Great Embassy

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Great Embassy


a Russian diplomatic mission to Western Europe undertaken by Peter I in 1697-98.

The mission of the Great Embassy was to strengthen and broaden the alliance between Russia and many European states for the struggle against Turkey for the northern shore of the Black Sea, to invite specialists to enter Russian service, and to order and purchase military materials and arms. The embassy was officially headed by the “great ambassadors” (F. Ia. Lefort, F. A. Golovin, and P. B. Voznitsyn) but in fact was headed by Peter I, who joined the embassy under the name Peter Mikhailov. In Courland, Peter I carried on negotiations with the duke of Courland and in Königsberg he concluded an alliance with the elector of Brandenburg. In Holland, after unsuccessful negotiations about a subsidy, the Great Embassy was compelled to limit itself to the purchase of equipment and the hiring of specialists. Peter I left for England with part of the embassy for three months. There he carried on negotiations with the British king William III, became acquainted with shipbuilding, visited shipyards and artillery factories, and hired specialists. Attempting to avert the conclusion of a separate peace between Austria and Turkey, the Great Embassy carried on unsuccessful negotiations in Vienna with the representatives of its former allies in the coalition against Turkey—the minister of foreign affairs of Austria and the Venetian ambassador. A proposed journey to Venice was canceled because of news of the revolt of the streltsy (semiprofessional musketeers) in Moscow and Peter I’s hurried return to Russia.

The Great Embassy did not attain its direct goal but studied international conditions, clarified the impossibility of strengthening the coalition against Turkey because of the approaching War of the Spanish Succession, and brought back plans for the struggle for an outlet on the Baltic. On his way back to Russia, Peter I met with the Polish king August II and carried on negotiations with him that formed the basis for the future alliance against Sweden.


Pis’ma i bumagi imperatora Petra Velikogo, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1887.
Andreev, A. I. “Petr I v Anglii v 1698 g.” In the collection Petr Velikii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Baklanova, N. A. “Velikoe posol’stvo za granitsei v 1697-98 gg.” Ibid.
Bogoslovskii, M. M. Petr I: Materialy dlia biografii, vol. 2. [Moscow] 1941.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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