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To What Extent Was Peter The Great's Personality More Of A Disadvantage Than An Advantage In His Attempts To Reform Russia?

3247 words - 13 pages

Peter the Great’s manic will to implement his ideas was fundamental to his personality. His reign was therefore a metamorphosis for Russia. The army became effective, a navy was created, political stability was achieved, industry increased, old Russia- as exemplified by the Church and the Boyar tradition- were modernised and, through the creation of St Petersburg, the route to the west was opened both geographically and symbolically. The autocratic and rapid implementation of his reform was seldom based on sound planning due to a lack of consistency in his character. This led to economic suffering and in some cases the later reverse of the reform themselves.Peter’s administrative and political reforms were not fundamentally radical. He may have borrowed ideas from the West but he also maintained part of the old Muscovite system. Lack of innovation becomes evident as the Petrine superstructure was frequently discarded by Peter’s successors to be replaced with their own institutions. Peter’s simple-minded personality is the key factor behind such political failure. To quote the Empress Catherine as she thoroughly examined Peter’s papers ‘Peter did not know himself what laws were necessary to the state.’His constitutional reforms were short lived, and this was partly down to his authoritarian nature as well as a lack in political understanding. The Muscovite structure of central government was based on the autocracy of the Tsar surrounded by the Boyars’ parliamentary Duma, the Zemskii Sobor- who were influential nobles- and the Prikazi, the government departments under the Duma’s control. The institutions overalapped, Peter did not take their advice seriously and they were therefore inefficient. Peter replaced the Duma and the Zemskii Sobor with a Senate in 1711, with a mere 9 members. But for all his introduction of new institutions Peter preferred to rule as an autocrat and his successors bypassed the structures he had put in place, for example Catherine ruled by her Imperial Council. Peter had brought Russia to the brink of an autocracy where the autocrat would listen to his advice (as based on the Swedish model) but the experiment succumbed to his dominant personality.Peter was in awe of Western government, but his raw longing for Russia to be modernised was too radical to be reasonable. This is demonstrated in the area of municipal government where in his 1721 Edict he ordered each town to establish a council, based on limited elections and possessing a degree of financial and administrative autonomy. Implementation of a western system upon a nation who had little desire for political participation and financial responsibility was never going to succeed. His failure becomes more apparent after his death as it necessitated further reform, as seen in the 1785 Municipal Charter of Catherine the Great and the 1870 Edict of Alexander II. We see how Peter’s impatient disregard for detail led to a lack...

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