Peter The Great

Peter the Great was a formidable leader, creating an era of heavy changes in Russia as it began to Westernize through his multiple reforms. However, the majority of his reforms tend to focus on social hierarchy and importance of having or obtaining a title for oneself. For example, the Table of Ranks “expressed new definitions of nobility and opened up new avenues of achieving it” ((Kaiser and Marker 228)) in order to suppress the boyars and other nobility from the previous years. Peter the Great desire to create different ways to either obtain nobility or move up the social ladder can be understood as a way to get rid of the old system set in place or as a way to implement western culture in Russian life through the notion of the class system.


Through the enforcement of the Table of Ranks, the chin system was set in place, a “system of rank ordering and niche assignment” ((Kaiser and Marker 232)) . This rank-ordering system created a competition within the people of Russia to try and be the closest to the tsar; the Table of Ranks made it clear how all offices were to interact with each other. Even more importantly, the Table of Ranks “indicated [the officer’s] proximity to the Emperor” (Kaiser and Marker 233). Peter the Great also created ways to give certain people positions higher up in the office, through “birth, time spent in office, or because of skills or actions valued by the Emperor” (Kaiser and Marker 234). Peter the Great’s reforms focused heavily on establishing a social hierarchy in order to continue Westernizing Russia.

The Iron Bridle

Peter the Great was certainly a man of directness. Whether it was his reforms to westernize Russia or slaughtering those who opposed him, it was his way, or the highway. Through his reforms, the trend of servitude to the state for the sake of westernizing sticks out like a sore thumb. Peter enforced an education requirement for rights, while it seems harsh and that those rights should be unalienable, the education would teach the men to serve the state. These services were often directed towards progress and advancing the country towards what Peter wanted. He wanted people to have the same desire for progress that he had. “Peter wanted for Russia an elite composed of individuals capable of taking an active role in transforming society.” (Kaiser 247) He was such a passionate and powerful figure that he seized Russia with the iron bridle and dragged her with him to wherever he thought was best.

statue-315430_640 Peter’s desire to westernize was portrayed in many different ways, but through self portraits and statues, he shows a very clear image of how people should look. The Cap of Monomakh and emphasis on the Church was gone, in it’s place was well trimmed facial hair and clothing that would appear in a western European court.

His directness in getting what he wanted shines through in his Table of Rank. Peter established a hierarchy in the military and civil service that allowed him to give out rewards for serving the state. It was a way to undermine boyars, similar to how Ivan gave out control in the appanage system. By their way of achieving rank through the actions of Peter, they were more loyal to him. People could now go and achieve higher stations in society by serving the state. This new nobility could be passed down hereditarily as well, adding even more incentive to give one’s life to the state. (Kaiser 229) The Chin system allows for Peter to have nobility that are dedicated to serving the state rather while at the same time serving their own personal interests. He brilliantly combines their personal interests with the path to achieving higher levels of nobility.

How effective was the Table of Rank, and did it the newer nobility have any authority in society?

Daniel H. Kaiser, and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860’s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.