Russian Monarch. The Tsar of Russia, he is best remembered for having instituted many needed reforms, for modernizing Russia, and for bringing it into Europe as a modern power. He was considered a far-sighted and skillful diplomat, as well as a talented military leader. Born Peter Alexeevich Romanov to Tsar Alexis and his second wife, Natalia Naryshkina, in Moscow, during one of the more turbulent times for Russia. When his father died in 1682, he was declared Tsar, but was forced to share his throne with his brother, Ivan IV, with his half-sister Sofia ruling as regent until he became of age. In 1696, his brother Ivan died, and Peter became Tsar of Russia. While growing up he had many contacts with Westerners, and developed a love of western things. In 1695, he toured Western Europe disguised as a diplomat, and upon his return to Russia he began to remake Russia with a series of reforms, to bring Russia into modern times. Some of his early reforms including requiring men to be clean shaven (to get them to shave, he enacted an annual tax of 100 rubles on those who wanted to keep their beards), adopting the European calendar system, adopting Western style clothing for all nobles and middle class (again, using a tax for non-compliance, the peasants were exempt from the new clothing rules), subjugating the Church to the state, establishing schools to teach Western science, introducing new administrative and territorial divisions within the country, and creating a professional Russian Army and Navy. To outfit his military, Peter created iron foundries and textile mills. To train his new military, he hired Western advisors to make up for the lack of Russian expertise. Peter invited the best European engineers, shipbuilders, architects, craftsmen and merchants to come to Russia to work, and sent many Russians to Western Europe to get the best possible education. One of his main goals was to have Russia gain access to the Baltic Sea and its trade with Western Europe. In 1700, he started the Northern War with Sweden, which then controlled the Baltic states; the war would last 21 years, but in the end, Russia was victorious. In 1703, he founded St. Petersburg, and nine years later, made it the capitol of Russia. With the ending of the Northern War in 1721, he proclaimed Russia an Empire and was accorded the title, Emperor of All Russia, also being proclaimed as Peter the Great. He married twice, fathering eleven children, many of whom died in infancy. He survived several coup attempts, and dealt with the traitors harshly, executing many of them each time. His eldest son from his first marriage, Crown Prince Alexei, plotted to overthrown his father, and after being convicted of treason, was executed in 1718. Peter the Great died of a chill without designating an heir.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson