An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE FOURTH PERIOD OF RUSSIAN HISTORY

PART II
(a) 1682-1725
THE MILITARY, FISCAL, AND COMMERCIAL POLICY OF PETER THE GREAT

WHEN Peter I acceded to the throne at the age of ten years, two gigantic tasks remained to be performed. So soon as he became conscious of his powers and able to exercise them, Peter set himself to the performance of these tasks. They were the political unification of the Russian State and the fixation of a "scientific frontier." When he acceded, about one-half of the total area of his subsequent empire was beyond the effective boundaries of Russia, and towards the south and the west the frontiers were exposed to continuous aggressions.1 The defence of the southern boundaries was his first concern. To this end it was necessary to consolidate the control of the north coast of the Black Sea and the shores of the Sea of Azov. In the Sea of Azov the first Russian fleet made its appearance; and dockyards sprang up along the reaches of the Don. By means of his new navy, Peter took Azov from the Turks, and he then built great fortifications at Petropolis.2 The aggression of Sweden, then at the height of its power, drew Peter from the south to the north, and, moreover, drew Russia, through alliances with Poland and Denmark, into the network of European international affairs.

Peter's visits to Western Europe gave him fresh ideas, which he impulsively proceeded to put into immediate execution. He re-

____________________
1
Cf. Kluchevsky, op. cit., iv. p. 65.
2
Navy, docks, and fortifications were all built by means of the forced labour of thousands of State peasants. For example, five thousand were employed on the works at Petropolis.

-100-

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