Peter I of Russia: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Peter I of Russia

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peter I the Great
Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias
Reign 7 May 1682–8 February 1725 (&0000000000000042.00000042 years, &0000000000000277.000000277 days)
Coronation 25 June 1682
Predecessor Feodor III
Successor Catherine I
Consort Eudoxia Lopukhina
Martha Skavronskaya
Alexei Petrovich, Tsarevich of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander
Anna, Duchess of Holstein-Gottorp
Elizabeth of Russia
Grand Duchess Natalia
House House of Romanov
Father Alexis of Russia
Mother Nataliya Naryshkina
Born 9 June 1672(1672-06-09)
Died 8 February 1725 (aged 52)

Peter I the Great or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov (Russian: Пётр Алексе́евич Рома́нов, Пётр I, Pyotr I, or Пётр Вели́кий, Pyotr Velikiy) (9 June [O.S. 30 May] 1672 – 8 February [O.S. 28 January] 1725)[1] ruled Russia and later the Russian Empire from 7 May [O.S. 27 April] 1682 until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his weak and sickly half-brother, Ivan V.

He carried out a policy of modernization and expansion that transformed the Tsardom of Russia into a 3-billion acre Russian Empire, a major European power.

From an early age his unique education (commissioned by Tsar Alexis I) was put it in the hands of several tutors; most notably Nikita Zotov, Patrick Gordon and Paul Menesius. On 29 January, 1676, Tsar Alexis died, leaving the sovereignty to Peter's elder half-brother, the weak and sickly Feodor III. Throughout this period, the government was largely run by Artamon Matveev, an enlightened friend of Alexis, the political head of the Naryshkin family and one of Peter's greatest childhood benefactors. This position changed when Feodor died six years later in 1682. As Feodor did not leave any children, a dispute arose between the Naryshkin and Miloslavsky families over who should inherit the throne. Peter's other half-brother, Ivan V, was the next for the throne, but he was chronically ill and of infirm mind. Consequently, the Boyar Duma (a council of Russian nobles) chose the ten-year old Peter to become Tsar, his mother becoming regent. This arrangement was brought before the people of Moscow, as ancient tradition demanded, where the people ratified it. But one of Alexis' daughters from his first marriage, Sophia Alekseyevna, led a rebellion of the Streltsy (Russia's elite military corps). In the subsequent conflict, some of Peter's relatives and friends were murdered, including Matveev, and Peter witnessed some of these acts of political violence.[2]

Peter the Great at a young age

The Streltsy uprising of April-May 1682 made it possible for Sophia, the Miloslavskys (the clan of Ivan), and their allies, to insist that Peter and Ivan be proclaimed joint Tsars, with Ivan being acclaimed as the senior of the two. Sophia acted as regent during the minority of the two sovereigns and exercised all power. Peculiarly, a large hole was cut in the back of the dual-seated throne used by Ivan and Peter. Sophia would sit behind the throne and listen as Peter conversed with nobles, also feeding him information and giving him responses to questions and problems. This throne can be seen in the Kremlin museum in Moscow. For seven years, she ruled as an autocrat.

Peter was not particularly concerned that others ruled in his own name. He engaged in such pastimes as shipbuilding and sailing, as well as mock battles with his toy army. Peter's mother sought to force him to adopt a more conventional approach and arranged his marriage to Eudoxia Lopukhina in 1689.[3] The marriage was a failure, and ten years later Peter forced her to become a nun and thus freed himself from the union.

By the summer of 1689, Peter planned to take power from his half-sister Sophia, whose position had been weakened by two unsuccessful Crimean campaigns. When she learned of his designs, Sophia began to conspire with the leaders of the Streltsy, who continually aroused disorder and dissent of the tsar's rule. Unfortunately for Sophia, Peter, warned by the Streltsy, escaped in the middle of the night to the impenetrable monastery of Troitsky; there he slowly gathered his adherents and others, who perceived he would win the power struggle. She was therefore overthrown, with Peter I and Ivan V continuing to act as co-tsars. Peter forced Sophia to enter a convent, where she gave up her name and position as a member of the royal family.

Still, Peter could not acquire actual control over Russian affairs. Power was instead exercised by his mother, Nataliya Naryshkina. It was only when Nataliya died in 1694 that Peter became an independent sovereign.[4] Formally, Ivan V remained a co-ruler with Peter, although he was still ineffective. Peter became the sole ruler when Ivan died in 1696.

Peter the First Looking at the Baltic Sea.

Peter grew to be quite tall as an adult, especially for the time period. Standing at 6 ft 8 in(200 cm) in height, the Russian tsar was literally head and shoulders above his contemporaries both in Russia and throughout Europe.[5] Peter, however, lacked the overall proportional heft and bulk generally found in a man that size. Both Peter's hands and feet were small, and his shoulders narrow for his height; likewise, his head was also small for his tall body. Added to this were Peter's noticeable facial tics, and, judging by descriptions handed down, he may have suffered from petit mal, a form of epilepsy.[6]

Filippo Baltari, a young Italian visitor to Peter's court, wrote:

"Tsar Peter was tall and thin, rather than stout. His hair was thick, short, and dark brown; he had large eyes, black with long lashes, a well-shaped mouth, but the lower lip was slightly disfigured...For his great height, his feet seemed very narrow. His head was sometimes tugged to the right by convulsions."

Otherwise, judging by documents—or lack thereof—that have managed to survive to the present day, few contemporaries, either in or outside of Russia, commented on Peter's great height or appearance.




