The Reforms and Legacy of Peter the Great

Peter Alekseevich Romanov was born in June 1672 and died at the age of 53 in his beloved town of St Petersburg. Though his life was relatively short, the works of his mind, ambition and will have affected the country of Russia to its present course. Peter the Great pushed his constituents through new laws, reforms and his attempts to bring modernity to his country. This paper will discuss the reforms that were enacted during the rule of this tzar and their lasting legacies.

One of the major reforms that Peter I started with was the military. Before his time, Russia may have depended on its waterways for trade, travel and other pursuits, but the protection of those waterways could depend on a haphazard set of circumstances. In good times, these waterways and the lands of Russia itself were mostly protected by the local towns and villages themselves- the groups could have little to no knowledge of military techniques or leadership. The 'official' armies of Russia- the Streltsy or the Cossacks as examples - could be seen as professional units, but even these units were run at times by foreigners and not by native Russians. The Russian country had nothing that could be described as a navy in actual terms before Peter I. One of the major changes during this time was the creation and development of a navy. He borrowed ideas and training from other countries and created a strong Russian Navy that was officially founded on September 12, 1698. During his youth, Peter the Great had learned a lot about building ships - he had even built a few of his own- and he used this knowledge to increase security around Russian waterways, but to also conquer and claim new waterways as well. The Russian navy became a force that other monarchs would have to reckon with.

The military itself was also modernized and streamlined. The tzar recognized that he could not keep his country safe-nor conquer more lands- without a reliable and well disciplined army. One change he made was to open military academies for the teaching and training of military skills to a larger group of people. The military also became a permanent institution in the sense that it was no longer haphazard or ill-equipped. The military became a standing presence with some constituents required to serve for twenty-five years and quotas for conscripts... as well as lifelong draftees. After this was accomplished, the Czar did away or eliminated the Streltsy -with some difficulty but it was done. One change which Peter I made was to stress that the military's purpose and interests should be the interests of the state- not their own desire or even the desires of the Tsar himself. He made sure that the military was better equipped and trained in some of the styles of western military/armies and ready to face the challenges of empire building that he (Peter I) wanted. Out of all of his goals for modernizing Russia, it is thought that this one was the most important to the tsar.

The Orthodox religion didn't escape the notice of the Tsar and it underwent many changes during his reign. Previously, the Russian rulers had exerted some influence on the church but had left it mostly free of interference in its day to day operations and organization. The church was reorganized so that the powers of church leadership fell into the hands of the Czar... and not church leaders. One way this was accomplished was the creation of the Holy Synod in 1721 which replaced the power of the Patriarch of Moscow with a group of individuals mostly loyal to the tzar and not to the church. The creation of the 'Chief Procurator', a secular representative of the government who works within the church, also put the church leaders under the close supervision of the government. His government also passed a decree in 1722 that required priests of the church to disregard confidentiality in the confessional for certain matters or concerns that were governmental in nature. Tsar Peter was generally considered a 'secular' tsar and he was also known for his religious tolerance, passing laws allowing for inter-religious marriage, etc... The tsar also attempted to modernize the clergy which would result in the reduction of monks and nuns in great numbers as well as the reduction of church owned/ controlled land. Lastly, Peter issued the Spiritual Regulations that served as the bylaws for all religious activities in Russia.

There were also a few ways that Peter I attempted (and succeeded) in reforming the government. The Tsar abandoned the practice of gathering the zemsky sobor to discuss matters of special importance and he also moved the Russian 'capital' to his new city of St. Petersburg. He eliminated the Duma and replaced it with a group of individuals that acted more like a Western Senate than the former institution. And after signing a treaty in 1721 with Sweden, the Tsar was offered the title of Emperor and Russia was then known as an empire. Some reforms that were performed improved the management of government finances and control of public money. The tsar's love of education goes hand in hand with his governmental reforms as he attempted to create a meritocracy (and not an aristocracy) and to push western education onto the nobles and other constituents by importing books as well as starting institutions of learning. Tsar Peter's attempt to change the class structure by given regards for merit and service and not just for birthright did make it possible for a slight blending of some of the classes. His reforms also helped local governments to more efficiently keep order and collect taxes. Other reforms included cultural reforms that were brought about as the Czar attempted to push his people into adopting more western modes or dress, no beards (or you paid a tax), and more emphasis on conformity and obedience to the ruling power. He changed the calender in Russian to the Julian calendar in doing so changed the way most of Russia kept track of their days and holidays.

