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Peter the Great and Catherine the Great

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 7 months, 2 weeks ago


Peter the Great

Peter I (Peter the Great)


  • Czar 1682-1721, was proclaimed emperor in 1721, until his death in 1725.


  • Main objective was the introduction of western ideals and modernization in Russia by going abroad in 1696


  • Traveled around Russia to learn more about technology and ways of industry


  • Increased the power of the Czar so he could implement his new reforms


  • Decreased the power of the nobles and placed the Orthodox Church under his control


  • Promoted education and brought new advances to Russia such as newspapers, women's rights, and western clothing


  • Westernization of Russia under Peter the Great
    • Abolished all conservative Russian traditionalism
    • Subjugated the church to the state
    • Created a new capital St. Petersburg in 1703
    • Established Russia's naval forces
    • Reorganized the army according to European models
    • Created a senate
    • Introduced a new tax system
    • Introduced schools to teach the alphabet and basic arithmetic
    • Established a printing house and the Academy of Sciences
    • Established a beard tax to encourage Western ways of grooming (very unpopular with nobles and churchmen! Read more here)


The list of Peter the Great's accomplishments were not the only thing at a towering height. Peter himself was 6'9" feet tall! Wow! 


Women in Peter the Great's Russia 


During Peter's modernization campaign of Russia, the role of women was changing. While men's fashion was changing, so was that of women. They adopted western styles of dress including high heels, lower necklines, and most controversially, uncovered hair. In addition to changes to their wardrobe noblewomen, who were traditionally secluded from any part of social life, were brought out at European style parties at Peter's royal court and expected to show social manners and converse in French.


Outside the capital, women were also expected to be invited to other functions such as balls and banquets, a sharp turn from traditionally all-male attendees.


Marriage was also another area where change for women was coming. While previous tradition dictated parents could arrange a marriage, Peter declared both parties must consent to a marriage prior to it taking place. Peter also made it forbidden for women to become nuns before turning 50 (this was to disallow husbands getting rid of their wives).


This collection of changes to women's lives in Russia may lead you to think Peter was a great emancipator of women, but in reality this was not the case. The European models Peter was aiming for still put women in an inferior position relative to men and reforms were not made with the idea to promote women's welfare in general.



Click here for the biography of Peter the Great


Click here for an interactive timeline of Peter's life


  Multimedia Resources


Click here for a 10 minute summary about both Peter the Great and Russia as a whole during the 17th and 18th centuries.


Click here for a 30 minute video about Peter the Great.


Click here and watch the first 10 minutes of this video for info on Peter the Great and his reforms


Primary Sources

Peter I Decree On Wearing Clothes in the Hungarian Manner 


Here is the Romanov family tree, showing the relationship between Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and others.


Oranienbaum, Russian Royal Residence, St. Petersburg


City of St. Petersburg, Russia



Founding of St. Petersburg, Russia, Building the World, University of Massachusetts Boston




A Short History of St. Petersburg, The Moscow Times (June 1, 2018)



Catherine the Great had an Over-the-Top Chinese Palace in Oranienbaum, the Russian Royal Residence







Catherine II, 1794, painted by Dmitry Levitzky


Catherine II, 1794, painted by Dmitry Levitzky

Catherine II (Catherine the Great)


  • Came to power in 1762 after the death of her husband and ruled until her death in 1796


  • Continued Peter the Great's policies of Westernization and expansion


  • Inspired by Enlightenment teachings


  • Under her rule, Russia became established as a great world power


  • Pugachev's Rebellion (1773-1774) was a serf uprising that lead Catherine to revamp the Russian government

Click here for a biography of Catherine the Great


Here is a blog about what Catherine the Great did for women while she was in charge.


Here is a timeline of Catherine the Great's life, including both personal details, as well as political and social details. 


 Visit here for documents on Catherine the Great


 The Nakaz (Great Instruction)


  • Code of legal principles written by Catherine over the course of two years in the French language
  • Drew among Enlightenment ideas from Montesquieu, Voltaire, and others
  • Proclaimed equality for all men under the law 
  • Disapproved of the death penalty and torture
  • Upheld the concept of the absolute power of the monarchy 



Click here for an NPR story about Catherine the Great.


 Click here for a video of creative quotes by Catherine the Great


external image Beautiful_red_apple.jpgSee Great Women Rulers from Women in World History.


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