Russia and Orthodox Christianity abroad Russia in the 18th century

Peter the Great, 1689-1725 : Domestic Policy

When Czar Ivan V. died in 1682, his son and successor PETER THE GREAT was a mere 10 years old. He and his half-brother Ivan V. assumed government in 1689; in 1696 Ivan V. died and Peter was sole Czar.

Peter detested the court and Russia's nobility, the BOYARS, and was so impressed by the progress of western countries that he visited them twice, the first time incognito in 1697-98, when he inspected a shipsyard at Zaandam (Holland) for a few days, the second time in 1717. On his journeys, he looked for modern industries and techniques to be introduced to Russia.

Peter gained AZOV on the Black Sea (1696, lost in 1713) and founded ST. PETERSBURG in 1703, on swampy land taken from the Swedes in the GREAT NORDIC WAR. He made St. Petersburg the new capital, a capital the (western) architectural style of which differed markably from the Russian style of Moscow. A SUMMER PALACE (1714) and a WINTER PALACE were built there.
Peter established the RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (1725). He replaced the Russian calendar (the year began on Sept. 1st and was counted from the assumed creation of the world, 1700 being 7208) by the Julian calendar. He reformed the Russian alphabet to facilitate printing, an industry which had begun under Ivan IV. the Terrible (1547-1584) but which had made little progress.

Peter undertook his reforms energetically and did not tolerate resistance; during his reign he faced and suppressed a number of rebellions - the STREL'TSY REVOLT of 1698 (which broke out while Peter was out of the country), BULAVIN'S REBELLION in Astrakhan 1707-1708. They were suppressed, the rebels faced torture and execution.
Peter forced the Russian BOYARS (nobles) to adopt the ways of the west. They had to shave their beards, adopt western fashion style, build stone houses in St. Petersburg, send their sons to the west for education; mandatory state service was introduced for the nobles, as state officials, military officers, judges or diplomats.
The Russian church also was subject of Petrine reforms. When Patriarch Adrian died in 1700, Peter suspended the PATRIARCHATE, replacing it in 1721 by the HOLY SYNOD. Peter had church property seized in 1700 and administrated by a state office (thus tapping the wealth of the church). The members of the Holy Synod (bishops, monks) were appointed by the Czar; the synod thus was an instrument of his policy.
Corruption was a major problem; Peter attempted to tackle it by a number of administrative reforms, aiming at decentralization. He created 8 provinces (of huge size), established administrations centered in the provincial capitals; corruption was punished severely.
Peter ruled absolute, the center of the administration was wherever he was, and he moved a lot due to his travels and campaigns. Traditional assemblies such as the BOYAR DUMA and the ZEMSKII SOBOR were abolished; in order to provide for an efficient administration while he was travelling, he established the SENATE in 1711.
Peter established the Russian Navy (in the Baltic Sea, port Kronstadt), reformed the army in which every nobleman had to serve; career officers/officials could acquire nobility through loyal service (TABLE OF RANKS 1722).

Peter the Great, encyclopedic biography from Important Rulers
Peter the Great, from History House
Peter the Great - a man who changed history ?, from the History Channel
Peter I., from Univ. Yaroslavl
Biography : Peter the Great, from Ursula's History Web
Illustrated History of St. Petersburg, from cityvision
Peter's Russia, from Western Civilization by G. Rempel
The History of the Russian Navy, from Alexander Print, many chapters on Peter
Peter the Great and the Turn to Europe (1682-1762), from Survey of Russian History, by John Garrard, posted by Atheneum
Fashionable Innovations by Tsar Peter the Great, from The Hoogsteder Journal, illustrated
DOCUMENTS Peter the Great and the Rise of Russia, 1682-1725, from Modern History Sourcebook
Coins : Peter the Great, from Coins from Famous People in History
Proclamation on the Introduction of a New Calendar, December 20, 1699, from Documents in Russian History
Decree on Single Inheritance, March 23, 1714, from Documents in Russian History
Pavel Miliukov (1759-1943) on the reforms of Peter the Great, from Documents in Russian History
Russian silver coins issued 1755-1725, from S. Sekine's Collection
Alexey Antropov, portrait of Peter the Great, 1772, from Olga's Gallery
REFERENCE Simon Dixon, The Modernisation of Russia 1676-1825, Cambridge : UP 1999
Melvin K. Wren, The Course of Russian History, Prospect Heights 1994, Chapter 9 : Peter the Great, pp.140-168
Lindsey Hughes, Catherine I. of ussia, Consort to Peter the Great, pp.131-154 in : Clarissa Campbell Orr, Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815. The Role of Consort, Cambridge : UP 2004, KMLA Lib.Sign. 940.09 076q

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on August 24th 2006

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