Friday book # 16: Peter the Great

I bought this week’s book when I was 16 years old and read it while on a Russian language summer course at the University of East Anglia. It is one of the books which inspired me to become a Russian historian. What really excited me, though, wasn’t Robert Massie’s descriptions of Peter the Great, but rather Charles XII of Sweden taking on the entire Turkish army with just 100 men of his own, and galloping incognito all the way across Europe to get back home. What a guy!

peterthegreat

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7 thoughts on “Friday book # 16: Peter the Great”

  1. “It is one of the books which inspired me to become a Russian historian.”

    and

    “What really excited me, though, was… Charles XII of Sweden taking on the entire Turkish army with just 100 men of his own, and galloping incognito all the way across Europe to get back home. What a guy!”

    Obvious question time – then why Russian history if Charly was such a mensch? This “what a guy!” buried Sweden’s status as an Empire and Baltic hegemon. Was killed by his own troops.

    Peter personally fought in Poltava, miraclously avoided the death (one bullet went through his tricorn hat, another was flattened on his crucifix). Besides, Peter’s “incognito” during the Great Embassy was no less epic (and at times very hilarious).

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      1. “Charles was greater than Peter.”

        In what way?

        Did he initiate a series of reforms that would springboard his country to the greatness and also reshaped the people of it?

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  2. >springboard his country to the greatness

    Based on the suffering of the Russian people.
    Why is Russia’s greater involvement in Europe’s wars a good thing?

    >also reshaped the people of it

    Mostly the elite, something I do not consider a good thing as it increased the gap between them and the majority.

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    1. “Based on the suffering of the Russian people.”

      “Suffering” has no quatifiable value. Pretending for a moment that we are talking about the same thing here (some abstract “suffering”) I have to ask – what, Russian people didn’t suffer before? Or maybe other European people didn’t suffer as well in 18 c., especially during the Industrial Revolution?

      “Why is Russia’s greater involvement in Europe’s wars a good thing?”

      No, Russia got deeper involvement into Eropean international relations and politics, of which wars were just a part. 16-17 cc. were hardly more peaceful and relations with the European countries, alliances and trade were virtually nonexistant compared to what happened after Peter’s reform.

      “Mostly the elite, something I do not consider a good thing as it increased the gap between them and the majority.”

      Elite was affected in the most spectatcular and visual way. But in the long run all Russians were affected as well by Peter the Great’s reforms. Consider this – thanks to him and a series of actions, originated from his time I was in Sverdlovsk (former/present Ekaterinburg) 🙂

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