Russia under Two Tsars, 1682-1689: The Regency of Sophia Alekseevna

Russia under Two Tsars, 1682-1689: The Regency of Sophia Alekseevna

Russia under Two Tsars, 1682-1689: The Regency of Sophia Alekseevna

Russia under Two Tsars, 1682-1689: The Regency of Sophia Alekseevna

Excerpt

The late seventeenth century, like the early eighteenth in Russian history, has been dominated largely by the figure of Peter the Great. Other arresting personalities have crossed the political scene, but the towering figure of the Great Tsar has thus far successfully subordinated them and given them importance only in relation to the events and developments of his spectacular career. Although it has generally been admitted that the generation before 1689 saw notable changes in national culture and important developments in Russian foreign relations, the dozen years between the reigns of Tsars Alexis and Peter have been slighted by most historians. An impression has long prevailed that these years represented a twilight period in Russian history, an interim between the Muscovite Russia of the early Romanovs and the "new" Russia of Peter the Great. It was recognized that individual Russians showed remarkable intellectual energies and interests during this period, and that the government, under Ukrainian and Polish influences, attempted a series of moderate reforms. But in general, the feeling has been that this was a time of ineffective government and military failures. After the feeble rule of Tsar Feodor (1676-1682), a quarrel over the succession developed, which, after a military uprising, culminated in a palace revolution and the quasi exile of young Tsar Peter. Although the crown was nominally shared by Peter and his elder brother Ivan, actual power rested thereafter in the hands of their ambitious sister, the Tsarevna Sophia Alekseevna. The failures of Sophia's regency, in turn, and her designs to remove Peter from the throne finally precipitated a coup d'état in which Peter, goaded to action through fear for his life, seized power and inaugurated the epoch which has brought him lasting fame.

These are over-all impressions formed from reading many accounts of Russian history of the late seventeenth century. Such impressions are misleading if not incorrect. The years 1682-1689 were of unusual interest in Russian history. In the realm of foreign affairs, a number of vital questions arose in connection with national boundaries and the advancement of Russian interests in both the eastern and western hemispheres. New trade and diplomatic relations were established with the nations of the East and the West. Internally, a number of reforms were effected. A strong impulse was given to education. The national propensity toward cultural isolation was attacked. Efforts were made to bring better order into internal trade and to landed property, and to free the state from an excessive dependence on foreign industry. Not . . .

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