Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pyotr Alexeievich Romanov; Czar Peter I (The Great), Creator of the Russian Empire

Introduction…. We are proud to present with the authors’ permission the feature article that was supposed to have appeared in the latest edition of National Vanguard magazine, # 143 to have been available to the public in June of 2011. That issue was never published although the final product was ready for release and despite claims to the contrary, there was funding to have it printed. To be certain of a readership for this deserving piece, we offer it to you here. We proudly present Dr. Ian S. Gale’s historical description of one of Europe’s greatest rulers, the Czar Peter the Great; the creator of the Russian Empire. The man who opened the “door to the West” and had, in his words “dragged” his ancient land “kicking and screaming into the modern world”. Enjoy! By: Dr. Ian S. Gale, MD, JD Most Westerners generally are taught little of Russia and don’t understand much about the country. Most in United States know Leif Erikson and the Vikings were Aryans from Scandinavia who explored the coast of North America and Greenland and led frequent sorties and attacks against the early British Isles. But few know these same Aryan explorers and colonizers also sailed East and settled large areas in eastern Europe where they were referred to not as Vikings, but as Rus. Their settled area came to be known as Russia. One of Russia’s most impressive leaders was Peter the Great, who was born in 1672 and died in 1725. Peter was an absolute autocrat and ruled Russia from 1682 until his death. He was very much a man of his time but far from a typical Russian. He was strong, resolute, a visionary and much the type of man readers of this magazine will appreciate, as a strong White leader of his people. Events occurring during his youth formulated Peter’s strength and attitudes for the remainder of his life. Most of his biographers mention Peter had an older brother,Ivan V, who was sickly and backward and who his older sister, Sophia, attempted to use against Peter to seize power for herself. Sophia was Peter’s nemesis and intrigued against him and caused him trouble throughout his life. But few of these biographers explain the reasons for this family strife. Peter’s father, Czar Alexei, had married twice, and after his death, there ensued a bitter power struggle between the family of his first wife, the Miloslavskys, and that of his second, the Narishkins. Sophia and Ivan were progeny of the first marriage, while Peter was born of the second. Neither of the boys were of age at Czar Alexei’s death, so Sophia of the Miloslavsky family was elected Regent during their minority. When Peter was about 4 years old, Sophia hid Ivan and spread the rumor Peter and his mother had murdered the lad to put Peter on the throne. She then unleashed the Streltsy on them and tried to have Peter and his mother killed so she could assume a permanent Regency over the fool, Ivan. The Streltsy were a large paramilitary organization originally formed by Czar Ivan IV, Grozhny (the terrible) to protect him against his Boyars, who were roughly equivalent to the landed nobles under the English feudal system. They were formed very much like the Sturmabteilungen (Storm Troops) would later be used by Adolf Hitler to protect himself and other Nazi leaders from Jewish and communist mobs, but by Peter’s time they had become little more than a band of thugs who preyed on the public, raping, robbing, and pillaging and occasionally being used in attempted coups d’etat. Like the Storm Troopers, it would later be necessary for Peter to decapitate the organization as Hitler did on the “Night of Long Knives” when they failed to understand their usefulness to a leader who has gained power is different from that to a leader who is seeking power against an entrenched enemy. Sophia’s plot was foiled but she still managed to maintain her position of Regent over the co- czars, Peter and Ivan during their childhood. Peter’s life had been saved by a peasant boy, Alexander Menschikoff, who shot a Streltsy about to murder Peter and his mother, and Peter gave this lad the royal title, “FRIEND,” and kept him close throughout their youths. Menschikov gradually became the second most powerful man in Russia. His loyalty and closeness to the Czar can be seen today in the edifice of his mansion on the Neva River in Saint Petersburg. Peter learned several things from this early experience. He no longer felt safe in the Kremlin and moved into the foreign colony making friends with various Westerners and began to make plans to move the Capitol away from Moscow to a new city he would build in Saint Petersburg close to East Prussia. He was also leery of the Streltsy from that period forward, and as soon as practicable, his mother, Natalya, prevailed upon him to marry and sire an heir to protect him from Sophia’s machinations. Natalya found Peter a noble virgin wife, Yevdokya. Peter, still a young man, did as his mother advised but had little interest in married life. His wife was a religious zealot and frigid and made little effort to share Peter’s interests. For this reason and because of his lack of safety in the Kremlin, Peter moved at age 14 to the wooden palace at Preobrezhanskoe where he began to train his own personal regiment for protection. He trained with them and was one of the soldiers