Peter the Great of Russia (1672 – 1725) ruled as co-tsar with Ivan V. He then ruled as Tsar from 1689 to 1725. He is best known for his efforts to westernize Russia.
Peter’s westernization of Russia involved not only economic change, but drastic cultural change as well. Peter’s father had declared that all men should have long hair and a beard and should avoid western dress codes. However, after numerous travels, Peter decided that they should cut their hair and beards and should welcome western dress. Anyone who did not abide by Peter’s decree was taxed. Peter also wanted women to have a higher status and more influence. As a result, he gave them more opportunities in education.
After suffering a humiliating defeat, Peter decided to ‘modernize’ his giant, unorganized yet powerful army. He ordered new, modern weapons and western uniforms made. Factories were needed in order to make these weapons and uniforms, and so compulsory labor was enforced.
Regarding religion, Peter the Great was fairly tolerant. He allowed the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church to reside side-by-side. However, he did persecute the Old Believers: Russians who opposed change, especially the kind Peter was engaged in. Despite this persecution, the Old Believers continued to grow in numbers. Another big step in Peter’s reign was when he assumed authority of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Henry VIII did the same thing in England, during the 16th century)
Peter the Great wanted to bring a new cultural era in Russia, which he believed had to be fully renewed.