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Peter the Great's Russia, 1682-1725

Tutor: David Moon

Module type: Explorations

Module Code: HIS00077I

Peter the Great (1682-1725) is one of the towering figures in Russian history. In his reign, Russia emerged as a major European, and indeed world, power. It was also during his reign that important developments took place in the Russian state, society, economy and culture. Among his most notable achievements was to reorientate Russian culture towards that of western Europe. One of the formative experiences of his life was his Great Embassy of 1697-8 when he travelled, in cognito, right across northern Europe to England. The alliances he forged during the Embassy led to the Great Northern War with Sweden, then a major power, of 1700-21. The war, in Russia was victorious, greatly influenced Peter’s internal policies as well as the growing international status of his empire.

Historians have debated the relative contributions to these developments of Peter himself, previous tsars, and members of wider Russian society. The relationship between Peter's largely successful foreign policy and domestic changes has also been a subject of debate. What is less contentious is that in 1725, the recently-proclaimed Russian Empire, governed from its western-style new capital city of St Petersburg, was very different from the old Tsardom of Muscovy, which had been ruled from Moscow, in 1682. Peter’s legacy is still visible in today’s Russia. His decision to orientate Russia towards western Europe remains controversial in a country that straddles Europe and Asia and also has it own identity.

The seminar programme will likely deal with the following topics:

  • Russia before Peter’s reign
  • The Azov Campaigns, 1694-6, and Great Embassy to Western Europe, 1697-8
  • The Great Northern War with Sweden of 1700-21
  • Military reforms
  • Administrative reforms and the nobility
  • The Russian Orthodox church
  • St Petersburg and the Petrine ‘Cultural Revolution’
  • The Alexis Affair and Opposition to Peter
  • Images and assessments of Peter


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.