himself. He had them trained by General Patrick Gordon, a Scot living in the foreign colony who also became his military adviser. From this point on, Peter showed himself to be the strong, imaginative, visionary leader of his people which he was. He loved to sail boats on the lake at Preobrezhanskoe but longed to go to sea. Russia’s history to this point had been a series of embarrassing incursions by invading Turks in the South, Swedes in the Northwest and Kazachs in the East, and the adolescent czar realized, since Russia was landlocked and had no ports which were free of ice all year long, it would always be a backward, inward-looking nation, with rigid, barbarous, xenophobic serfs for citizens unless he could gain access to warm water ports, build a navy, and develop trade with the advanced nations to the West. All of this he accomplished, but in so doing brought upon himself no end of hatred, opposition, and tragedy from his family, the Church, and the Russian citizenry generally. While at the wooden palace, Peter employed the Jew, Dimitry Shafirov, as his intelligence chief, beginning a pattern in Russian secret police administration which was to continue into the Soviet era. As a typical transient international Jew, Shafirov obtained valuable information as a diamond merchant in Amsterdam and masquerading as a Pole trading with the Turks. He informed Peter his sister, Sophia’s paramour, Prince Golitsyn, had been badly beaten in the South by the Turks at Azov, losing 45,000 men and that Sophia planned to bring Golitsyn back and fete him as a conquering hero at the Kremlin, portraying the fiasco as a great triumph. Initially, Shafirov provided the Czar with valuable intelligence on Sophia’s plotting, but later he was a strong influence leading Peter to torture and execute his own son for treason. We have no evidence Shafirov was disloyal to the Czar, but it cannot be denied he was a forceful factor in driving Peter to that tragic act. In the middle of Sophia’s festival for Golitsyn, Peter burst into the throne room and announced to the assembled Boyars and other dignitaries the true facts: Golitsyn had bivouacked his 100,000 man army on a barren plain surrounded by low hills. At night, while the soldiers slept, the Turks killed the sentries and then charged down on the troops at dawn, massacring 45,000 Russians and taking all their cannon. This bold move on Peter’s part had far-reaching results. Sophia again unleashed the Streltsy in an attempt to have Peter murdered, which failed, and Peter typically responded boldly by killing the head of the Streltsy, Shaklovity, as Hitler was to do to Ernst Roehm, the head of the Storm Troopers, some 350 years later during the “Night of the Long Knives.” But Sophia had moved too late against Peter. He had Alexander Menschikov take over as head of the Streltsy, exiled Golitsyn to Siberia and confined Sophia to a monasteryfor her treason. He was now in complete control of the government. During these past 6 months, his son, Alexei had been born, providing an heir to the throne, and his mother had died. It had been a momentous year for the young Czar. But the end of this triumphant year was to signal the beginning of a new triumphant but tragic period in Peter’s life. He now no longer had to operate under Sophia’s tutelage, but was free to follow his vision of freeing southern Russia from the Turks and building his beloved Russian navy. There was no Russian naval tradition as such, but Peter began by building flat- bottomed barges and ships with cannon to float down the Don River to Azov and the Black Sea. His naval campaign against the Turks was an enormous military success, but a domestic tragedy. He succeeded in capturing Azov from the Turks, but had taken his pubertal son on board to view the action and prepare him to be a great leader of his people in his turn, but Alexis had spent too much time under the wing of his mother, Yevdokya, who was a stubborn religious fanatic and who hated Peter and tried to thwart him at every turn. She had taught the Czarevich that Peter was possessed by the devil and had plotted to kill his brother, Ivan V, the imbecilic co-Czar. This was a blatant falsehood. Alexis had been overprotected in the extreme by Yevdokya and the priests who surrounded her and was horrified by the noise, bloodshed, and stench of battle. Unwisely, Peter forced him to watch the execution of Turks who had abused Russian prisoners. This was to begin an ever widening rift between Czar and son. While in Azov, Peter took up with a young Finnish laundress, a prisoner of the Turks, who became his consort and ultimately replaced Yevdokya and became Empress of Russia in her own right as Catherine the First. She and Peter had a daughter, Elizabeth Petrovna, who likewise would later become Empress from 1741-1762. With the conquest of Azov, Peter had opened Russia’s way to the Black Sea and, thus, to warm water ports to the East, the first of his great dreams. Now Peter turned his attention to the Northwest, to the Baltic Sea, to lands which had been taken from Russia by the Swedes when she was a weak and divided country. Again he attempted to take his son and heir with him from the control of his doting mother and effeminate priests, who taught Alexis and the citizenry generally that the Czar was possessed by the devil and consorting with foreigners and heretics to send Russia to hell. Peter had issued edicts to