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Useful Notes / Peter the Great

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"It is my great desire to reform my subjects, and my great shame that I cannot reform myself."
Peter the Great (Пётр Великий, Pyotr Velikiy)

Peter the Great (Peter I or Peter Alexeyevich, 9 June [30 May in the Old Style calendar] 1672 8 February [28 January in the Old Style calendar] 1725, reigned 1682-1725) was the Russian tsar who had enough of Russia being a conservative Eastern European country, and decided to make it a Western power like Britain, France, etc.

He ascended the throne of Russia as a co-regent to his physically and intellectually disabled brother Ivan V. After winning a battle for political dominance with his sister Sophia, he triumphed as the undisputed leader of Russia. Then he left the country and travelled to the West to learn its science and technology, and returned as an accomplished ship-builder.

After winning some wars with Turkey and Sweden, Peter the Great annexed lands neighboring two seas, the Azov Sea and the Baltic Sea. Then he founded St. Petersburg, a European-inspired city that was meant to be a capital of the future Russian Empire.

Peter's reforms after that meant basically gradual dismantling of the old Muscovite Tsardom and the creation of a new state, the Russian Empire. He introduced a new legal mechanism, the Table of Ranks, that provided a chance for talented and lucky commoners to make it into nobility, created many new noble bloodlines and conducted many other reforms. Most notoriously, he implemented a "beard tax" that required Russian men to either pay an annual fee to keep their beards (which were considered signs of piousness in Russia at the time, but were comparatively unfashionable in western Europe), or have them shaven off, often by force. Modern Russian culture, economy and politics are full of things introduced by Peter the Great: he invented the modern form of the Cyrillic alphabet, started printing newspapers, built the first heavy industries, taught Russians to drink coffee and smoke tobacco, and many, many more.

Eventually, his claim of imperial status was recognized by foreign powers, and Russia officially became an empire in 1721. He died of cold after rescuing a soldier from one of early St. Petersburg's many deluges caused by tidal activity and unpredictable winds. The Russian Empire founded by him was one of the world's superpowers until Red October, and he was a cult figure in Russia until the late 19th century, when the more conservative Muscovite-esque political ideas reached dominance.

Had a dysfunctional relationship with his son Alexei.

Appears in the following works:

Live Action TV
  • In the 1986 miniseries Peter the Great, he's played by Maximilian Schell.
  • He is largely a case of Present Absence in The Great and is referenced repeatedly by other characters, but he makes an actual appearance in season 2 as a ghost/hallucination speaking to Peter III (here portrayed as his son to simplify the story).


  • The pre-choruses of Sabaton's song "Poltava" each consist of Tsar Peter taunting Carolus Rex at the eponymous Battle of Poltava during The Great Northern War. Peter historically won the battle decisively, forcing his Swedish rival to flee into exile in the Ottoman Empire and dooming Sweden's imperial ambitions for good.

Video Games

  • He appears as the leader of Russia in Civilization IV and VI. True to his accomplishments, Peter's leader ability "The Grand Embassy" in VI allows him to gain Science and Culture from more advanced trade partners.
  • In Empire: Total War he is the ruler of Russia at the start of the Grand Campaign.