| H.C. / Jönköping University, Sweden/
FROM SWEDEN TO TOBOLSK AND RETURN
In the beginning of the ХVIIIth Century Sweden was one of the great powers in Europe, was just beginning to show itself at the European political scene and the new Tsar Peter Great was in many ways challenging the Swedish settlements and governed countries on Eastern Baltic coast. A series of incidents between Russia and Sweden in the region nowadays St. Petersburg challenged the situation which ended up with the confrontation the Tsar Peter′s and King Karl XII′s armies at Poltava June 28, 1709. The Russian army considerably larger than the Swedish and had the advantage of being in the home environment. The Swedish army was perhaps considered to be better equipped and trained and had incorporated a number of rebellious Russian Cosaks in its ranks. Nevertheless army was defeated and sought in the days following the defeat an acceptable i difficult situation. It ended with surrender on July 128.
At the battle of Poltava the Swedish power structure in the Baltic region experienced a fatal blow. It was the beginning of the end of a period where Sweden had been dominating not only the Baltic region but large parts of middle Europe, playing a significant role in European politics. The army of king Karl XII suffered a great defeat by the Russian army and the king fled with around 2000 men towards Turkey leaving the dead, the wounded, and those not able to follow him to their own fate. The Russian army took approximately 20000 prisoners (the correct number is uncertain and varies in different sources between 20000 and 25000 the latter number would then include women and children who followed the army in battle) at this time and in the days following the defeat, and had according to the agreements in force at this time to care for the prisoners until a peace was settled29. The officers were to be paid part of their salaries by the Swedish government and the private soldiers were to be fed and cared for by «the prisoner taking nation». But the defeat of the Swedes was not only a negative experience for the countries and the individuals involved, it was also the beginning to something positive and much bigger than the contemporary political structures at the defeat.
After Poltava the prisoners were first kept at different places in Southern Russia. Later in the year many were taken to Moscow where the Tsar had his great Triumph March on December 23. Taking part in this march into the city were practical all the prisoners who had come to Moscow earlier and the leading Swedish officers. At the same time the trophies from the battle and a lot of the prey were shown up. It is ironical that after the victory at Poltava the prey which the Swedish soldiers and officers had looted from the Russian Army and the civil Russians previously, now went back not into the right owners but into the hands of new Russian owners. The commodities of all kind, precious things as well as more ordinary things quickly changed hands a few days after the defeat of the Swedish army.
After some uprising and attempt to escape the imprisonment in 1711 many of the soldiers were transferred to Siberia from where escape was less likely and a number of officers and ordinary soldiers ended up in the town of Tobolsk which as they phrased it was the Capital City of Siberia. It is from the life of those people we know most about the life of the Swedish army in Russia at this time, and it is at some aspects of their lives we will look in this paper
The beginning of the ХVIIIth Century was indeed a time of change in the Swedish Russian relations and in many more aspects a special time of change. For long time ahead the two nations would be at war with each other and the consequences hereof for the Swedish society should be decisive. Not until into the ХХth Century the Swedish nation would be a powerful and dominant nation and at this time it was not in the perspective of arms but in the meaning of a new dominant economically strong industrialized nation. Some of the foundation to this new era was laid during the time of the imprisonment of the Swedish soldiers in Russia. The Great Nordic War would for decades divide the region into two sides, one with Russia and Denmark, the old long time enemy of Sweden, on one side, and Sweden on the other side. A few years after the victory at Poltava, in the year 1716 Peter the Great landed in Denmark for planning with the Danish king an attack on Sweden and the preparation came as long as to the case of Russian troops being stationed in Denmark. However in the fall the same year the Tsar called it all off and no invention into Sweden came about. If the invention had taken place it could perhaps have been successful as Sweden was in fact more weakened military wise and economical than was known and the fate of the Swedish Prisoners of war would probably have been different30.
In the Swedish army there were no mercenaries but all the soldiers were genuine Swedish. All the ordinary soldiers were not paid cash for their services but were for their living at home provided with a small farm from which they were expected to get their income. At war they were provided for by the army and part of their «income» would be in taking prey and looting in enemy land. There was no salary to be paid to them in any case while away from home. It was different with the officers. They were all expected to have a part of their salary in cash when at war and the rest paid out at home for the benefit of the existence of their families.
