Peter the Great (1689-1725) was the major force that turned Russia away from the old ways of Asiatic Russia, and opened the window to the west. His series of accomplishments as Tsar of Russia began at the dawn of the eighteenth century, with the foundation of St. Petersburg. Constructing both, a fortress and ship building center in this region laid the foundation for Russia's victory over the Swedish army, thus establishing Russia as one of the great European powers.
[...] The interrogation and trial of the Decembrists was a very swift process. Nicholas took the records of the testimonies of the rebels and kept them on his desk throughout his reign as a reminder of what was wrong with Russia. These testimonies helped lay the basis for the Great Reforms that followed him. Of the tried rebels, five were executed, and 116 exiled. The punishment of the Decembrists caused the intelligentsia to be alienated from Nicholas right from the beginning Nicholas' reign was viewed as a time of unmitigated repression by the enlightened citizenry of Russia. [...]
[...] This new perspective led Alexander to appoint reactionaries to state offices, which eventually led to censorship of the press and literature. This in turn led to resentment on part of the intelligentsia, which gave rise to secret societies, culminating in the December Rebellion after Alexander's death. The reign of Alexander was doomed to be a disappointment from the start. The weight of a nation's expectations rested squarely on his shoulders and the pressure proved to be too much for him. [...]
[...] This suggests that the failure of his reign was apparent even to Nicholas himself, and that the pressure of reforming Russia was passed on to his son, Alexander II . Alexander II Alexander II (1855-1881) had to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles during his reign as tsar. Russian society was on the verge of falling apart under the pressures of social inequalities and internal dissent. The most notable achievement of Alexander's reign was the abolition of serfdom. Although this process was anything but smooth, Alexander proved to be a surprisingly strong and determined tsar by ignoring those who opposed the emancipation of the serfs. [...]
[...] Conclusion Russia experienced significant changes between the reigns of Peter the Great and Alexander II. It went from an uncultured and Asiatic society to a great European power with an incredible wealth of intellectualism and refined arts. Peter the Great had the most positive effect on this transformation. His vision of a westernized, powerful Russia was expressed in the building of St. Petersburg. Peter established Russia as a European nation by gaining access to the Baltic and focusing on European culture as a model for the future of Russia. [...]
[...] The Russian serfs suffered especially under her reign, as the power of the landowners was increased, and the power of the state to regulate serfdom declined. Furthermore, Anna drained the state's treasury with her lavish court life and alienated the aristocracy by allowing a group of Germans to rule alongside her. In order to maintain power Anna exiled, tortured, and executed thousands in a reign of terror that would be known as the Bironshchina. After her death Lord Biron was initially appointed regent, but the guard regiments were frustrated with German rule and plotted a successful coup to place Elizabeth on the throne. [...]
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