On the eve of Peter the Great's accession, Russia was faced with problems on a huge scale. The pace of progress in Europe had left her well behind, and she had become a weak, backward, inward-looking state, increasingly threatened with destruction from the west. A plan drawn up by Liebniz in 1670 outlined a united Europe with Russia merely as an area for colonisation, and while this scheme was never likely to be made a reality, it showed the danger which Peter faced at the start of his reign. Realising this, he embarked on a series of reforms with distinctive western origins, and, "...Russia, raised to her feet by Peter and exerting all her strength, met the challenge."Clearly, the most important target for reform in order to meet the pressing threat of European expansion was the armed forces. Peter inherited a largely inadequate army still constituted to a great extent along late mediaeval lines, though partially modernised by his predecessors. His reorganisation began in 1698 with the formation from conscripts and volunteers of 27 infantry regiments and 2 dragoon regiments, numbering around 30,000 men. Such growth continued throughout his reign until by 1725 some 285,000 men had been recruited. Together with the introduction of standard drill manuals for the whole army, Peter's forces were raised into a position where they were a match both in quality and in number for any European adversary. Despite the persistence of old Muscovite practices such as the self-maintenance of some units, and despite the high losses caused by desertion (as was inevitable with a large conscript force), the westernisation of the Russian army was pursued with vigour under Peter.Alongside the development of the army, Peter's reign saw the novelty of the creation of a significant Russian naval force. While the use of the new fleets in the Caspian and Black Seas could be seen as simply a continuation of traditional Muscovite expansion to the south and east, the Baltic fleet operating from the new port of St. Petersburg showed a commitment to Russian expansion in northern Europe and an interest in the development of maritime trade with countries like Britain and the Netherlands.As the effects of the Russian military reorganisation began to be felt, in particular in the Great Northern War with the victory at Poltava, Russian diplomatic activity and strength in Europe dramatically increased. Under Peter's influence, Russia shed its image as a weak country on the European periphery, and gained grudging acceptance as a nation of central importance to the continent's balance of power. With Peter's prestige hugely enhanced with his victories over the Swedes, and with European monarchs involved in the diplomatic manoeuvring surrounding the Spanish Succession War, Russian diplomats rapidly became the equals of those of France, Britain, Austria and all the other 'older' powers. Marriage alliances with the Romanovs, previously of practically no value for major European states, became desirable. "Disliked, feared, in some respects still despised, Russia could no longer be ignored."A further aim which Peter made a high priority was the wholesale reconstruction of the administrative machinery of the state along western lines, taking German and Swedish institutions as his models. In line with a growing European realisation that productivity and progress were limitless given the correct application of the guiding hand of central authority, the 'Well-Ordered Police State' was set up to maximise Russian potential. The old-style corrupt and inefficient central and local bodies were at various stages reformed or abolished and replaced with new institutions with more clearly-defined responsibilities, an elaborate machinery, and foreign bureaucrats to train their Russian counterparts in the new methods.While many of the reforms introduced by Peter were a great improvement on the old system (for example, the replacement of the confused central government departments with colleges with more clearly-stated roles), there remained problems which prevented the westernising dreams becoming a firm reality. Many of these problems were rooted in the wide differences between the old Russian methods of government and the new imported German ideas, and the enormous upheaval which resulted from the change between the two. Personal government by the officials over the population was replaced by mechanistic, formal methods being enacted not by individuals but by a bureaucratic host. Legislation was no longer justified by custom and tradition, but by new abstract theoretical concepts.It is unsurprising that such changes failed to convert the entire Russian people overnight. The top officials, educated in the new ways by the foreign teachers and by the Tsar himself, understood the reasons behind the new way of doing things, saw the "military, political, and economic benefits for the state," and were enthusiastic supporters. Lower down the administrative hierarchy, however, such changes were often only faintly understood, and Peter's reforms appeared to many of the lower officials (and also, of course, to the mass of the population who had even less grasp of Peter's motivations) to be assaults on custom and tradition with no obvious cause. The new administrative bodies appeared over-elaborate and incomprehensible, and as a result, these attempted changes were resisted at local levels where the central authorities had little day-to-day control. Peter's westernised government mechanisms frequently changed administrative practices very little, and remained corrupt and inefficient.Another cause of the ineffectiveness of some of Peter's administrative reforms was to be found in his character. While it is certain that the desperate situation which Russia was in before his reign necessitated an energetic Tsar to introduce wholesale changes, Peter's energy was accompanied by something of a lack of patience and a lack of interest in the trivial details of his policies. "...His helter-skelter activity concealed a lack of rigour," which meant that while he introduced a number of reforms which looked good on paper, they often overlooked vital practical details that would later bring about their demise or seriously limit their potential. His eagerness to see results also led on occasion to premature fixing of problems which might have diminished by themselves given time, and to a feeling that the Petrine state as a whole was never quite finished."The government edifice Peter left at his death in 1725 resembled a cluster of more or less completed, more or less well-built structures, poorly integrated both among themselves and in relation to the landscape." Constant