Among the officers however there were quite a number who either were noblemen with a German decent or with intermarriage relations to the German nobility, or German officers who had taken up working for the Swedish king. It should be noted that being Swedish at this time did not mean that you actually came from Sweden or lived in Sweden but a number of the officers would be from the different countries and regions around the Baltic Sea which at this time formed the Swedish kingdom. When they became prisoners of war the situation of the officers differed considerably from that of the ordinary soldiers as we shall see further down.
The agreement as previously mentioned was that the Swedish soldiers and officers imprisoned in Russia should be treated well and cared for. The ordinary soldier was to get what he needed from the Russian Tsar and his government and the officers at least part of their salaries from the Swedish government and free housing from the Russian government. The life of the imprisoned army should not be hard but tolerably considering though that they were part of enemy as long as no peace treaty was signed. As for the private soldiers hard labour time waited and hard times waited the officers too.
Sweden was during this time due to the outrageous expenditures on warfare, serious economical problems, the plaque which during this period reached the country and other serious situations on the home front not able to meet the obligations towards the officers who were prisoners in Russia. Just before handing over the cash of the army, an amount summed up to several million of coins, to the Russians some of the officers managed to secure some of the funds for their soldiers but this was not much. The majority had to somewhat exist on their own productiveness and labour and for those officers who had cash brought with them or at disposal at home used this for their existence. However there were also some other means from abroad especially collected for the purpose in different parts of Germany which helped the Swedish officers at least in Moscow and Tobolsk to endure and live a somewhat endurable life in their imprisonment. More about this later. For all categories of prisoners of war after was neither glamorous or rich and pleasant.
Aurelius points out that the change incorporated the change of the life perspectives and the interpretation of the meaning of life for man31. In Europe we find a wind of change blowing through the nations, a wind which would prove fatal to the stability of many societies and would stir up both individuals and whole nations. The philosophical -political ideas of the Time of Enlightment regarding the freedom and rights of mankind as well as the religious new perspective of man and his life in the Pietistic movement stirred up not only the nations and individuals in Europe but had a decisive effect on the lives of many in the entire world.
For the prisoners in Russia this period of change was decisive for all of them. Many of the private soldiers if they survived the hard times they were to endure did accommodate themselves into the Russian society, married, converted to the orthodox faith and simply vanished into the Russian society. For many of the officers it was different. Indeed some did accommodate themselves into the local society but the majority kept the hope of one day returning to their homes and their families. Though there were hard times ahead the officers kept up an appearance of army life even in the different places where they under their time as imprisoned ended up. From the army headquarters in the imprisonment which was situated in Moscow there were continuously kept contact with all the officers wherever they were and this rendered some assistance, at least a moral assistance to the every day life of the prisoners.
In Moscow the Swedish army headquarters incorporated an ecclesiastical administration for the religious life of the prisoners. Scattered out over all Russia where the prisoners were held the army chaplains or priests would now serve as local priest for their large or small congregations. There were quiet a number of priests in the army going to war. The army itself was considered to be a «diocese» with its own structure and hierarchy and following the ordinance of the Swedish Church they would operate where ever the army would be. Now the larger part of the army was in the «Russian prison» scattered all over the country and the leading persons situated in Moscow. Here the leading priest Joran Nordberg, who actually was the personal priest of the king, acted as bishop for all the other priests. The systematic life of the army was expected to be kept up even in the imprisonment. Therefore there were continuous communications from Moscow to all small and larger groups of soldiers with encouragement and problem solving advices as well as direct orders for the local congregations and their priest. Even details such as the prescribed readings for the church services on the special «days for prayer» were decided centrally and then dispatched to all Swedish congregations over the entire Russia.
During their stay in Moscow and before the officers who ended up in Tobolsk were dispatched to this town some of the officers with German connections made contacts with the German Lutheran congregation in the city. These contacts continued throughout the whole time they spent in Moscow and later in Tobolsk. The members of the German congregation in Moscow were obviously influenced by the religious trends in Germany at this time and were in direct contact with the leading people within the circles of pietism in the German city of Halle. The literature provided from this centre could all be found in the German Church in Moscow and the Swedish officers brought copies with them to Tobolsk when they were transferred there. Even after settling in the Tobolsk the good relations with the German church in Moscow continued and even a continuous correspondence with the pietistic leaders in Halle, Germany took place. This meant a considerable change to the life of the Swedes in Tobolsk.
