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Lecture 2

HIST 245 Lecture 2: HIST 245 - Week 1.2

Course Code
HIST 245
Ana Siljak

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Lecture 2: Peter the Great: Childhood and Youth
I. Peter as Controversial Figure
-He was one of the most Controversial Russian Rulers
-Theme for the Class: (1) What is the role of Personality in History?
-An outdated way to think that the personality of a ruler, his/her personal
characteristics (maybe even his/her physical characteristics) and their upbringing
might actually effect how they ruled and in fact changed the course of history —>
true or not true?
-Peter took Russia out of one way to existence into another one, which was more of a
Western model of government, society/culture and politics
-His controversial nature had him remembered as the “Man who started it all”
-Influenced the way people dressed (Fashion), the alphabet, the language becomes a
written down, he brought parties to Russia, etc. —> Peter brought a lot of firsts
II. Childhood and Youth
- Court life was very difficult during this time —> Peter had an unhappy childhood
Dynastic Conflicts:
-His father, Tsar Alexis, had 13 children with his first wife, Maria Miloslavskii
-When Maria died, the Tsar took a second wife, not from the Miloslavskii family, but
from the Naryshkin family
-Peter was, therefore, the first son of his fathers second wife
-In a place where family plays an important role in one’s standing in society, Peter
was in an ambiguous position —> was the first son (had a claim to the throne, but
was the son of the second wife, so there were all those children of the first wife to
-He was born into this complicated, but very elegantly, structured hierarchy of
Russian court
-Russia was ruled by about 10 top families —> some included the Miloslavskii and
the Naryshkin
-If you were a man in one of these families, your future was precisely determined
by the status of your family in the social hierarchy (of the time) and your status
within the family (first son, second son, etc.)
-A family could move up or down within the Hierarchy, typically done by marrying
-Women were suppose to marry above their families’ station —> Families would
spend a lot of time trying to get their daughter or female cousin to marry the Tsar as
once they did this, their whole family would move up in station and get all of the
desired positions within court
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-Once Tsar Alexis dies, The Tsar Alexis’ intermarriages caused major instability
within the court —> duelling families for trying to figure out who’s gonna be the
next Tsar —> the two families became similar to the Montagues and the Capulets
-Theodore (1676-82) (from the Miloslavskii line), this ultimately decreases the
Naryshkin fortune
-Natalia and Peter are retired to a part of the Kremlin and they retire there with the
whole family there (not completely exiled but are kept out of court politics and
they feel under threat)
-The feeling of being under threat is nothing until Theodore dies in 1682, then the
Miloslavskii’s next in line takes over (however, he is developmentally delayed - not
fully competent to stand as Tsar - He is blind, not healthy and people worry that he
is not gonna last that long
-Peter, according to a lot of non Miloslavskiis, looks very healthy
-However, in 1682, the Miloslavskiis create a revolt amongst the palace guard (the
Kremlin army of musketeers), they created rumours that the Naryshkins are their
enemies, who want to get rid of the palace guard —> this caused the army of
musketeers to kill a bunch of Naryshkins, but Peter and Natalia are spared (there
was a long standing policy within Russia that forbid the killing of a potential Tsar)
—> goes into exile
-To end the bloodshed, there is a compromise between the two families, so Peter
and his half-brother, Ivan, were named co-rulers together, but in reality, this
means little as the Naryshkins have lost their power and Peter is Tsar in name
-Ivan needed a regent so his sister, Sophia, acted as such —> Peter sees his half-
sister as an equal opponent for the throne
A Busy Youth:
-Peter and his mother leave the Kremlin palace and live on their family estate
-He lives in exile, with a clear memory of what dynastic politics in court does to a
country (the families clashing for control)
-For the next 7 years, Peter spends his time, wisely, in his country estate
-During this time, he begins to show signs of being a political/military genius
-He had two projects (both would have consequences later on), the first one was
this game of soldiers with a group of boys (servants, etc.) and began to play army
-He begins drilling his army of ten year olds every single day
-Over time, he had them build stables, barracks, staff offices and gave them dark
coloured uniforms and much more
-There are people in court becoming unsatisfied with Sophia —> they begin, quietly,
to send their boys over to the estate, where Peter is, to play “army/soldier”
-Second Project was that, since he need better strategies for his soldiers and the latest
techniques of warfare, he turns to the German suburbs to learn about the warfare
that was occurring throughout most of Europe —> found people who could train his
“army” the most updated forms of warfare
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