Thursday, 5 September 2013

"Leave all to....."

Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich (9 June 1672 – 8 February 1725) ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 7 May 1682 until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother. In numerous successful wars he expanded the Tsardom into a huge empire that became a major European power. He led a cultural revolution that replaced the traditionalist and medieval social and political system with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system.

In 1697 he traveled incognito to Europe on an 18-month journey with a large Russian delegation–the so-called "Grand Embassy"—to seek the aid of the European monarchs.

Peter's visits to the West impressed upon him the notion that European customs were in several respects superior to Russian traditions. Peter implemented sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing Russia. Heavily influenced by his advisors from Western Europe,

Peter reorganized the Russian army along modern lines and dreamed of making Russia a maritime power. He faced much opposition to these policies at home, but brutally suppressed any and all rebellions against his authority: Streltsy, Bashkirs, Astrakhan, and the greatest civil uprising of his reign, the Bulavin Rebellion.

He commanded all of his courtiers and officials to cut off their long beards—causing his Boyars, who were very fond of their beards, great upset—and wear European clothing. Boyars who sought to retain their beards were required to pay an annual beard tax of one hundred rubles. He also sought to end arranged marriages, which were the norm among the Russian nobility, because he thought such a practice was barbaric and led to domestic violence, since the partners usually resented each other.

Also, upon his return from his European tour, Peter sought to end his unhappy marriage. He divorced the Tsaritsa, Eudoxia Lopukhina. The Tsaritsa had borne Peter three children, although only one, the Tsarevich Alexei, had survived past his childhood.

In 1699 Peter changed the date of the celebration of the new year from 1 September to 1 January. Traditionally, the years were reckoned from the purported creation of the World, but after Peter's reforms, they were to be counted from the birth of Christ. Thus, in the year 7207 of the old Russian calendar, Peter proclaimed that the Julian Calendar was in effect and the year was 1700.

In early January 1725, Peter was struck once again with uremia. Legend has it that before lapsing into unconsciousness Peter asked for a paper and pen and scrawled an unfinished note that read: "Leave all to ... " and then, exhausted by the effort, asked for his daughter Anna to be summoned.

Peter died between four and five in the morning 8 February 1725. An autopsy revealed his bladder to be infected with gangrene. He was fifty-two years, seven months old when he died, having reigned forty-two years.

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