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Peter Alexeyevich: The "Great" Cruel Father

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The existence of Peter the Great overflowed so much with personal dramas and bizarre aspects that it radiated a sense of mystery and inexhaustible fascination. But who was Peter the Great? He was the son of Aleksej Michailovič and Natalia Kirillovna Naryškina, proclaimed tsar at the age of ten, in 1682, together with his brother Ivan, and were entrusted to the regent Sofia because of their young age. Peter became the sole ruler only in 1696. He was one of the most important emperors in Russian history and the only one able to create a state that could be equal to the West. When he ascended to the throne he found a country in the grip of revolutions and revolts, the witches invaded the Kremlin killing most of his family so that he was forced into forced exile. After a few years, under a different identity, he traveled through various western countries. Attracted to the political aspect of the army since he was a child, Pietro, passing from one place to another, saw and became interested in the political system of foreign countries. His twenty-nine years of reign were focused on the territorial expansion of the country and its modernization. 

Peter the Great is often credited with having dragged Russia from its medieval streets and into the modern world. As with all major reforms, Peter’s reforms faced significant resistance to the old order, but the Tsar did his will mercilessly, taking care of all the opposition. Tragically, among the steamers were his son and heir, Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich. Alexei Petrovich was born from the marriage of Peter and Eudocia Theodora in 1689 when Peter was only seventeen years old. Alexej did not grow up in a loving environment surrounded by the affection of his parents, from the moment his mother was in a convent and his father was completely disinterested and ineffective towards him, and Alexej saw him only as the persecutor of his mother, so he grew up feeling a feeling of hatred towards him. 

Peter’s disinterest in his son is quite evident in the inappropriate choice made by his father in selecting his son’s teachers. Although Peter worked fruitfully in the field of education, he did not take responsibility for raising and educating his son, who was left in the hands of reactionary boyars and priests who suggested to the teenager that Peter’s reforms were harmful and encouraged him as a teenager to undertake a conspiracy to dethrone him so as to restore the old order. Alexej despite his father’s absence from education, was very educated, spoke and wrote in German, drew, knew the basics of mathematics and, in particular, he studied through religious books, the same that led him to doubt the work of his father. Because of the conditions in which he had grown up and the education he had received, Alexej had formed a personality opposite to that of Peter: he was very quiet and introverted, completely alien and opposed to his father’s reforms and loved to pray. Peter, on the other hand, was a very open person: he possessed an ardent temperament, always looking to the future, in fact, he saw in his son the reflection of the so odious ancient world. Propio these two points of view and character sides constituted the main contradiction in the relationship between father and son. It is no surprise then, that Peter failed to involve his son in his reforms, and the collision between the two, therefore, became inevitable. 

Of their relationship we have as testimony a sequence of letters, the first is dated the day of the death of Princess Charlotte and concluded as follows: ‘I will wait some more time to see if you wish to correct you; otherwise, know that I will deprive you of the succession, as you cut a useless limb. Do not think I intend to frighten you, do not trust in the title of an only child, because if I do not save my own life for my country and the good of my peoples, how could I spare you? I would prefer to leave them to a foreigner who deserves them rather than to my son who makes them unworthy ‘. Even at such a difficult time as the death of his son’s wife, Pietro is not able to be a loving father and be close to Alexej but rather challenges his reluctance to accept reforms and his inability to govern the country, even threatening to deprive it of its right to succession to the throne. 

Alexej was very offended by this letter and after learning of the birth of the second son of Catherine and Peter, he decided to write to his father that he would renounce the crown and threatened to become a monk. ‘May God be my witness, he observed, and I swear on my soul that I will never claim succession. Alexej decided to pretend to join his father in Copenhagen, but went to his brother-in-law’s in law in Vienna and then retired to Naples with his recently known lover, Efrosinia Fiódorova. Peter carried out an enormous investigative activity to find Alexej and bring him back to St. Petersburg, and he succeeded in doing so in 1718. He was tracked down in Naples, deprived of the right to succession to the throne and transferred with his lover to St. Petersburg for trial. Alexej is taken to the building and is also questioned by his father. In April 1718 new confessions were extracted from and against Alexej. Among these were the words of the lover Afrosina, who had been forced to swear that Alexis had conspired with the conservatives with the precise intention of dethroning his father. 

During one of the interrogations, Tsarèvič Aleksej declared: ‘When I read foreign newspapers and learned of the revolt of Russian troops in Mecklenburg, I was very happy and said in public that God did not do what my father wanted. With enthusiasm, I also met many rebels. Evidence later emerged that confirmed the statements of the tsarèvič. Peter the Great thus had to face a conspiracy that started from his own home and ended with his son. During one of the interrogations at trial, Aleksej’s lover, Efrosinija Fëdorovna, also testified and provided evidence that Vienna strongly supported the ascent to the Russian throne of Tsarèvič Aleksej. Evidence provided at the trial by Efrosinija Fëdorovna even shows that the Tsarèvič Aleksej asked for help no less than the Swedes, the bitter enemies of Russia during the years of the Northern Wars, but who could not agree with them on support. The tsarèvič had his dream and declared: ‘When I am sovereign, I will live in Moscow and leave St. Petersburg, a simple city. I will dismantle the navy. I will only keep the army for defense, but I don’t want to wage war with anyone, I will be satisfied only with the old Russian possessions’. His dream was utopian. The tsarèvič’s statements at the trial were quite serious. For the first time, the son dared to tell his father what he thought. Peter the Great did not have his son in front of him but a stubborn and dangerous political traitor. At noon on 24 June, the temporal dignitaries- the 126 members of the extraordinary court of justice-declared Alexis guilty and sentenced him to death. However, a careful examination of the condemned man for torture continued, so as not to hide any possible collusion from Peter.

On June 26, Alexis died in the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Petersburg, two days after the Senate had condemned him as a conspirator against his father’s reign, and for his alliance with the people and the Emperor of Germany against the whole of Russia. Until now it has not been possible to establish significantly the cause of his death, because the official version does not convince. It was claimed that the tsarèvič, after listening to the sentence of death for treason, accused a strong illness, asked to take communion, called his father to whom he asked forgiveness and died in a Christian way for apoplexy. But the book of the garrison of the fortress of Peter and Paul shows that on the day of the death of the tsarèvič, Tsar Peter the Great together with nine dignitaries arrived at the fortress because a ‘torture chamber’ was in progress. It is therefore clear that torture was carried out on that day, but the subject that was submitted to it is not specified in the book of the garrison. The next day, 27 June 1718, all of Petersburg was celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Poltava. Peter the Great also took part in the solemn dinner and dance. 

In conclusion, the archives are silent on what happened to the Tsar in his heart. What is certain is that on 30 June 1718 the Tsarèvič Aleksej was buried confidentially and without ceremony in the Cathedral of Peter and Paul. In the city and society, there was no sign of mourning. During this cruel catastrophe, it can be said with certainty that Peter’s true family was his nation and that he had no feelings for his son.

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Peter Alexeyevich: The “Great” Cruel Father. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from
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