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Peter the Great,1672–1725, czar of Russia (1682–1725), major figure in the development of imperial Russia.
Peter was the youngest child of Czar Alexis, by Alexis's second wife, Natalya Naryshkin. From Alexis's first marriage (with Maria Miloslavsky) were born Feodor III, Sophia Alekseyevna, and the semi-imbecile Ivan. On Feodor III's death (1682), a struggle broke out for the succession between the Naryshkin and Miloslavsky factions. The Naryshkins at first succeeded in setting Ivan aside in favor of 10-year-old Peter. Shortly afterward, however, the Miloslavsky party incited the streltsi (semimilitary formations in Moscow) to rebellion. In the bloody disorder that followed, Peter witnessed the murders of many of his supporters. As a result of the rebellion Ivan, as Ivan VIvan V,
1666–96, czar of Russia (1682–96), son of Czar Alexis by his first wife. Ivan was mentally retarded, and on the death of his elder brother, Feodor III, his succession was opposed by the supporters of his half-brother, Peter I (Peter the Great).
..... Click the link for more information. , was made (1682) joint czar with Peter, under the regency of Sophia AlekseyevnaSophia Alekseyevna
, 1657–1704, regent of Russia (1682–89); daughter of Czar Alexis by his first wife and sister of Czar Feodor III. Supported by the streltsi (semimilitary formations in Moscow), she seized power shortly after Feodor's death (1682) and was proclaimed
..... Click the link for more information. .
A virtual exile, Peter spent most of his childhood in a suburb of Moscow, surrounded by playmates drawn both from the nobility and from the roughest social elements. His talent for leadership soon became apparent when he organized military games that became regular maneuvers in siegecraft. In addition, Peter began to experiment with shipbuilding on Lake Pereyaslavl (now Lake Pleshcheyevo). Peter learned the rudiments of Western military science from the European soldiers and adventurers who lived in a foreign settlement near Moscow. His most influential foreign friends, Patrick GordonGordon, Patrick,
1635–99, Scottish soldier of fortune and Russian general, b. Scotland. After serving alternately on both sides in the war between Sweden and Poland (1655–60), he entered the Russian army (1661) and later became the devoted friend of the youthful czar
..... Click the link for more information. of Scotland, François LefortLefort, François
, 1656–99, Swiss soldier of fortune in Russian service, b. Geneva. He was one of the early boon companions of Peter I (Peter the Great) and remained Peter's favorite until his death. A drunkard and libertine, Lefort nevertheless had great influence.
..... Click the link for more information. of Geneva, and Franz Timmermann of Holland, came from this colony. In 1689, Sophia Alekseyevna attempted a coup against Peter; this time, however, aided by the loyal part of the streltsi, he overthrew the regent. For several years, until Peter assumed personal rule, the Naryshkins ran the government. Ivan V, whose death in 1696 left Peter sole czar, took no part in the government.
Russia was almost continuously at war during Peter's reign. In the 16th and early 17th cent. the country had fought periodically in the northwest against Sweden, in an attempt to gain access to the Baltic Sea, and in the south against the Ottoman Empire. While continuing the policy of his predecessors, Peter drew Russia into European affairs and helped to make it a great power. His earliest venture was the conquest of Azov from the Ottomans in 1696, after an unsuccessful attempt in 1695. Peter then embarked on a European tour (1697–98), traveling partly incognito, to form a grand alliance against the Ottoman Empire and to acquire the Western techniques necessary to modernize Russia's armed forces. He failed to form an anti-Ottoman alliance, but his conversations with the Polish king and others led eventually (1699) to a coalition against Sweden.
Peter also gained considerable knowledge of European industrial techniques (he even spent some time working as a ship's carpenter in Holland) and hired many European artisans for service in Russia. In 1698 he returned to Russia, began to modernize the armed forces, and launched domestic reforms. After concluding (1700) peace with the Ottomans, Peter, in alliance with Denmark and the combined Saxony-Poland, began the Northern WarNorthern War,
1700–1721, general European conflict, fought in N and E Europe at the same time that the War of the Spanish Succession was fought in the west and the south.
