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Peter the Great and His Reign

An online lecture by Dr. Paul Bushkovitch 

The reign of Peter the Great was a fundamental turning point in Russian history. In the thirty-six years that Peter was on the throne, Russia became a major power in Europe and incorporated the main features of modern West European culture.

Peter started out with the modernization of the army and the partial reorganization of the state, but the ultimate outcome was far more extensive. He also built a navy, defeated Sweden to regain Russia’s access to the Baltic Sea, built a new capital and thoroughly, not just partially, reorganized the state. In this way, he made Russia into a major power in European politics.

Equally profound but more long lasting were the changes Peter wrought in Russian culture. In thirty-five years, he brought Russian culture from the Middle Ages to the threshold of the Enlightenment. He brought to Russia the results of the Renaissance, seventeenth century rationalism, and the scientific revolution in Western Europe. Before Peter’s time, Russia had no natural science, but by 1726, an Academy of Sciences was established. It also had a new capital with European architecture, and a secular elite and a clergy with the basics of modern education. In all these things Russia caught up with Western Europe, recapitulating centuries of development in a few decades.
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About the Speaker

Dr. Paul Bushkovitch graduated from Harvard University (BA 1970) and Columbia University (PhD 1975). At Columbia, he worked with Michael Cherniavsky and Marc Raeff on a dissertation about the Moscow merchants of the seventeenth century. He has been at Yale since 1975. He is the author of Religion and Society in Russia: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1992), Peter the Great: The Struggle for Power 1671-1725 (2001), Succession to the Throne in Early Modern Russia: The Transfer of Power 1450-1725 (2021), and a Concise History of Russia (2011) among other books and articles.

Connecting With Zoom

This virtual lecture is presented live via Zoom. Registered users will be emailed a link to join this Zoom program. To get started, please download Zoom on your chosen device and explore the Frequently Asked Questions.

This program will be recorded and posted to the museum’s YouTube channel.

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