Peter the Great of Russia
There are numerous people that exist here on earth. Every individual tends to vary from one another because of many different factors. An individual could be different from his or her fellow human beings because of his or her personal background that pertains to sex, race, and religion. There differences could also be brought about by their varying talents and skills. In relation to these, every individual is indeed unique because of their respective characteristics and personalities. Despite this differences that they have, each individual is capable of contributing to the society in his or her own way.
However, there are those persons that stand out from other people because of the things that they have done for the society. These contributions that they have could be seen in a positive or negative light but the common denominator of these things is the fact that it left a mark in the consciousness of people that will forever have a part in history. This kind of adages is exemplified by Peter the great of Russia. The decisions and actions that he has done during his reign as the leader of Russia made substantial changes to the country.
Being the case, it is vital that this individual is given due attention and importance because knowing his life and works will also enlightened the people of the situation that Russia before and up to this present time. In connection to these, it is the main objective of this paper to discuss the life and contribution of Peter the Great in Russia. In doing so, the succeeding paragraphs will discuss the biography of Peter the Great. The paper will also discuss his major contributions to Russia, which will point out the positive and negative aspects of the things he did.
Moreover, it will also discuss Peter the Great’s relation with the western countries. It will also look at whether he steered Russia towards becoming more westernized or move them further back. Lastly, an analysis of Peter the Great will be done regarding if he is really an asset to Russia or not. Biography of Peter the Great of Russia Peter the Great was born in the year 1672 in Moscow, Russia. He is one of the sons of Alexis I of Russia with his second wife Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina. The childhood life of Peter the Great was characterized with tensions and dangers.
In 1677, when he was just six years of age, his father the Czar Alexis died. The throne was past to his sickly brother Theodore. When his brother also died, Peter succeeded the throne at the age of nine. However, his half-sister, Sophia got a hold of the regency and implemented every wicked art that is possible in order to prevent Peter from ever reigning. She allowed Peter to grow up uneducated and she even surrounded him with the most corrupt companions. Sophia’s ill treatment to Peter reached anew level when she instigated the Strelitzes or guards to revolt against him.
The Strelitzes massacred the relatives of Peter. Fortunately, Peter was able to survive when he escaped by taking refuge in the convent of the Trinity. During the age of seventeen, Peter took the authority of the government from Sophia and then afterwards, locked her in a monastery (Pryde 145-146). At the time of his adolescent age, Peter was regarded as an individual who has an extraordinary compound of the most antagonistic qualities. His characteristic as a person was regarded as made up of conflicting qualities. Peter was robust and handsome but he is also susceptible to convulsions and contortions.
He has the intelligence that fits a king but his manners and tastes are similar to a brute. He also easily give in to the pleasures of the moment he has an unbending will that is always after laboring for the future welfare of his kingdom (Pryde 146). At the time when Peter the Great ascended the throne, he noticed the backward state of his subjects. He also saw that they had no relation with other nations. Due to these, he decided to go abroad and study the arts so that he could be the first one to introduce this field to his country.
In 1697 and 1698, he carried out his traveling plans and in doing so, he descended from his throne and enjoyed the humble pleasures of living an ordinary life. He went to Northern Germany as one of the attendants of the Russian Ambassador. Peter also had the liberty of changing identity when he arrived at Zaandam, Holland. During his stay in this place, he changed his name to Peter Timmerman wherein he dressed and lived as a workman. He lived in a small hut and did household chores. He even placed himself in the ranks of the astonished workmen.
By doing so, he was able to try all sorts of handicrafts. His experiences in this place also included wrought in the dockyard, hammered in the smithies, and pulled teeth and bled in the hospitals. After a few months of working in Holland, he went to Deptford in the year 1698 so that he can finish his studies. Surprisingly, his way of life during his stay in Deptford was not suited for a king. He lived in Sayes Court, a mansion that is owned by John Evelyn wherein he practiced a half-savage style of living. His choice of clothing is bad and even his habits are preposterous and disgusting.
He also have this certain liking for brandy that he distilled on his own and his favorite past time was to be wheeled round in the grounds in a barrow. Nevertheless, despite this almost madcap life that he had during his travels, he always kept in mind the main objective of his travel. He did not forget the welfare of his country as he is constantly sending companies of artisans to Russia. Upon his arrival to Russia, he brought with him the practical knowledge that paved the way for the establishment of the arts of civilization in the country (Pryde 147). In 1703, Peter the Great founded St.