Peter the Great had two wives with whom he had 11 children. His eldest child and heir, Alexei, was suspected of being involved in a plot to overthrow the Emperor. Peter, after some hesitation, finally put his own son to death and ruled that each tsar should choose his own successor.

Capture of Azov 1696

Early reign

Peter implemented sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing Russia. Heavily influenced by his advisors from Western Europe, Peter reorganized the Russian army along modern lines and dreamed of making Russia a maritime power. He faced much opposition to these policies at home, but brutally suppressed any and all rebellions against his authority, the rebelling of streltsy, Bashkirs, Astrakhan and including the greatest civil uprising of his reign, the Bulavin Rebellion. Further, Peter implemented social modernization in an absolute manner by requiring courtiers, state officials, and the military to shave their beards and adopt modern clothing styles.[7]

To improve his nation's position on the seas, Peter sought to gain more maritime outlets. His only outlet at the time was the White Sea at Arkhangelsk. The Baltic Sea was at the time controlled by Sweden in the north, while the Black Sea was controlled by the Ottoman Empire in the south. Peter attempted to acquire control of the Black Sea, but to do so he would have to expel the Tatars from the surrounding areas. He was forced, as part of an agreement with Poland, which ceded Kiev to Russia, to wage war against the Crimean Khan and against the Khan's overlord, the Ottoman Sultan. Peter's primary objective became the capture of the Ottoman fortress of Azov, near the Don River. In the summer of 1695 Peter organized the Azov campaigns in order to take the fortress, but his attempts ended in failure. Peter returned to Moscow in November of that year, and promptly began building a large navy. He launched about thirty ships against the Ottomans in 1696, capturing Azov in July of that year. On 12 September 1698, Peter officially founded the first Russian Navy base, Taganrog.

The Peter the Great statue in Taganrog by Mark Antokolski

Peter knew that Russia could not face the Ottoman Empire alone. In 1697, he traveled incognito to Europe on an 18-month journey with a large Russian delegation–the so-called "Grand Embassy"—to seek the aid of the European monarchs.[8] Peter's hopes were dashed; France was a traditional ally of the Ottoman Sultan, and Austria was eager to maintain peace in the east whilst conducting its own wars in the west. Peter, furthermore, had chosen the most inopportune moment; the Europeans at the time were more concerned about who would succeed the childless Spanish King Charles II than about fighting the Ottoman Sultan.

The "Grand Embassy", although failing to complete the mission of creating an anti-Ottoman alliance, still continued to travel across Europe. In visiting Holland, Peter learned much about the life in Western Europe. He studied shipbuilding in Zaandam and Amsterdam, and later put this learning to use in helping build Russia's navy during his rule.[9] Thanks to the mediation of Nicolaas Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam and expert on Russia par excellence, the Tsar was given the opportunity to gain practical experience in the largest shipyard in the world, belonging to the Dutch East India Company, for a period of four months. The Tsar helped with the construction of an East Indiaman especially laid down for him: Peter and Paul. During his stay the tsar engaged many skilled workers such as builders of locks, fortresses, shipwrights and seamen. Cornelis Cruys, a vice-admiral who became under Franz Lefort the Tsar's advisor in maritime affairs. Besides Peter paid a visit to Frederik Ruysch, who taught him how to draw teeth and catch butterflies. Also Ludolf Bakhuysen, a painter of seascapes and Jan van der Heyden the inventor of the fire hose, received Peter, who was keen on learning and bringing home what he had seen. On 16 January 1698 Peter organized his farewell party and invited Johan Huydecoper van Maarsseveen, who had to sit between Lefort and the tsar and drink.

Portrait of Peter I by Godfrey Kneller, 1698. This portrait was a Peter's gift to King of England.

In England he met with King William III, visited Greenwich and Oxford, was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller and saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review at Deptford. He also travelled to the fledgling city of Manchester to learn the techniques of city building he would later use to great effect at Saint Petersburg. Then the Embassy went to Leipzig, Dresden and Vienna. He spoke with August the Strong and Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. The Embassy did not make it to Venice. The visit of Peter was cut short in 1698, when he was forced to rush home by a rebellion of the streltsy. The rebellion was, however, easily crushed before Peter returned home from England; of the Tsar's troops, only one was killed. Peter nevertheless acted ruthlessly towards the mutineers. Over 1200 of the rebels were tortured and executed, and Peter ordered that their bodies be publicly exhibited as a warning to future conspirators.[10] The streltsy were disbanded, and the individual they sought to put on the Throne—Peter's half-sister Sophia—was forced to become a nun.

Also, upon his return from his European tour, Peter sought to end his unhappy marriage. He divorced the Tsaritsa, Eudoxia Lopukhina. The Tsaritsa had borne Peter three children, although only one—the Tsarevich Alexei—had survived past his childhood.

