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Peter I (the First) or Peter the Great was one of the most outstanding tsars and reformers in Russian history. He ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from May, 1682 until his death. Under his rule, Russia changed from being a poor, underdeveloped country into a strong empire.

Peter the Great was born in Moscow in 1672. He was a healthy and smart boy. He occupied himself with woodwork, blacksmith’s work and printing. Mathematics, shipbuilding and navigation were the sciences that appealed most strongly to Peter.  From 1682 until 1696 he reigned in Russia jointly with his sick elder half-brother Ivan.  After Ivan’s death he became a sole ruler.

Through a number of successful wars against the Ottoman Empire, Sweden and Persia, Peter expanded Russia into a larger empire that became a major power in Europe. The ruler led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the medieval and outdated political and social systems with the scientific and modern ones. Peter’s state reforms made a lasting impact on Russia, and a lot of institutions of the present Russian government and military system trace their origins to that period.

Peter traveled a lot in Western Europe and brought many western traditions and customs to Russia. Travelling incognito he studied shipbuilding and worked as a ship carpenter. Heavily influenced by his European advisors, Peter reorganized the Russian army and dreamed of making the country a maritime power. As a result, after his death, Russia was much more secure and progressive than it had been before his reign.

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It is important to note that Peter’s reforms affected not only Russia’s economy and politics. The ruler understood the country needed education. He focused on the development of science and hired western experts to educate his people. Peter introduced the Julian calendar, modernized the Russian alphabet and financed the education of talented artists. He also founded the first gymnasium and the first Russian newspaper.

Peter tried to change the position of women by prohibiting forced marriages. His tax on wearing a beard was considered as tyranny. In fact, it was a struggle with uneducated people, and Peter hoped to awaken awareness in them.

In 1703, Peter began construction of the city of St. Petersburg on the banks of the Neva River and in 1712 he established it as the new capital of Russia. The city became the center of Peter’s reforms and was soon called “The window to Europe”.

In 1725 at the age of 52, Peter the Great died.

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