Archive for the ‘Robert Massie’ Category

“Peter The Great” by Robert Massie is the tale of an amazing character and a picture of Russia and Europe during his lifetime. He was 6′ 7″ tall, and had apparently boundless energy and determination.

He was intelligent and very curious  about everything, how it worked, what it did, etc. though his interests were more in practical, scientific areas than in the arts. He fell in love with the sea as a teen ager
and tried to take Russia from a land-locked and tradition bound, isolated, xenophobic place towards the ideals of civilization he saw in England, Holland, France.
The book touches on the hardships he imposed financially and physically on his people, but he also gave anyone a chance to rise to prominence through his schools and his lack of concern with the birth or class of those he knew or met.
He made commoners the heads of his army, his government, and his own wife was a Lithuanian peasant captured during a battle. He made her empress so that she could rule after his death, which was a huge break with the tradition of Russia
 or any other monarchy of the time, and yet he believed it was fine that he had absolute power and pitied the British kings who had the Parliament to deal with.
 He was ruthless, but compassionate, and his vision and will power helped him to succeed in winning the war against Sweden, build a large navy, build Petersburg from nothing into a beautiful city.
 He brought women out of a previous total seclusion into the social world. He imported thousands of educated foreigners and started schools so Russians would learn the skills of Europe.
In short, he was well worth reading about and the book is well written. It’s about 850 pages long, with some good illustrations of some of the characters, and several maps
 that show not only Russia and Europe but some of the important battles fought between Peter and his opponent, an even more flamboyant King of Sweden. It’s a study of power and leadership.

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