Centuries after he ruled Russian from 1689 to 1725, Peter the Great remains one of the most revered and enigmatic leaders in world history. This study by Yale historian Paul Bushkovitch casts new light on Peter and his times, and demonstrates why it is impossible to comprehend the later course of Russian history without first grasping Peter's profound influence. Bushkovitch illustrates how Peter, during his 36 years as Tsar, transformed his country into a modern nation: he strengthened the state, reorganised the army, established a navy and conquered new territories. In addition to these momentous achievements, Peter changed the face of the Russian character by introducing European culture, scientific innovations and political thought to Russia. His influence ultimately paved the way for liberalism, Western-style nationalism and communism. In the end, neither his contemporaries nor generations of future historians can agree on how Peter should be remembered: was he a heroic reformer who brought Russian in the modern age, or a violent despot who valued the ideas of foreigners over Russian heritage?
Paul Bushkovitch is professor of history at Yale University.