Peter the Great

Espitia, Cesar L.
AP European History, Period 2
December 17, 1998

Peter, overall, was an important step for the Russians during his reign. Although he was a man of hatred due to his childhood, his quests to Westernize Russia were paramount. He brought numerous things from the west whenever he visited such great nations as France, among many others. He mimicked everything he was, at times imposing harsh edicts on the people of Russia in order for them to comply. Little by little, Peter began to gain power comparable to that of Louis XIV, by undermining everyone including the nobility.
Although Peter was very much barbaric by nature, he was humorous and civilized. Yet his greatest virtue was his jealousy for all the wealth the West had obtained. Therefore his curiosity took the best of him. He wished to know how and why everything worked and how he could improve it. It is true he absorbed all that he saw but his incorporations were utilitarian. He wished and sought everything that would make his country catch up to the West. This of course would prove to be a difficult task, one that incorporated innumerable amounts of bloodshed and torture throughout Russia. Reason being that the nation was extremely religious and thus hostile to radical changes in common life. Peter during his reign had a mind of a child, umprejudice to all that he saw. He even became tolerable of all religions and allowed them to build churches, all except the Jesuits. He though that they propagandized their religion far more than the others did.
To fortify his country, Peter put a lot of effort to give Russia a modern army, an efficient government, industry, commerce, and ports that could reach the world. Peter economized everything except human life. The first step he took to become an absolute ruler was to diminish his lavish lifestyle. He drastically cut all royal extravagances; everything including cooks, balls, receptions, etc. “Unkingly” as it may sound it did help raise his revenue; he even turned over his possessions in the name of the state. It even got to the point where his friends would pay for a share of the meal being eaten at a picnic, to the underpayment of his palace staff.
Women in Peter’s life were the same; he saw them as minor incidents in his life. He underpaid prostitutes for their services, yet he did have several mistresses and strumpets. Only one caught his eye and soul – Catherine I. Catherine did what no other woman could, she got through all the anger of the Czar’s pitted soul and found a tender spot within. Catherine was first seen by Russia as a strumpet, and Peter never did formally recognized (although she had bore his children) until 1722, when he crowned her empress. Her influence over him was good in many ways. For one, he improved his manners and etiquette. She somehow managed to moderate his drinking to the point where if Peter had friends over and was extremely drunk, Catherine would only need command him quietly to come home and he obeyed. At other times Catherine I would be able to persuade the Czar to not torture or kill several prisoners. The one thing she never tried to do was influence politics. However, she did request of him to see that friends and family be provided for.
By this time Peter had gained absolute power yet he took it for granted. He agreed with many of what Louis XIV and Cromwell had said, taking into consideration that only one absolute ruler, without any noblemen, was necessary to serve the state. Peter saw himself not as a despot but as a servant to the state. In order to indirectly prove his power he had St. Petersburg built. It took years of intense labor and numerous deaths to complete the project. The palace was not only built upon a swamp, but also upon the bones and bodies of many of the peasant who helped build it. Mimicking Louis XIV, he ordered the noblemen to build houses around St. Petersburg in order to keep an eye on them. The boyars, under great protest, built them. Later on, he made St. Petersburg the capital of Russia