Wednesday, March 30, 2005
This is Peter the Great, who created a fleet for Russia and captured land from the powerful Swedes. This land became St. Petersburg- Russia's most European city and prized gateway to the Baltic Sea.
Peter is one of my favorites in world history. (Though it's sometimes hard to like him.) He was a walking 6 foot 7 inch contradiction- a renaissance man brimming with intelligence and curiosity, often very down to earth but also could be extremely unforgiving and horribly cruel. On one side he revolutionized Russia, bringing culture and stubbornly yanking the country out of the middle ages. However, not only did he murder his own son, he massacred the Streltsy (an élite Russian army who were involved in a violent rebellion over the crown when Peter was young.) Also, thousands of Russians were drafted as laborers to build St. Pete and died from the torrid conditions encouraged by Peter's insistance on it's speedy building. (There is a saying that St. Petersburg was built on top the of bones of it's builders.)