Peter implemented sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing Russia. He faced much opposition to these policies at home but brutally suppressed rebellions against his authority, including by the Streltsy , Bashkirs , Astrakhan , and the greatest civil uprising of his reign, the Bulavin Rebellion. Peter implemented social modernization in an absolute manner by introducing French and western dress to his court and requiring courtiers, state officials, and the military to shave their beards and adopt modern clothing styles.
In his process to westernize Russia, he wanted members of his family to marry other European royalty. In the past, his ancestors had been snubbed at the idea, but now, it was proving fruitful. He used the wedding in order to launch his new capital, St Petersburg , where he had already ordered building projects of westernized palaces and buildings. Peter hired Italian and German architects to design it. 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. Peter attempted to acquire control of the Black Sea, which would require expelling the Tatars from the surrounding areas.
As part of an agreement with Poland that ceded Kiev to Russia, Peter was forced 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 Peter organized the Azov campaigns to take the fortress, but his attempts ended in failure. Peter returned to Moscow in November and began building a large navy.
He launched about thirty ships against the Ottomans in , capturing Azov in July of that year. Peter knew that Russia could not face the Ottoman Empire alone. In he traveled "incognito" to Western Europe on an month journey with a large Russian delegation—the so-called "Grand Embassy". He used a fake name, allowing him to escape social and diplomatic events, but since he was far taller than most others, he did not fool anyone of importance.
One goal was to seek the aid of European monarchs, but Peter's hopes were dashed. France was a traditional ally of the Ottoman Sultan, and Austria was eager to maintain peace in the east while conducting its own wars in the west. Peter, furthermore, had chosen an inopportune moment: the Europeans at the time were more concerned about the War of Spanish Succession over who would succeed the childless King Charles II of Spain than about fighting the Ottoman Sultan. The "Grand Embassy" continued nevertheless. While visiting the Netherlands , Peter learned much about life in Western Europe.
He studied shipbuilding  in Zaandam the house he lived in is now a museum, the Czar Peter House and Amsterdam , where he visited, among others, the upper-class de Wilde family. Jacob de Wilde , a collector-general with the Admiralty of Amsterdam , had a well-known collection of art and coins, and de Wilde's daughter Maria de Wilde made an engraving of the meeting between Peter and her father, providing visual evidence of "the beginning of the West European classical tradition in Russia".
Thanks to the mediation of Nicolaes Witsen , mayor of Amsterdam and expert on Russia, 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—including Cornelis Cruys , a vice-admiral who became, under Franz Lefort , the Tsar's advisor in maritime affairs. Peter later put his knowledge of shipbuilding to use in helping build Russia's navy. Peter paid a visit to Frederik Ruysch , who taught him how to draw teeth and catch butterflies. Ludolf Bakhuysen , a painter of seascapes. Jan van der Heyden , the inventor of the fire hose, received Peter, who was keen to learn and pass on his knowledge to his countrymen.
On 16 January Peter organized a farewell party and invited Johan Huydecoper van Maarsseveen , who had to sit between Lefort and the Tsar and drink. He studied the English techniques of city-building he would later use to great effect at Saint Petersburg. Cross said it was not enough. Peter's visit was cut short in , when he was forced to rush home by a rebellion of the Streltsy. The rebellion was 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 one thousand two hundred of the rebels were tortured and executed, and Peter ordered that their bodies be publicly exhibited as a warning to future conspirators. In Peter sent a delegation to Malta , under boyar Boris Sheremetev , to observe the training and abilities of the Knights of Malta and their fleet.
Sheremetev investigated the possibility of future joint ventures with the Knights, including action against the Turks and the possibility of a future Russian naval base. 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 wear European clothing and cut off their long beards, causing his Boyars, who were very fond of their beards, great upset.
