Peter the Great—Russian Reformer

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The difference of opinions voiced by both the commentators, from the late 18th century, has yet to be resolved to this day. A minority of historians hold that his liberal reforms in Russia were mostly for the sake earning the respect of the powers of Western Europe and claim that his despotism outweighs any reforms he made. A greater majority of historians agree that Peter the Great was a despot, but argue that while Peter’s progressive reforms (as will be discussed below) had little effect during his reign, they created a firm foundation for the advancement of Russia and defined its future.Peter I (only known as Peter the Great in the latter part of his life) was born on June 9, 1672 to Nataliya Naryshkina, the second wife of tsar Alexei I as one of the tsar's two living sons. Being the son of the tsar's second wife had an enormous impact on Peter's growing up. Tsar Alexei died when Peter was 4 years old. Peter's half brother, Fyodor III, was named the king but died childless within 6 years without naming an heir. In days after his death, a rebellion broke out concerning the succession of the throne. Fyodor's half brother, Ivan V was next in the blood line to be the king. However, he was mentally handicapped so that he would not be able to perform the functions of a king. Because of that, many boyars called for Peter (only 10 years old at this time) to be named the king. However, the relatives of Maria Miloslavskaya (the tsar Alexei's first wife) wanted Ivan V to be the king, since they hoped to keep the royal power in their family. This prompted a war between the Boyars of the Duma, who preferred Peter to be the king), and the Streltsy, members of an elite military corps who backed the Miloslavsky family. During the conflict many of those with royal connections died. The conflict took place in front of Peter who, more than once, was forced to witness the murder of his relatives. Witnessing the spilling of blood in so early an age took a mental affect. The effect on him would clearly be evident in his cruelties during his reign as the Emperor of Russia.Eventually, the warring factions came to a compromise: Peter I and Ivan V were named the joint rulers of Russia, but since both of them were incapable of handling the State, Sophia Aleksevna, Peter's half sister and a Miloslav, was named the de-facto ruler until Peter was of a more mature age. During Sophia's "reign," Peter traveled to Western Europe for education. He traveled to various nations, notably Germany, Holland, and Britain, where he studied military and shipbuilding with great curiosity. He continued his travels for a few years, returned to Russia in 1689 and married Eudoxia Lopukhina. By this time, Russia was on the verge of breaking apart. Sophia Aleksevna along with her "chief minister", Pyotr Golitsin had enacted several unpopular measures relating to the suppression of the conservatives of Russian Orthodox Church and starting a disastrous with the Crimean Tartars. Assessing the state of affairs and supported by his mother, Peter decided to assume direct control of Russia. However, Sophia Aleksevna refused step down from her role as the regent and conspired with the Streltsy to kill Peter. However, the Streltsys, who deeply resented her policies, double-crossed her and informed Peter of Sophia’s plans. Peter was able to gain the support of several boyars and managed to overthrow Sophia. However, Peter somewhat unwilling to rule Russia at the age of 17, allowed his mother Nataliya Naryshkina to make important state decisions. He assumed complete control of Russia only when Nataliya Naryshkina died in 1694.n 1694, when Peter truly took power, he sought to make Russia an imperial power. During that period, Britain was having success expanding its empire thanks to its impressive navy. Peter tried to emulate that by building a navy for Russia—which was literally non-existent. However, he faced a problem: Russia (at the time) only had access to...
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