In 1698, Peter sent a delegation to Malta under boyar Boris Petrovich Sheremetyev, to observe the training and abilities of the Knights of Malta and their fleet. Sheremetyev also investigated the possibility of future joint ventures with the Knights, including action against the Turks and the possibility of a future Russian naval base.[11]

Peter's visits to the West impressed upon him the notion that European customs were in several respects superior to Russian traditions. He commanded all of his courtiers and officials to cut off their long beards—causing his Boyars, who were very fond of their beards, great upset[12]—and wear European clothing. Boyars who sought to retain their beards were required to pay an annual beard tax of one hundred rubles. He also sought to end arranged marriages, which were the norm among the Russian nobility, because he thought such a practice was not only barbaric but also led to domestic violence since the partners usually resented each other in this forced union.[13]

In 1699, Peter also changed the celebration of new year from 1 September to 1 January. Traditionally, the years were reckoned from the purported creation of the World, but after Peter's reforms, they were to be counted from the birth of Christ. Thus, in the year 7207 of the old Russian calendar, Peter proclaimed that the Julian Calendar was in effect and the year was 1700.[14]

Great Northern War

Peter made a temporary peace with the Ottoman Empire that allowed him to keep the captured fort of Azov, and turned his attention to Russian maritime supremacy. He sought to acquire control of the Baltic Sea, which had been taken by Sweden a half-century earlier. Peter declared war on Sweden, which was at the time led by King Charles XII. Sweden was also opposed by Denmark-Norway, Saxony, and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Peter I of Russia pacifies his marauding troops after taking Narva in 1704 by Nikolay Sauerweid, 1859

Russia turned out to be ill-prepared to fight the Swedes, and their first attempt at seizing the Baltic coast ended in disaster at the Battle of Narva in 1700. In the conflict, the forces of Charles XII used a blinding snowstorm to their advantage. After the battle, Charles XII decided to concentrate his forces against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, giving Peter I time to reorganize the Russian army.

As the Poles and Lithuanians on one side and Swedes on the other fought each other, Peter founded the city of Saint Petersburg (Germanically named after Saint Peter the Apostle) in Ingermanland (province of Swedish empire, which he had captured) in 1703. He forbade the building of stone edifices outside Saint Petersburg – which he intended to become Russia's capital – so that all the stonemasons could participate in the construction of the new city. He also took Martha Skavronskaya as a mistress. Martha converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and took the name Catherine, allegedly marrying Peter in secret in 1707. In any case Peter valued Catherine and proceeded to marry her again (this time officially) at Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg on 9 February 1712.

Following several defeats, the Polish King August II abdicated in 1706. Charles XII turned his attention to Russia, invading it in 1708. After crossing into Russia, Charles defeated Peter at Golovchin in July. In the Battle of Lesnaya, however, Charles suffered his first loss after Peter crushed a group of Swedish reinforcements marching from Riga. Deprived of this aid, Charles was forced to abandon his proposed march on Moscow.

Peter I in the Battle of Poltava (a mosaic by Mikhail Lomonosov)

Charles XII refused to retreat to Poland or back to Sweden, instead invading Ukraine. Peter withdrew his army southward, destroying any property that could assist the Swedes along the way. Deprived of local supplies, the Swedish army was forced to halt its advance in the winter of 1708–1709. In the summer of 1709, they nevertheless resumed their efforts to capture Ukraine, culminating in the Battle of Poltava on 27 June. The battle was a decisive defeat for Swedish forces, ending Charles' campaign in Ukraine and forcing him into exile in the Ottoman Empire. In Poland, August II was restored as King.

Peter, overestimating the support he would receive from Balkan allies, attacked the Ottoman Empire, initiating the Russo-Turkish War of 1710.[15] Normally, the Boyar Duma would have exercised power during his absence. Peter, however, mistrusted the boyars; he instead abolished the Duma and created a Senate of ten members. Peter's campaign in the Ottoman Empire was disastrous, and in the ensuing peace treaty, Peter was forced to return the Black Sea ports he had seized in 1697.[15] In return, the Sultan expelled Charles XII, but Russia was forced to guarantee safe passage to the Swedish king,[15] who in the end traveled back to Sweden through Germany.

Peter's northern armies took the Swedish province of Livonia (the northern half of modern Latvia, and the southern half of modern Estonia), driving the Swedes back into Finland. In 1714 the Russian fleet won the Battle of Gangut. Most of Finland was occupied by the Russians. In 1716 and 1717, the Tsar revisited the Netherlands, and went to see Herman Boerhaave. He continued his travel to the Austrian Netherlands and France. The Tsar's navy was so powerful that the Russians could penetrate Sweden. Peter also obtained the assistance of the Electorate of Hanover and the Kingdom of Prussia. Still, Charles XII refused to yield, and not until his death in battle in 1718 did peace become feasible. After the battle near Åland Sweden made peace with all powers but Russia by 1720. In 1721, the Treaty of Nystad ended what became known as the Great Northern War. Russia acquired Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and a substantial portion of Karelia. In turn, Russia paid two million Riksdaler and surrendered most of Finland. The Tsar was, however, permitted to retain some Finnish lands close to Saint Petersburg, which he had made his capital in 1712. He gained access to a warm-water-port during his reign for easier trading with the west part of Europe.

Later years

Diamond order of Peter the Great

Peter I's last years were marked by further reform in Russia. On 22 October 1721, soon after peace was made with Sweden, he was acclaimed Emperor of All Russia. Some proposed that he take the title Emperor of the East, but he refused. Gavrila Golovkin, the State Chancellor, was the first to add "the Great, Father of His Country, Emperor of All the Russias" to Peter's traditional title Tsar following a speech by the archbishop of Pskov in 1721.

Peter's imperial title was recognized by Augustus II of Poland, Frederick William I of Prussia and Frederick I of Sweden, but not by the other European monarchs. In the minds of many, the word emperor connoted superiority or pre-eminence over "mere" kings. Several rulers feared that Peter would claim authority over them, just as the Holy Roman Emperor had once claimed suzerainty over all Christian nations.

