He bid with autocratic hand
Seeds of enlightenment grow free,
And did not spurn his native land,
Knowing full well its destiny.
Man of the sword, man of the scroll,
As shipmate and as shipwright known,
For with his all-embracing soul
He was a workman on the throne.
A. S. Pushkin “Stanzas”, 1826
Being the youngest of the heirs, Peter received the Muscovite throne in April 1682, immediately after the death of his childless half-brother - Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich, - bypassing the second Prince - Ivan. This angered relatives of the first wife of Alexei Mikhailovich, Miloslavskies, who used the 1682 Streltsy uprising in Moscow in order to make a palace coup. Adherents and relatives of Naryshkins were persecuted, Peter I was crowned together with his brother, Ivan V, as a junior co-ruler. Princess Sophia, a sister of the elder tsar, became regent. In her reign, Peter and his mother were away from the court in the village of Preobrazhenskoye. Only in 1689 he managed to strip Princess Sophia of power, and in 1696, after the death of Ivan V, to become the autocratic tsar.
Like all the children of Alexei Mikhailovich, Peter I received a good education at home, and then throughout the live improved his knowledge and skills in different areas, paying particular attention to the military and seamanship. In 1687 he created a toy army - Preobrazhensky and Semyonov Regiments, which subsequently became the basis for the Russian regular army. In 1688-1693 a toy flotilla on Lake Plescheevo had been operating. Its experience was then used in the construction of the fleet in the Black Sea and the Baltic. And in 1697-1698 the young tsar made a trip abroad, during which not only had he studied the peculiarities of the state system of other countries, but also attended a full course of Artillery Sciences in Königsberg, a theoretical course of shipbuilding in Britain and a six-month practical work of a carpenter in the shipyards of Amsterdam.
Peter I conducted a series of reforms aimed at overcoming the separation of Russia from the West-European path of development and increase of influence of the country on the international economy and politics.
The vigorous foreign policy of the tsar contributed significantly to this fact. Thus, as a result of the Azov campaigns of 1695-1696, Russia seized the Turkish fortress of Azov, and gained access to the Azov and Black Seas. In the course of the Northern War (1700-1721) were restored the lands on the banks of the Neva, in Karelia and the Baltic states, previously conquered by Sweden. Russia also gained access to the Baltic sea, which greatly influenced its economic, political and cultural development. During the Persian campaign (1722-1723) Russia annexed to its territories the western coast of the Caspian Sea with the cities of Derbent and Baku.
Domestically, major changes were made in all spheres of life. Thus, the capital was transferred to Saint Petersburg set up in 1703, the country was divided into governorates in 1708-1715, the supreme body of state administration - the Senate - was established along with collegiums, etc. Changes in the social sphere, reflected in the decree of primogeniture of 1714, concerned the merger of two forms of land tenure (estates and manor houses) and the transformation of the noble service into a lifetime service. In 1722 was approved the document, which regulated the order of promotion - "Table of Ranks". In 1721 Peter I introduced "Religious Collegiums Regulation", thus officially abolishing the patriarchate of the Russian Church and created the Theological Collegiums charged with the governing the church, which soon was renamed into the Holy Governing Synod.Thanks to the military reform, a regular Russian Army and Navy had formed. They were organized in compliance with the "Land Forces Regulations" and the "Marine Regulations". In the reign of Peter there was founded the Russian Academy of Sciences, opened a number of universities, established a secular public school, opened Russia's first museum and public library, the first Russian paper “Vedomosti” was issued, a series of expeditions to Central Asia and the Far East were organized, etc. In 1721 Russia became an Empire, and a year later was issued a decree on succession to the throne, which recognized the right of the autocratic monarch on the appointment of his successor.
The activities of the tsar was assessed by society is ambiguously. Highlighting of the noble service and bureaucratic red tape, the elimination of patriarchy, the loss of political independence of the church provoked discontent of Boyars and church hierarchy. The reaction to many violent innovations and increase of taxes resulted in uprisings of townspeople and soldiers.
January 28 (February 10), 1725 the first Russian Emperor died and was buried in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. His wife, Catherine I, succeeded to the throne.
Lit.: Базилевич К. В. Пётр I — государственный деятель, преобразователь, полководец. М, 1946; Брикнер А. Г. История Петра Великого. М., 2004; Валишевский К. Ф. Пётр Великий. М., 2003; Великий реформатор России: К 300-летию со дня рождения Петра I. Воронеж, 2002; Достопамятные сказания о жизни и делах Петра Великого. СПб., 1872; Законодательство Петра I. М., 1997; Золотов В. А. История Петра Великого. СПб., 1872; Кара-Мурза А. А. Реформатор: Русские о Петре I. Иваново, 1994; Масси Р. К. Пётр Великий: Личность и эпоха. СПб., 2003; Павленко Н. И. Пётр I. М., 2003; Пётр Великий в преданиях, легендах, анекдотах, сказках, песнях. СПб., 2000; Письма и бумаги Петра Великого. СПб; М. Т.1-13. 1887-1992; Погосян Е. А. Пётр I — архитектор российской истории. СПб., 2001; Реформы Петра I и судьбы России. М., 1994; Сенигов И. П. Царь-работник и учитель. Пг., 1915; Тарле Е. В. Русский флот и внешняя политика Петра I. СПб., 1994; Щебальский П. К. Государь царь Пётр Великий, первый русский император. Варшава, 1873.
Based on the Presidential Library’s materials: