Peter the Great (Pyotr Alekseyevich Romanov)

Peter the Great (Pyotr Alekseyevich Romanov)
SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 10 June 1672 (30 May 1672 Old Style) Moscow, Russia
d. 8 February 1725 (28 January 1725 Old Style) St Petersburg, Russia
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Russian Tsar (1682–1725), Emperor of all the Russias (1722–5), founder of the Russian Navy, shipbuilder and scientist; as a shipbuilder he was known by the pseudonym Petr Mikhailov.
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Peter the Great was a man with a single-minded approach to problems and with passionate and lifelong interests in matters scientific, military and above all maritime. The unusual and dominating rule of his vast lands brought about the age of Russian enlightenment, and ensured that his country became one of the most powerful states in Europe.
Peter's interest in ships and shipbuilding started in his childhood; c. 1687 he had an old English-built day sailing boat repaired and launched, and on it he learned the rudiments of sailing and navigation. This craft (still preserved in St Petersburg) became known as the "Grandfather of the Russian Navy". In the years 1688 to 1693 he established a shipyard on Lake Plestsheev and then began his lifelong study of shipbuilding by visiting and giving encouragement to the industry at Archangelsk on the White Sea and Voronezh in the Sea of Azov. In October 1696, Peter took Azov from the Turks, and the Russian Fleet ever since has regarded that date as their birthday. Setting an example to the young aristocracy, Peter travelled to Western Europe to widen his experience and contacts and also to learn the trade of shipbuilding. He worked in the shipyards of Amsterdam and then at the Naval Base of Deptford on the Thames.
The war with Sweden concentrated his attention on the Baltic and, to establish a base for trading and for the Navy, the City of St Petersburg was constructed on marshland. The Admiralty was built in the city and many new shipyards in the surrounding countryside, one being the Olonez yard which in 1703 built the frigate Standart, the first for the Baltic Fleet, which Peter himself commanded on its first voyage. The military defence of St Petersburg was effected by the construction of Kronstadt, seawards of the city.
Throughout his life Peter was involved in ship design and it is estimated that one thousand ships were built during his reign. He introduced the building of standard ship types and also, centuries ahead of its time, the concept of prefabrication, unit assembly and the building of part hulls in different places. Officially he was the designer of the ninety-gun ship Lesnoe of 1718, and this may have influenced him in instituting Rules for Shipbuilders and for Seamen. In 1716 he commanded the joint fleets of the four naval powers: Denmark, Britain, Holland and Russia.
He established the Marine Academy, organized and encouraged exploration and scientific research, and on his edict the St Petersburg Academy of Science was opened. He was not averse to the recruitment of foreigners to key posts in the nation's service. Peter the Great was a remarkable man, with the unusual quality of being a theorist and an innovator, in addition to the endowments of practicality and common sense.
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Further Reading
Robert K.Massie, 1981, Peter the Great: His Life and Work, London: Gollancz.
Henri Troyat, 1979, Pierre le Grand; pub. in English 1988 as Peter the Great, London: Hamish Hamilton (a good all-round biography).
AK / FMW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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