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The Ends Versus the Means: A Look at the Claim to "greatness" of Peter I of Russia

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Tyler Dolan

Professor Greene

27 September 2006

Response #5 (Peter)

The Ends Versus the Means: a look at the claim to "greatness" of Peter I of Russia.

In any study of Russia's history and monarchy, it is impossible to ignore the variety of

titles added to so many names throughout the nobility; some being appended as a show of power

by the ruler or noble themself, others added posthumously, a la Ivan the "terrible." In the case of

Peter I of Romanov Russia, his affixation of "the Great" could hardly be more appropriate. There

exists an old Russian proverb that translates "the same hammer that shatters the glass forges the

steel." Peter "shattered the glass" by breaking down the limitations of a somewhat backwards

empire, and "forged" the way for a new and powerful Russia. Though it is clear that his tactics

were sometimes cruel and of great detriment to the peasant proletariat, the stronger argument

clearly shows that Peter the Great influenced and reformed Russia in ways that none of his

predecessors could; Peter made Russia a force to be reckoned with, and, in essence, "put it on the

map."

Peter clearly had his downfalls, among them his firm belief in the concept of "the ends

justify the means." Under his reign, the peasant majority moved further down the path towards

becoming "full serfs." (Platonov 180) It is clear that, in fact, that he did decrease what little

human rights his poorest subjects had. Under Peter, one man from each of twenty household was

required to serve in the armed forces. [This raised Peter's army to over thirty thousand, but these

men were forced to serve and were in the army for life.] (Freeze 94) It is also evident that in the

creation of Peter's great city (St. Petersburg), peasants were employed via forced labor and many

died. These examples show a view of the Russian people as "resources" rather than humanity,

but also a zealous need to advance his empire.

Despite Peter's imperfections, it is necessary to assess him in his own time and amongst

his own European royal peers. The changes he brought to Russia were innumerable and of

axiomatic

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