Peter the Great

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22 Mar 2012
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Europe April 1
Peter the Great (1682-1725)
The imperial age
Peter became Tsar 1682 at the age of 10 he becomes co-Tsar with his older
brother and half sister.
1696 (after his brother and mother are dead and his sister is a nun) peter has
personal hold of power
Physically he is intimidating he is almost 7 feet tall
Very intellectual does not have a lot of formal education BUT he had a massive
urge to learn.
Very involved in all aspect of his government
Accomplished military and naval commander worked his way up from the
bottom (but promoted himself)
Learned over 20 trades (carpentry, dentist, etc)
He travelled extensively travels to western Europe
1697/8 and 1717? Wants to learn as much as he can about western politics and
military (travels undercover)
Had a bad temper crude and sometimes very cruel
Dual personality BUT he doesn’t slip into paranoia like other Russian rulers
much debate with historians
did he have a clear plan? Or were his reforms fickle/scattered?
What was the motivation? some historians say that peter loved Russia and
recognized that Russia was lagging behind the other western nations and that
Russia would have to embrace some western ideals or she would not be able to
compete second group argue that peter hated Russia he sees Russian culture as
repressive and dark / he associates Russian culture with his oppressive childhood
(just before peter took power war broke out between Russia and the ottoman Turks)
1697 he mounts a two year mission to western europe finds a lot of knowledge
Streltsy (Russian standing army pikeman and gunman) rise in rebellion while Peter was
When peter returns there is much reform he replaces the streltsy with an army that was
created from the masses and that are drilled much like in western Europe
St. Petersburg:
Sometimes called Peter’s window on the west
(a good example of Peter’s reforms)
Conquers the neva river and builds St. Petersburg
Physical embodiment of Peter’s dreams
Literally building from the ground up (marshy ground so they had to build a physical
Very open and organized grid like structure
The city is built out of stone (everything in Russia is built out of wood)
Peter demands that the nobility moves to St. Petersburg and what their houses are going to
look like and they have to do it at their own expense
Peter is taking all things he liked from the west and put it in st. Petersburg but he wants to
do more than copy he wants to do better
Peter makes sure that the most beautiful buildings and biggest buildings are government
buildings not churches
30-100 thousand peasants died building St. Petersburg
This represents how peter was willing to sacrifice people.
This city represents reform and westernization BUT also the repression of the Tsars
1721 he makes St. Petersburg the capital
He makes the nobility servants of the state makes them enter the military or the civil
service (makes them generals for life)
Peter recognizes that if there is anything that can get in his way is the church so he
transforms the church into a branch of the government he replaces the head of the church
with a layman and he gets rid of the monasteries. He made it so that if they hear anything
about rebellion they have to break confession and tell him
Peter is trying to do what western Europeans have done but in a compressed time frame
Peter creates the table of ranks based on merit recreates the nobles and seizes the
land of the nobility
Fundamentally restructures Russian life
Peter personally shaves the beards of the nobility and taxes the right to have a beard
He strips the Russian nobility of pretty much everything