For the majority of the Swedish prisoners it was not possible to gather for worship and religious services in ordinary churches but they had to convene in locations where they could find place. In Tobolsk however it was possible for the Swedish congregation to gather in their own church. The Swedes started to build their church in September 1713 and it was finished for consecration and use the first Sunday in Advent (the first Sunday in the new year of the Church) the same year. It must have been a somehow modest church building being built so fast and on mostly local collected funds. Only a smaller amount of money for the new church had arrived from the church headquarters in Moscow. This important enterprise should be considered to be at large the work of the industrious officers who were stationed there. The land upon which the church was built was rented and the payment of this rent 4 l/2 Rubles yearly is well documented. However this church was destroyed by a fire in May 1715 and again the industrious Swedes built a new church in a very short time. The new church was ready for services in October the same year.
It must have been discouraging to experience such a fatal blow to the congregation to loose the church in a fire so soon after completing the building. No doubt the building and the decoration of the church had continued for a longer time after the church building had been taken into use. And now it was all in ashes. Life in itself was obviously not too bright for the prisoners even at this time. The means for the life of the officers in Tobolsk were in many cases the money they either brought with them or earned on the spot. As mentioned above the payment of wages from the Swedish government did not function to well if at all. The prisoners had to relay on their own means and this has contributed in a special way to the sum of hardship they endured during this time.
It can be seen from the Biblical texts used in the official worship as well as the texts used in reference in private writings, such as letters and diaries that they were found in the stories of the captive Jews in the Babylonian Captivity found in the Old Testament of the Bible. The Swedish prisoners at large interpreted the hardship they endured as a parallel to what happened the Jewish People in 5th Century before our time. An overwhelming majority of Old Testament texts were used in the religious life in stead of as it could be expected in the life of Lutheran tradition a majority of New Testament texts focusing very much on the Gospel texts. The idea of identification with the Jews, the chosen people of God, is not surprising. The whole self identity of the members of the Swedish army was that they were the chosen people, Gods own people, and the King was his local representative here on earth. Now the King was not present. They were not home. They were in foreign land deprived of their God-given rights and life was hard. The parallel for the pious believer was not far fetched. What more was to be said than to search for some reason for the present situation? In the Old Testament the reason for the Babylonian Captivity was understood to be the rejecting the true worship of God and seen as a punishment for the worshipping of idols. Here the idea came up among the Swedes that it was the individual personal religious experience, the sins of the individual which was the reason behind all these calamities. The reading and study of the pietistic literature which above is mentioned gave support for the special way of understanding what happened in the life of the prisoners. God was tying out his chosen people. They lacked spiritual experiences and were only formal believers not caring about their inmost religious life and only following the letter of the faith not the spirit. They now had a chance to repent from their former lives and live a more spiritual pious life in service for God and the fellow man.
The influence of the pietistic movement upon the prisoners in Tobolsk is obvious. It is a drastic change their interpretation of the life they live in what is called the «Siberian Babylon». God had sent the defeat upon his chosen people and if they only repented from their sins and former life God would deliver them and lead them back to the Promised Land which in this case was understood as Sweden. Until then they were in captivity and could only wait for His deliverance and pray and work for the benefit of their own and others souls.
