This website is part of The New York Public Library's Online Exhibition Archive. For current classes, programs, and exhibitions, please visit
Russia Engages the World, 1453-1825
1453 Through the Reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) The Time of Troubles to the First Romanovs (1598-1682) Peter the Great and His Legacy (1682-1762) The Age of Catherine the Great (1762-1801) The Reign of Emperor Alexander I (1801-1825)


Explore this Section:

Peter the Great, Reforming Tsar
Aleksandr Menshikov
Empress Elizabeth
Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary, and Queen of Bohemia

Russia's Globalization:
A Key

Events marked Russia Symbol are specific to Muscovy/Russia's internal development.
Those marked World Symbol are important world historical or cultural events.
Engagement Symbol indicates specific points of sociocultural or military engagement between Muscovy/Russia and foreign powers or individuals.




  Russians Educated in the Ways of Sin
NYPL, Slavic and Baltic Division

Peter I, "the Great" (r. 1682–1725), broke the traditional social and political order of Muscovite Russia, transforming an insular kingdom into a modern, secular empire. Peter’s friends in Moscow’s foreign quarter inspired him to visit western Europe, where he absorbed the latest ideas about technology, architecture, dress styles, governmental administration, and military strategy. When he returned, Peter applied what he had learned and carried out what can only be described as a social, political, cultural, and economic revolution. Nobles were forced to shave their beards and don fashionable western clothes; women were saved from seclusion and mingled with men at western-type social events; young men were sent abroad to study. In addition, Peter redesigned the entire administration, started Russia’s first newspaper, founded an Academy of Sciences, and ordered translations of major western works.

  Russians Educated in the Ways of Sin
NYPL, Slavic and Baltic Division

The tsar also wanted to make Russia a global power. To this end, he revamped the army, created a navy, encouraged trade and industry, and engaged in a series of campaigns to expand the state’s territory. In 1703, Peter moved his capital from Moscow, and founded St. Petersburg so that he would have a “window on Europe.” He also extended Russia’s global sway by engaging in contacts with realms to the east and sending out exploratory missions. By 1721, Peter could declare Russia an empire and himself an emperor.

next page