Peter the Great is a famous Russian czar who fought tirelessly in the late 17th century in an attempt to make Russia a great Nation. Peter is well recognized for his primary goal which was to try and make Russia a modern and Western Nation and turn it into one of the major European power. During his time, Peter engaged in massive changes and improvements that were meant to turn Russia into a great Nation. He was able to overcome opposition from the Russian archaic aristocracy and introduced changes that affected all areas of life in Russia (Pares, & Pares, 1947).
In his efforts to Westernize and modernize Russia as he turned it into a European power, Peter undertook several steps. First, he traveled broadly and widely in Western Europe to learn and acquire knowledge about modern ways of living and all things concerning modern life. In 1697, Peter the Great traveled to Germany where he wanted to learn about shipbuilding and gunnery, but his efforts were unsuccessful when rumors started spreading that he had come to learn these techniques (Anisimov, 1993).
From Germany, he traveled to Holland where he had an opportunity to work as a local carpenter at East India Company shipyard. While in Holland, he would visit factories, theaters, observatory, and institutions of learning as he tried to understand the Dutch way of life. He only focused on the things that he thought would be of importance to Russia. Although he had quite mastered techniques that mainly boosted his shipbuilding and industrial science, Peter was again recognized by the locals, and so he had to leave the country. From Holland, he went to London and later to Vienna but was forced to stop his journeys when he received bad news from Russia. His visit to these countries was helped him scrutinize the political advancements in those countries which would be helpful to Russia (Pares, & Pares, 1947).
Peter attracted Western, and other foreign experts to Russia, who he thought could help in the modernization process. Peter knew that for Russia to become a European country, the European way of life was inevitable. He started a kind of local war at home which targeted the traditional Russian ways of life. His attendants had to cut their beards and replace them with Western fashion. Peter also modernized Russian military and regulatory structure where he simplified the alphabetic and changed the calendar to make it the same as that of that of European nations (Pares, & Pares,1947). The invited experts helped in creating factories which improved trade. Since Russia had no warship during Peters time, it was necessary to introduce drills and to replace old cannons with new guns. Leaders and military officers were taught how to take charge just like the European instead of observing the rules. It was all in an attempt to adopt the European ways of life (Pares, & Pares, 1947).
Another effort that Peter the Great made in his attempt to achieve his goal was to crush any internal opposition ruthlessly. Peter introduced some of his reforms mercilessly. He would chop off the beards of his attendants and followers and tear their clothes so that they could dress in the European way. Courtiers who wanted to keep their beards were forced to pay a particular kind of tax. His reforms towards modernization came with a severe blow to the economy of Russia that mostly affected peasant farmers and the have-nots who resided in urban areas. Although this westernization and upgrading raised the cost of living and caused economic strain, nobody would complain since the oppositions were brutally put down (Anisimov, 1993).
Peter the Great also organized attacks on the neighboring countries so that he could expand the territory under his control. The Russian military, under the direction by Peter, attacked the Sweden, who had blocked the Baltic coast route. Peter had a dream of seizing the Baltic coast (Anisimov, 1993). They had to fight the Swedes, but he later realized that the Russian arm was not that strong, and so the battle ended in an unpleasant way. Peter then analyzed the defeat as his motivation to work even harder. In 1704, Russian army managed to capture Tartu and Nava. This Russian success was then followed by the 1709 Poltava battle that marked on of the primary victories in Russian military record. The plan of actions that the army followed towards their success was Peters ideas and design (Anisimov, 1993).
In his efforts, Peter gained territory in Estonia, Finland, and Latvia and secured access to the Black Sea after several battles with the Turkey. In 1709, Peter defeated the Swedish army when he directed the Swedes army to Poltava. In 1721; he created the city of St. Petersburg on the Neva River and shifted the main city from Moscow to St. Petersburg, which was named Russia's "window to Europe, later. In November 1721, Russia officially became a Russian Empire and Peter assumed the title of an Emperor as he resumed to active politics (Pares, & Pares, 1947). In 1722, Peter attacked the Persian territory, and Persia acquired some parts of the Caspian Sea to Russia a year later.
In conclusion, it is evident that Peter the Great undertook dangerous but rewarding reforms in his attempt to make Russia a modern and westernized state. He traveled to European nations, invited European experts to Russia, mercilessly curbed local uprising and captured neighboring states in his attempt to modernize and westernize Russia. His efforts, however, succeeded in later years of his battles and attempts.
Anisimov, E. V. (1993). The reforms of Peter the Great: progress through coercion in Russia. ME Sharpe.Pares, B., & Pares, R. (1947). A history of Russia (p. 195). J. Cape.
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