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Peter the Great: A True Revolutionary

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Peter the Great: A True Revolutionary

Words you think of when you think of Russia throughout history: unmodernized, backward, retrogressive, archaic, medieval, dank and slovenly etc. I could go on, but I digress, the picture has been set. Russia hasn’t exactly been the picturesque empire, if that, that so many believe it could have or should have been. Being one of the physically largest country in the world during almost all of its 1500 + year existence(Liversidge 2), Russia is also denoted as being one of histories most notoriously hapless underachiever, with a few moments of illumination followed inevitably by years of “two steps back”. This can only be attributed to the, well nothing short of вЂ?colorful’ Tsars mother Russia has seen.

One of the most vivacious leaders ever to grace the throne was Peter the Great. Long before he proclaimed himself “The Great”, baby Peter was born to Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich and his second wife Nataliya Naryshkina on June 9 1672 in Moscow (Liversidge 2). Being the fourteenth child of Alexis, Peter wasn’t destined for much to start. He was ascended to the throne at age ten, however, due to his sick and invalid siblings; eventually his brother and Feodor died childless in 1682, leaving ten year old Peter and his imbecile brother Ivan to compete for the throne. Peter won out, and was sent from his childhood home at the country estate of Kolomenskoe to the Kremlin (the Russian White House).

No sooner was he established, however, than Ivan’s family struck back. Gaining the support of the Kremlin Guard, they launched a coup d'etat, and Peter was forced to endure the horrible sight of his supporters and family members being thrown from the top of the grand Red Stair of the Faceted Palace onto the raised pikes of the Guard. The outcome of the coup was a joint Tsar-ship, with both Peter and Ivan placed under the regency of Ivan's elder and not exactly impartial sister Sophia. Never the less, Peter regained his title at age 17 after Sophia’s failed plot to murder the opposing heir, and sentenced her to life to a convent cell. He kept his brother Ivan as a figure head on the thrown though to deal with frivolous court traditions, while he kept sole power of Russia and learned many skills soon to be utilized in his sovereignty .

Standing at over 6 foot 8 inches tall(World History, 136), Peter was a big strong man and such was reflected in his legacy. At age 19, he embarked on a grand scale tour of Europe in order to see the advancements of these countries in all aspects of life, and to scope out the seen so to say. He also went to gain alliances in order to expel the tartars from the seaports Russia so desperately needed to the west near the Ottoman Empire, and to free Christendom in these areas. The manner of which he endured this journey is exemplary of his unique traits; he traveled in disguise, hiding his identity at most times as a carpenter named Peter Mikhailof. He even spent 4 months in a shipbuilding yard for the Dutch East Indies Co., waking up at dusk to work the day as a humbled вЂ?citizen’. This showed how much of a willing visionary Peter was and how much he was willing to do in order for his country to become advanced and westernized(“Peter the Great” Wikipedia).

Along this hiatus he saw such nations as England, The Holy Roman Empire, France, Poland, New Amsterdam, and the Netherlands. He saw and admired many new ways of living and politics so vastly different than Russia’s archaic traditions and even set up some diplomatic relations. He was described by a Parisian philosopher as “a humble and bright leader, characteristic of the future of Russia” (Liversidge 65). The visit of Peter was cut short in 1698, when he was forced to rush home by a rebellion of the streltsy. The rebellion was, however, easily crushed before Peter returned; of the Tsar's troops, only one was killed.

On his return, Peter set out to bring change to his country. In a taboo act he made all of his nobles shave their beards that signified their status in order that they may look “clean cut” (World History, 135). His Zeal towards westernization was unparalleled as he did such things as banning unnecessary evils such as traditional muscovite dress, simplified the alphabet, legalized fairs and public showings, supported a freer and unrestricted view on religion and life, and improved the barbaric manners of his court. These were small changes in comparison to his major changes. He introduced military conscription and brought in many foreign engineers to bring Russia’s army and navy fleets up to date and world renowned. He also changed the calendar to conform to the rest of the world and even set himself as supreme authority in the Russian Orthodox Church to prevent corruption and free up the tainted dogmas. Although he didn’t institute public schools for the masses, laid down the tracks for Russia’s future by setting up dozens of technical schools and colleges, increasing the amount of reformers, engineers, writers and technicians necessary to sustain



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