Petersburg. This city was build amid great difficulties. The location itself is already very challenging to manage as it is a marsh near the mouth of the Neva. The ground is also required to be raised and consolidated before it could be suitable as a foundation for the houses that will be built. There was also a pestilence in the swamp that is in the site that caused the death of many workmen. To make matters worse, the Swedish enemies of the Russian were also in the vicinity and they are threatening to destroy the city despite the fact that it is in the very act of rising.
Nevertheless, despite the existence of these obstacles, Peter the Great still continued to work towards the establishment of the city. He was able to create several streets of wooden houses that would serve as the center of the city. He also fortified the island of Cronstadt that is located at the mouth of the river, which will safeguard the houses. Peter also allowed trade to influence the practices of the people. As a result, St. Petersburg attracted many merchant vessels and it soon became the capital of the empire in 1715 (Pryde 147-148).
By the time the city of St. Petersburg was already flourishing, Peter has to face another problem and that is the increasing tension between him and his great rival, Charles XII of Sweden. The different countries in the European continent were all very interested in this collision between the two aforementioned personalities. At the start of the conflict, Charles XII was able to have an edge against Peter because of his fiery genius. During the age of eighteen, Charles XII challenged the combined sovereigns of Denmark, Poland, and Russia to infiltrate his territories.
However, within the span of one year he was able to invade the defeat the armies of these countries and invade them. This power that Charles XII showed was accepted by the world with wonder. Charles XII was not contented because he has not yet achieved his wild ambition and the might project of his life, which is to conquer Russia. On the other hand, the Russians wanted to the take the amicable path toward the resolution of this conflict. The Russians offered to negotiate but Charles XII refused to enter in such as agreement. He said that he wants to deal with the czar in Moscow.
In accordance with this statement from Charles XII, the Swedes advanced toward the center of Russia wherein they met with the troops of the czar. Despite this hardship that Russia was facing, Peter the Great still maintained his composure and confidence in himself as well as his resources. He explicitly showed such braveness by boosting the morale of his people when he said, “the Swedes will have the advantage for some time; but they will teach us at length to conquer them” (Pryde, 148). Peter the Great regarded every defeat as a motivating factor that drove him to enhance his generalship.
Every time he will see the Swedes enjoying their victory while they are invading his empire, he simply retreated. He allowed them to become bewildered in the forests, to lose their baggage and cannons in the swamps of the country, and to die due to hunger and thirst as well as the cold climate in Russia. The Swedes fall upon these harsh forces of the country. As a result, Peter the Great was able to take advantage of these enfeebled forces that the Swedes are experiencing and cut them to pieces at Pultowa in 1709. As a result, Charles XII retreated from Russia and take refuge at Bender with the Turks.
The problems that Peter the Great have to addressed did not stop at his encounter with Charles XII because just one year after, he narrowly escaped a severe disgrace. Peter the Great unilaterally decided to invade the territorial domains of the Turkish sultan, Achmed III. His main motivating factor in doing so is because of the fact that Sultan Achmed III had also taken up the cause of Charles. He pursued the attack without consulting or getting the approval from his own country. Due to this, the Russians have to face the large Turkish army and the hordes of the Crim Tartars. The Russians were placed entirely at the mercy of their enemies.
The Russian troops were weakening due to hunger, thirst, and disease and as such, they see no other alternative but to inhibit to slavery or accept utter annihilation. At this moment of crisis, Peter the Great was saved by an individual that is almost as remarkable as him and that is his wife Catherine (Pryde 149). Catherine was a mere kitchen-maid in her native province of Lithuania. In 1702, during the siege of Marienburg, she was taken as a prisoner. However, her exceptional looks were noticed by the Czar, Due to this, in 1707, the woman who only has a peasant blood became the empress of the largest empire of the world.
Catherine was able to obtain the trust of his husband because of her cheerfulness, indifference about dress, and her determination to share with the fatigues and danger of her spouse. As such, Peter the Great confided with her all his plans and she is also serve as his companion in every expedition. Catherine was able to help her husband and the Russian army by using her womanly instincts that reign supreme than all the tactics of the Russian generals and the strength of the Russian soldiers. She collected all her jewelries and trinkets and gave it as a present to the Turkish vizier.
