PETER THE GREAT: A Biography

Lindsey Hughes, Author . Yale Univ. $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-300-09426-8

Peter the Great, who ruled Russia from 1682 to 1725, has gone down in history as the man who opened Russia to the West. This accessible scholarly review of Peter offers no bombshells to change this view, but it does add nuance and understanding. Hughes modulates the view of Peter's radicalism: in many of his reforms (Peter established a hierarchy for Russian nobility and thrust Russia onto the world stage as a power with Russia's victory over Sweden), he was simply extending policies launched by his father; in other areas, his reforms dissipated after his reign ended. A professor of Russian history at University College London, Hughes (Russia in the Age of Peter the Great) also pays careful attention to something that is often neglected—opposition to Peter's rule; he became czar under dubious circumstances after his sister, who was acting as regent, was sent off to live in a convent. But in other aspects, Hughes gives Peter his rightful credit as a new-world maker. Regarding Peter's Academy of Sciences, an example of his support of scholarship, Hughes writes, "[I]ts significance for Russia's scientific and intellectual life was enormous." Nor does she neglect Peter's personal life. She notes his love of drinking, his fascination with dwarfs and his personal relationship with the woman who became his second wife, a relationship consummated long before she took the title of Catherine I. This book will likely become a standard for scholars and students who want a short but comprehensive account of Peter the Great. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/19/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-300-10300-7
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