Peter also sought to end arranged marriages, which were the norm among the Russian nobility, because he thought such a practice was barbaric and led to domestic violence, since the partners usually resented each other. In Peter changed the date of the celebration of the 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 of the old Russian calendar, Peter proclaimed that the Julian Calendar was in effect and the year was 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 the Swedish Empire a half-century earlier. Russia was ill-prepared to fight the Swedes, and their first attempt at seizing the Baltic coast ended in disaster at the Battle of Narva in In the conflict, the forces of Charles XII, rather than employ a slow methodical siege, attacked immediately using a blinding snowstorm to their advantage.
While the Poles fought the Swedes, Peter founded the city of Saint Petersburg in , in Ingermanland a province of the Swedish Empire that he had captured. It was named after his patron saint Saint Peter. He forbade the building of stone edifices outside Saint Petersburg, which he intended to become Russia's capital, so that all stonemasons could participate in the construction of the new city. Between and and in —, Saint Petersburg was the capital of imperial Russia. In the Battle of Lesnaya , Charles suffered his first loss after Peter crushed a group of Swedish reinforcements marching from Riga.
PETER THE GREAT | Facts and Details
Deprived of this aid, Charles was forced to abandon his proposed march on Moscow. Peter withdrew his army southward, employing scorched earth , destroying along the way anything that could assist the Swedes. Deprived of local supplies, the Swedish army was forced to halt its advance in the winter of — In the summer of , they resumed their efforts to capture Russian-ruled Ukraine , culminating in the Battle of Poltava on 27 June. The battle was a decisive defeat for the Swedish forces, ending Charles' campaign in Ukraine and forcing him south to seek refuge in the Ottoman Empire.
Russia had defeated what was considered to be one of the world's best militaries, and the victory overturned the view that Russia was militarily incompetent. Peter, overestimating the support he would receive from his Balkan allies, attacked the Ottoman Empire, initiating the Russo-Turkish War of 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. The Senate was founded as the highest state institution to supervise all judicial, financial and administrative affairs.
Originally established only for the time of the monarch's absence, the Senate became a permanent body after his return. A special high official, the Ober-Procurator, served as the link between the ruler and the senate and acted, in Peter own words, as "the sovereign's eye". Without his signature no Senate decision could go into effect; the Senate became one of the most important institutions of Imperial Russia.
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 into Finland. In the Russian fleet won the Battle of Gangut. Most of Finland was occupied by the Russians. In and , the Tsar revisited the Netherlands and went to see Herman Boerhaave. He continued his travel to the Austrian Netherlands and France. Peter obtained the assistance of the Electorate of Hanover and the Kingdom of Prussia.
The Tsar's navy was powerful enough that the Russians could penetrate Sweden. Still, Charles XII refused to yield, and not until his death in battle in did peace become feasible. 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 retained some Finnish lands close to Saint Petersburg, which he had made his capital in Peter's last years were marked by further reform in Russia.
On 22 October , soon after peace was made with Sweden, he was officially proclaimed Emperor of All Russia. Some proposed that he take the title Emperor of the East , but he refused. In the minds of many, the word emperor connoted superiority or pre-eminence over kings. Several rulers feared that Peter would claim authority over them, just as the Holy Roman Emperor had claimed suzerainty over all Christian nations. The expedition ended in complete disaster when the entire expeditionary force was slaughtered.
In Peter investigated why the formerly Swedish province of Livonia was so orderly. He discovered that the Swedes spent as much administering Livonia times smaller than his empire as he spent on the entire Russian bureaucracy. He was forced to dismantle the province's government. After , Peter established colleges in place of the old central agencies of government, including foreign affairs, war, navy, expense, income, justice, and inspection.
Later others were added. Each college consisted of a president, a vice-president, a number of councilors and assessors, and a procurator. Some foreigners were included in various colleges but not as president. Peter believed he did not have enough loyal and talented persons to put in full charge of the various departments. Peter preferred to rely on groups of individuals who would keep check on one another. In Peter created a new order of precedence known as the Table of Ranks.
Formerly, precedence had been determined by birth. 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 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 , he issued a decree calling for compulsory education, which dictated that all Russian to year-old children of the nobility, government clerks, and lesser-ranked officials must learn basic mathematics and geometry, and should be tested on the subjects at the end of their studies.
