Revolution of Peter the Great Book Report

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Russia is today one of the most important countries in the world; it represents a political, economic, geo- strategic, cultural, and social power, one which can and most often does set the tone for different changes in the world. Indeed, today's environment is built and is developing in such a form as to imply such influence from states that are significant in geographical size, population, and financial strengths. However, Russia has the fundamentals and mentality of a great power, regardless of the environment. This can be seen as a reminiscence of history and as a status quo in the mentality of the Russian leaders and decision makers. In building this historical mentality, a crucial role was played by Peter the Great at the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th century, the tsar that transformed Russia from a medieval state into one of the most important political forces in Europe and in time in the world. James Cracraft's "Revolution of Peter the Great" points out the most important achievements of the Russian ruler, while taking into account the main areas of activities that were either created or improved during his time, and the ones that contributed to the creation of a modern Russian Empire.

Peter the Great is seen by many historians as having been the driving force behind the creation of the Russian Empire (Cracraft, n.d.). The reasons for such a conclusion are rather significant and the achievements Peter the Great is acclaimed for can hardly be denied. More precisely, some of the most important areas in which Peter the Great not only provided an impetus but created from zero include the military, the administration, the cultural area, and, perhaps one of the most essential for the future development of Russia as an international player on the political world, diplomacy. Each and everyone of these areas of activities experienced a dramatic change, in some aspects improvements in others short-term improvements and long-term negative effects.

The military is seen as one of the most important segments of a state. This was true especially given the period in which Peter the Great reigned. The 17th and 18th century were periods in the history of the European continent of utmost violence and territorial gain, conquests, and rebellions across borders. More precisely, for instance, in the Russian part of Europe, the threat of the Ottoman Empire was constant and increasing dramatically depending on the Sultan. Further west, the Austrian, Hungarian, and German territories were constantly on the brick of war, which gave a sense of increased instability in the region (Berstein, Serge, and Milza, 1994). Therefore, it was crucial for a territory as large as the Russian was to ensure some sense of security and stability. Before Peter the Great, the Russian army was almost non-existent (Cracraft, n.d.). There was no professional force or people that would serve in the army on a regular basis. Mostly, the drafting of the "soldiers" was done on a case-by-case basis and as the need arose. This practice however could not have ensured proper results especially given the fact that throughout the continent, the concept of professional army was, to a certain extent, already in place. Cracraft points out the clear need to reform the system in a way as to allow professional trainings to take place inside the army, the drafting of the troops to be done in an organized manner. The challenges of the time imposed such a rigorous approach (Kissinger, 1995).

The role of Peter the Great was significant in this sense firstly because it was him who identified the problem and decided to solve it. However, in his book, Cracraft points out that one of the main reasons for which Peter identified the problem was due to his desire for territorial conquests and waging of war. More precisely, "Peter inherited from his royal Muscovite predecessors fluid boundaries and tense relations with both the Ottoman Turkish Empire and the Kingdom of Poland. But his struggles with these two powers for new territory or strategic security inevitably became entangled with is long war against the king of Sweden his rival in what became a war not just for certain Baltic lands but for dominance in northeastern Europe" (Cracraft, n.d.p32). Therefore there was a crucial need for the creation of a powerful army and a strong navy that would be able to wage wars on the sea and protect the newly acquired territories. This was achieved through joint effort in the sense that although the army and the navy was important, there had to be means to support it from a financial point-of-view.

Another aspect pointed out by the Cracraft was the revolution Peter the Great created in the administration. Throughout modern Europe the reorganization of the state was essential to provide the funding for maintaining the military in a good shape and fuel the wars being waged (Hobsbawn, 1962). Therefore, in Russia, the tax collection system was replaced and reorganized in a manner that ensured impressive revenues to the state budget that could eventually finance the changes at the state level and the political one. The situation before Peter the Great's reign was, as per Cracraft, was dominated by a medieval concept of administration and an economic reality that would not have been able to support such modern views over the army (Cracraft, n.d.p60) Hence, the reform of the administration.

The reform in the administration however had certain side effects for the common people and especially the peasants. During that time, the peasants represented the large majority in the country especially given the nature of the country that was mostly based on the agricultural sector as a result of the natural resources in terms of land Russia possessed. The taxes that increased and that were levied in a much more organized manner were also levied from the peasants. At the same time, Peter the Great, in order to maintain his political support (a support that did not necessarily have today's meaning but was essential from the bourgeoisie) provided increased rights for the landowners over the peasants that were working their fields. Therefore, the selfdom gained new meaning and a much tougher for the peasants.

This initiative by Peter the Great was benefic on the short-term because it kept the landowners on his side and they supported his strive to modernize the country. On the long-term however, this became a constant reason for dissatisfaction with the peasants whose discontent grew in time and resulted in riots and social upheavals. Cracraft points out that one of the most significant rebellions against Peter the Great was that of his own son (Cracraft, n.d., p115).

Another important achievement of Peter the Great in his attempt to modernize the country was the cultural aspects. The city of St. Petersburg lies witness of the cultural initiatives that were followed during Peter's rule. During his time what was only a small town became an impressive city and a symbol of the Russian empire and of the Tsarist might. In this sense, Peter the Great modernized the city, built cathedrals and churches and moved the capital of the Empire in St. Petersburg. Until the end of the Russian Empire in 1917, the city was the symbol of power for Russia.

Aside from the architectural development, Peter the Great supported culture as a means of emancipation of the elites and of the country itself. Cracraft analyses this evolution in terms of three main areas of interest: architectural, visual, and verbal (Cracraft, n.d., p77) The first universities were built that allowed a higher level of education and a new sense of modernity in the country which influenced the way people behaved and the actual architecture of the cities.The university of medicine, or sciences, or mathematics were established and soon gained European renown.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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