Peter the Great: Reformer or Revolutionary? Peter the Great, or Peter l, was a man who introduced sweeping changes in Russia during his reign, some that were great for his country, and others that lead to misfortune. Even though he changed many things, historians have argued over whether he was a reformer or revolutionary for many ages past his death.
It is more accurate to call him a reformer than a revolutionary, as Peter did introduce changes, but most of them were copied or based off other systems of government, but the public in Russia at the time considered him a revolutionary because they believed he as changing everything to how he saw fit, and because of their ignorance towards the west’s continued advancements. Peter the Great was a reformer through and through.
Peter wanted Russia to become westernized, he wanted it to catch up to the advancements of the countries in the west, and believed that by copying many of their unique cultural and political viewpoints, Russia could become as successful as them, or even greater.
He insisted that his nobles dressed and remain clean shaven to imitate the west, and for their wives to accompany them so that women would be more prominent in russian politics. This is reform, he is introducing change, but it is based off of something else.
Peter also created the Table of Ranks in 1722, to draw the nobles power away from their lineage and make power come from participation in the military or government. This was not unlike other countries in the west, like Austria or Prussia, who were also taking power away from nobles. Again, Peter is only reforming the way things are done, not cultivating an entire new way of doing things. Peter also sent many noblemen’s sons to the west to learn new technical skills and bring them back to Russia. In this way he was essentially Just taking the skills from he west instead of making them in Russia.
While using these new skillful citizens, he constructed new schools and colleges along with hospitals. Peter wanted Russia to become westernized as soon as possible. Because of all these programs and his wars, it took a lot of money to put all this into place, so he had to put in many taxes on citizens, including the nobles. This was a part of why the nobles of Russia thought this reform was negative for the country. And while much of the nobles ways of life were changing, this distanced them even farther from the ignorant peasants who ere not being ordered to change. This only widened the gap and made more bitter relations.
Peter also sought to reform his government institutions, making it much more like Sweden’s way of doing things. He set of institutions run by groups of advisors rather than have one head of the department. He set these up to take care of things like foreign affairs, the naw , etc. He also saw fit to create a Senate, a group of 9 members that would advise him and run the country while he was out of Russia. Giving this power to a group like this was unheard of in Russia, and upset some. Along with hese sections of government, he set up a new institution to run religion in Russia, that Peter need not be bothered.
Peter changed many things, but he did not create. Peter the Great was a man fascinated by the west and its functions, so much so that he built his empire around the ideas of the west, making it a giant imitation. The higher-ups of Russia at the time would most likely consider him a revolutionary, for disrupting their life and bringing such foreign policies, but all Peter did was update the way Russia was run. Peter was a reformer, and a great one, for many of his changes were continued, and his legacy as a great ruler lasted.
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