Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XL
Trade, Exploration, and the Persian Campaign 1721-1722

A THOUGH engaged in the West during most of his reign, Peter was always keenly interested in the countries to the cast and south of Russia. The fabulous Cathay of which foreign merchants and seamen talked so much fascinated him. He had stored up in his memory tales of the wealth of India, and had long cherished plans to develop the rich silk trade of Persia, bringing it entirely into Russian hands. Once the danger of invasion by the Swedes had passed, he turned his attention increasingly to China and Persia, and to Central Asia as the gateway to India.

Tsarevna Sofia had sent an embassy to Peking in 1689, when the Treaty of Nerchinsk had been made, depriving Russia of the lands of the Amur basin which her frontiersmen had been struggling to hold for nearly fifty years. Their withdrawal was, however, timely, for China was strong and united, and Russia was then in no condition to challenge her. The treaty had made some provision for continuing the Siberian caravan trade, mainly in furs, silk, and tea, but the Chinese did not take such trade seriously.

Peter himself made several attempts to increase this trade. He met with obstacles on both sides of the frontier. First, he had made such trade a state monopoly with the purpose of developing it. But Gagarin and others, dealing on their own accounts, undermined the monopoly. Next, Peter appointed Guards Captain Lev Izmailov in 1719 as his envoy extraordinary to the Emperor of China. Izmailov

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