ad hoc interference from the Tsar often led to conflicts and inconsistencies between institutions and between laws, limiting the effectiveness of the 'westernised' government. The intervention of the autocratic Tsar also meant that the government could not always know what its responsibilities were, or when it was going to be overruled, a feature of the Russian government more than those of the west.The social effects of Peter's drive towards westernisation were ones which tended to widen the gaps between the social classes. For the peasantry, westernisation did not bring greater freedom and the decline of feudal serfdom, but an even greater enslavement than before. The fiscal pressures of a growing army and an increased bureaucratic service (which consumed by 1725, 64.5% and 21.2% of state expenditure respectively) led to an increasingly far-reaching search for tax revenue. Taxes on things such as hats, boots, beards, watermelons, nuts, cucumbers, and people from the Urals with blue or black eyes increased the burden on the masses to some extent, but the real strain came as a result of the Poll Tax.This became the chief tax source, and was applied to all registered serfs, which at the start of Peter's reign did not include a significant section of the peasantry. With the increasing financial demands of the army of paramount importance, the laws were changed so that almost every peasant lost any privileged status he may have had, and was demoted to the level of serf. In addition, conscription for the army or for forced labour (for state projects like the building of canals or new cities) further reduced peasant freedom. While it is certain that many western monarchs would have seen the extension of serfdom as being a considerable benefit, this extension was primarily an eastern European phenomenon, a thing of the past, not of the future.While the peasantry was held down in accordance with traditional eastern methods, the nobility was becoming unmistakably more westernised. Peter's new service nobility, which attained rank through achievement in state service rather than simply through birth, needed to become more westernised in order to progress in the Petrine state. Education and training in European science and technology became a prerequisite for success in the bureaucracy and the army, and this inevitably brought with it (though slowly - the greatest results were probably to be seen after Peter's death) a growing acceptance of western ideas and culture. With this acceptance, the elites began to drift further away from the rest of the population, which the western ideas had not permeated and whose attitude was characterised by the 'backward thinking' of the church which Peter campaigned so hard against.Economically, Peter pursued the 'western' goal of industrial growth in order to supply his armies with the necessary equipment. The main problem which he encountered in this respect was the absence of a natural domestic market or labour force of any size resulting from the distinctly eastern society of Russia at that time. Rigidly applied serfdom ensured there was no mass market (serfs could barely feed themselves and so were in no position to buy manufactures), and urban bourgeois society was insignificant. There may have been room for entrepreneurship from the nobility, but compulsory state service and Peter's rewarding of achievement in this field meant that few were able to devote enough attention to industrial ventures while simultaneously maintaining the required level of commitment to the state.Furthermore, the lack of a free labour force meant that any large industrial initiatives had to come not from private enterprise, but from the state. Such initiatives did materialise, with large-scale expansion of military industries such as mining and textiles, and a number of private firms were established after the creation of 'possessional peasants' for industrial labour. This new industrial capacity was long-lasting, despite a period of readjustment following Peter's death, but it had followed a peculiarly Russian development. The state had provided much of the entrepreneurial spirit, the capital, and the market, and had even set up the labouring class. In countries like Britain, such requirements were met by society, growth coming about more naturally and at a slower pace than with Peter's 'forced industrialisation'.Peter the Great was a Tsar whose aim was to resist being overwhelmed by European powers by westernising Russia. His drive for westernisation incorporated changes to the armed forces, foreign relations, administration, society and the economy, but it cannot be said that in all these areas that westernisation was achieved. Certainly internationally speaking, Russia was now a part of Europe, with strong influences on European affairs, backed by its new, modern army and navy. Domestically, westernisation policies generally achieved only partial success, or were adapted to the Russian situation in such a way as to be very different to anything which western nations might have considered. The administrative apparatus which was set up was clearly western in design, but would only work if a western ethos of government could be assumed by the whole of the civil service.Western ideas were drilled into the elites, but to the lower orders they were incomprehensible and provoked hostility when they were applied in opposition to tradition. For this reason, many of the state's new organs of government were no improvement on those which had existed before, and many reforms commensurate with the new western ideas were rejected and sabotaged by the conservative majority. In other areas such as industrialisation and taxation, Peter was prepared to dispense with western models for the benefits which the objective would bring, substituting instead more characteristically Russian methods. Given the short space of time in which Peter worked, it would seem unfair to expect the total westernisation of the Russian nation, and certain problems were inevitable. The progress which Peter forced on Russia was nevertheless considerable, and Peter could not really be described as a failure in his westernisation. Peter the Great made great strides in his aim of westernising Russia, and although in some respects such a programme was difficult or impossible, Russia was now undeniably a great power in Europe.Order Now
Sorry, but downloading text is forbidden on this website.
If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.
Please, specify your valid email address
How about make it original at only $13.90/page?
Let us edit it for you at only $13.90 to make it 100% original!Order now