The once powerful Persian Safavid Empire to the south was heavily declining. Taking advantage of the profitable situation, Peter launched the Russo-Persian War of — , otherwise known as "The Persian Expedition of Peter the Great", which drastically increased Russian influence for the first time in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region, and prevented the Ottoman Empire from making territorial gains in the region.
After considerable success and the capture of many provinces and cities in the Caucasus and northern mainland Persia, the Safavids were forced to hand over territory to Russia, comprising Derbent , Shirvan , Gilan , Mazandaran , Baku , and Astrabad. However, within twelve years all the territories would be ceded back to Persia, now led by the charismatic military genius Nader Shah , as part of the Treaties of Resht and Ganja respectively, and the Russo-Persian alliance against the Ottoman Empire, which was the common enemy of both.
Peter introduced new taxes to fund improvements in Saint Petersburg. He abolished the land tax and household tax and replaced them with a poll tax. The taxes on land and 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 the 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 ". In the winter of , Peter, whose overall health was never robust, began having problems with his urinary tract and bladder. In the summer of a team of doctors performed surgery releasing upwards of four pounds of blocked urine. Peter remained bedridden until late autumn. In the first week of October, restless and certain he was cured, Peter began a lengthy inspection tour of various projects.
According to legend, in November, at Lakhta along the Finnish Gulf to inspect some ironworks, Peter saw a group of soldiers drowning near shore and, wading out into near-waist deep water, came to their rescue. This icy water rescue is said to have exacerbated Peter's bladder problems and caused his death. This, plus the interval of time between these actions and Peter's death seems to preclude any direct link. A brilliant guy with low brow tastes and manners who valued a hands on approach to everything.
Ship building. A guy who enjoyed the common touch and regular folks and preferred to go about incognito Except for his size, who would notice? A man of considerable physical presence and strength and a quick study.
He attracted first rate minds like Leibniz, whom he considered out of touch.. Quite a family man until he grew weary of you or you disobeyed him. Unforgiving in matters he considered of great principle in which case blood was no barrier to being dispatched. He lead his military in battles and damn the cost. Not the sort of guy you would say "No" to twice. Had an irresistible charm and an overwhelming personality that didn't take No for an answer. Great party guy, too. When he laughed, everyone laughed. When he partied, everyone partied and no one left until he said so. His excesses aside, he made Russia a great power His contributions manifold.
Amazing book! After spending several days in St. Petersburg, Russia last summer I was very interested in learning about the Russian Tsar responsible for its creation. St Petersburg feels like a Western European city in some regards - the canals, the palaces, the long boulevards and wide plazas. Peter could also be as brutish as many iron-fisted Tsars - demanding duty and subservience of all his subjects - including his own family.
Peter was a high energy intellectual who surrounded himself with foreigners more often than the Russian aristocrats boyars of his time.
ISBN 13: 9785519405218
His interest in ship building became his mark on Russian history. His ability to defeat the Swedish gave birth to the dazzling city on the Neva River. Massie has an almost uncanny ability to take you back in time. Peter the Great does this with magical ease. We get to know the child, the youth, the man and the Tsar, with all the details we need to form a relationship that lasts as long as this long masterpiece does.
As in all of his historical biographies he brings the times and the individuals that made the greatest impact on who we are today to the forefront. He defines actions, humanity, foibles and strengths with the skill of a novelist. He draws you into the actions of Peter from shipbuilding to war-making, along with his eccentricities which are many. All of Massie's historical novels should be a must read for individuals who are interested in the past, and I would recommend this book to everyone who loves a fantastically well written book about a man who still resonates in our own time.
This is the very best kind of biography. I read every word including the footnotes and battle descriptions which in other histories are often dreadfully belabored and without exception every page was interesting. Massie never talks down to the reader nor is his writing ever either dry or frivolous. This book is worth every minute the reader spends with it. Highly recommend. Remarkable book - engrossing and well-written. Massie offers excellent narrative on czarist Russian history, culture, and politics. Importantly, readers gain insight into influential events and people outside of Russia.
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