Peter the Great of Russia
Peter the Great was the czar, or monarch, of Russia from 1682 until he died in 1725. During his reign, he worked to modernize Russia and transform it into an empire that rivaled anything in Europe. He instituted a series of reforms to make Russia more closely resemble European states, brought the church under his control, moved the capital and consolidated his power by taking it from the noble class.
When Peter was a young man, he traveled extensively through the kingdoms of Europe. He visited schools, factories, and shipyards among other things learning all about how the Europeans did things.
He was greatly impacted by what he saw. During his reign, he worked to make Russia seem more European. This is called “westernization” because he sought to make things more like Western European countries of France and Great Britain. Peter started newspapers, opened schools, and even forced the men of Russia to shave their long beards to seem more like the Europeans.
The Orthodox Church
Before Peter the Great’s rule, the church in Russia, known as the Orthodox church, acted independently from the government. The church operated under a head priest known as a patriarch. When Peter the Great came to power, he fundamentally changed how the church was run. He built several new churches. He also removed the patriarch as head of the church bringing it under state control.
One important part of the rule of Peter the Great was that he moved the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1712. One of Peter the Great's goals was to transform Russia into a maritime, or sea fearing empire. He greatly increased the size of Russia's navy. The move from Moscow to St. Petersburg helped this, because St. Petersburg is located along the Baltic sea. This also greatly increased trade which is important for the growth of any empire.
As with many of the other absolute monarchies of this time, Russia had a group of rich landowners who belonged to the nobility. These nobles, called the Boyars, held a great deal of power in Russia. The boyars disagreed with many of Peter the Great's reforms to make Russia seem more European. Many of them wanted to keep with traditional Russian values and traditions. Peter the Great began to heavily tax this group as a way to take their power away, even instituting a beard tax. This worked to take away the power of the Boyars and centralize his own.