Share content in social networks:

The Presidential Library’s materials illustrate Peter the Great’s childhood, youth and teachers

25 July 2021

The 350th anniversary of the birth of the first Russian emperor, the creator of the Russian fleet, Peter the Great, will be widely celebrated in 2022. The corresponding decree was signed by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

The Presidential Library devoted to Pyotr Alekseevich Romanov, named the Great for his grandiose accomplishments, an extensive collection Peter I (1672-1725), which has become part of the digital collection The House of Romanov. The Zemsky Sobor of 1613. It includes historical documents, business and personal correspondence of the monarch, research devoted to him, bibliography and many other materials. The editions Papers of Emperor Peter I, Memorable Legends about the Life and Deeds of Peter the Great: 1672-1725, Peter the Great, the Last Tsar of Moscow and the First Emperor of All Russia, In St. Petersburg under Peter the Great and others rarities are available.

The future emperor Peter Alekseevich was born on June 9, 1672. The historian and teacher Sergei Rozhdestvensky in his work About Peter the Great (1872) writes: "Tsarevich Peter greeted life merrily. He was in good health and was handsome; a bright blush played on his cheeks; at the age of ten he appeared to be sixteen...The boy, meanwhile, from an early time, had an extraordinary liveliness and sharpness of mind also revealed.

Who did the future great emperor learn to build ships and rule the country from?

In the Moscow state in the second half of the 17th century, European education was just becoming fashionable. Peter's elder brothers and sisters - Fyodor, Sophia and Ivan had a mentor Simeon Polotsky, one of the most educated people of that time. Peter himself was taught the old way - following the church books. “To teach him how to read and write, they assigned him, according to the custom of the time, to the clerk Zotov, a servile man...”, - wrote the historian Vasily Zolotov in his study The History of Peter the Great (1872).

Publicist Boris Glinsky in the publication Tsar's Children and Their Mentors (1912) notes: "To Zotov's credit, it should be noted that he did not limit his teaching to such simple subjects as simple literacy and the teaching of sacred books by heart". Zotov compiled "schools" for the tsarevich - notebooks with stories from the life of the tsars - and instructed the most skilled artists to illustrate them.

With the death of his father, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, and the accession to the throne of his elder brother Fyodor, the Miloslavsky family, relatives of the first wife of the deceased sovereign, ascended at the court. Tsarevich Peter and his mother Natalya Kirillovna, nee Naryshkina, were in disgrace, according to Professor Alexander Brikner I his book The History of Peter the Great (1882).

They were forced to go to the village of Preobrazhenskoye near Moscow. “In the sad situation of his mother, only one thing served as entertainment - games with his peers, whom his father had collected for his amusement. For this they were called amusing”, - writes the historian Vladimir Sorokin in The Tales of Peter the Great (1872). Over time, these games turned into real teachings, and the former "amusing" troops became loyal to Peter the Guards regiments - Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky.

Young Peter loved to visit the German Sloboda - a place of settlement for immigrants from European countries. Once, having become interested in the device and work of an astrolabe brought from abroad, Peter turned for explanations to the Dutch entrepreneur Franz Timmerman, who became his teacher in geometry, arithmetic, artillery and fortification. “But what, - wrote Vasily Zolotov - a mentor felt with such a pupil who, according to the testimony of his contemporaries, did not know how to walk, but only ran. This best expresses the ardor of his soul and the unsatisfactory desire to acquire knowledge". However, according to the testimony of Boris Glinsky, Peter "without difficulty soon reached the polysyllabic theory of the astrolabe, solidified all foreign terms for fortification, calculated the size of the guns and determined under what conditions, at what distance a bomb could fall on a given point".  

Once in Izmailovo, in a barn, Peter discovered an old English boat. The idea that the boat could sail against the wind delighted the tsar. This was enough for him to start building a fleet. By the age of fifteen Peter had fourteen crafts.

Finally he becomes a full-fledged ruler in 1696.

Of course, the young tsar owed his education not only to teachers and mentors, but also to his own thirst for knowledge and curiosity. This is evidenced by many publications included in the collection of the Presidential Library Peter I (1672-1725) as well as  the video material Teachers of Peter I prepared by the library’s specialists on the institution's portal.