adopt a more western mode of dress and for men to shave off their beards, which the Church taught was a “treasure which God provides.” The Church was by now, of course in open opposition to Peter over his taxes for his new navy, and Peter responded typically, not by conciliation, but by melting the churches’ bells to make cannons for his coming campaigns against the Swedes. Peter’s need to move to the West, united Yevdokya, the Church Patriarch, and many of the Boyars against him, and the smoldering embers of dissidence began to be fanned into flames. Whenever Alexis wished to see his father, who was now living openly with Catherine in the wooden palace at Preobrezhanskoe, he was fed lies and opposition from his mother and the Church. In response to this opposition, Peter made a foolish move making the Jew, Shafirov, Head of the Office of Secret Affairs, free to operate either within or outside the law and answerable to no one but the Czar. When he was warned Shafirov was a Jew, Peter naively replied, “So was our Lord.” But Peter again made one of his masterstrokes. Needing ocean worthy ships and having no craftsmen in Russia, he organized an emissary with his entire entourage including Menschikov to Holland to learn ship building. Each became apprenticed in a particular trade. Peter’s was iron- working. He became a blacksmith!! This was no walk in the park politically. No Russian Czar had ever before left Russia and it panicked the people who saw it as the end of the world. The Czar was regarded as the father of all the people, and the average Russian saw this as a sign the priests were right and their father was abandoning them. And, of course, Yevdokya and the Church helped stoke the fires by involving Sophia in her monastery. This unholy alliance even sent a priest to Charles XII, King of Sweden, informing him of all the Czar’s plans, including that of building a new stone city on the Baltic, St. Petersburg. This city stands today as a monument to Peter with its buildings of stone with walls 5 feet thick against the winter cold. At this time Sweden was one of the most powerful seafaring countries in the world and Charles its very aggressive, youthful, and arrogant king. Peter tried to take Alexis with him to Europe but was again rebuffed by Yevdokya and the Church, but visited King Frederick in Germany, Louis IV (the sun king who built Versailles) in France, and King William III of Netherlands and England. In addition to Peter’s learning the blacksmith trade, Alexander Menschikov became a master sail maker, Count Tolstoy a master caulker, and General Gordon a shipwright. These men constructed the ship of the line, City of Amsterdam, while they were in that city. And, while in London, Peter visited with Sir Isaac Newton learning about light waves and gravity. However, while the Czar was abroad, the conspirators continued on apace. They intercepted all letters to and from Alexis and his father, rewrote them, forged the signatures, and murdered the couriers. They did the same with all dispatches from Shafirov to the Czar detailing the extent of unrest in Russia. Once again, Sophia planned with the Streltsy to start fires in the city, stoke the unrest, and murder her brother upon his return. And Sophia continued to feed Alexis lies that his father hated him and would never let him rule Russia – that his bastard daughter, Elizabeth, was named after Elizabeth I of England, because Peter intended to place her on the throne of Russia instead of his own son. But Peter was no fool. He became concerned none of Alexis’ or Shafirov’s letters ever answered the specific questions he asked of them and realized he had been away too long. He prepared to return and sent letters with couriers under heavy guard. When he learned they were attacked by the Streltsy, the whole enormity of the conspirators’ revolt became apparent, and he hastened back to Moscow at night to find the city in flames. Again Peter responded boldly by attacking the Streltsy with cavalry and cannon loaded with grape and shrapnel, decimating them. The following day he sent Sophia away for good to Siberia and had a massive public execution of the Streltsy by hanging and beheading them which he made Alexis watch in order to make of him a strong Czar who would treat treason harshly. As usual it had the opposite effect making Alexis more frightened and revolted. In response to Alexis’ weakness, Peter beheaded several of the Streltsy himself, saying, “In this world there is only one response for force – greater force. They will think twice before attacking me again.” With the downfall of the Streltsy, his childhood enemy, Peter was now free to deal with Sweden, the only stumbling block between his new Russia and the West. He married Alexis to Louisa of Austria and believed he had now established what would become a secure succession in his lifetime. Yevdokya he placed in a convent to become a nun because, as he put it, “She always had been one.” With Yevdokya now a “bride of the Lord,” Peter was free to marry Catherine under the law. Peter took the first step to negotiate the sharing of the Baltic ports with Sweden and met personally with Charles XII on neutral ground, offering to pay extravagantly for their use and to become allied with Sweden, but the arrogant young king believed war was the real sport of kings and challenged Peter. Even though Peter believed he had finally disposed of Sophia as a