From the middle of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century three rulers stand out, remaining significantly more influential than other rulers of the period of Russian history. During the two hundred and fifty year period Russia witnessed three enlightened rulers, Ivan IV, Peter I, and Catherine II. Yet their enlightened dispositions were merely facades to hide ulterior motives of gaining more absolute power. They primarily sought to increase their power on the Russian throne.
During Ivan IV’s rule, 1533 to 1584, Ivan IV enacted a variety of both enlightened and despotic policies. During the beginning of his reign Ivan IV was kept even-tempered by his wife, Anastasia. Ivan IV freed Russia from the Tatars’ grasp, gained quite a bit of new territory in the name of Russia, sought a new law code, reformed the government, replaced the hereditary rule with one of electoral, established trading routes to England through the port Archangles, and organized the Zemskii Sobor. Yet Ivan IV’s reign of enlightenment was followed by a reign of cruelty, demonstrating his capacity of despotism. After the death of Anastasia, Ivan IV became capricious and began to show despotic tendencies. He oppressed the church, purged the Boyars, formed the Oprichnina which lead to the deaths of many people, further tied the peasants to the land; on the whole Ivan IV merely sought to make his power absolute. Ivan IV ultimately enhanced the power of the sole ruler of Russia. Like Ivan IV, Peter the Great executed many enlightened policies. He sought to modernize Russia through ship building, mining, metallurgy, textiles, and canal building. Other enlightened policies enacted were the creation of a merit based system within the military and government, strengthening the education system, eliminating the Boyar Duma, and the attempt to reorganize towns in an attempt to strengthen local democracy. Though Peter I did not only create enlightened...
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