Portrait of Peter I (1672-1725), Tsar of All Russia (1682-1721), Regency (1682-1689), Emperor of Russia (1721-1725)
Peter the Great (Russian: Пётр Вели́кий; Пётр I; Пётр Алексе́евич; 9 June 1672 – 8 February 1725) ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 1689 until his death in 1725, jointly ruling before 1696 with his elder half-brother, Ivan V. Through a number of successful wars, he expanded the Tsardom into a much larger empire that became a major European power. He led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political systems with ones that were modern, scientific, Westernised and based on the Enlightenment. Peter's reforms made a lasting impact on Russia. On 29 January 1676, Tsar Alexis died, leaving the sovereignty to Peter's elder half-brother, the weak and sickly Feodor III of Russia. Throughout this period, the government was largely run by Artamon Matveev. This position changed when Feodor died in 1682. As Feodor did not leave any children, a dispute arose between the Miloslavsky family (Maria Miloslavskaya was the first wife of Alexis I) and Naryshkin family (Natalya Naryshkina was the second wife) over who should inherit the throne. Peter's other half-brother, Ivan V of Russia, was next in line for the throne, but he was chronically ill and of infirm mind. Consequently, the Boyar Duma (a council of Russian nobles) chose the 10-year-old Peter to become Tsar with his mother as regent. This arrangement was brought before the people of Moscow, as ancient tradition demanded, and was ratified. Sophia Alekseyevna, one of Alexis' daughters from his first marriage, led a rebellion of the Streltsy (Russia's elite military corps) in April–May 1682. In the subsequent conflict some of Peter's relatives and friends were murdered, including Matveev, and Peter witnessed some of these acts of political violence. The Streltsy made it possible for Sophia, the Miloslavskys (the clan of Ivan) and their allies to insist that Peter and Ivan be proclaimed joint Tsars, with Ivan being acclaimed as the senior. Sophia acted as regent during the minority of the sovereigns and exercised all power. For seven years, she ruled as an autocrat. A large hole was cut in the back of the dual-seated throne used by Ivan and Peter. Sophia would sit behind the throne and listen as Peter conversed with nobles, while feeding him information and giving him responses to questions and problems. This throne can be seen in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow. Peter was not particularly concerned that others ruled in his name. He engaged in such pastimes as shipbuilding and sailing, as well as mock battles with his toy army. Peter's mother sought to force him to adopt a more conventional approach and arranged his marriage to Eudoxia Lopukhina in 1689. The marriage was a failure, and ten years later Peter forced his wife to become a nun and thus freed himself from the union. By the summer of 1689, Peter, then age 17, planned to take power from his half-sister Sophia, whose position had been weakened by two unsuccessful Crimean campaigns against the Crimean Khanate in an attempt to stop devastating Crimean Tatar raids into Russia's southern lands. When she learned of his designs, Sophia conspired with the leaders of the Streltsy, who continually aroused disorder and dissent. Peter, warned by the Streltsy, escaped in the middle of the night to the impenetrable monastery of Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra; there he slowly gathered adherents who perceived he would win the power struggle. Sophia was eventually overthrown, with Peter I and Ivan V continuing to act as co-tsars. Foy de la Neuville records that Sophia requested influential members of Peter's family, notably her aunts Tatyana and Anna, to mediate with him. Peter forced Sophia to enter a convent, where she gave up her name and her position as a member of the royal family. Still, Peter could not acquire actual control over Russian affairs. Power was instead exercised by his mother, Natalya Naryshkina. It was only when Natalya died in 1694 that Peter, now age 22, became an independent sovereign. Formally, Ivan V remained a co-ruler with Peter, although he was ineffective. Peter became the sole ruler when Ivan died in 1696. Peter was 24 years old.
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