Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVI
Peter and Alexei 1717-1718

DURING these tremendous years of war and reform Alexei, Peter's elder son, had grown to manhood. Weak, craven, and with the outlook of an old Muscovite, he could not have grown more unlike his father. He had thus become the hope of those who hated the new Russia, and as Tsarevich he represented a direct threat to all that Peter had laboured to achieve. The conflict between father and son moved inexorably to a crisis, and its outcome was as inevitable as the falling of night.

Tsarevich Alexei, born in February 1690, had spent his first eight years in the care of his mother, Tsaritsa Evdokiya, surrounded by her family and supporters. All were embittered conservatives, hostile to the interests and policy of his father, and hating foreigners. They thought only of the day when the Tsarevich would succeed to the throne and live the life of the old Muscovite tsars.

On the return of Peter from the West in 1698, Alexei had been placed in the care of his aunt, Tsarevna Natalya. At first he had followed no consistent routine of study and training. Nikifor Vyazemsky, his Russian tutor since he was six years old, had taught him only reading, writing, and the theology that had always dominated the education of tsarevichi in the past. Vyazemsky was inadequate as a man and as a teacher, but it was probably he who first awakened in Alexei his love of religious reading and contemplation. Early in 1703 Baron Heinrich Huyssen, a learned, able, and likeable man, became his tutor, and his lessons had begun in earnest.

Peter did not intend, however, that his son's education should be

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