Peter the Great: A Russian Hero

Sergius Yakobson describes the victor in the struggle for power within Russia, a Tsar who guided the medieval Russian state into modern times.

No other personality in Russian history has so often been the subject of scholarly research, of polemical pamphlets and historical novels, as the first Russian Emperor. But seldom, too, have the opinions of scholars, writers and publicists been so divergent in judging the actions and services of this man to the Russian state. To his contemporaries Peter the Great proved to be an enigma, and so he remains to their descendants.

To his close collaborators Peter was at least a demigod, called to awaken his fatherland to new life. A much wider circle of his subjects, however, saw in him the Antichrist, and prepared themselves for the Day of Judgement. Later generations have seen Peter the Great as a democrat aiming at the equality of all men, as a revolutionary who had wilfully destroyed ancient Russia, or as a reactionary serving the ends of capitalism. Finally, a quite new interpretation was offered by a modern historian, Arnold Toynbee, in his widely read work, A Study of History.

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