Peter the Great, often known as the Tsar Reformer, initiated a programme of modernization and Westernization that affected the lives of all his subjects. He founded a new capital, St Petersburg, which became a symbol of cultural change, and a navy, which signalled Russia's emergence as a maritime power. He also reinforced the old institutions of serfdom and autocracy. This book - a history of Peter and the Russia he goverend - examines the impact of a man was both acclaimed as the architect of the New Russia and condemned as a crude despot who sacrificed cherished traditions for the sake of international success. Drawing on previously unavailable sources, Lindsey Hughes provides an account of one of the most significant periods in Russian history. She proceeds thematically, discussing Russia's foreign policy, the army and navy, economy, governing institutions, society, arts, education and religion. She explores the experience of women, and investigates the life of the court (including Peter's "All-Drunken Assembly"), feasts, entertainments and popular culture. Although not a biography, Peter is a presence throughout the book, a six-foot seven-inch giant who enjoyed the company of dwarfs and ordinary people, adopted disguises and pseudonyms, married a peasant, and had a passion for cultural reform. Hughes recounts the events that shaped Peter's youth, provides character sketch, and explores his complex family relations (including the tragic conflict with his eldest son Alexis, whom he condemned to death). Her account closes with a reconsideration of the Petrine legacy from Peter's time to our own, as his name and image became harnessed to sell beer and cigarettes and the erection of his statue provokes renewed controversy.
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