This Day in History: Peter The Great Forms the Russian Empire (10/22/21)

This Day in History: Peter The Great Forms the Russian Empire (10/22/21)

A.J. Hargett, Feature-Writer

This day in history marks the 300th anniversary that Russian Tsar, Peter the Great declared the Russian Empire. This event is very significant and led to Russia becoming one of the major powers of Europe for centuries to come. Although Russia has played an important role in history it wasn’t until 1721 that it was formally considered an empire. And entered a role in European affairs.


For most of Europe at the time Russia was considered an undeveloped and backwards country compared to the rest of the continent. This all changed with Tsar Peter the Great of the Romanov Dynasty. Peter was born on June 9th 1672. When he was very young Peter’s father died leaving power in the hands of Peter’s half brother Feodor III. Feodor died in 1682 without having any children. This caused a dispute between the families of the former wives of Peter’s father Alexis. The Russian Boyar Duma (a council of Russian nobles) chose Peter over Peter’s half brother Ivan V. The outcome of this decision to place Peter on the throne led to a rebellion by the Miloslavskays (the family of Ivan ). This Rebellion would result in many of Peter’s family getting killed, but would end with the decision to have both Peter and Ivan V rule as co-monarchs with each other. This shaky agreement would last until 1696 when his co-monarch Ivan died without a male offspring and Peter assumed full control of the Tsardom.


Some of Peter’s first actions as a sole ruler were attempts to modernize Russia in many ways. These reforms were not so well received and led to multiple uprisings against Peter’s reforms. These uprisings however did not deter Peter who promptly subdued them all. Some of the reforms Peter implemented were reforms of Russian society. Peter attempted to modernize the clothing of his court by famously putting a tax on long beards and robes. Peter was also one of the first to marry his family members to the families of other European royal families. Peter also tried to get increased access to the sea by waging war with the Crimean Khanate and their Ottoman overlords. Peter had a longstanding passion for anything relating to the ocean and was the founder of the Russian Navy. One of the defining parts of Peter’s life was when he partook in his “Grand Embassy” which he used to travel all across Europe trying to find allies against the Ottomans. He did not find any allies but instead while staying in the Netherlands he learned much about life in western Europe and modern shipbuilding techniques. He left the Netherlands and went to England where he learned much about city building, which he would use later to build the city of St. Petersburg. Peter continued traveling around Europe visiting various noblemen and learning much from them until he had to return to Russia due to a rebellion. Nevertheless Peter continued his interest in western culture and technology by sending delegations to multiple European countries. Peter also continued reforming Russia to compete with its western counterparts by getting rid of arranged marriages and changing from the Russian calendar to the standard Julian calendar. 


Peter set his eyes on securing a port city in the Baltics and decided to go to war with the Swedish. Peter started what is often referred to as “The Great Northern War” this war would be where Peter would defeat the Swedish army which was considered one of the best armies at the time. Even though the Swedes were losing this war peace was not possible until the stubborn Swedish King Charles XII died in battle at the Siege of Fredriksten.This war would end with the Treaty of Nystad which stated that the Russians would take the territories of Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and large parts of Karellia in Finland. It was during this war that Peter would found the city of St. Petersburg which Peter named after the patron saint he was named after. This city would be deemed the capital by Peter and would remain the capital of Russia until 1917.


It was soon after this war that Peter would officially be declared the Emperor of Russia. Peter the Great would continue to reform his country until his death on February 8th, 1725 at the age of 52. Peter the Great was and still is considered the best ruler of Russia. He made massive reforms to the country in an effort to modernize it, he also expanded Russia’s territories into the Black Sea and the Baltic. Peter also constructed one of the most culturally significant cities in all of Russia. Peter the Great is looked upon fondly by historians from Russia and from the rest of the world and is still an example to people today of what a good ruler can be capable of. But it was on this day in 1721 that Peter the Great declared the Empire of Russia.