PETER THE GREAT by M. S. Anderson


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A six-foot, seven-inch bear of a man, a warrior, and an administrator passionately interested in the well-being of his state, the remarkable Tsar Peter the Great strove to make semi-Asiatic Muscovy a European power. University of London Professor M. S. Anderson chronicles Peter's successful development of Russia's military might, marked by the 1721 Treaty of Nystad with Sweden. Peter recognized that technology and industry were essential to military power. On his two unprecedented fact-finding expeditions to Western Europe he recruited artisans and specialists. He conscripted thousands of his subjects to cruel and arduous labor on his new capital, St. Petersburg, and other projects, but was not above pitching in with his own hands. Caring little for tradition, he had his former mistress declared empress and, according to an English merchant's account, was ""a great admirer of such blunt fellows as saylors are. He invited all the nasty tars to dinner with him where he made 'em so drunk that some slop't, some danced and others fought--he amongst 'em."" Anderson is of the school which contends--in opposition to B. H. Sumner and other advocates of revolutionary change--that Peter merely strengthened modernizing forces already existing in Russia. Anderson argues, for instance, that Prince V. V. Golitsyn had encouraged the use of foreign experts and endeavored to raise a European-style army a decade before Peter. Ranged alongside Ian Grey's comprehensive 1960 biography, Anderson's topical treatment of Peter's life breaks little new ground, but its clarity of exposition should prove useful to students of Russian history. The general reader, however, is better served by L. J. Oliva's 1970 work.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1978
Publisher: Thames & Hudson--dist. by Norton