During Peter's reign the Russian Orthodox Church was reformed. The traditional leader of the Church was the Patriarch of Moscow. In 1700, when the office fell vacant, Peter had refused to name a replacement, allowing the Patriarch's Coadjutor (or deputy) to discharge the duties of the office. Twenty-one years later, in 1721, Peter followed the advice of Feofan Prokopovich and erected the Holy Synod, a council of ten clergymen, to take the place of the Patriarch and Coadjutor. Peter also implemented a law which stipulated that no Russian man could join a monastery before the age of 50. He felt that too many able Russian men were being wasted away by clerical work when they could be joining his new and improved army.[16] And in 18th century Russia, few people (men and women) lived to over a half century, therefore very few men became monks during Peter's reign, much to the dismay of the Russian Church.

In 1722, Peter created a new order of precedence, known as the Table of Ranks. Formerly, precedence had been determined by birth. In order to deprive the Boyars of their high positions, Peter directed that precedence should be determined by merit and service to the Emperor. The Table of Ranks continued to remain in effect until the Russian monarchy was overthrown in 1917. In addition, Peter decided that all of the children of the nobility should have some early education, especially in the areas of sciences. Therefore, on 28 February 1714, he introduced the decree on compulsory education which dictated that all Russian children of the nobility, of government clerks and even lesser ranked officials between the ages of 10 and 15 must learn basic mathematics and geometry and that they should be tested on it at the end of their studies.[17]

Peter I interrogating his son Alexei, a painting by Nikolai Ge (1871)

Peter also introduced new taxes to fund improvements in Saint Petersburg. He abolished the land tax and household tax, and replaced them with a capitation. The taxes on land on households were payable only by individuals who owned property or maintained families; the new head taxes, however, were payable by serfs and paupers.

In 1724, Peter had his second wife, Catherine, crowned as Empress, although he remained Russia's actual ruler. All of Peter's male children had died—the eldest son, Alexei, had been tortured and killed on Peter's orders in 1718 because he had disobeyed his father and opposed official policies. At the same time, Alexei's mother Eudoxia had also been punished; she was dragged from her home and tried on false charges of adultery. A similar fate befell Peter's beautiful mistress, Anna Mons, in 1704.

In 1725, construction of Peterhof, a palace near Saint Petersburg, was completed. Peterhof (Dutch for "Peter's Court") was a grand residence, becoming known as the "Russian Versailles".


Peter the Great on his deathbed
The most famous (1782) statue of Peter I in Saint Petersburg, informally known as the Bronze Horseman

In the winter of 1723, Peter, whose overall health was never robust, began having problems with his urinary tract and bladder. In the summer of 1724 a team of doctors performed the necessary surgery releasing upwards of four pounds of blocked urine. Peter remained bedridden till late autumn. Then in the first week of October, restless and certain he was cured, Peter began a lengthy inspection tour of various projects. According to legend, it was in November, while at Lakhta along the Finnish Gulf to inspect some ironworks, that Peter saw a group of soldiers drowning not far from shore and, wading out into near-waist deep water, came to their rescue.[18]

This icy water rescue is said to have exacerbated Peter's bladder problems and caused his death. The story, however, has been viewed with skepticism by some historians, pointing out that the German chronicler Jacob von Stählin is the only source for the story, and it seems unlikely that no one else would have documented such an act of heroism. This, plus the interval of time between these actions and Peter's death seems to preclude any direct link. However, the story may still, in part, contain some grain of truth.

In early January 1725, Peter was struck once again with uremia. Legend has it that before lapsing into unconsciousness Peter asked for a paper and pen and scrawled an unfinished note that read: "Leave all to...." and then, exhausted by the effort, asked for his daughter Anna to be summoned.[19]

Peter died between four and five in the morning 8 February 1725. An autopsy revealed his bladder to be infected with gangrene.[6] He was fifty-two years, seven months old when he died, having reigned forty-two years.


Name Birth Death Notes
By Eudoxia Lopukhina
HIH Alexei Petrovich, Tsarevich of Russia 18 February 1690 26 June 1718 Married 1711, Princess Charlotte of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; had issue.
HIH Alexander Petrovich, Grand Duke of Russia 13 October 1691 14 May 1692  
HIH Pavel Petrovich, Grand Duke of Russia 1693 1693  
By Catherine I
Pavel Petrovich 1704 1707 Born and died before the official marriage of his parents.
Peter Petrovich 1705 1707 Born and died before the official marriage of his parents.
Catherine Petrovna 7 February 1707 1708 Born and died before the official marriage of her parents.
HIH Anna Petrovna, Tsesarevna of Russia 27 January 1708 15 May 1728 Married 1725, Karl Friedrich, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp; had issue.
HIM Empress Elizabeth 29 December 1709 5 January 1762 Reputedly married 1742, Alexei Grigorievich, Count Razumovsky; no issue
HIH Maria Petrovna, Grand Duchess of Russia 20 March 1713 27 May 1715  
HIH Margarita Petrovna, Grand Duchess of Russia 19 September 1714 7 June 1715  
HIH Peter Petrovich, Grand Duke of Russia 15 November 1715 19 April 1719  
HIH Pavel Petrovich, Grand Duke of Russia 13 January 1717 14 January 1717  
HIH Natalia Petrovna, Grand Duchess of Russia 31 August 1718 15 March 1725  
Stillborn daughter 1720 1720  
HIH Peter Petrovich, Grand Duke of Russia 7 October 1723 7 October 1723  

In popular culture

The tomb of Peter the Great in Peter and Paul Fortress
Monument to Peter the carpenter in St. Petersburg

Peter has been featured in many books, plays, films and games including the poems The Bronze Horseman, Poltava and the unfinished novel Peter the Great's Negro, all by Alexander Pushkin. The former dealt with a famous equestrian statue, raised in Peter's honour. Alexey Nikolayevich Tolstoy wrote a biographical historical novel about him, named Pëtr I, in the 1930s, which, along with its adaptations, became a major influence on Peter's subsequent portrayals.