The presents also contain a letter requesting for a truce. After relinquishing some territory that was under Russia, the sultan of Turkey granted the request and allowed the czar to go back home. After facing numerous problems and dealing with various crisis situations, Peter the Great also have to face a family problem that involves his disappointment with his son, Alexis. He expressed his grievances towards his son through a form of a letter that narrated his in difference in the fact that Alexis cannot lead like him.
He also identified the choices that he gave him, which his son failed to accept (Letter of Peter the Great). On the lighter side, the great project of the czar continued without much hindrance from outside forces. Peter the Great was also able to acquire a substantial part of the Swedish provinces that are located on the eat side of the Danube because of the provisions of the Treaty of Neustadt. The efforts of Peter the Great in establishing the arts of civilization in Russia were not put to waste as his people continued to enhance this area.
The extraordinary contribution and influence of Peter the Great was very well recognized by the Russian people and this is clearly observable when he received the title of “Czar of all the Russians, and Father of his country” even before his death (Pryde 150). On 8 February 1725, Peter the Great died because of his bladder problems. His overall health was not robust from the start. However, during the winter of 1723, he became terribly ill because of the complications with his urinary tract and bladder. At the summer of 1724, a team of doctors performed an operation that releases more than four pounds of blocked urine.
Nevertheless, after his surgery he still remained bedridden until late autumn. Afterwards, he experienced a slight recovery that allowed him to continue with his work and everyday activities. Nevertheless, the icy water rescue exacerbated Peter’s bladder problems and eventually caused his death (“Explorers and Leaders”). The Major Contributions of Peter the Great Before Peter the Great became the czar, Russia was much less developed as compared with the other countries that are in the European continent. Russia was a huge landlocked country. It was often at war with either Turkey or Sweden (“Explorers and Leaders”).
The situation of the country before the leadership of Peter the Great was essentially in the Dark ages. During those times, science and technology was very minimal in the country. Russia did not produce any notable intellectuals or representatives of the world sciences that can be compared or equaled the ability of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, or other exemplary personalities that emerged in Central and Western Europe. Nevertheless, all of these started to change when Peter the Great was able to reign over Russia (“Intellectual Life”).
When Peter became aware of the responsibility that he has for his country he also started to have an observable and analytical eye for the changes that his country needs to under go through. The first thing that he noticed is the fact that his country is backwards as compared with the other nations in Europe. Due to this, it has been one of his main goals to enhance the situation of his country. His plan of action in order to address such need is to travel in other parts of the world and educate himself so that he could properly lead his country towards its success.
He traveled to Western Europe wherein he went to places such as Germany and Holland. His main purpose for traveling is to educate himself with the arts of civilization and giving particular emphasis in investigating all types of science and technology. Peter the Great has special interest in the latest techniques of shipbuilding and seamanship, specifically navigation. He also wanted to know the way by which navies were organized as well as recruiting specialists that could go to Russia with him in order to improve the naval force of the country (“Explorers and Leaders”).
Due to his experiences and the knowledge that he acquired from his travel, Peter the Great was able to make many changes that aided in the modernization of Russia. During his return from his European tour, one of the first things that he did was prohibited the Russian styles of clothing. He even changed the physical appearance of his nobles by requiring them to shave their beards. Peter the Great’s interests in navigation was also clearly observable as he ordered the building of fleet of ships and the creation of a navy. He was able to strengthen the naval forces of Russia that allowed him to lead their first attack by sea against Turkey.
In doing so, Russia was able to gain access to the Baltic Sea (“Peter the Great”). Another important contribution that Peter the Great made was in strengthening the military force of Russia. He believed that Russia could only achieve its strategic objectives by establishing a western-style army. The military reforms that he implemented are recognized as one of the most vital element in creation of a new Russia (Treasure 212). He also created military-technical schools, which he required the sons of his nobles to attend this educational institution.
Peter the Great further improved the educational skills of his subjects when he simplified the alphabet that could help Russians learn and apply it more easily. Moreover, he also reformed the calendar that the Russians are using (“Peter the Great”). Peter the Great is also responsible in founding a new capital, St. Petersburg. He was able to create this city by employing European technology of building it. He had to face numerous challenges during the creation of St. Petersburg. He had to handle the difficulty of creating an entire city in a location that is very hard to build an entire city in.
In relation to this, he also had to deal with the deaths of many of his workers because of the pestilence in the swamp within the site where the city should be build (Pryde 147). Nevertheless, he still managed to build St. Petersburg, which became a symbol of cultural change. It is in this city that Peter the Great was able to employ most of the things that he has learn during his travel. He was able to build shops through the whole city. Furthermore, he was able to enhance the trading relationship of Russia with other nations by using St. Petersburg as the center of trade in the country (Hughes 203).
