Peter I (Alexeyevitch), surnamed the Great, emperor of Russia, born near Moscow, June 10, 1672, died in St. Petersburg, Feb. 8, 1725. His father Alexis died in 1676, and was succeeded by Feodor, who died in 1682 without issue, naming Peter as his successor, to the exclusion of Ivan, the latter's elder half brother, who was an imbecile youth. An insurrection followed, fomented by their sister Sophia. The difference was settled after much bloodshed by the joint coronation of Ivan and Peter (May, 1682), with Sophia as regent. In 1789, after marrying Eudoxia Fe-dorovna Lapukhin, contrary to the regent's wishes, Peter emerged from the inactivity to which Sophia's ambition had consigned him, and, assisted principally by the Swiss Lefort and the Scotchman Gordon, assumed the direction of affairs. He shut up his sister in a convent, where she ended her life in 1704, and banished her minister, Prince Gallitzin. Ivan voluntarily withdrew, leaving Peter in effect sole sovereign, and died in 1696. Peter at once organized a new army, entering the ranks himself, and rising through every grade; and this example he required his nobles to follow.
He laid the foundation of a navy by employing Dutch and Venetian shipwrights to build several small vessels on Lake Peipus. He learned seamanship by cruising on board Dutch and English ships at Archangel, the only seaport Russia then had, and sent young Russians to Venice, Leghorn, and Holland for the same purpose. In 1696 he besieged and took the Turkish city of Azov on the sea of that name, and about the same time repudiated his wife on account-of her opposing his plans. In order to improve his semi-barbarous subjects, he fostered communication with the western nations of Europe, at whose courts Russia was not then represented; and, sensible of his own deficiencies, he left his dominions for a temporary resi-dence abroad (1697). This journey formed an epoch in the history of his empire. He went first with a few attendants to Saardam, where in disguise he spent a short time, and next worked in Amsterdam as a ship builder, studied natural philosophy, astronomy, and geography, and attended anatomical lectures. Early in 1698 he went to London, but soon removed to Deptford, where he occupied the house of John Evelyn, and returned to Holland in April, taking with him several men of science.
He thence proceeded to Vienna to inspect the army, and was about to visit Italy when a rebellion at home caused his return after tun absence of 17 months. The insurgents, whom his general Gordon had put down, he punished with savage cruelty. He disbanded the strelitzes, long the body guard of the cears, and formed new regiments on the German model. • He regulated the press, established naval and other schools, and required his subjects to trade with other countries, which was formerly a capital crime. He prohibited the'wearing of beards, granting exemptions for the payment of a special tax. To the horror of the priests, he altered the calendar, making the year begin on Jan. 1 in the place of Sept. 1 as before, and instituted the order of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Russia. To recover the provinces of Ingria and Karelia, which had formerly belonged to the Russian monarchy, he formed an alliance with Augustus II. of Poland and the king of Denmark against the king of Sweden. The first fruit of the league was the disastrous battle of Narva. (See Charles XII.) Peter applied himself vigorously to repairing his losses, declaring that his enemies would teach him how at length to beat them.
He melted down the church bells for cannon, and organized against Swedish invasion a fleet of small vessels on Lake Ladoga. In 1702 he defeated the Swedes and took Marienburg in Livonia. By skilful manoeuvring he got possession of the river Neva, at the mouth of which, among marshes which proved destructive to tens of thousands of his laborers, he laid the foundations of St. Petersburg (1703). In 1704 he became master of the whole of Ingria, and appointed Prince Menshikoff viceroy. When Augustus abdicated in favor of Stanislas Lesz-czynski, Peter entered Poland with an army, assembled a diet, and deposed Stanislas. Charles XII. soon appearing, Peter retired into the interior of his own dominions, but finally achieved a brilliant victory over him at Poltava, July 8, 1709, and in the following year conquered Karelia. Charles, who took refuge in Turkey, instigated Ahmed II. against Peter. A war ensued, in which the czar was narrowly saved from destruction (1711) by the finesse of his mistress Catharine, afterward his wife and successor (see Catharine I.), and the sacrifice of Azov. He built defensive works in his capital; and' by the construction of ships, dockyards, and wharves, which gave employment to thousands of laborers, he laid a substantial basis for commerce.
In 1713 he removed the senate from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and in 1715 the summer and winter palaces were completed. In company with the empress Catharine he made a second tour of Europe in 1716, and was received at Paris with great splendor. He carried back a large quantity of works of art to adorn the new city. His son Alexis, the child of his first marriage, and heir to his throne, evincing a treasonable spirit, was tried and condemned to death; a few days afterward (July 7, 1718) he died in prison, under highly suspicious circumstances. (See Alexis Petrovitch.) The protracted differences between Russia and Sweden were finally composed, after the death of Charles X1L, by the treaty of Nystad (1721), under which Sweden ceded to her rival Livonia, Es-thonia, Ingria, a part of Karelia, the territory of Viborg, the isle of Oesel, and all the other islands in the Baltic from Courland to Viborg. For these concessions Russia agreed to surrender Finland, which had been partly conquered, to pay $2,000,000, and to allow a free export of corn, to the annual value of 50,000 rubles, from the ports of Riga, Revel, and Arens-berg. Peter now built canals and factories, established a uniformity of weights and measures, and paved the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. He framed codes, organized tribunals, and instituted hospitals.
To polish the manners of his court, he ordered the young nobles to visit western Europe in company with their wives. In 1723 he founded at St. Petersburg the academy of sciences. His last war was against Persia, in which he gained the Caspian territories of Derbend, Baku, Ghi-lan, Mazanderan, and Astrabad (1722-'3). At last, afflicted with a dangerous disease, he appointed the empress Catharine his successor and caused her to be publicly crowned a few months before his death. - His bicentennial anniversary was celebrated with great pomp in Moscow and St. Petersburg, June 10, 1872. The Russian government undertook in 1873 to publish his letters and papers, under the direction of Count Tolstoi, minister of public instruction. Among the biographies and works relating to him are those of Halem (3 vols., 1803-5), Bergmann (6 vols., 1823-'30), and others, in German; Voltaire (new ed., 2 vols., 1864) and Count Philippe Paul de Segur (1829), in French; and Golikoff (30 vols., 1788-'97) , and Ustreloff (6 vols., 1858-63), in Russian. In 1874 appeared in Paris Reglement ecclesias-tique de Pierre le Grand, translated from the Russian by Father C. Tontini. See also Pierre le Grand dans la litterattire etr angere, by R. Minzloff (St. Petersburg, 1875).