There is a 1976 film, Skaz pro to, kak tsar Pyotr arapa zhenil (How Tsar Peter the Great Married Off His Moor), starring Aleksey Petrenko as Peter, and Vladimir Vysotsky as Abram Petrovich Gannibal. Much of the film shows Peter's attempt to build the Baltic Fleet. The 2007 film, Sluga Gosudarev, depicts the unsavoury brutal side of Peter during the campaign.

Peter was played by Maximilian Schell in the 1986 NBC miniseries Peter the Great.

A character based on Peter plays a major role in The Age of Unreason, a series of four alternate history novels written by American science fiction and fantasy author Gregory Keyes. Peter is one of many supporting characters in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle - mainly featuring in the third novel, The System of the World.

See also


  1. ^ Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style.
  2. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 214.  
  3. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 218.  
  4. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia, sixth edition. p. 216.  
  5. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 216.  
  6. ^ a b Hughes, John R. (2007). The seizures of Peter Alexeevich. Epilepsy & Behavior (10:1). pp. 179–182.  
  7. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia, sixth edition. p. 221.  
  8. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia, sixth edition. p. 218.  
  9. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.176. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  10. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia, sixth edition. p. 220.  
  11. ^ "Russian Grand Priory — Timeline". 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-09.  
  12. ^ O.L. D'Or. "Russia as an Empire" (PHP). The Moscow News weekly. pp. , Russian. Retrieved 2008-03-21.  
  13. ^ Basil Dmytryshyn, Modernization of Russia Under Peter I and Catherine II (Wiley, 1974) p.21
  14. ^ Oudard, Georges; Atkinson, Frederick (translated) (1929). Peter the Great. New York: Payson and Clarke. p. 197.  
  15. ^ a b c Riasanovsky, Nicholas (2000). A History of Russia, sixth edition. p. 224.  
  16. ^ Basil Dmytryshyn, Modernization of Russia Under Peter I and Catherine II (Wiley, 1974) p.18
  17. ^ Basil Dmytryshyn, Modernization of Russia Under Peter I and Catherine II (Wiley, 1974) p.10-11
  18. ^ Bain, R. Nisbet (1905). "Peter the Great and his pupils". Cambridge University. Retrieved 2008-02-09.  
  19. ^ The 'Leave all..." story first appears in H-F de Bassewitz Russkii arkhiv 3 (1865). Russian historian E.V. Anisimov contends that Bassewitz's aim was to convince readers that Anna, not Empress Catherine, was Peter's intended heir.


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Feodor III
Tsar of Russia
with Ivan V 1682–1696
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Emperor of Russia
1721 – 1725
Succeeded by
Catherine I
Preceded by
Frederick I
Duke of Estonia and Livonia
1721 – 1725
Russian royalty
Preceded by
Ivan V of Russia
Heir to the Russian Throne
1682 – 1682
Succeeded by
Alexei Petrovich


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov (1672-06-091725-02-08), also known as Peter the Great, was a Russian monarch. He carried out a policy of Westernization and expansion that transformed the Tsardom of Russia into the Russian Empire, a major European power.


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PETER I., called "the Great" (1672-1725), emperor of Russia, son of the tsar Alexius Mikhailovich and Natalia Naruishkina, was born at Moscow on the 30th of May 1672. His earliest teacher (omitting the legendary Scotchman Menzies) was the dyak, or clerk of the council, Nikita Zotov, subsequently the court fool, who taught his pupil to spell out the liturgical and devotional books on which the children of the tsar were generally brought up. After Zotov's departure on a diplomatic mission, in 1680, the lad had no regular tutor. From his third to his tenth year Peter shared the miseries and perils of his family. His very election (1682) was the signal for a rebellion. He saw one of his uncles dragged from the palace and butchered by a savage mob. He saw his mother's beloved mentor, and his own best friend, Artamon Matvyeev, torn, bruised and bleeding, from his retaining grasp and hacked to pieces. The haunting memories of these horrors played havoc with the nerves of a supersensitive child. The convulsions from which he suffered so much in later years must he partly attributed to this violent shock. During the regency of his half-sister Sophia (1682-1689) he occupied the subordinate position of junior tsar, and after the revolution of 1689 Peter was still left pretty much to himself. So long as he could indulge freely in his favourite pastimes - shipbuilding, ship-sailing, drilling and sham fights - he was quite content that others should rule in his name. He now found a new friend in the Swiss adventurer, Francois Lefort, a shrewd and jovial rascal, who not only initiated him into all the mysteries of profligacy (at the large house built at Peter's expense in the German settlement), but taught him his true business as a ruler. His mother's attempt to wean her prodigal son from his dangerous and mostly disreputable pastimes, by forcing him to marry the beautiful but stupid Eudoxia Lopukhina (Jan. 27, 1689), was a disastrous failure. The young couple were totally unsuited to each other. Peter practically deserted his unfortunate consort a little more than a year after their union.