..... Click the link for more information. (1700–1721) against Charles XIICharles XII,
1682–1718, king of Sweden (1697–1718), son and successor of Charles XI. The regency under which he succeeded was abolished in 1697 at the request of the Riksdag. At the coronation he omitted the usual oath and crowned himself.
..... Click the link for more information. of Sweden. Although disastrously defeated at first, he routed Charles at Poltava in 1709 and by the Treaty of Nystad (1721) retained his conquests of Ingermanland, Karelia, and Livonia.
Peter's conquests in the south were less permanent. Azov was restored to the Ottoman Empire in 1711; Derbent, Baku, and the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, conquered in a war (1722–23) with Persia, were soon lost again. In the east, Russia extended its control over part of Siberia but failed to subjugate either Khiva or Bokhara. Peter's first diplomatic missions to China were unsuccessful but his efforts led to the Treaty of Kyakhta (1727), which fixed the Russo-Chinese border and established commercial relations. Peter's interest in imperial expansion led to the financing of the first voyage of Vitus BeringBering, Vitus Jonassen
, 1681–1741, Danish explorer in Russian employ. In 1725 he was selected by Peter I to explore far NE Siberia. Having finally moved men and supplies across Siberia, Bering in 1728 sailed N through Bering Strait but sighted no land and did not
..... Click the link for more information. .
Peter had returned to Russia in 1698 at the news of a military revolt allegedly instigated by Sophia Alekseyevna. He took drastic vengeance on his opponents and forced Sophia into a convent. On the day after his return, Peter personally cut off the beards of his nobles and shortly thereafter ordered them to replace their long robes and conical hats with Western dress. This attack on the symbols of old Muscovy marked the beginning of Peter's attempt to force Russia to adopt European appearance and other features of Western culture. Most of Peter's reforms followed his predecessors' tentative steps, but his demonic pace and brutal methods created an impression of revolutionary change.
The reforms were sporadic and uncoordinated; many of them grew out of the needs of Peter's almost continuous warfare. He introduced conscription on a territorial basis, enlarged and modernized the army, founded and expanded the navy, and established technical schools to train men for military service. To finance this huge military establishment, he created state monopolies, introduced the first poll tax, and placed levies on every conceivable item. Peter encouraged and subsidized private industry and established state mines and factories to provide adequate supplies of war materials. Peter reformed the administrative machinery of the state. He introduced a supervisory senate and a new system of central administration and tried to reform provincial and local government.
Peter also attempted to subordinate all classes of Russian society to the needs of the state. He enlarged the service nobility (the body of nobles who owed service to the state), imposed further duties on it, and forced the sons of nobles to attend technical schools. To control the nobles he introduced the Table of Ranks, which established a bureaucratic hierarchy in which promotion was based on merit rather than on birth. The nobility's economic position was strengthened by changes in the laws of land tenure. The serfs (who paid the bulk of taxes and made up most of the soldiery) were bound more securely to their masters and to the land. Peter subordinated the church to the state by replacing the patriarchate with a holy synod, headed by a lay procurator appointed by the czar.
Peter introduced changes in manners and mores. The ban on beards and Muscovite dress was extended to the entire male population, women were released from their servile position, and attempts were made to improve the manners of the court and administration. Peter sent many Russians to be schooled in the West and was responsible for the foundation (1725) of the Academy of Sciences. He reformed the calendar and simplified the alphabet. The transfer of the capital from Moscow to St. PetersburgSaint Petersburg,
Rus. Sankt-Peterburg, city (1990 est. pop. 5,036,000), capital of the Leningrad region (although not administratively part of it) and the administrative center of the Northwestern federal district, NW European Russia, at
..... Click the link for more information. , built on the swamps of Ingermanland at tremendous human cost, was a dramatic symbol of Peter's reforms. Although Peter sought to enforce all his reforms with equal severity, he was unable to eradicate the traditional corruption of officials or to impose Western ways on the peasantry.