The reinforcement of the old institutions of serfdom and autocracy was also done by Peter the Great. In this decision to implement serfdom, he was able to reinstitute the importance that having land resources upon the Russian people. However, it also created discontent and tension from the people who have to labor in the fields of landowners. This is due to fact that some of them see serfdom as a modified form of slavery. He also reformed the Russian government by making it autocratic. In doing so, Peter the Great was able to have the tremendous power as the single ruler who has the authority over the country.
Furthermore, he also decided that the ruler should nominate his successor rather than inheriting the position through birth or through lineage of the noble families (Hughes 92-100). On the other hand, despite the contributions that Peter the Great made, there are still some observable weaknesses in his leadership that caused the discontent and uprising coming from some Russian citizens. Peter the Great was also recognized as a tyrannical ruler. One of the most prominent decisions, which he made that many of his subjects disagreed with, is the high taxes that he enforced.
Many Russians especially those that belong in the lower classes of the society had a difficult time paying these taxes. Their sentiments is mostly grounded on the fact that it is already challenging for them to sustain their everyday needs and having such large amount of tax responsibilities only make their situation worse (“Peter the Great”). The reforms that Peter the Great implemented was not always popular with his subjects. One of the notable enhancements that he made was the establishment of Russia’s navy that allowed the country to have one of the strongest naval forces in Europe.
However, the implementation of this plan loaded horrendous burdens on his subjects. The features of this project were characterized with the intimate relation of irony and insight. Some of the Russian citizens cannot prevent to have negative thoughts about this reformation that he is doing as it is already embedded in the public’s consciousness. Peter the Great’s reign in Russia was also marked by the apotheosis of statism and his forcible implementation of reforms. In relation to this, some of the critics of Peter the Great also pointed out that he is trying to create a social utopia or at the very least a rational state in Russia.
Nevertheless, his means of doing so involves regulating a police state that depends upon the use of military force and is implementing a culture of militarism. Moreover, the reforms that Peter the Great made is also said to bred apathy, social dependence, and lack of freedom among the Russian citizens (Anisimov and Alexander 1). Relation with Western Countries Among the things that Peter the Great during his travel in other countries is the fact that he became more open in the influences and ideas coming from other culture. As a result, he also strongly supports establishing relationships with other nations.
Peter the Great regarded establishing good relationship with the West to be very important because he believed that it is not only valuable but necessary. He wanted Russia to be able to reach or even surpass the technological and cultural standards that other Western nations have during his time. He deemed that he could be able to achieve this goal by maintaining a connection with the West. Due to this interaction that Russia established with other European nations, the country has this new desire to become more westernized (Nosotro).
Before and during the time of Peter the Great one of most prevalent type of interaction that Russia has with the West was that of war. The relationship of Russia and with most Western nations could be characterized as a tumultuous one. This is clearly proven by the fact that one of the most notable that Russia engaged itself in is against Sweden. The conflict against Sweden took place when Russia was in the process of modernizing itself. This situation was seen at the time that Peter the Great was building St. Petersburg because Sweden attacked with the threat of destroying the city that he was trying to establish.
The conflict between Russia and Sweden is an interesting reality because of the reason that Russia is actually using Sweden as the most prominent model towards their modernization. Nevertheless, due to this interaction that Russia had with Sweden and other Western nations, regardless of its violent nature, aided Russia to mold itself into a powerful empire. This could be regarded as Russia’s gain because their ability to learn on how the Western governments function helped them to enhance and build a strong political machinery of their own (Nosotro).
The relationship of Russia with western countries was further enhanced when he strengthen trade relations with them. Before Peter the Great’s reign the country was mostly backward and internal looking. This is the reason that the country did not interact much with the West aside from the war that they got involved in. However, through the open-mindedness that Peter the Great acquired through his travels he learned that in order for his country to reach economic robustness they should participate in international trade.
He also realized that Russia has its own set of natural resources that they could export. The country has raw materials that other European countries would patronize. Russia had plenty of pitch, potash, tallow, leather, grain and furs. In connection to these, when Peter the Great allowed European merchants to enter the country, they became interested with these raw materials that Russia has. They also hoped that they could be able to participate in the lucrative eastern luxury trade that showcases products like silk and spices (“Explorers and Leaders”).
