Russo-Swedish War (1554–1557)

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Russo-Swedish War
Result Treaty of Novgorod (1557)
Tsardom of Russia Kingdom of Sweden
Commanders and leaders
Ivan IV Gustav I of Sweden

The Russo-Swedish War of 1554–1557, considered a prelude to the Livonian War of 1558–1583, arose out of border skirmishes. It ended when the parties agreed on a truce in the Treaty of Novgorod (1557).


The relations between Sweden and Russia were not the best. Ivan IV of Russia did not consider the Swedish king Gustav I his equal and refused to negotiate with Swedish ambassadors in person.[1] Ivan made the king's ambassadors confer with a governor of Novgorod rather than receive them in the Moscow Kremlin as could have been expected between equals. The tsar responded to Gustav's remonstrances: Ask your merchants and they will tell you that Novgorod's suburbs are larger than your Stockholm and that Novgorod's governors are descended from sovereign rulers of great empires, whereas your parents sold oxen at a market several decades ago.

Despite the tense relations between the two regents, a state of peace was the general situation during most of King Gustav's reign, as agreed on in the Treaty of Novgorod (1537). However, both the Russians and Swedes frequently crossed the border to plunder.[1][2]


In 1554 the Pechenga Monastery was raided by the Swedes. The governor of Novgorod Paletsky sent Nikita Kuzmin to Stockholm to ask for an explanation, but the Russian representative was imprisoned. In response Russia mounted an organized attack with up to 20,000 soldiers in March 1555.[2] With its initially 1,000 men, Finland could not stand against the invading troops, but soon, reinforcements consisting of 3,700 infantrymen and 250 cavalrymen arrived from Sweden. The Finnish nobility had also been engaged in the war, contributing with its cavalry.[1]

The goal of the Swedish-Finnish troops was to conquer Oreshek, Korela and Koporye. The siege of Oreshek was badly planned by the Swedish side and failed since the Russians had destroyed the areas surrounding the town and the Swedish troops had insufficient supplies to be able to maintain the siege until the town surrendered.[1] While admiral Johan Brigge besieged and bombarded Oreshek, the Swedish diplomats tried to find support for their cause in Livonia, Poland-Lithuania and England.

Early the following year, 1556, Russia made a new attack, this time with an army almost 20,000 men strong. The attack was aimed at the town of Viborg (Russian: Vyborg), and the Swedish troops were unlikely to withstand an army of that considerable size. However, after a few days of pillaging in the area around Viborg, the Russian forces left. The reason for this has not been made clear. Conceivable reasons might be bad discipline or a raging disease among the Russian soldiers. Perhaps it was never the aim to conquer Viborg, only to ravage the areas surrounding the town as a demonstration of power.[1]


During the summer of 1556, Swedish attempts to achieve peace with Russia were made. Peace negotiations were scheduled to begin later the same year, and in March 1557, a peace treaty was signed.[1] The treaty preserved the status quo and accorded free passage across the border to merchants of both countries. In order to conclude peace, Archbishop of Uppsala, Bishop of Åbo (Turku), Sten Erikson and Olof Larson arrived to Moscow, where they dwelt in the Lithuanian Embassy for several months and were frequently summoned to the Kremlin to discuss with the tsar matters of religious doctrine.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Eriksson, Bo (2007). Lützen 1632 (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedts Pocket. pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-91-7263-790-0.
  2. ^ a b Ryussov, Balthazar (1879). Livonian Chronicle (in Russian). pp. 342–343.