problem, Yevdokya in her convent and the Church continued their unholy conspiracy against him. Again they sent a priest, Fr. Theodosius to warn Charles of Peter’s plan to attack the Swedish port of Narva. They kept Alexis involved on the periphery of their scheme because they wanted to use him when they overthrew the Czar. This was no favor to Alexis as we shall see. By their treachery in divulging Peter’s plans to attack Narva, they set in motion his defeat in a trap and ambush which cost General Gordon his life. Charles sought to capitalize on this success by marching to Poltava in present day Ukraine from whence he planned to attack Moscow with artillery, cavalry and infantry. Peter realized now there could be no negotiation. He had to destroy the Swedish army completely, so he committed everything he had in a drive in what was to become one of the greatest battles in European history. Peter began what has become one of Russia’s principle defenses to invasion from the West, later used with great success against Napoleon and Hitler. He scorched all the earth between Poltava and Moscow, burning all the houses, killing all the livestock, and poisoning all the wells, so no invading army could live off the land. He knew if the Swedes reached Moscow, it would be the end of the Romanov Dynasty. When the arrogant Swedish king saw the devastation ahead of him, he thought he would simply drive straight to Moscow, realizing his army could not survive on the scorched earth. But the Swedish army drove straight into a withering barrage from the cannons Peter had cast from the church bells. He had said the Church must contribute just like everyone else to Russia’s defense, and Sweden was ignominiously defeated at Poltava in a battle in which King Charles was mortally wounded. Sweden was finished as a world power, and Peter would have his stone city on the Baltic. Unfortunately, Peter’s enormous success did nothing but harden the hearts of those who should have been pleased and supportive such as Yevdokya, the Church, and the other conspirators. They became more sullen and oppositional and sought now to treacherously involve Austria, Poland, and Sweden to rid Russia of the Czar to whom they referred as the anti-Christ. Although Alexis was aware of the general nature of their plans, it is unclear how much he knew and understood and whether he was simply an unsophisticated, naive fool, led astray by his devotion to his Church, or whether he was an active participant in the plot to depose his father by bringing foreign troops onto Russian soil and giving up Russian territory to the nations which helped. The priest who had alerted Charles to Peter’s plans, Fr. Theodosius, was arrested in Vienna on his way home and implicated them all. Peter did not believe initially his son was a traitor but the Jew, Shafirov, continuously persuaded the Czar that Alexis was deeply involved in the conspiracy. Shafirov arrested Alexis and dragged him back to Moscow from Vienna where he had sought to place himself under the protection of the Austrian Emperor and alleged he was there to make an alliance against Peter. Alexis divulged the names of several co-conspirators but never, even under torture, admitted he had tried to depose the Czar or bring foreign troops onto Russian soil. He was disinherited by Peter and forced to renounce any claim to the Russian throne. But Shafirov held him for “further questions.” Caught between the Czar’s uncertainty mixed with love and Shafirov’s viciousness Alexis was doomed. Peter repeatedly offered to pardon his son if he confessed and divulged “one more name,” but Alexis insisted he did not plot against Peter. This went on for several days with Alexis being periodically taken out and tortured by Shafirov. Catherine, in her wisdom, tried to put an end to it all by pleading with Peter to forget it all and send Alexis away or even to Siberia but not to continue the torture which she realized was destroying Peter as well as the Czarevich. She argued nothing could be proved one way or the other, and the whole episode was merely poisoning everyone. But Peter had endured a lifetime of treachery and, under Shafirov’s pressure, he trusted no one any longer. He was torn between his love for his son and his concern for Russia’s future if there were more conspirators left undiscovered. In her devotion to Peter, Catherine even went to Shafirov to plead for an end to the torture because of what it was doing to the Czar. It was all for naught. Shafirov condemned Alexis to death for treason. Peter built his new city of St. Petersburg and died in 1725. And Catherine was crowned Empress of Russia. Peter’s legacy to Russia and the world was enormous, yet he paid an enormous personal price for his achievements. First of all, he founded the Russian navy and made Russia into a first rate military and commercial naval power. To do that, of course, he had to open Russia to the sea in both the North and the South. His dream of reaching the Mediterranean Sea escaped him. That would have to wait for Catherine II (the Great). He built the beautiful European city of St. Petersburg. He established Germany, France, Holland and England as major trading partners with Russia. And far from least important he introduced the average Russian to education and the rest of the world and, as he would put it, “dragged them kicking and screaming into the modern world.”

No comments:

Post a Comment