Peter the Great in England

In the revolutionary reign of the “Tsar-Stranger”, one of the most of the most significant episodes was his visit to the England of William III.

Tsar Peter returned to Moscow from the Conquest of Azov in September 1696, determined to create a navy and to challenge Turkish power in the Black Sea. It was a revolutionary policy. Muscovy had never had a navy; her people were landsmen, few of whom had seen the sea. But Peter, undeterred by such obstacles, immediately launched a great shipbuilding programme. At the same time, he decided to send groups of young nobles to Western Europe to study seamanship and shipbuilding, and even to go himself for the same purpose.

This, too, was revolutionary. Except on diplomatic missions or as pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Tsar’s subjects had seldom travelled abroad; to leave the country without sanction had incurred the death penalty. The Muscovites were appalled by the thought of their young men being exposed to the corrupting influence of Western Europe. But they were even more alarmed by Peter's decision to go himself. The Tsar of Muscovy had never gone beyond his own frontiers, except on rare occasions of war. But Peter was already an enigma to them, the “Tsar-Stranger,” who had broken from the customs of his fathers and abroad was capable of anything.

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