Biography of el Grande Zar de Rusia Pedro I (1672-1725)

Russia Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty, born in Moscow June 9 (May 30 according to the Julian calendar) of 1672 and died in Petersburgo on 8 February (28 January) 1725. Pjotr I Alejksejewitsch (his name in Russian) was the son of Alexios I Mijailovitch Tsar and his second wife Natalia Narishkina; It was as half-brothers Feodor III and Iván V, tsars, and Sofía Alekseieva (all of them children of María Miloslavkaya, the first woman of her father).

Biographical synthesis

Pedro I, called the great, was the true founder of the Russian Empire. After your full access to power between 1689 and 1694 (between 1682 and 1689 ruled nominally along with Iván V, being Regent Sofia. The driving idea of its policy was to give Russia an international role, who subordinated everything else: the Westernization of institutions and customs, its reforms or military campaigns. Thus, from 1697 to 1700 he traveled by Western Europe to learn different techniques and to establish an Alliance against the Turks; It introduced a clothing and Western management systems (which typically would be lasting); it his against Turks (1696 and 1711) with little fortune, and against the Swedes (Guerra of the North, 1700-1721) with greater success, with several of the territories on the shores of the Baltic Sea and moving to Sweden as hegemon in that sea. However, the social cost of their improvements was very large, as Pedro I, that cruel nature, imposed its measures by force.

Youth and together with Ivan v reign Regency of Sofía Alekseieva

Physically graceful (high, measured about 2 meters, strong, dynamic), was from his birth very appreciated by his father; Although he was third in the line of succession, it soon became his favorite ahead of his older half-brothers, the sickly Feodor and the late Ivan. In April 1682, when Pedro was just nine years old, died Feodor I after only six out of Government. An Assembly presided over by the Patriarch Joaquin thought proclaim Czar, with his mother Natalia as Regent. However, this was soon displaced by his half-sister Sofia, with the help of the imperial guard, the streltsy. The killing of several members of the Naryshkin family would cause in Pedro trauma emotional it let him physical life (a tic on the face and tremors) and psychological. However, the new Regent acknowledged the formal equality of the two tsars (made for them thrones, crowns and sceptres identical), although in fact he had some preference for the unable to Ivan, son of María Miloslavkaya as she.

Thus, Pedro, whose dynamism contrasted strongly with the futility of Ivan, was sent to live together with his mother on the outskirts of Moscow, Preobrazhensky, educating air thus free. His tutor was Nikita Zotov, who told her the military exploits of the former tsars; Pedro is devoted to them, and along with his best friend (would it all his life), the waiter's stable Alejandro Menshikov, used to organize battles simulated with other young people. He met at this time two of his future collaborators, (French) François Lefort and Patrick Gordon (English). Also I felt great curiosity by craftsmen works, frequenting the neighborhood German workshops. It was thus as learned geography and military architecture, built himself a Fort on the Yauza River, that should baptize Pressburg. Later he became interested in the arts of navigation and boat building, once a Dutchman, Karsten Brand, repaired him a boat. In 1689 he married, as directed by his mother, Eudoxia Lopukhina, daughter of Feodor Lopukhine, that they would divorce in 1698, having had her Alejo (1690) and other two males, Alejandro (1691) and Pablo (1693), who died soon.

In the meantime, he worked to reduce the influence of the Regent Sophia, introducing spies into the Court, and forming a faithful Guard (guard Preobrazhensky) who protect him with his former friends. Finally, the same year as his marriage, in August, believed see his moment arrived: summoned officials of the streltsy in the Abbey of the Trinity, but only few ones came. The success of the coup was uncertain until a crowd from the German neighborhood, where Pedro was very popular, marched to the Abbey. Infected, the military and the streltsy, adhered to the end, and Pedro could so do with power without difficulties. It confined to Sofia in a convent and got rid of the supporters of this in court, although he respected the life and the formal title of the harmless Iván V, who died a few years later, in 1696. Pedro I wouldn't completely by the Government until the death of his mother in 1694.