No doubt the studying and the use of the texts from the Old Testament meant very much for the change in the interpretation of the situation. But the many writings and publications first obtained through the German Lutheran church in Moscow and later directly from the pietistic centre Halle meant much too. From the year 1713 there was a correspondence between some of the officers in Tobolsk and Professor Francke the leading pietist in Halle. In one of the letters signed by 8 officers the concept of God's providence even in causing the present situation was acknowledged and they expressed their gratitude to God for the chance to learn about the true Christianity and work for the salvation of themselves and others. In other parts of the correspondence there are letters from Francke mentioning funds collected for the subsistence of the Swedish congregation in Tobolsk. Obviously according to the correspondence those funds were not small and meant a good deal to the receivers in Tobolsk. For some of them it is most likely that they received more financial support from Germany than from Sweden. It would of course not be correct to suggest that this financial support was the reason for the change in the religious perspective on the contempory situation but it has most likely facilitated the acceptance of the pietistic ideas. When the officers arrived at Tobolsk they obviously kept some discipline among the soldiers in order to maintain the appearance of the well trained and well managed army waiting for the time they would be released from their imprisonment. To work for the Russians was not seen with approval neither was the more daily sharing of life activities with local people. However some of the soldiers, their wives or women who followed the army went into social and practical arrangements with the local population. Some married and in this respect converted to the Orthodox faith as two of the priests did, and others lived a more unstable life with all sorts of relations at all sides. For the group of soldiers and officers who had been caught up in the pietistic movement this was intolerable. The view upon the local population was clear cut from the beginning to the end. The view on the local Christian tradition was clear too. This was not Christianity, they worshipped images and only we ourselves who had found the new spiritual way of life were the true Christians. The ethnocentrism of the majority of the leading Swedes remained intact during the whole time of their stay in Tobolsk. No understanding of the other faith or the other way of life and thinking was seen in any of the material available today. How could they live for so long without taking any experience and impression seriously from the surrounding society? The answer must be found in the tight social control the leading officers tried to keep up with the rest of the prisoners.
To find a way of living under these conditions and in these surroundings must have been difficult. The produce of small pieces of handy craft must have occupied some for at least some time. But the lack of opportunities to make a profit out of this by sending them to the large cities like Moscow where obviously the markets were overflowed by such items must have put an end to this way. More industrious adventures seemed to have been more successful.
Captain Curt Friedrich von Wreech is an example of a more successful person in finding new ways of living. As one of the converted persons he had a special burden for the education of children. He was as many of the officers at this time well educated and he took the opportunity to start a school in Tobolsk. The purpose of the school was most likely twofold. He wanted to create a living for himself and his close friends and their families but he was also concerned about the upbringing of the children into the right faith and to keep them in the right cultural tradition for the day when they would be able to return to their homeland. The two mentioned reasons for opening the school have been very important for him. The school went from time to time well. It was an instrument to impose into the young generation the new religious ideas and this went well during the time of the school hours. But when they returned home to spend the rest of the day with their parents all the efforts of the religious training seemed to vanish from their minds. In order to prevent this entirely from happening von Wreech decided that the children should stay overnight at the school. It simply became a boarding school and then they could impose the religious ideas on the children freely and completely without any interference from the parents. The school was not only frequented by Swedish children but some local children of different ethnic background sought education at the school. Some of these were converted to this new faith and as some of the Swedes had experienced complications in the local society due to their faith so would these experience complications too due to their conversion. The school had from time to time difficulties of different kind, often of financial character. They were however solved in a very miraculous way in the last minute according to the sources. Other problems as personnel issues were solved in a more pragmatic way. von Wreech appears in many ways to have been a kind of forefront figure for the new faith in the Swedish community in Tobolsk as he later would be in the local community upon his return to his home in Sweden32.
Another example of entrepreneurship among the officers in Tobolsk was Philip Johan von Strahlenberg. He was in born Tabbert into a family of civil servants. After having taken part in different military expeditions under Karl XII he was knighted in 1707. von Strahlenberg was a well educated cartographer in the Swedish army. There were several of his kind as their scientific skills were useful and consequently in high demand in the field. Early in his time in Tobolsk he started to collect information about the region and later about the entire Siberia and even Russia. Tobolsk was situated perfectly for collecting information, descriptions, maps and much more. It was the place where east and west met and many caravans from all corners of the vast Russian empire passed the place. The work he did was quite advanced for his time. It was measurements both with the help of astronomy and of distances between different points on the ground level. Further more he must have had great help by the information about all Siberia gathered by other Swedish officers who took part in different Russian expeditions to Siberia, travelled on their own or were simply stationed in different parts of the country. It is known that during the time of imprisonment the Swedish soldiers and officers were spread all over the Russian Empire. Some of these travellers are known to us today. As recognition for the skills he possessed and the work he pursued he was granted permission to take part in a German Expedition in 1718 or 19.
