Mikhail Lomonosov’s Mosaic of the Battle of Poltava
Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-65) was one of the leading figures of the Russian Enlightenment. Born in Archangel province, he became a polymath who excelled in fields as diverse as physics, chemistry, philology and poetry.
Lomonosov is considered one of the fathers of the modern Russian tongue, but perhaps his greatest achievement was co-founding Moscow University (named Lomonosov State University in his honour) along with his patron, Minister of Education Ivan Shuvalov.
Lomonosov is also famed for his glass mosaics, with this scene from the Battle of Poltava being one of the most famous. The Battle of Poltava in 1709 is considered to be a turning point in the Great Northern War (1700-1721) that occupied most of Peter the Great’s reign. Charles XII of Sweden had invaded Russia, but as a result of Peter’s scorched earth policy, Charles was forced to turn south into Ukraine, where his tired troops were met by Peter’s army at Poltava.
Although Poltava did not lead to a cessation of fighting, the decisive victory forced Charles into exile in the Ottoman Empire, from where he continued scheming against the Russians. Peter, making peace with the Ottomans after the disastrous River Pruth Campaign (1711), was able to go on the offensive and invade Finnish territories held by Sweden. When peace finally came in 1721 with the Treaty of Nystadt, Russia formally acquired a foothold in the Baltic, whence Peter projected Russia’s rising power from the new capital of St Petersburg (founded 1703).