This Day in the Law
October 22

Peter the Great Proclaimed Emperor of Russia (1721)

On October 22, 1721, Peter I proclaimed himself "Emperor of Russia" — a title that indicated superiority over that of mere "king." Peter I, commonly referred to as Peter the Great, modernized Russia from a backward medieval country into a leading eastern European nation.

Peter the Great, named Pyotr Alekseyevich, was born in June 1672 in Moscow, Russia into royal blood. He was the fourteenth child of Czar Alexis through his second wife, Natalya Naryshkina. In 1682, Peter and his brother, Ivan V, jointly inherited the Russian throne. In 1696, Ivan died, and Peter officially became the head of Russia. However, Peter inherited a country that was severely underdeveloped and isolated compared to the rest of Europe.

Peter quickly worked to bring Russia out of the dark ages. He became very passionate about westernizing Russia. He took many trips abroad to western countries to learn about science and technology and to build strong foreign relations. Peter brought his new found knowledge back to the Russian people and immediately began to implement his visions.

Peter created the city of St. Petersburg (named after himself) from basically scratch. He made St. Petersburg the capital of Russia and sent (often by force) thousands of his people to build up the city and turn it into a shipbuilding mecca.

Peter did just about everything he could to modernize Russia. He centralized the Russian government, build up the army, established a navy, secularized schools, reformed the Russian Orthodox Church, created new administrative and territorial divisions, updated the Russian alphabet, established the first Russian newspaper, and introduced the Julian calendar. In short, Peter the Great transformed Russia into a modern and expanding 3-billion acre empire.

Today, Russia stretches across nine time zones and stands as one of the most powerful nations in the world.