Reading 18: Russia under Enlightened Despots
Directions: You will find below links to two sets of readings, the first set is about Peter the Great and the
second set is on Catherine the Great. After you have completed the readings, write a 500 word essay on the
How did both rulers attempt to "modernize" Russia and how do they compare to each other? Were they
successful or not and explain.
Readings on Peter the Great
Readings on Catherine The Great
His first anxiety after his arrival was about the rebellion---in what it consisted, what the insurgents meant,
who dared to instigate such a crime. And as nobody could answer accurately upon all points, and some
pleaded their own ignorance, others the obstinacy of the Streltsi, he began to have suspicions of
everybody's loyalty. . . No day, holy or profane, were the inquisitors idle; every day was deemed fit and
lawful for torturing. There were as many scourges as there were accused, and every inquisitor was a
butcher. . .The whole month of October was spent in lacerating the backs of culprits with the knout and
with flames; no day were those that were left alive exempt from scourging or scorching; or else they were
broken upon the wheel, or driven to the gibbet, or slain with the axe. . .
To prove to all people how holy and inviolable are those walls of the city which the Streltsi rashly
meditated scaling in a sudden assault, beams were run out from all the embrasures in the walls near the
gates, in each of which two rebels were hanged. This day beheld about two hundred and fifty die that death.
There are few cities fortified with as many palisades as Moscow has given gibbets to her guardian Streltsi.
(In front of the nunnery where Sophia [Peter's sister] was confined) there were thirty gibbets erected in a
quadrangle shape, from which there hung two hundred and thirty Streltsi; the three principal ringleaders,
who tendered a petition to Sophia touching the administration of the realm, were hanged close to the
windows of that princess, presenting, as it were, the petitions that were placed in their hands, so near that
Sophia might with ease touch them.
In the year 1703 the tsar took the field early, cantoned his troops in the month of March, and about the 20th
of April brought the army together; then marched and invested another small but important place called
Neva-Chance, which surrendered on the 14th of May. The commodious situation of this place made the tsar
resolve to erect on it a considerable town, with a strong citadel, consisting of six royal bastions, together
with good outworks; this he soon put into execution and called it St. Petersburg, which is now esteemed so
strong that it will be scarcely possible for the Swedes ever to take it by force.
As he was digesting the scheme of this, his favorite town, which he designed not only for the place of his