Compare and contrast Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great?

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Ken C. Share
Dec 9, 2015


Ivan the Terrible was more of a psychopath, ruling with extreme violence, whereas Peter the Great had more of a purpose for Russia in mind during his reign.


Both of these Russian rulers killed many of their own people, and abused the nobility, but other than that, they were quite different.

Ivan the Terrible deliberately killed people in horrible ways, often because he was angry. His wife Anastasia calmed him a little bit, but after she died Ivan went totally insane. He slaughtered thousands in his own city of Novgorod on the basis of treason. He killed another wife and beat his eldest son to death. He hired his own sort of secret police to carry out horrific acts of violence. Even when he was a child, he tortured and killed animals. Certainly Ivan was sick in the head, and as you can imagine, he wasn't a great ruler. Luckily, he died in 1584 before he could damage Russia beyond repair.

Peter the Great, on the other hand, was the master of bureaucracy. Seeing how behind Russia was in comparison with the rest of the world, he set about modernizing his country. He traveled across Europe, working in shipyards and keeping a low profile (difficult for him, as he was more than six and a half feet tall). When he returned, he began Westernizing Russia. He reformed the system of peasantry, put the Russian Orthodox Church under government control, changed the calendar, reorganized the draft, and fought several wars to expand Russian lands and establish a full-time European seaport that didn't freeze in the winter. He particularly was eager to establish a navy, and more importantly, a place to keep it. To do so, he fought Sweden, and even before he won the war, he began building his new capital at Saint Petersburg. He hired European architects and dragged tens of thousands of workers to build this grand city, which would act as his government and maritime center.

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