The death of his mother (Jan. 25, 1694) left the young tsar absolutely free to follow his natural inclinations. Tiring of the great lake at Pereyaslavl, he had already seen the sea for the first time at Archangel in July 1683, and on the 1st of May 1694 returned thither to launch a ship built by himself the year before. Shortly afterwards he nearly perished during a storm in an adventurous voyage to the Solovetsky Islands in that Acts minimizes rather than exaggerates this Chronology of Peter's act i vity; the Antiochian tradition probably represents a period of missionary activity with a centre at Antioch; similarly the tradition of work in Asia the White Sea. His natural bent was now patent. From the first the lad had taken an extraordinary interest in the technical and mechanical arts, and their application to military and naval science. He was taught the use of the astrolabe (which Prince Yakov Dolgoruki, with intent to please, had brought him from Paris) by a Dutchman, Franz Timmerman, who also instructed him in the rudiments of geometry and fortifications. He had begun to build his own boats at a very early age, and the ultimate result of these pastimes was the creation of the Russian navy. He had already surrounded himself with that characteristically Petrine institution "the jolly company," or "the company," as it was generally called, consisting of all his numerous personal friends and casual acquaintances. "The company" was graduated into a sort of mock hierarchy, political and ecclesiastical, and shared not only the orgies but also the labours of the tsar. Merit was the sole qualification for promotion, and Peter himself set the example to the other learners by gradually rising from the ranks. In 1695 he had only advanced to the post of "skipper" in his own navy and of "bombardier" in his own army. It was, however, the disreputable Lefort who, for the sake of his own interests, diverted the young tsar from mere pleasure to serious enterprises, by persuading him first to undertake the Azov expedition, and then to go abroad to complete his education.

By this time the White Sea had become too narrow for Peter, and he was looking about him for more hospitable waters. The Baltic was a closed door to Muscovy, and the key to it was held by Sweden. The Caspian remained; and it had for long been a common saying with foreign merchants that the best way of tapping the riches of the Orient was to secure possession of this vast inland lake. But so long as the Turks and Tatars made the surrounding steppes uninhabitable the Caspian was a possession of but doubtful value. The first step making for security was to build a fleet strong enough to provide against the anarchical condition of those parts; but this implied a direct attack not only upon the Crimean khan, who was mainly responsible for the conduct of the Volgan hordes, but upon the khan's suzerain, the Turkish sultan. Nevertheless Peter did not hesitate. War against Turkey was resolved upon, and Azov, the chief Turkish fortress in those regions, which could be approached by water from Moscow, became the Russian objective. From the 8th of July to the 22nd of September 1695 the Muscovites attempted in vain to capture Azov. On the 22nd of November Peter re-entered Moscow. His first military expedition had ended in unmitigated disaster, yet from this disaster is to be dated the reign of Peter the Great.

Immediately after his return he sent to Austria and Prussia for as many sappers, miners, engineers and carpenters as money could procure. He meant to build a fleet strong enough to prevent the Turkish fleet from relieving Azov. The guards and all the workmen procurable were driven, forthwith, in bands, to all the places among the forests of the Don to fell timber and work day and night, turning out scores of vessels of all kinds. Peter himself lived among his workmen, himself the most strenuous of them all, in a small two-roomed wooden hut at Voronezh. By the middle of April two warships, twentythree galleys, four fireships and numerous smaller craft were safely launched. On the 3rd of May "the sea caravan" sailed from Voronezh, "Captain Peter Aleksyeevich" commanding the galley-flotilla from the galley "Principium," built by his own hand. The new Russian fleet did all that was required of it by preventing the Turks from relieving Azov by water; and on the 18th of July the fortress surrendered. Peter now felt able to advance along the path of progress with a quicker and a firmer step. It was resolved to consolidate the victory by establishing a new naval station at the head of the Sea of Azov, to which the name of Taganrog was given. But it was necessary to guarantee the future as well as provide for the present. Turkey was too formidable to be fought single-handed, and it was therefore determined to send a grand embassy to the principal western powers to solicit their co-operation against the Porte. On the 10th of March 1697 this embassy, under the leadership of Lefort, set out on its travels. Peter attached himself to it as a volunteer sailorman, "Peter Mikhailov," so as to have greater facility for learning ship-building and other technical sciences. As a political mission it failed utterly, the great powers being at that period far more interested in western than in eastern affairs. But personally Peter learnt nearly all that he wanted to know - gunnery at Konigsberg, shipbuilding at Saardam and Deptford, anatomy at Leiden, engraving at Amsterdam - and was proceeding to Venice to complete his knowledge of navigation when the revolt of the slryeltsy, or musketeers (June 1698), recalled him to Moscow. This revolt has been greatly exaggerated. It was suppressed in an hour's time by the tsar's troops, of whom only one man was mortally wounded; and the horrible vengeance (September - October 1698) which Peter on his return to Russia wreaked upon the captive musketeers was due not to any actual fear of these antiquated warriors, but to his consciousness that behind them stood the reactionary majority of the nation who secretly sympathized with, though they durst not assist, the rebels.

