Peter the Great

Peter the Great

Peter the Great was born in 1672 and he died in 1725. Peter was tsar of Russia from 1682 to 1725. His self-given title was Peter the Great though he was officially Peter I.

Portrait of Peter the Great

Peter the Great is credited with dragging Russia out of the medieval times to such an extent that by his death in 1725, Russia was considered a leading eastern European state. He centralised government, modernised the army, created a navy and increased the subjugation and subjection of the peasants. His domestic policy allowed him to execute an aggressive foreign policy.

Without doubt, Peter the Greatís childhood toughened his outlook on life and people. His life was constantly under threat from factions surrounding the two widows of his father. When his father, Alexis, died in January 1676, Peterís elder brother succeeded as Theodore III. His succession was legal and no-one could dispute it. Theodore died in 1682.

Problems over the succession came on the death of Theodore. The mother of Peter came from the Naryshkin family. They wanted Peter as sole tsar of Russia.

Alexisís first wife came from the Miloslavkys family. They did not want Peter alone to succeed. The Miloslavkys were supported by the Moscow Musketeers (the Streltsy) and they both wanted a joint rule by Peter and Ivan, his mentally deficient half-brother. The Streltsy gave the Miloslavkys family the military backing to succeed in this case and Peter and Ivan were accepted as joint rulers.

However, in 1682 both were under age and a regent, their sister Sophia, was appointed to this position. In effect, Sophia did little as she was besotted by her lover Prince Golitsin who was appointed Chief Minister by Sophia and ruled as he wished. He embarked on a highly unpopular domestic policy. He persecuted the Old Believers for spiritually holding Russia back. Many Russian people looked up to the Old Believers as the true symbol of religious devotion and disapproved of what he did. Golitsin also pursued a lacklustre foreign policy. In 1687 and 1698, he launched two disastrous campaigns against the Crimean Tartars.

With such chaos at government level, Peter the Great felt strong enough to challenge Golitsin. This he did in August 1689 aged 17 when he removed both Sophia and Golitsin from power and ruled as Russiaís sole leader. In theory he shared the throne with Ivan until Ivan died in 1696, but in reality, Ivan played no part in the government of Russia.

Peter the Greatís sheer physical presence seemed to indicate the way his rule would go. He was nearly 7 feet tall and very broad. He was massively powerful, "loud-mouthed, violent, ruthless and impetuous". He always wanted to learn and was always active. He learned how to be carpenter, talked to mathematicians and learned how best to train soldiers- including how to torture people. While Sophia had been regent, he had lived in Germany and had spent time living with soldiers learning about fortifications and ballistics. When back in Russia he formed a small army out of his servants and used them in live ammunition firing war games.

MLA Citation/Reference

"Peter the Great". 2014. Web.

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