Peter the Great

Born on 10 June 1672, Peter ascended the throne at the age of 10 after his father’s Alexis death. He became an actual governor only at the age of 24 – Peter was the youngest son and the child of the second wife of Alexis, who had three children by his first wife: Feodor, Sophia and Ivan. Being an invalid, Feodor died in 1682, and both Peter and Ivan were placed under a regency of Sophia. Six years later Ivan died, leaving Peter in sole possession of the throne. And here begins Peter’s reign - one of the most formative periods of Russian history. In 1697 he went incognito on a European tour and spent almost a year in Holland and England acquiring mechanical and maritime skills, hiring experts in various fields, purchasing books and scientific

curiosities, and carrying on diplomatic negotiations for a crusade against the Turks – the Tsar studied shipbuilding and other industrial techniques as well as amassed knowledge on western state administration, since Peter’s determination was to modernize Russia – a thing no Russian tsar had ever done. Carrying out a policy of "Westernization" and expansion that in the course of the time transformed Russia into a major European power, Peter banned traditional Moscovite dress, established technical schools, replaced the church patriarchy with a holy synod, changed the calendar, and transferred the capital from Moscow to St.Petersburg. The foundation of new city on the inhospitable shores of the Gulf of Finland was among the most important factors in Russia’s economic development - a direct sea access to Europe, the port of Petersburg ensured an easy trade and social intercourse with western countries. The city’s construction engulfed vast sums of public and private money and the emperor spared no effort to beautify the city – excellent architects were invited from European countries, and during his reign the Peter-and-Paul fortress, the Admiralty, the Menshikovsky palace, the Summer palace and Summer garden, Kunstkamera, the building of Twelve Collegia, Peterhof appeared. A tempestuous combination of willpower and energy, Peter generated a considerable opposition during his reign, not only from the conservative clergy but also from the nobility and even his wife – Eudokia Lopukhina, who was an enemy of reforms, so Peter forced her to take the veil in 1698. In 1705, the tsar fell in love at first sight with a lovely serving-maid – Marta Skavronskaya, who converted into Orthodox Chritianity received a name of Catherine. A true friend and helper, Catherine gave birth to eight children, of whom only two survived – Anna (born in 1708) and Elizabeth (born in 1709). In 1724, Peter the Great died, and his wife Catherine was crowned.

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