Prominent figures in Russian history…
… and the history of Petrozavodsk
What are the most recognizable names in Russian history? Here in Petrozavodsk where students from all over the world learn Russian language, we have a monument to Peter the Great. Even those who are not familiar with the historical background of Karelia may guess that the name Petrozavodsk is connected with famous Russian tsar. Firstly it was the settlement of Petrovskaya Sloboda which turned into the largest city in Karelia. Many Enjoy Russian school students try to reveal as much information as they can about the city and devote their final projects in the Russian language to Peter the Great.
Christophe from Germany about Peter the Great
“Russia is in no way inclined to produce personalities of lower interest to an international society than any other nation. In both the troubled and the safe times of Russian history, there have been some remarkable characters that either influenced internal of international politics to such a degree, that our contemporary world couldn’t be imagined without them. One who strikes me personally as exceptionally fascinating would be Peter the Great (Пётр I Алексе́евич).
I’d argue that few Russians have achieved a lasting impression on Russian society to such an extent as Pjotr I has. Little was the former Moscovite Empire known to Western kingdoms before his appearance, little was it developed and little was it willing to change its perspective.
Before his rulership, Pjotr traveled the major European capitals incognito (anonymous in a relative way) to discover their scientific progress and learn from their ways of dealing with state affairs. Of special significance was Germany, from which he imported many philosophers and scientists and who’d later influence the Russian army. To this day, Germany is still a role model, when it comes to economics and had many of its people living in Russia for many generations (even though their Russian was in many cases bad or non-existent, thus also the name Немецкий or „mute“).
With the great number of bureaucratic, military and aristocratic changes that he introduced, the Russian zone of influence had extended. This set in motion a wave of intellectual thinking that would reach its peak with Ekatarina the Great but never lost its momentum until today. Also, the new military strength allowed Russia to extend into new territories and claim it as their own, helping the country giving it its well-known shape.
From this point on, the “enlightened” movement wasn’t stoppable anymore. His often radical reforms – including the forceful cutting of beards! – were often accompanied by opposition from the ruling elite. They, however, found their value, as they offered a way for every one of climbing the career ladder, not regarding their background or their hierarchy. A beautiful example would be the Tsaritsa Ekaratina, who had been a German princess but had become one of the most famous personalities herself.
Of course, Pjotr the Great may be remembered by many for even other achievements. It is worth mentioning that he strengthened the Russian predilection for two exquisite beverages: coffee and vodka. Both he consumed on a regular basis with great vigour, for which he’s also remembered. Few would object that vodka has a very special and important place in Russian soul and Russia is famous worldwide for this drink that the tsars themselves appreciated (for this reason it’s even more striking that the Russian president Vladimir Vladmirovitch Putin fully denies himself alcohol).
For the reasons above, I choose Pjotr I. as one of the most important people in Russian history and, even though he’s been dead for many centuries now, his influence can still be felt throughout this enormous North-eastern country. Unfortunately, none of us will be able to meet him again, but his spirit and soul can be embraced when one travels to the Sankt Petersburg – the city that was founded by Tsar Pjotr I. in 1703 – and enjoy a glass of vodka. He might be dead, but his legacy lives on – the Russian band Leningrad rightfully sings: “в питере – пить.”
And who is your Russian hero? Come to Petrozavodsk to be fully immersed in the culture and history and start speaking Russian in 6 weeks. Choose a course here