Peter's foreign tour had more than ever convinced him of the inherent superiority of the foreigner. Imitation had necessarily to begin with externals, and Peter at once fell foul of the long beards and Oriental costumes which symbolized the arch-conservatism of old Russia. On the 26th of April 1698 the chief men of the tsardom were assembled round his wooden hut at Preobrazhenskoye, and Peter with his own hand deliberately clipped off the beards and moustaches of his chief boyars. The ukaz of the 1st of September 1698 allowed as a compromise that beards should be worn, but a graduated tax was imposed .upon their wearers. The wearing of the ancient costumes was forbidden by the ukaz of the 4th of January 1700; thenceforth Saxon or Magyar jackets and French or German hose were prescribed. That the people themselves did not regard the reform as a trifle is plain from the numerous rebellions against it. By the ukaz of the 20th of December 1699 it was next commanded that henceforth the new year should not be reckoned, as heretofore, from the 1st of September, supposed to be the date of the creation, but from the first day of January, anno domini. The year 1700 is memorable in Russian history as the startingpoint of Peter's long and desperate struggle for the hegemony of the north. He had concluded peace with the Porte (June 13, 1700) on very advantageous terms, in order to devote himself wholly to a war with Sweden to the end that Russia might gain her proper place on the Baltic. The possession of an ice-free seaboard was essential to her natural development; the creation of a fleet would follow inevitably upon the acquisition of such a seaboard; and she could not hope to obtain her due share of the trade and commerce of the world till she possessed both. All the conjunctures seemed favourable to Peter. The Swedish government was in the hands of an untried lad of sixteen; and the fine fleets of Denmark, and the veteran soldiers of Saxony, were on the same side as the myriads of Muscovy. It seemed an easy task for such a coalition to wrest the coveted spoil from the young Charles XII.; yet Peter was the only one of the three conspirators who survived the Twenty-one Years' War in which they so confidently embarked during the summer of 1701. He was also the only one of them who got anything by it. Charles's "immersion in the Polish bog" (1702-1707), as Peter phrased it, enabled the tsar, not without considerable expense and trouble, to conquer Ingria and lay the foundations of St Petersburg. In these early days Peter would very willingly have made peace with his formidable rival if he had been allowed to retain these comparatively modest conquests. From 1707 to 1709 the war on his part was purely defensive; Charles would not hear of peace till full restitution had been made and a war indemnity paid, while Peter was fully resolved to perish rather than surrender his "paradise," Petersburg. After Pultava (June 26, 1709), Peter, hitherto commendably cautious even to cowardice, but now puffed up with pride, rashly plunged into as foolhardy an enterprise as ever his rival engaged in. The campaign of the Pruth (March to July 1711) must have been fatal to the XXI. 10 tsar but for the incalculable behaviour of the omnipotent grand vizier, who let the Russian army go at the very instant when it lay helpless in the hollow of his hand. Even so, Peter, by the peace of the Pruth, had to sacrifice all that he had gained by the Azov expedition fifteen years previously. On receiving the tidings of the conclusion of the peace of Nystad (August 30, 1721), Peter declared, with perfect justice, that it was the most profitable peace Russia had ever concluded. The gain to Russia was, indeed, much more than territorial. In surrendering the pick of her Baltic provinces, Sweden had surrendered along with them the hegemony of the north, and all her pretensions to be considered a great power.

The Great Northern War was primarily a training school for a backward young nation, and in the second place a means of multiplying the material resources of a nation as poor as she was backward. During the whole course of it the process of internal domestic reformation had been slowly but unceasingly proceeding. Brand-new institutions on Western models were gradually growing up among the cumbrous, antiquated, wornout machinery of old Muscovy; and new men, like Menshikov, Goloykin, Apraksin, Osterman, Kurakin, Tolstoy, Shafirov, Prokopovich, Yaguszhinsky, Yavorsky, all capable, audacious, and brimful of new ideas, were being trained under the eye of the great regenerator to help him to carry on his herculean task. At first the external form of the administration remained much the same as before. The old dignities disappeared of their own accord with the deaths of their holders, for the new men, those nearest to Peter, did not require them. "The Administrative Senate" was not introduced till 1711, and only then because the interminable war, which required Peter's prolonged absence from Russia, made it impossible for him to attend to the details of the domestic administration. Still later came the "Spiritual Department," or "Holy Synod" (January 1721), which superseded the ancient patriarchate. It was established, we are told, "because simple folks cannot distinguish the spiritual power from the sovereign power, and suppose that a supreme spiritual pastor is a second sovereign, the spiritual authority being regarded as higher and better than the temporal." From the first the regenerator in his ukazes was careful to make everything quite plain. He was always explaining why he did this or that, why the new was better than the old, and so on; and we must recollect that these were the first lessons of the kind the nation had ever received. The whole system of Peter was deliberately directed against the chief evils from which old Muscovy had always suffered, such as dissipation of energy, dislike of co-operation, absence of responsibility, lack of initiative, the tyranny of the family, the insignificance of the individual. The low social morality of all classes, even when morality was present at all, necessitated the regeneration of the nation against its will, and the process could therefore only be a violent one. Yet the most enlightened of Peter's contemporaries approved of and applauded his violence; some of them firmly believed that his most energetic measures were not violent enough. Thus Ivan Poroshkov, Peter's contemporary, the father of Russian political economy, writes as follows: "If any land be over-much encumbered with weeds, corn cannot be sown thereon unless the weeds first be burned with fire. In the same way, our ancient inveterate evils should also be burnt with fire." Peter himself carried this principle to its ultimate limits in dealing with his unfortunate son the Tsarevich Alexius. From an ethical and religious point of view the deliberate removal of Alexius was an abominable, an inhuman crime: Peter justified it as necessary for the welfare of the new Russia which he had called into existence.