Pedro I and the Westernization of Russia

The fundamental objective of Pedro I was making Russia a European power through access to two seas, the Black Sea (with the Turks as enemies) South and North Baltic (against the opposition of the Swedes). It was considered that the best means of achieving this was to make own traditions and Western techniques. Thus, when in 1695 made a first attempt at conquest of Azov (next to the Black Sea) and his troops had to withdraw due to lack of naval support, repaired in the need for a strong fleet. He created a few shipyards in Voronezh (next to the Don River), hiring foreign carpenters and working himself in the construction work. When the fleet was ready, a second attack combined in July 1696 had success. But it was not enough: began a series of trips through Western Europe in March 1697 (was the first Tsar coming out of Russia) with sense diplomat (achieving an Alliance against Turkey) and the secret report on techniques of shipbuilding purposes.

Its route was accompanied by some 250 people (was called "Grand Embassy") between nobles, guards, servants, chaplains, and musicians. First he visited Riga, Livonia (today part of Latvia), then Königsberg (Prussia) and Berlin, and then the Netherlands. In this country, with only six men (including Menshikov), worked as a carpenter in Zaandam port and then in Amsterdam, learning also the most varied techniques and knowledge: extraction of teeth, printing press, anatomy. A few months later he went to England, to London, where he continued his apprenticeship as well as visiting various facilities and English institutions. But the efforts against Turkey were a failure: supported you or Leopold I of Austria, or Augustus III of Poland, and the Alliance signed with Federico I of Prussia was not military. Thus, in 1699 should make peace with the Turks, although maintaining Azov in his power. Only this year negotiations would have a late fruit: an Alliance against Sweden.

The last of his European travels went to Austria, because being in Vienna came a message from his man of trust in Russia, Teodoro Romodanovski, warning him of the revolt of the streltsy, unhappy with his bad situation (some came to ask Sofía Alekseieva which I have made with the power). Although when he arrived in Moscow the uprising was controlled, Pedro I took the occasion to cruelly avenge the events of 1682. More than a thousand members of the Guard were executed with horrible torments, then hanging their bodies on jibs; also their wives were killed, prolonging the killing until the beginning of 1699. Still had not extinguished the horror that these events caused in Europe when he made his nobles, military and civil servants is afeitasen beard and vistiesen French to resemble its appearance to Western fashion. It also adopted then the European calendar, although not the Gregorian but the Julian, and allowed the ladies of the Court to have a social life.

The northern war against Sweden and the Russian Baltic hegemony

But for Pedro I the main objective continued to be the supremacy. Obtained an alliance with Polonia-Sajonia and Denmark, it declared war on Carlos XII of Sweden (Great Northern War), naming to Menshikov, Commander-in-Chief of the land and sea forces. It could not take Narva (Ingria) in November 1700, because his troops were badly prepared, equipped and directed. The Tsar gave them better staffing and decreed a cam, and from 1702 began to get victories over the Swedes, obtaining access to the Gulf of Finland with the taking of the mouth of the Neva River (may 1703); then he conquered much of Courland, Livonia and Estonia (1704-1706). From 1706 war temporarily entered a phase of little activity. Pedro I took advantage of the calm to continue with one of his most cherished projects, begun in 1703: the construction of a new capital (and a fleet in the Baltic from it) at the mouth of the Neva River, which was to take its name: Petersburgo. So he sent numerous slaves to desiccate wetlands that covered the region, many of whom would die during the works. They had barely advanced, and the city was barely habitable when he ordered his nobles that lift residences there and inhabited for most of the year. He moved to it in 1710, officially declaring capital of Russia in 1712.

The fighting resumed with force in 1708, when the Swedes penetrated deeply into Russia; the vastness of the country allowed Pedro I back, yielding ground to the opponent, who tried to help the Ukrainian Cossack Iván Mazeppa and the Turks. Without supplies, they were attacked by the Tsar in Poltava (June 1709), which is supported in its greater number of troops and artillery to beat Carlos XII, who must take refuge in Turkey until 1714. He helped the Polish King Augustus III to regain his throne and completed the conquest of Livonia and Karelia. It extended also Courland influence the marrying his niece Anna Ivanovna curlandes Duke Federico Guillermo Kettler (1710).

