poltava "laid a stone in St Petersburg’s foundation". Since the battle took place on the day of St Sampson the foundation stone of St Sampson Cathedral was laid in St Petersburg in honour of the victory of Poltava. The cathedral of Peter’s times was not preserved till our days, but the model of this cathedral, the icon of St Sampson and the altar Gospel that once used to be inside the cathedral are among the items presented at the exhibition.
In the last section - Memory of Poltava - there is a collection of things that were created through the course of many years after the battle in connection with it. These are lifetime publications of Pushkin’s Poltava poem and Byron’s Mazeppa poem, anniversary medals dated 1809 and 1909, fitting boards of the Russian military ships that used to bear the name "Poltava" and many more.
The exhibition curator is Sergey Plotnikov, the head of the Museum of the Guards section of the Department of History of Russian Culture of the State Hermitage.