Peter the Great Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Peter the Great was a Russian czar who is widely considered responsible for changing Russia to become a more modern country 300 years ago. Learn about his life and achievements in this lesson.

Peter The Pretty Good

Can you imagine doing something so great that people would have no choice but to call you 'The Great'? Maybe you'd have to be the first person on Mars, or maybe you'd need to be the most famous actor in the world, or maybe you'd have to become the leader of your country. Only a few people in history have received the name 'The Great' due to their achievements.

Peter the Great, the czar, or king, of Russia, earned the name by helping to make Russia into a modern nation that was the equal of its European neighbors. Let's take a closer look at what made Peter great.

Peter the Great, czar of Russia
Peter the Great

Becoming Czar

Peter (known in Russian as Pyotr), was born in Moscow in 1672 to Czar Alexis. Although he was the 14th child of the former czar, Peter managed to come to power at the age of just ten with his brother Ivan. When Ivan later died, Peter became the most powerful person in all of Russia when he was 24.

Peter ruled over a country that was considered by many to be very backward. While Europe had begun to modernize, meaning adopt new policies and technologies, Russia had not. As a result, nobody took the country very seriously.

Moscow prior to modernization
Moscow, Russia

Changing Russia

Peter began to change that as soon as he became the czar. He had been educated outside of Russia, the first czar to do so, and gained an appreciation for sciences and technology from his education. This allowed him to understand more about the wider world and how to advance Russian society.

He began by adopting the European calendar that began on January 1 and instituted religious changes, including decorating trees at Christmas. He modernized the Russian alphabet as well, and even created the first Russian newspaper.

Some changes were small, but were not very popular. For example, he ordered that wealthy Russian men should shave off their beards and dress in the fashion of other countries. He wanted more Russians to learn the way he did, and sent young people to other countries to study. This also brought about a new Russian tradition of asking experts from outside countries to bring their knowledge back to Russia.

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