The Ends Versus the Means: A Look at the Claim to “greatness” of Peter I of Russia.
The Ends Versus the Means: A Look at the Claim to “greatness” of Peter I of Russia.
Tyler Dolan
Professor Greene
27 September 2006
Response #5 (Peter)
The Ends Versus the Means: a look at the claim to “greatness” of Peter I of Russia.
In any study of Russias history and monarchy, it is impossible to ignore the variety of
titles added to so many names throughout the nobility; some being appended as a show of power
by the ruler or noble themself, others added posthumously, a la Ivan the “terrible.” In the case of
Peter I of Romanov Russia, his affixation of “the Great” could hardly be more appropriate. There
exists an old Russian proverb that translates “the same hammer that shatters the glass forges the
steel.” Peter “shattered the glass” by breaking down the limitations of a somewhat backwards
empire, and “forged” the way for a new and powerful Russia. Though it is clear that his tactics
were sometimes cruel and of great detriment to the peasant proletariat, the stronger argument
clearly shows that Peter the Great influenced and reformed Russia in ways that none of his
predecessors could; Peter made Russia a force to be reckoned with, and, in essence, “put it on the
map.”
Peter clearly had his downfalls, among them his firm belief in the concept of “the ends
justify the means.” Under his reign, the peasant majority moved further down the path towards
becoming “full serfs.” (Platonov 180) It is clear that, in fact, that he did decrease what little
human rights his poorest subjects had. Under Peter, one man from each of twenty household was
required to serve in the armed forces. [This raised Peters army to over thirty thousand, but these
men were forced to serve and were in the army for life.] (Freeze 94) It is also evident that in the
creation of Peters great city (St. Petersburg), peasants were employed via forced labor and many
died. These examples show a view of the Russian people as “resources” rather than humanity,
but also a zealous need to advance his empire.
Despite Peters imperfections, it is necessary to assess him in his own time and amongst
his own European royal peers. The changes he brought to Russia were innumerable and of
axiomatic

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