|Peter and Catherine the Great
Peter the Great, or officially known as Peter I, became tsar in 1696 when he was 10-years of age. Keep in mind, Peter I did not obtain the name “Peter the Great” for nothing. He earned that title through his works. He forever changed the way Russia would function for the rest of time. Peter the Great made daring choices that benefited his country in outstanding ways. He modernized Russia. Peter the Great forced his people to cut their beards and wear new robes, influenced Russia’s first newspaper (in which he edited), and raised women’s statues by allowing them to attend social gatherings. Although he forced the westernization on his country very harshly, it was worth it. Russia thrived because of the changes Peter the Great made. Even when he passed away his daughter, Catherine the Great, strictly kept all the same rulings as her father.
Before Peter the Great came into rule Russia was nothing more than a huge landlocked country. It was much less developed than any other countries in Europe. This gave Russia a large disadvantage when fighting other countries such as Sweden or Turkey (Russia was at war with these countries for most of Peter’s reign).
As a young man, and new king, Peter the Great set out on his own to explore Europe and do a study on new development in technology. Although he was supposed to be traveling in secret, most people could recognize him in the crowds. Peter the Great hoped to investigate and learn about all the different types of technology and science. He especially wanted to learn the new techniques of shipbuilding and seamanship because of the wars they were currently fighting with other countries. Peter the Great desperately wanted Russia to have a strong Navy.
William III, the king of England, took a particular interest in Peter the Great because he wanted to trade with Russia. He hoped that by leaving a good impression on the tsar of Russia they would trade tobacco with England. Even in the short time that Peter the Great stayed with William III he was given thousands of pounds of tobacco to send back to Russia. William III gave Peter the Great several small yachts and a large, new ship with the latest technology as gifts. If it were not for William III, Peter the Great journey would not have been as successful.
All in all, Peter the Great’s journey was an amazing success. He returned to Russia with 49 ships and 800 smaller vessels. As a result of this Russia’s Navy began to get larger in numbers, but not necessary stronger like he had hoped. In the fight for the Black Sea, Russia’s army outnumbered their enemies five to one and still lost multiple battles. It was an embarrassment for Russia at the time but they did bounce back and end up earning the territory of the Black Sea on the second of June in 1864. With the new land they obtained Peter the Great created a town and named it St. Petersburg.
Along with strengthening the Navy of Russia Peter the Great forced every man to shave their beards to make them look like Western Europeans. He also gave them new clothing that was more “westernized”. He allowed women to attend social meetings which raised their rights from before his exploration. Peter the Great did not enforce these things lightly though. Anyone who did not do what they were told were either tortured or killed. Yes it was harsh, but Peter the Great felt very strongly about enforcing westernization on Russia.
Unfortunately, Peter the Great passed away in 1724 and his daughter, Catherine the Great, or officially Catherine II, took the tsar of Russia. Although she used her sexuality to obtain her position, she ruled Russia with as much authority as her father. She left Russia is a great state when she passed away in 1796 and the throne was given to her son, Paul I.
Nevertheless, Catherine the Great ruled with power and force just like her father, Peter the Great, however, promoting education and the Enlightenment of Europe. Science and military techniques continued to become more and more advanced. Catherine the Great challenged the social norms and set women in powerful positions. During her reign, Catherine the Great expanded Russia’s borders to the Black Sea and a little into central Europe. These things were looked at as more impressive because Catherine the great was a woman. Her achievements played a key role in the development of Russia as a modern state.
So, in conclusion, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great had one of the biggest influences on Russia as a whole. Think about where Russia would be if Peter the Great had not taken his daring journey, how would it have affected Russia’s navy, or economy? Or even if Catherine the Great did not influence or respect her father’s westernization teachings after he died. Would Russia have been such a big part of the Enlightenment of Europe if she wasn’t in power? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself when you think of Russia at this time. I would go as far to say that Peter the Great and Catherine the Great are one of the best rulers of all time in any country. They took Russia from and being isolated and inexperienced to a sturdy and well educated country.