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Peter the great 2

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Peter the great 2

Towards the end of the seventeenth century Russia differed very little from what it had been at the end of the fifteenth. During the reign of Peter the Great Russia's desire for change and a quest for progress was reaching levels comparable to those of Europe. Peter the Great is associated with the movement of Russia from the Medieval world to the Age of Enlightenment. Throughout the centuries historiographical debate has been in progress. There was a debate between historians who consider Peter the Great as a great Tsar of Russia and those who perceive him as an autocratic tyrant. Scholars ask if Peter the Great did indeed open the 'Window to the West,' ans if so what kind of window, and what aspects of the West? The interpretation of Russia's past remains a subject of debate among historians. Image and accomplishments of Peter the Great with each generation produce different attitudes. What views are put forward by Peter's contemporaries and modern historians? How did advocates and opposition portray the reign of Peter the Great? These are important questions to ask in an explanation on how Peter the Great was seen in the eyes of his contemporaries and of modern historians.

In order to understand the image of Peter the Great and his significance it is necessary to know his background and the influences that shaped his life. Peter the Great was the fourteenth child of Alexei Mikhailovich, born in Moscow on May 30, 1672. Tsar Alexis died when Peter was four years old. His mother raised Peter. Tsars' Alexis son from his first marriage, Feodor Alekseevich succeeded to the throne but his reign did not last long. On April 27, 1682, Tsar Feodor died. In line to succeed him were, his brother Ivan and Peter who was his half-brother. Peter was only ten years old. With the assistance of the semiprofessional musketeers garrisoned in Moscow, sister of Feodor, Sophia, seized power and declared herself regent, proclaiming both Ivan and Peter co-tsars. Sophia was in conflict with the family of Peter's mother and she forced the boy to reside on one of the suburban estates of the crown. The hostility during Sophia's regin was significant influence on Peter's development as a Tsar.

Peter grew up away from the constricting atmosphere of the Kremlin, and he was left to his devices under his mother's supervision. Peter was a lively and energetic boy compared to his other siblings who were sick and weak. From his early years he was interested in military games, fire, bombs and fireworks. He organized his own "play regiments" and war games by enlisting gentlemen's sons. He also had contact with foreigners and was fascinated with their way of life. His education started around the age of seven. One of his tutors was Nikita Zotov, who was a kind clerk, literate man who knew the Bible well but was not a scholar. While Zotov was teaching Peter to read and write, he told him stories of Russian history; of battles and heroes. Peter's education was less classical then that given to Feodor or Sophia. By the time Peter reached manhood, he was basicaly a self taught man since he chose what he wished to learn. His lack of formal education would be reflected in the decisions and situations with which he had to deal with during his rule.

Number of features of Peter's childhood and youth makes it possible to see his intellectual development. At the age of sixteen, Peter was introduced to a dutchman, named Timmerman who became his second tutor. Under Timmerman's guidance he was learning arithmetic, geometry, and the sciences of fortifications and artillery. Timmerman had also introduced him to sailing which became one of the favorite interests for Peter. Early contacts with Timmerman and other foreigners had opened his mind to the technological West. Overall, Peter early in his childhood, was cut off from the typical old Russian environment, ideas, customs and traditions of government of a Muscovite Tsar. This lack of knowledge of political and moral ideas, about the people, government and a ruler's obligations to his subjects was reflected in his reign.

Peter's growing interests in foreigners and the western atmosphere which he was found of, disturbed his mother, Natalia. In order to convert Peter she had hoped that marriage would change his perspectives. Peter married Eudoxia Lopukhina in 1689, who was chosen by his mother. Unfortunately the match was a disaster, since the couple did not have much in common. However, through this marriage, Peter had two sons but the second died at age seven months. Most of the time Peter was away from his wife engaged in work on boats and sailing. Peter the Great was not interested in his family, he was very much interested in an atmosphere which was open to progressive influences from the West.

In 1689, Sophia's regency ended when once again she tried to take full control of Russia. Peter expelled her from the palace and sent to the Novodevichi nunnery. Many of her close associates were executed or exiled. Peter returned from hiding to Moscow but at that time he was not interested in ruling the country. He appointed a group of ministers with whom he left state matters for another five years before he took the reins of government into his own hands.

From 1690 foreign influences were increased in Peters way of life. In 1691 for the first time a Russian tsar, Peter the Great adopted Western dress. Two of Peter's close foreign friendships were with Patrick Gordon and Franz Lefort. Their education and their information about ways of life, science, and Western institutions were always of great interest for Peter. He was attracted and enjoyed the company of foreigners mostly because of the greater social, sexual, and intellectual freedom. He recognized his own drives and energy among the ambitious and adventurous foreigners who came to Russia. During his time spent in the company of foreigners he acquired mechanical skills and accumulated as much knowledge as he could. His military establishment was reorganized on the Western model, and his "play regiments" were transformed into regiments of the Guards. This improvement of military force was going to help him in defeating Russia's enemy.

In 1696, after his mother and Ivans death he took over the actual governance of his realm. Peter's violations of the customs and his decision to visit western Europe shocked the Muscovites. Opposition groups and the signs of revolt were very quickly discovered and dealt with. People were arrested, torture, exiled to Siberia or executed. Nothing was going to stop Peter from going abroad. In August 1697 Peter left for journey to the West. He was the first Russian ruler to do so. His journey created not only sensation in Russia but in the countries he passed through. He visited Germany, Holland where he spent several months improving his knowledge of shipbuilding and navigation. He also visited England and Vienna. While on his journey he bought scientific instruments, books, and many curiosities. Peter was successful in furthering his knowledge and in laying the groundwork for regular technical and intellectual exchanges. In his diplomatic efforts he did not succeed. Peter returned to Moscow in August 1698. He brought back not only material things but also a new vision of change for Russia.

The new visions or "transformation" of Russia that Peter the Great was determined to create throughout the years of his reign, received positive and negative assessments from his contemporaries and historians. By transformation Peter the Great meant "modernization." Peter wanted for Russia to become part of Western Europe in political, economic and cultural sense. Change, for Peter included acceptance of the technology and the outlook of the West. Change also meant absolutist state with the absolute monarch and his centralized bureaucratic state. The monarchs like Peter the Great, sought to follow ...

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