All his extensive notes and all the material he had gathered during his travels and his stay in Tobolsk he carried with him back to Sweden in 1723 and here he during his time as commandant at the fortified Fortress of Karlshamn constructed his 3rd map of all Russia. The two previous maps were all in Russia and out of reach for him for various reasons. The first map he constructed as early as 1715 and it covered only Siberia. The map he finished after his return was named: New Geographic description of the Large Tartarsstate, the Russian Empire with Siberia and was for long time the best and most correct map over all Russia. The original of this 3rd map of von Strahlenberg is today preserved in the County Library in Linkoping, Sweden33.
In the beginning of the imprisonment the focus of the Swedish officers was to keep together the army as a more or less complete unit. This was of course difficult as it was spread over such a vast country but as in Tobolsk they did what they could to obtain this goal. The activities of the clergy, the building of the schools and churches were aimed at this objective. During the hard time they experienced as the years went by, the provisions from the homeland failed to be paid out, the new religious ideas reaching them from Germany the focus slowly shifted from the collective Swedish identity to the individual human identity. Not that the official attitudes towards the local population changed totally but the attitude towards individuals changed. They were in many cases appreciated for their positions towards the Swedes. And what was more important the attitude towards the own situation and the own success in surviving and achieve something extraordinary grew among the Swedes. More and more with the new interpretation of life and values of life coming gradually with the influence of the pietistic ideas which spread among the Swedes in Tobolsk and elsewhere in the places of imprisonment, the focus gradually moved from the collective perspective of keeping the soldiers together to the focus upon ones own life and salvation. An often unwillingly and unconsciously move towards individuality was unavoidable. This of course did not mean that the ethnic and national identity vanished, the feeling of being Swedish was strong among a larger part of the prisoners but the identity was no longer collective but attached to the individual.
In the ХVIIIthe Century the Time of Enlightment promoted too the thought and the perspective of the individual, his or her rights and responsibilities. We recognise the ideas of the period as the foundation behind the political development in all Europe and North America in this period and the following Centuries, but we should not oversee the impact of the religious ideas in this context. The shift from the collective religious thinking which began with the Reformators in the ХVIth Century and was carried on in the movement of Pietism from Halle and Frankfurt is also a part of the change in the time which Aurelius previously mentioned.
After a peace treaty was signed between Russia and Sweden and the news slowly found its way to all corners of the empire where the Swedish prisoners were stationed the return home to Sweden started. This was a slow process and it took many years before the last prisoner arrived back in Sweden. He returned as late as 1745 after some odd 36 years in prison. But only about 4000 persons of the around 20000 to 25000 who went into captivity in 1709 came home. A small number indeed. And it is left to speculations what reason the rest of the imprisoned army had for not retuning to Sweden. Did they not survive the imprisonment? Were they too discouraged by the treatment of the Swedish society back home? Did they settle in their new location and did not want to leave the new life and the living conditions, families and workplaces they had built up? Most likely it was a combination of many factors which prevented many of the prisoners to return.
But those who returned brought with them not only the experience of the imprisonment at large, but they brought especially with them the new religious ideas which had contributed to the interpretation of their special life situation and helped them keep up their faith and to endure the hardship of the time spent away form home. Many of the returning soldiers and officers were of the pietistic flavour of Protestantism. As they returned they were all scattered all over the country of Sweden, some to the homes in other parts of the Swedish kingdom. But they no longer appeared as a collective group, they were individuals with a collective experience and an individual interpretation which of course in much resembled the experiences of the others. It is this experience of religious interpretation which they brought with them back from Russia which in many ways paid a contribution to the development of the religious and the social and political upheaval and change in the ХIХth Century which was decisive for the formation of modem Sweden in the th Century.
It is difficult to estimate the impact of the individual returning soldier and officer on the spreading of the pietistic ideas in Sweden but some notable names appear in the literature and documents from that time. It was prohibited by legislation for ordinary people to gather for religious meetings and worships without the guidance and leadership of the clergy. The laymen or women could not meet alone for religious meetings which was difficult to live up to as one of the main ideas of this movement was the involvement and responsibility of the individual for his or her own salvation. The legislation