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6 Inspiring Stories of Teens Who Have Changed The World | From Peter The Great To Malala Yousafzai

As a teen, it’s easy to believe that you can’t do anything because you’re too young. But if there’s one thing history teaches us, it’s that young people can be as capable as anybody else. Here’s the story of six teens (not sixteen) who changed the world (or were on their way) in their teenage years…


Story Chapters


"Carolus Rex" Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718)

Sweden today is known for IKEA, Stockholm Syndrome, and ABBA. However, in the 1600s, Sweden was an empire that controlled most of the Baltic Sea.

And it was in this Sweden that Charles XII was born. In 1697, he ascended to the Swedish throne at only fifteen years old. He had been raised with the idea of being an absolute monarch (having sole authority) and being subject to God.

He spent the first few years on the throne partying, drinking, and hunting. It all ended in 1700 when three empires—Denmark, Poland-Saxony, and Russia—invaded the Swedish Empire from three sides. These empires had seen the boy king as a weakness and thought Sweden would be easy to defeat as a result.

Europe looked very different back in 1700 than it does today. Poland was controlled most of Eastern Europe, Denmark and Norway were united, and Russia was considered an undeveloped backwater.

The Boy Goes to War

However, Charles XII had mostly defeated them within a year and had defeated the strongest of the opponents, Peter I of Russia, at the Battle of Narva. He was vastly outnumbered, but after defeating Russia, he marched on Poland-Saxony. By this point, he had become a competent general and leader. He inspired his men through his bravery and was renowned for his warrior spirit on the battlefield. In 1706, he made peace with his enemies and deposed the leader of Poland-Saxony.

The Russians hadn’t been fully defeated, however. They had been beaten early on, and while Charles XII was occupied finishing off his enemies, Peter I had been training his armies. And so, a year after Charles made peace, he marched on Russia to finish them off.

And It All Came Tumbling Down…

But Russia, being Russia, retreated deep into their country and destroyed supplies the Swedes could use. A massive winter forced Charles south into present-day Ukraine, and in 1709 he attacked the Russians at Poltava to decide the outcome of the war…

...and the Swedes lost. They were unfit for battle, while the Russians were well prepared. Charles wasn't even able to lead his army due to an injury, so he passed off command to his subordinates. Most of the Swedish army surrendered following the battle, but Charles was escaping as fast as he could to the south… to Turkey.

It's not the only time Russia's fate has been decided in Ukraine. Here's how Russia and Ukraine's complicated history led to the Russia-Ukraine War…

Exiled in the Ottoman Empire

So, Sweden’s affairs of state were handled in Turkey... for FIVE YEARS. The Ottoman Empire wanted some of Russia’s land, so they were willing to cooperate with the Swedes. They even declared war on Russia four times. But Sweden’s new army never came.

Things in Turkey weren’t getting any better. Charles and a few of his men were attacked at their camp by the Ottoman army, and he fought them off with less than a hundred men. It later became known as the Skirmish at Bender.

Finally, after five years in exile, Charles disguised himself and secretly rode through enemy lands for 14 days and nights until he finally returned to Sweden.

Defending The Homeland

A coalition against him formed, and everyone in Europe was against him. First, he fought delaying actions in the Baltic provinces to prevent the war from reaching the Swedish mainland. He put together an army, formed a grand strategy, and prepared to defend his empire… by attacking Norway.

One night, he was inspecting fortifications for a siege when a Danish soldier "head-shotted" the now 36-year-old boy king. Some theories say it was an assassination by friendly forces to end the war. But what is known is that Sweden’s Empire fell with Charles and would never rise to the same height again.


Charles XII represents the days when Sweden’s Empire was at its height. He is known for being a skilled tactician and an intellectual. Encyclopedia Britannica describes his pursuits,

He became increasingly occupied with new ideas in administration, and many of his administrative reforms were far ahead of their time. He demanded considerable sacrifices of those classes in Sweden who were lukewarm about the war effort once the years of bad fortune set in after 1709.

Charles had risen to power at 15 and grew to be a brave general and competent leader. Funny enough, his greatest enemy was also a teenager when he came to power… Peter the Great of Russia.