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Peter the Great – Waking the Bear From It’s Slumber

Who Was Peter The Great?

Peter the Great was a Russian czar in the late 17th century.

He is best known for his extensive reforms to establish Russia as a great nation.

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During his time as czar, from 1682 until his death in 1725, he implemented a variety of reforms including changing the Russian calendar and alphabet and reducing the Orthodox Church’s authority.

Early life of Peter the Great

As a child Peter got a good education, he was constantly around several tutors.

The father of Peter was Alexis I, the current monarch of the kingdom and he suddenly died in the year 1676.

The throne passed to Peter’s half brother, the ill Feodor III.

Because he was sick he couldn’t completely rule so some people were governing instead, but his death was 6 years after he became king in 1682.

He didn’t have any children of his own so the title went to the other brother called Ivan V.

He was mentally ill so a council gathered and chose 10-year old peter instead and his mother as regent.

In the meantime a rebellion broke lose by the elite Russian forces called Streltsy.

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They killed many of Peter’s relatives and friends.

As Peter witnessed these acts, a hatred towards them was born.

Their rebellion was a success and Sophia the leader of the rebellion and Peter’s half sister insisted that Ivan V and Peter rule together.

Sophia for 7 years controlled both of them, she even made a hole in the throne that could be seen today, giving information on what Peter should say to the nobles.

From a young age Peter’s interest in the military could be seen, he only wanted to play with war toys and was interested in warfare.

As years passed by the Prestige of Sophia was getting weaker and Peter wanted to gain control.

She instantly played the Streltsy card, but it was no use. She ran away and Peter started to gain control.

He later forced her to enter a convent and lose the control of her claims. When his mother the current Regent died he gained full power of the throne.

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This was in 1694, but there was also Ivan V.

Ivan V died in 1696 leaving Peter alone on the throne.

Peter had a Russian background and he grew extremely tall. He was around 6.8 feet or 2 meters.

In that period it was an extreme height. He was always a head taller with anyone he met.

But he wasn’t bulked for that size, he was skinny and couldn’t fill the whole frame.

There are descriptions of his small head that didn’t match his body.

Modern Russia

Before all of this, the French ruler wrote a letter to the Russian king Alexis I.

The problem here was that Alexis was dead for 11 years.

This shows how weak the Russian state was at the time and Peter will give it exactly what it needs.

He started to modernize Russia.

In order to do this he must make the country stable.

After he cleared his enemies, such as the Streltsy he moved on.

Starting with the importing various boat makers, blacksmiths, artists, craftsman of all sort, etc.

He started to increase the production in Russian.

In the meantime he started to send people from Russia to study other languages, such as French.

Before these reforms Russian diplomats were people that were paid with items and didn’t have a job.

He started to introduce western dresses in his court and for the aristocracy to adapt the modern clothing style.

He also wanted them to shave their beards, otherwise, they would be subject to a beard tax.

Peter wanted to gain naval power, this is why he started to build boats.

The problem with Russia is that they didn’t have access to a good sea they could use at the time.

The Black and Caspian seas were controlled by the Ottomans and the Baltic by Sweden.

First he fought off the Crimean Khan that were supported by the Ottomans.

His objective was to capture Azov so that Russian could get out on the sea.

His first campaigns for Azov were a fail.

With the ships he built he launched a campaign again and managed to take Azov away from the Turks. Russia’s first navy was born.

Peter the Great’s European Journey

Facing the great power of the Ottoman Empire was something that Peter couldn’t achieve.

He made a hidden journey that lasted 18 months in Europe.

The problem here was that everyone knew who he was because Peter was 2 meters tall.

He started to negotiate with the other European monarchs, but this had no effect.

This delegation was also known as the “Grand Embassy”.

He visited a good part of Europe, and also learned shipbuilding.

He enforced the nobles to arranged marriages for a better balance in Russia.

But all of the beard cutting, new clothing, and reforms made a lot of people mad.

They wanted to bring back the old traditional way of life and rule.

This will still stay years after Peters’s death.

Peter the Great’s North War

While the peace with the Ottoman empire was in motion Peter went north.

He wanted the Baltic and to gain control.

If he capture the Baltic sea this would give Russia the perfect trade route.

But the Swedish Empire was controlling it and a war had to take place.

The king of Sweden was Charles XII. But the Swedes also had other enemies, such as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Denmark-Norway.

The first Battle of Narva in 1700 was a crushing defeat.

Russia backed away to regroup while Sweden turned against the Polish-Lithuanian union.

In the meantime Peter founded St. Petersburg which was part of the Swedish Empire.

This city was a coastal city in the Baltic. He made it capital for the Russian Kingdom.

When the Swedish king defeated Poland he turned to Russian again.

In 1708 he invaded and Peter was again defeated.

But events turned and in the next battle, Peter was victorious.

This made Russia establish a good merchant economy.

Also, he pushed back to Livonia and took most of Finland.

He made them Russian provinces. The war didn’t end until Charles XII died and a peace treaty was signed.

Looking back at what Peter achieved we can see that he left a serious mark on the map and also contributed largely to the modernization of Russia.

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