However, in 1711 the Swedish King managed to incite the Turkish Sultan Ahmed III against Russia. The reaction of Pedro I was marching towards the Danube for assistance of Moldavian and Wallachian, at the time that encouraged the rebellion of the Slavs in the Balkans. But to his dismay, on the banks of the river Prut was beaten by a superior Turkish army. The conditions of peace were, however, benign: just had to dismantle the strongholds of the Dnieper and deliver Azov and the Russian Black Sea fleet, but not the territories taken away to Sweden. The war against this had still not completed and continued with Russian advantage. In July 1714 Pedro I managed the naval victory of the Cape Hangö (Finland), but in 1717 had to withdraw its troops from Poland by pressure from other European powers. Soon after traveled for the second time to the West, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin, signing a Treaty of non-aggression with Luis XV of France and Federico Guillermo I of Prussia. The following year he began negotiations with the Swedes, as Carlos XII had died in fight with the Danes; her sister and successor Ulrica Leonora requested peace to Pedro I, which was signed in Nystad in September 1721. Sweden was thus displaced by Russia in the domain of the Baltic, which incorporated Karelia, Ingria, and part of the Baltic countries. Pedro began to be called the great since then.

Those of the Baltic not were the unique achievements of Pedro I, who also went on the Russian expansion in Asia, incorporating the tip of the continent: the Kamchatka peninsula and the Kuril Islands. Tasked also with the Danish Navigator Vitus Bering search a land passage between Asia and North America. In addition, a war against Persia (1722-1723) allowed him to dominate southern and western coasts of the Caspian Sea, which would be Russian until 1732 (already reigning Ana Ivanovna). But their other Asian businesses were failures: not able to impose a protectorate over the khanatos of Khiva and Bukhara (Uzbekistan) or establish stable trade relations with China.

Pedro el Grande, despot and reformer

Meanwhile, in 1707 he had entered into secret marriage with a former lover, Marta Skavronska, orphan of Lithuanian peasants, who changed their name to the of Catalina; with it, you would need to the Tsarina Elizabeth Petrovna (1709). Irascible at times, even dangerous when he was drunk, Pedro was in court a kind of life between austere and extravagant; He liked to humiliate high nobles forcing them to act like buffoons in their vulgar and crazy parties. One who most suffered his character was his own son Alexios, young intelligent and sensitive but scorned by his father by his little taste towards the military. Pedro would force him to marry with Sofía Carlota of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (died after giving birth to the future Pedro II). Alejo wanted to renounce the throne and came to flee to Vienna in 1716, returning only when Pedro I promised not to punish him. The Tsar would not met its promise, falsely accusing him of plotting against the throne. It tortured him and made a Court condemned him to death, ruling that it seems that it was fulfilled shortly thereafter (June 1718) in the fortress of Trubetskoi. Publicly stated that he had died of apoplexy.

In Petersburgo, in the meantime, the works continued to exact a high tribute in blood (spoken of up to 200,000 dead) that workers do not always endured passively, rebelling at times. In Russia, along with significant achievements (administrative reorganization; educational institutions, especially for technicians and military; industry in the Urals; dissemination of reading and culture; some improvement of the situation of women) took other steps of great despotism (reinforcement of slavery, subjugation of the nobility and of the Russian Orthodox Church). In 1722, a few years before his death, changed the succession laws to exclude his grandson Pedro, son of Alejo (all their other offspring males had been killed), decreed that henceforth would be Tsar who appoint his heir. The choice was his own wife Catalina, to popular scandal. In February 1725, with only 53 years of age, he died from a kidney stone.


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Links on the Internet ; Page with several portraits of Pedro el Grande (in English). ; Page with information on the history of Petersburgo (in English). ; Page with the full text of a work on the history of Russia in the time of Pedro el Grande, written by Voltaire (in French). ; Page with genealogical data of Pedro I (in French). ; Page with information about the Romanovs (in English). ; Page with various information and images on the Romanov (in Russian). ; Page with anecdotes about Pedro I collected by Voltaire (in French).