Peter the Great’s personal experience of living in other European countries also influenced his perspective when it comes to the cultural standards that his country should have. It is clear in his objective before he traveled that he wanted to improve his country as he regarded it as backward as compared with the West. In this sense, the reforms that he wanted to establish in Russia already have this pre-assumption that it should be similar to the standards of the West. Being the case, experiencing the life in Germany and Holland motivated him more to make reforms towards westernization.
One of the first things that he did when he went back from his travel is to impose a fine among his subjects that wore long beards and Asiatic clothes. He also sponsored evening entertainments that only admitted people that are dressed like the people in Southern Europe (Pryde 147). In this action, it is clearly seen that he has this discrimination for long beards and the choice of clothing that resembles the East, which shoes that he wants his subjects to adhere to Western behavior. The kind of leadership that Peter the Great implemented also showed the influence that the Western countries have on him.
First, he reformed his government to an autocracy that is synonymous to the nobility that rule in other European nations. He also reinstituted serfdom in Russia that is also like the Feudal system that exists in the West. Furthermore, he also patterned the military force of Russia in the Western-style of militarization as well as the creation of a naval force that is also similar to the other naval power in Europe. Most importantly, Peter the Great was clearly fascinated with the technological advancement that the Western countries and this is clearly seen in his eagerness to implement it in his country.
He used the science and technology of Russia in the establishment of St. Petersburg and other important areas that enhance the modernization of the country (“Peter the Great”). Analysis of Peter the Great as Leader in Russia Peter the Great has undeniably made substantial contributions in the development of Russia. However, there is still a debate of whether he should be considered as an asset or not to the country. There is still a query of whether he led the Russians towards modernity or if he had made them more backward.
The discussions above show the life, contributions, and even the strengths as well as the weaknesses of Peter the Great’s reforms, with all these taken consideration it s possible to make a substantive conclusion on the kind of leader that he was. It is quite observable that Peter the Great had tremendously reformed Russia towards its modernization. It should be remembered that before his reign the country was lagging behind other European countries. Russians do not even have a competent knowledge regarding the arts of civilization. However, this all started to change when Peter the Great reigned as the leader of the country.
He was able to use his knowledge as well as his personal experiences in order to plan and implement the reforms in his country. It cannot be denied that the changes that he made for the country had indeed make remarkable difference as compared before. The major contributions that he did for Russia and the positive effects that these have for the country are indeed commendable. This does not mean that the weaknesses of his leadership are taken for granted. However, it must be understood that no leader is perfect regardless of how great he is.
Peter the Great also has his shortcomings and this could be seen in the discontent that the Russians have with some of his reforms. It must be put in mind that during the transitions process when changes are taking place, things could be very difficult especially for those people that are not use to changing their ways. Nevertheless, the positive things that Peter the Great made outweighs those negative criticism that are taken against him. The reforms that he made changed the whole direction that Russia is heading. He was able to modernized the country and help it leveled with other European nations.
The condition and standing that Russia now has could be partly attributed to the contribution of Peter the Great. Being the case, it can be said that he is an asset to the country and having the word “great” with his name is indeed justifiable. Works Cited Anisimov, Evgenii. , and Alexander, John. The Reforms of Peter the Great: Progress through Coercion in Russia. New York: M. E. Sharpe. “Explorers and Leaders. ” 2008. National Maritime Museum. 13 April 2009 <http://www. nmm. ac. uk/explore/sea-and-ships/facts/explorers-and-leaders/peter-the-great>. Hughes, Lindsey. Russia in the Age of Peter the Great. Connecticut: Yale University Press.
“Intellectual Life. ” 13 April 2009 <http://it. stlawu. edu/~rkreuzer/indv3/intelect. htm>. “Letters of Peter the great and His Son Alexis. ” 1715. 14 April 2009 <http://ohhs. ohsd. net/~jcrouch/Honors/Readings/05-4%20Peter%20the%20Great. pdf. >. Nosotro, Rit. “Russia’s Foreign Relations. ” 2008. 13 April 2009 <http://www. hyperhistory. net/apwh/essays/comp/cw15russiawestmughals. htm>. “Peter the Great. ” 13 April 2009 <http://www. mnsu. edu/emuseum/history/russia/peter. html>. Pryde, David. European History in a Series of Biographies. England: Oxford University. Treasure, Geoffrey. The Making of Modern Europe. New York: Routledge, 1985.Sample Essay of PaperDon.com