Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
Archangel 1693-1694

PETER visited Archangel to satisfy his longing to see real ships and the sea; he returned determined to create a navy. He had intended to sail, soon after arriving, to Solovetsky Monastery, situated on an island in the White Sea. Afanasy, Archbishop of Kholmogory, was preparing to accompany him, when suddenly he received a message that the Tsar would not visit the monastery until the following summer.

Peter had heard much about Archangel, but nothing had prepared him for the sight of so many ships or the bustle of a busy port. With the first approach of spring each year, Archangel stirred. Everyone prepared for the hectic activity of the summer when the Uspensky market was piled high with goods, which had to be cleared before the winter ice again closed the river and the sea to all traffic. As soon as the ice broke, barges laden with wheat, caviare, hemp, tallow, Russian leather, potash, pitch and fishglue crowded the Dvina River on their way north. At the same time the first merchant ships from England, Holland, Hamburg, and Bremen pushed their way through the soft ice, bringing cargoes of silken fabrics, wool and cotton cloths, gold and silver ware, wines and chemicals, and other products of European industry. Archangel was then at the height of its importance as a centre of commerce.

Peter's immediate reason for postponing his visit to Solovetsky Monastery was that a number of English and Dutch merchantmen were preparing to sail in convoy, escorted by a Dutch warship. He

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