Peter the Modern

Peter the Modern

Peter the Great could be characterized as a “reforming tsar” as opposed to his predecessors who strived to be “good tsars.”  The reign of Peter even though in some ways categorized as ruthless, introduced Russia to the modern era.  This meant Russia entering the global field amongst Western countries and further developing in social, economic, and political ways that were secular.

The original founding of the name “Tsar” was meant to be a ruler dedicated to his country, but first and foremost to God.  Peter tried to reform this way of thinking by separating the state from the church.  One way he did this was by abolishing the need to kneel in from of his presence.  Another way was by removing any religiously associated diction from his title as Tsar, resulting in usage of words such as “emperor” and “autocrat.” Even though Peter was an Orthodox Tsar just like previous tsars, his focus was on his people and not on the word of God.

This resulted in the concept of the “good of the common wealth.”  The idea was that the absolute monarch or ruler was a servant to his people.  This also was meant to justify the tsar’s unlimited amount of power.  Hence every action taken by Peter was meant to advance the state.  He was able to excuse his strict ruling hand by saying that such a backward nation as Russia needed a heavy ruling hand to achieve modern Western standards.

Overall, Peter maintained absolute rule is Russia with a plan of action to reform most of Russian stardom.  By distancing himself from the Church as well as being a man of the people and redesigning social hierarchy in Russia, Peter mimicked what Western monarchs were doing.  This resulted in Russia not being seen as backwards, but instead as modern.


Do you agree that prior to Peter’s rule Russia was a “backward” state?  In what ways have we discussed Kiev and/or Muscovite eras as progressive rather than backwards?

How much of Peter’s reforms were carried out since he made the mistake of not appointing a new Tsar to the throne before his death?

Works Cited

Whittaker, Cynthia H. “The Reforming Tsar: The Redefinition of Autocratic Duty in Eighteenth-Century Russia.” Slavic Review 1992:77. JSTOR Journals. Web.