PETP.,R ALEXIEVITCH, Czar of Russia, generally denominated PETER TEE GREAT, was the son of the czar Alexei Mikailovitch by his second wife, Natalia Nary skine, and was born at Moscow June 9, 1672. His father, Alexei, died in 1676, leaving the throne to his eldest sou, Feodor, Peter's half-brother. This prince, however, died in 1682 without issue, after naming Peter as his successor, to the exclusion of his own full brother, Ivan. This step immediately provoked an insurrection, fomented by the children of the czar Alexei's first marriage, the most prominent among whom was the grand-duchess Sophia, a woman of great ability and energy, but of unbounded ambition. Disdaining the seclusion customary among the females of the royal family, she showed herself to the Strelitz (q.v.), excited them to fury by an ingenious story of the assassina tion of her brother Ivan, and then let them loose on the supporters of Peter's claims. After a carnage of three days, during which more than sixty members of the most noble families of Russia were massacred, she succeeded in obtaining the coronation (July, 1682) of Ivan and Peter as joint rulers, and her own appointment as regent. Up to Peter's coronation his education had been greatly neglected, but•after this time he became acquainted with lieut. Franz Timmerman, a native of Strasburg, who gave him lessons in, the military art and in mathematics; after which he had the good fortune to fall under the guidance of Lefort (q.v.), a Genoese, who initiated him into the sciences and arts of civilization, and by showing him how much Muscovy was in these respects behind the rest of Europe, influenced the whole of his future career. Lefort also formed a small mili tary company out of the young men of noble family who attended Peter, and caused Peter himself to pass, by regular steps, from the lowest (that of drummer) to the highest grade in it, rendering him all the while amenable to strict discipline. This course of, training, in all probability, saved Peter from becoming the mere savage despot, which his brutal and passionate disposition, and indomitable energy inclined him to be; it also protected hire from the jealousy of his half sister, the regent Sophia, who, seeing him absorbed in military exercises and other studies, imagined that be had wholly given himself up to amusement. She, however, soon discovered her error, for Peter, contrary
to her wishes, married (Feb., 1689), by his mother's advice, Endoxia Feodorowna, of the family of Lapoukin; and in October of the same year, called upon his sister.to resign the government: In the ensuing contest Peter was at first compelled to flee for his life; but he was speedily joined by the foreigners in the Russian service, with a Scotchman named Patrick Gordon (q.v.) and the Swiss Lefort at their head; and the Strelitz, who were his antagionist's mainstay, flocking to his standard, she resigned the contest, and was shut up in a convent, whence, till her death, in 1704, she did not cease to annoy him by her intrigues. On Oct. 11, 1689, Peter made his public eatery into Moscow, where he was met by Ivan, to whom he gave the nominal supremacy and prec edence, reserving the sole exercise of power for hiruself. Ivan only enjoyed his puppet sovereignty till 1696. Though Peter was all his life under the dominion of ungovern able passions and sensual habits, yet during great part of his reign he was so exclusively engaged in projecting and carrying out his schemes for the regeneration of Russia, that his gross animal nature bad little opportunity of displaying itself.
His first care on assuming the government, was to form an army disciplined accord ing to European tactics, in which labor lie was greatly aided by the valuable instructions, of Gordon and Lefort, both of whom were military men, and had served in some of tl:e. best disciplined armies of western Europe. He also labored to create a navy, armed and mercantile; but at this period Russia presented few facilities for such an attempt, for she was shut out from the Baltic by Sweden and Poland (the former of whom possessed Finland, St. Petersburg (then called Ingria), and the Baltic provinces), and from the Black sea by Turkey, which, extending along the whole of the north coast, had reduced that sea to the rank of an inland lake; leaving only the White sea and the. Arctic ocean, with the solitary port of Archangel, available for the Russian navy. Peter, thinking the possession of a portion of the Black sea would best supply the required.