Skirmish at Bender

The Skirmish at Bender (Swedish: Kalabaliken i Bender; Finnish: Benderin kalabaliikki) was devised to remove Charles XII of Sweden from the Ottoman Empire after his military defeats in Russia. It took place on 1 February 1713 on Ottoman territory, in what is now the town of Bender, Moldova (Separatist Region/Country of Transnistria).

Skirmish at Bender
Part of the Great Northern War
Battle of Bender 1713.png
The Battle of Bender, Edouard Armand-Dumaresq, 1877
Date1 February 1713
Result Ottoman victory
Ottoman Empire Swedish Empire
Commanders and leaders
Ismail Pasha
Devlet Giray
Charles XII (POW)
Axel Sparre (POW)
8,000[1]–13,000[2][3] 700[3]–1,007[4]
Casualties and losses
200–433 killed and wounded[5] 15–31 killed
669-992 captured[5]


The Turkish word kalabalık means crowded, which after the incident has become a Swedish and Finnish loanword, kalabalik, with the meaning "confusion" or "great disorder".[6]


After the Battle of Poltava on 27 June 1709 and the surrender of most of the Swedish army at Perevolochna three days later, Charles XII of Sweden fled together with about 1,500 Caroleans and about the same number of Cossacks to the Ottoman Empire, where they spent about 5 years.

Charles XII officially lived in Turkey as an honoured guest of the Sultan and is titled in the letters of Ahmed III "The most illustrious of the great princes who worship Jesus, clothed with majesty and splendour, the lord of honour and glory". However, hospitality became a strain on the Turkish treasury in the long run. The high cost of maintaining the Swedes was also something that the Grand Viziers - who were more hostile to Charles XII - did not fail to point out when they tried to persuade the Swedish king to leave. However, the danger threatening Charles from the Grand Vizier's side was usually counterbalanced by the Sultan's benevolence. But in the course of 1712 the danger became greater than before when the Tartar khan Devlet II Giray, who had hitherto been Charles's friend, switched to the side of his enemies.[7]

The event itself took place at the village of Varnitsa on the eastern bank of the Dniester, about 4 kilometres north of the town of Bender, where the king had moved with his entourage in July 1711. There the king had a one-storey stone building built for him with unusually thick walls. Around the "king's house", five or six buildings were gradually erected for officials and barracks for a battalion of 500 men. This complex of buildings was commonly called the "camp".

"Den Benderska Calabaliquan"

On 31 January 1713, Turkish artillery fired on the Swedish camp. On 1 February, the Ottoman forces, commanded by the Serasker of Bender, attacked the camp. Together with some 40 soldiers, Charles XII stood against many hundreds of Turks. The Drabant Axel Erik Roos in particular distinguished himself during the skirmish and accounts tell that he saved the king's life three times during the day. The king himself killed at least one Ottoman soldier with his sword in hand-to-hand combat when he and Roos came under attack by three Ottomans. During parts of the fighting, Charles was also actively sniping with a carbine against the assaulting enemy from a window in his sleeping quarters, positioned in the building where the Swedes had taken up their defense. The fighting lasted for over seven hours and the Ottomans eventually used both artillery and fire arrows when the initial assaults were beaten back; the later method proved to be effective. The fire arrows set the building's roof on fire and forced the defenders to abandon it, the fighting then came to an abrupt end when the king tripped on his own spurs while exiting the burning house. He was assaulted by scores of Ottoman soldiers who managed to capture him and the remaining fighters.[8]

A first-hand account of the skirmish was written by Baron Fabricius, translated into English and published in the Monthly Review of January 1761.[9]


After some time as a prisoner, Charles XII and his soldiers were released when news about the Swedish victory in the Battle of Gadebusch reached the Ottomans. Charles then started to plan his trip back to Sweden.

Already in 1718, he led an army to conquer Norway in the Great Northern War, which ended in Swedish retreat upon the king's death.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Browning, Oscar. Charles XII of Sweden. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1899. pp. 269–281
  2. ^ Peter From. Kalabaliken i Bender. Karl XII:s turkiska äventyr. Historiska Media, 2009. p. 194
  3. ^ a b Anders Fryxell. Berättelser ur Swenska historien, Volym 16. 1856. p. 120
  4. ^ Peter From. Kalabaliken i Bender. Karl XII:s turkiska äventyr. Historiska Media, 2009. p. 160
  5. ^ a b Anders Fryxell. Berättelser ur Swenska historien, Volym 16. 1856. p. 119
  6. ^ Lekhno, R. D., Tutian, A., Shapira, D., Ben-Naeh, Y. (2021). Debar Śepatayim: An Ottoman Hebrew Chronicle from the Crimea (1683-1730). Written by Krymchak Rabbi David Lekhno. United States: Academic Studies Press.
  7. ^ Grimberg, Carl. ”137 (Svenska folkets underbara öden / V. Karl XII:s tid från 1710 samt den äldre frihetstiden 1709-1739)”. Läst 10 april 2021.
  8. ^ Karl XII i Turkiet Archived August 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Fabricius, Baron (1761-01-30), Baron Fabricius' first-hand account of Charles XII of Sweden's skirmish at Bender in The Monthly Review (PDF), retrieved 2021-02-01


External linksEdit

Coordinates: 46°50′N 29°29′E / 46.833°N 29.483°E / 46.833; 29.483