Today on October 22, 1721, Tsar Peter the Great was proclaimed Emperor of Russia.
Pyotr Alekseyevich (Peter I), known as Peter the Great, was arguably the greatest leader in Russian history. He is widely credited with transforming Russian into a true European superpower. Peter was a formidable statesman, organizer, and reformer. He initially co-ruled with his older brother Ivan V from 1682 until Ivan’s death in 1696. Peter was then officially declared the sole Sovereign of Russia. He inherited an extremely underdeveloped nation with a medieval aristocracy married to legacy traditions and ways of life. While the rest of Europe was rapidly evolving with the Enlightenment and Reformation, Russia deliberately rejected all westernization.
After becoming the sole ruler, Peter immediately implemented massive reforms to modernize the country. After championing sweeping political, economic, and cultural changes, he set the country on an entirely new path. The Tsar believed in creating an educated and empowered bourgeoisie population. He simplified the Russian alphabet, introduced the Julian calendar, and established the country’s first newspaper. Peter recruited the finest minds across Europe to educate his people about the advances in science and technology. At a political level, he introduced an appointed senate which effectively oversaw and regulated all branches of government. The modernization and developments were largely built off the backs of the peasant serfs, leading to several popular revolts against the government. The Tsar was known cruelly suppress any opposition.
Beyond politics and society, he also introduced extensive military reforms that professionalized the army and established a navy. Peter led several successful military campaigns that greatly expanded Russia’s territory, acquiring lands in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. As emperor, he secured access to the Black Sea through several wars with Turkey. On October 22, 1721, he proclaimed Russia an empire and named himself emperor. He died in 1725 without naming an heir, plunging the country into a 15 year-long struggle for power.