The birth of Peter the Great, the first emperor Russia, turned 350 this Thursday (9). His character and achievements are still the subject of great interest and heated debate among historians.
Peter’s childhood was overshadowed by the bloody conflict and intrigue between the families of influential boyars Naryshkin and Miloslavsky after the death of his father, Tsar Alexius of Russia (1629-1676), who was famous for moderate reforms and severe repression. of disobedience.
The breeders of the young Tsar, engaged in a turbulent political life, left Peter a wide field of independent work: the young man paid close attention to Peter. War games and navigation studies. He surrounded himself with loyal friends who came from different backgrounds and nationalities (among them, for example, the Dutch and Germans from the suburb of Nemetskaya Sloboda, near Moscow – today is the Lefortovo region in the southeast of the Russian capital).
This was the reason why Pedro’s first independent decisions shocked his political opponents, who did not expect decisive and strong actions from the young ruler “dedicated to the games”.
The turning point in the young king’s worldview was the so-called “Great Embassy” (1697-1698), a diplomatic mission in which Peter traveled in disguise through several European countries. This mission failed to achieve its main political goal – a series of alliance agreements to successfully complete the war against it empire Ottoman– But Pedro took the unique opportunity to study navigation, naval construction, fortification, artillery, and the exact sciences for more than a year.
Returning from his mission abroad, Peter realized that Russia could develop only by obtaining reliable access to the sea, building a modern navy, army and civil administration, and reforming the country’s commerce and industry. The Tsar decided to settle this matter with all his determination. Refusing to continue his military campaigns south, Peter turned his eyes to the Baltic coast and the development of the fortunes of the Urals and Siberia.
Taking advantage of the military alliance with the Elector of Saxony August II (1670-1733), at the same time King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, concluded during the “Grand Embassy”, the Tsar entered the war against Sweden, which was dominated by O Baltic Sea Since the middle of the seventeenth century.
However, over the 21-year conflict, Russia acquired a new territorial and administrative division, replaced the Prikazys (the old governing bodies that existed since Ivan III) with more efficient faculties (similar to the ministries), judicial and was after its reform, the army was restructured according to modern standards . A military navy was also created, which managed to achieve a decisive victory over the Swedes.
Peter the Great enforced the “Patent Scale” that regulated the civil, military, and court ranks, providing civil servants with a rare opportunity to be rewarded for their accomplishments and abilities rather than for their upper-class assets.
In 1721, the Great Northern War ended. Sweden signed the Treaty of Nystad, which granted Russia land and access to the Baltic Sea. The peace treaty granted amnesty to all “criminals and fugitives”, with the exception of supporters of the traitor Ivan Mazepa, the Zaporozhye Cossack Hetman, who defected during the war to the Swedish king.
Soon after the victory, Tsar Peter took the title of Emperor of All Russia, and the Empire of Russia, with a fixed geostrategic position in northern and eastern Europe, was proclaimed the Russian Empire. city Saint Petersburgfounded by Peter the Great on the banks of the Neva in 1703, became the capital of the empire.
Russia firmly entered the family of the great European powers. In less than a hundred years, the country will lead the “European Entente” after the historic victory over Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna.
The emperor and the tsar himself were both a worker and an innovator. He introduced a new way of life, insisted on wearing Western suits, shaving beards and the inclusion of foreign terms in the Russian court, but along with the obligatory modernization, he sought to support and develop local talent and maintain a unique identity. Pedro’s grandchildren followed his example: they adopted the best foreign practices, preserved the unique national character and devoted themselves to serving the Motherland.
In conclusion, I would like to note that in the works of Russian and foreign historians the reign of Peter is often criticized because, in their view, the tsar’s reforms were aimed primarily at meeting military needs, rather than promoting a real modernization of the system of government.
Even if these observations are accepted as true, it is impossible to deny the success of Peter’s reforms, which were carried out during the difficult period of the war. On the contrary, critics and enemies of Russia should not forget this historical example, especially today, when they are trying once again to “close the window on Europe to Russia”, which Peter the Great opened so skillfully.
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