His reforms were often considered whimsical and sacrilegious and met widespread opposition. The conservatives among the clergy accused him of being the antichrist. The discontented looked to Peter's son, AlexisAlexis
(Aleksey Mikhailovich) , 1629–76, czar of Russia (1645–76), son and successor of Michael. His reign, marked by numerous popular outbreaks, was crucial for the later development of Russia.
..... Click the link for more information. , who was eventually tried for treason on flimsy evidence and was tortured to death (1718). In 1721, Peter had himself proclaimed "emperor of all Russia." In 1722 he declared the choice of a successor to be dependent on the sovereign's will; this decree (valid until the reign of Paul I) preceded the coronation (1724) of his second wife as Empress Catherine I. She was a Livonian peasant girl whom Peter had made his mistress, then his wife (1712) after repudiating his first consort. Her accession on Peter's death was largely engineered by Peter's chief lieutenant and favorite, A. D. MenshikovMenshikov, Aleksandr Danilovich, Prince
, 1672?–1729, Russian field marshal and statesman. Of lowly origin, he became an intimate companion of Peter I (Peter the Great), and after the death of François Lefort (1699) he was the czar's chief adviser.
..... Click the link for more information. . Although many of Peter's innovations were too hasty and arbitrary to be successful, his reign was decisive in the long process of transforming medieval Muscovy into modern Russia.
Personality and Achievements
Peter's personal traits ranged from bestial cruelty and vice to the most selfless devotion to Russia; his order to his troops at Poltava read, "Remember that you are fighting not for Peter but for the state." Despite the convulsive fits that plagued him, he had a bearlike constitution, was of gigantic stature, and possessed herculean physical prowess. He drank himself into stupors and indulged in all conceivable vices but could rouse himself at a moment's notice, and he was willing to undergo all the physical exertions and privations that he exacted from his subjects.
Peter subordinated the lives and liberties of his subjects to his own conception of the welfare of the state. Like many of his successors, he concluded that ruthless reform was necessary to overcome Russia's backwardness. Peter remains one of the most controversial figures in Russian history. Those who regard Russia as essentially European praise him for his policy of Westernization, and others who consider Russia a unique civilization attack him for turning Russia from its special path of development. Those impressed by imperial expansion and state and social reforms tend to regard Peter's arbitrary and brutal methods as necessary, while others appalled by his disregard of human life conclude that the cost outweighed any gains.
The first biographer of Peter the Great was Voltaire. See later biographies by R. K. Massie (1980) and H. Troyat (1987); study by N. V. Riasanovsky (1985); L. Hughes, Russia in the Age of Peter the Great (1998).
Peter I,d. 1104, king of Aragón and Navarre (1094–1104), son and successor of Sancho I. He continued the fight against the Moors, taking (1096) Huesca and recapturing (1100) Barbastro. His brother Alfonso I succeeded him.
Peter I,1320–67, king of Portugal (1357–67), son and successor of Alfonso IV. He married (1336) Constance Manuel, a Castilian noblewoman, but subsequently fell in love with one of her ladies in waiting, Inés de CastroCastro, Inés de,
or Inez de Castro
, d. 1355, Spanish noblewoman, a celebrated beauty, and a tragic figure in Portuguese history. She went (1340) to Portugal as a lady in waiting to Constance of Castile, wife of the heir to the Portuguese throne, Dom Pedro
..... Click the link for more information. . Their tragic love affair has been a favorite theme in Portuguese literature. When Alfonso IV allowed Inés, whom Peter later claimed to have married, to be murdered (1355), the prince led a rebellion against his father. Peace was restored, and the prince formally pardoned the murderers. Nevertheless, when Peter became king, he had two of them executed by having their hearts drawn out. This act, and his concern for legal reform, earned him the names Peter the Severe, or the Cruel, and Peter the Justiciar. He was succeeded by his son, Ferdinand I.