The official birthday of the Russian empire was the 22nd of October 1721, when, after a solemn thanksgiving service in the Troitsa Cathedral for the peace of Nystad, the tsar proceeded to the senate and was there acclaimed: "Father of the Fatherland, Peter the Great, and Emperor of All Russia." Some Russians would have preferred to proclaim Peter as emperor of the East; but Peter himself adopted the more patriotic title.

Towards the end of the reign the question of the succession to the throne caused the emperor some anxiety. The rightful heir, in the natural order of primogeniture, was the little grand duke Peter, son of the Tsarevich Alexius, a child of six; but Peter decided to pass him over in favour of his own beloved consort Catherine. The ustav, or ordinance of 1722, heralded this unheard-of innovation. Time-honoured custom had hitherto reckoned primogeniture in the male line as the best 'title to the Russian crown; in the ustav of 1722 Peter denounced primogeniture in general as a stupid, dangerous, and even unscriptural practice of dubious origin. The ustav was but a preliminary step to a still more sensational novelty. Peter had resolved to crown his consort empress, and on the 15th of November 1723 he issued a second manifesto explaining at some length why he was taking such an unusual step. That he should have considered any explanation necessary demonstrates that he felt himself to be treading on dangerous ground. The whole nation listened aghast to the manifesto. The coronation of a woman was in the eyes of the Russian people a scandalous innovation in any case, and the proposed coronation was doubly scandalous in view of the base and disreputable origin of Catherine herself (see Catherine I.). But Peter had his way, and the ceremony took place at Moscow with extraordinary pomp and splendour on the 7th of May 17 24.

During the last four years of his reign Peter's policy was predominantly Oriental. He had got all he wanted in Europe,. but the anarchical state of Persia at the beginning of 1722 opened up fresh vistas of conquest. The war which lasted from May 1722 to September 1723 was altogether successful, resulting in the acquisition of the towns of Baku and Derbent. and the Caspian provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Astarabad. The Persian campaigns wore out the feeble health of Peter, who had been ailing for some time. A long and fatiguing tour of inspection over the latest of his great public works, the Ladoga Canal, during the autumn of 1724, brought back another attack of his paroxysms, and he reached Petersburg too ill to rally again, though he showed himself in public as late as the 16th of January 1725. He expired in the arms of his consort, after terrible suffering, on the 28th of January 1 725. Peter's claim to greatness rests mainly on the fact that from first to last he clearly recognized the requirements of the Russian nation and his own obligations as its ruler. It would have materially lightened his task had he placed intelligent foreigners at the head of every department of state, allowing them gradually to train up a native bureaucracy. But for the sake of the independence of the Russian nation he resisted the temptation of taking this inviting but perilous short-cut to greatness. He was determined that, at whatever cost, hardship and inconvenience, Russia should be ruled by Russians, not by foreigners; and before his death he had the satisfaction of seeing every important place in his empire in the hands of capable natives of his own training. But even in his most sweeping reforms he never lost sight of the idiosyncrasies of the people. He never destroyed anything which he was not able to replace by something better. He possessed, too, something of the heroic nature of the old Russian bogatuirs, or demigods, as we see them in the skazki and the builinui. His expansive nature loved width and space. No doubt this last of the bogatuirs possessed the violent passions as well as the wide views of his prototypes. All his qualities, indeed, were on a colossal scale. His rage was cyclonic: his hatred rarely stopped short of extermination. His banquets were orgies, his pastimes convulsions. He lived and he loved like one of the giants of old. There are deeds of his which make humanity shudder, and no man equally great has ever descended to such depths of cruelty and treachery. Yet it may generally be allowed that a strain of nobility, of which we occasionally catch illuminating glimpses, extorts from time to time an all-forgiving admiration. Strange, too, as it may sound, Peter the Great was at heart profoundly religious. Few men have ever had a more intimate persuasion that they were but instruments for good in the hands of God.


Letters and Papers of Peter the Great (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1887, &c.); S. M. Solovev, History of Russia (Rus.), vols. xiv.-xviii. (St Petersburg, 1895, &c.); A. Brueckner, Die Europdisierung Russlands (Gotha, 1888); R. Nisbet Bain, The Pupils of Peter the Great, chs. i.-iv. (London, 1897), and The First Romanovs, chs. vii.-xiv. (London, 1905); E. Schuyler, Life of Peter the Great (London, 1884); K. Waliszewski, Pierre le Grand (Paris, 1897); V. N. Aleksandrenko, Russian Diplomatic Agents in London in the 18th Century (Rus.) (Warsaw, 1897-1898; German ed., Guben, 1898); S. A. Chistyakov, History of Peter the Great (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1903); S. M. Solovev, Public Readings on Peter the Great (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1903); Documents relating to the Great Northern War (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1892, &c.). (R. N. B.)

<< Saint Peter

Peter II Of Russia >>

Simple English

File:Peter der-Grosse
Peter the Great
File:Map of St. Petersburg (Einseitige Farbkarte).jpeg
An old map of St. Petersburg and Kronstadt, the cities built by Peter

Peter the Great (born in 1672, died in 1725) was a czar of Russia. He transformed Russia from an isolated kingdom into a transcontinental superpower. He also built the city of St. Petersburg which became the capital of Russia in 1711. He changed Russia's society, by making it modern like the European countries of the time.

rue:Петро I Російскый


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address