Peter I,1844–1921, king of Serbia (1903–18) and king of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (1918–21), son of Prince AlexanderAlexander
(Alexander Karadjordjević) , 1806–85, prince of Serbia (1842–58), son of Karageorge (Karadjordje). He was elected to succeed the deposed Michael of Serbia.
..... Click the link for more information. of Serbia (Alexander Karadjordjević). He was brought up in exile in Geneva and Paris while the ObrenovićObrenović
, Serbian dynasty. Its founder, Miloš Obrenović (see Miloš), was the first modern Serbian ruler. The murder (1817) of Karageorge (Karadjordje), probably at Miloš's instigation, started the long feud between the
..... Click the link for more information. line ruled Serbia, and he fought in the French army in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). In 1875, he joined the Bosnian insurrection against the Ottomans. The assassination (1903) of King AlexanderAlexander
(Alexander Obrenović) , 1876–1903, king of Serbia (1889–1903), son of King Milan. He succeeded on his father's abdication. Proclaiming himself of age in 1893, he took over the government, abolished (1894) the relatively liberal constitution of 1889,
..... Click the link for more information. of Serbia brought Peter to the throne. Peter proved an able and conscientious ruler and restored dignity to the court of Belgrade. He reformed the constitution, the army, and the school system and fostered improved methods of agriculture. The outstanding figure of his reign was Nikola PašićPašić or Pashitch, Nikola
, 1845?–1926, Serbian statesman. After studying engineering, he became interested in politics and was elected (1878) to the Serbian parliament.
..... Click the link for more information. , who directed Serbian policy in the Balkan WarsBalkan Wars,
1912–13, two short wars, fought for the possession of the European territories of the Ottoman Empire. The outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War for the possession of Tripoli (1911) encouraged the Balkan states to increase their territory at Turkish expense.
..... Click the link for more information. (1912–13) and in World War I. Early in 1914 Peter, who was in ill health, retired from active rule and his son, later King AlexanderAlexander,
1888–1934, king of Yugoslavia (1921–34), son and successor of Peter I. Of the Karadjordjević family, he was educated in Russia and became crown prince of Serbia upon the renunciation (1909) of the succession by his brother George.
..... Click the link for more information. of Yugoslavia, became regent. Peter took part in the retreat (1915–16) of the Serbian troops through Albania to Corfu. In 1918 he was chosen to rule the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later known as Yugoslavia), while his son and successor remained regent.
Peter I(Pierre Mauclerc), d. 1250, duke or count of Brittany (1213–37). The son of Robert II, count of Dreux, he married Alix, half-sister and heiress of Arthur IArthur I,
1187–1203?, duke of Brittany (1196–1203?), son of Geoffrey, fourth son of Henry II of England and Constance, heiress of Brittany. Arthur, a posthumous child, was proclaimed duke in 1196, and an invasion by his uncle King Richard I of England was repulsed
..... Click the link for more information. duke of Brittany. His surname, meaning "bad cleric," probably derived from the fact that he studied for the priesthood but abandoned it. Making peace with the church, he took part in the crusade against the Albigenses. Peter was a leader in the rebellions of the nobles against the regency of Blanche of CastileBlanche of Castile
, 1185?–1252, queen of Louis VIII of France and regent during the minority (1226–34) of their son Louis IX. A forceful and capable ruler, she checked the coalitions of the great lords and frustrated the attempt (1230) of Henry III of England to
..... Click the link for more information. . Upon his son's majority (1237) Peter ceded Brittany to him. Peter joined the Crusade of 1239 and later accompanied Louis IX on the Crusade to Egypt in 1248. He died on the return voyage. He is also known as Peter of Dreux.