My inclination is to see Tsar Peter as a great reformer. He certainly made many large and lasting changes to many aspects to the lives of the Russian people. His changes in the military certainly made the country safer from potential foreign invaders. Collecting and developing new taxes gave the czar the money to enact not only other reforms, but to build the city of St Petersburg as well. Having any ability to blur the lines of class certainly takes work in my opinion, and making Russia into the vast and strong empire it became and survived as for so long also took quite a bit of energy, focus, ambition and endurance. However, it seems like many things didn't change all that much as there was still one man firmly in control of the country- a man who spend a great deal of time putting even more of the country and people under his control that any other ruler before him. Because he didn't share the power and in fact consolidated it even more, that must have created inefficiency, creative inhibition and problems with even making sure that the tsar's orders were being carried out correctly. I imagine that many individuals were not likely to offer suggestions or their own ideas and were likely to maybe even avoid tasks at all for their own protection... so I am quite torn by this man. I see him as doing many great and wonderful things, but I also see the side of him whose ambition and need for control caused a great deal of hardship, fear and death for many of the people he felt he was fighting so hard to elevate and improve life for. While I still see him as a great leader and I still feel that the name 'Peter the Great' can still be considered appropriate, I can also see him and his actions through the lens of knowledge that will show not only his successes, but his quirks, his difficulties and his failures. However, as this tsar was unwilling to be bogged down and focused on his failures during his lifetime, maybe we too should see and remember them, but not focus too heavily on them. His legacy was a strong country, a larger country and empire than when he was first given the crown and a country that was trading and successfully participating in European affairs and concerns. He transformed commerce and industry, the church and its activities and quite simply, changed the way that most Russians lived and how the country was viewed by the outside world. His legacy can be seen today in the culture of Russia, the buildings of his beloved St Petersburg and in almost any corner of government and culture in Russia. Whether you appreciate his reforms or not, no one can dispute that his changes and attempts to modify and modernize Russia on such a grand scale can still be felt today.... in the simple act of looking at a calendar... in worship... in the splendor of the great city that bears his name.


My Nutritional Analysis: Improvements and Needs

For three days, I tried to write down everything that I consumed... from water to cereal to the stray piece of candy that I 'borrowed' from my son's Easter Basket. :) After combining the data I came up with the figures at the bottom of the post.

I will say that I found a few things about the figures a little shocking. One of which was I hadn't really realized how many meals that I have been skipping or just not eating until I was forced to look at what I was writing down. And I guess that the stress and sorrow in my life has really started to overwhelm me because I truly believe that these totals are right. I looked over the days and realized that I had been tallying things correctly and I really had eaten less than 1000 calories a day for those days. I am disappointed to say that I do not currently think that these particular days are at all abnormal for my eating habits right now. I am glad that when I am eating, I am eating good things so I am getting a bit of the stuff that my body needs, but I am clearly not getting enough. And in times of stress I should clearly be eating more... not less. (I will admit that I thought about cheating and trying to find some cans so that I could add their totals on to the correct ones and not look so bad, but I really felt like that was cheating and if I didn't want to look pathetic, I should shake out of my funk and start eating right to begin with.)

For Day One, I should have had at least 1000 more calories. I didn't have enough carbs or protein and only reached about 50% of the daily guidelines. However, that isn't too bad considering that I only ate about 50% of the calories I should have eaten. Fats were a little high (I had some salmon pate on crackers and so that brought those numbers up to the higher levels, but that is unusual enough that I am not too worried about my fat intake. For brevity’s sake, almost all of my vitamin intakes were either too low or just non existent... in fact, I either didn't consume any of the needed vitamins or minerals or I consumed less than 50% of them with one exception: sodium. In that particular mineral I was in the high range and over the daily recommended requirements of less than 2400 mg.

For Day Two, just for variety I ate even fewer calories at 710- unfortunately I must confess that all three of these recorded days were in a row and may explain why I feel tired and fairly shaky constantly. I don't tend to feel hungry however. I consumed less than fifty percent of what was recommended in calories, carbohydrates, protein and most vitamins and minerals- the two exceptions are folate and iron which I did hit 100% percent on (a bonus?). Many nutrients I didn't consume enough of to have a percentage to write down.

For Day Three, I ate a few more calories and I did eat a lot of the necessary nutrients in the one meal I consumed- 3 cups of spinach and feta salad. I still didn't eat enough calories, carbohydrates or proteins. For calories, I consumed a whopping 763! :) I was still low on several vitamins, but at least the numbers were low... and not non-existent! I only hit the appropriate RDA for folate and vitamin B12, but three vitamins I was pretty much off the charts on in the upper ranges: vitamin K with 291 micrograms, riboflavin, and to really overdose myself... over 6000 micrograms of vitamin A. Luckily, I have been so low on vitamin A that my body hopefully stored some of this for future expenditures and needs.

On these days, I got at least ½ hour of cardiovascular exercise: once was carrying food boxes quickly up and down the stairs. The other two were walking quickly to get to work. On these days I was also quite active in physical movement- I spent the mornings volunteering and the afternoons and evenings playing with my son. Then I tried to squeeze in some homework before I collapsed into bed. Hydration was adequate at between 6-7 glasses a day of water and several ounces of juice. So a few things have changed over this semester. I have been able to increase my exercise and to become more consistent with it. I have been watching what I eat a little more than I have in the past and have tried to afford a few 'fresh' things-hence the spinach salad. I have worked at trying to have more variety in my food and I have been fairly successful with that. So, while the vast majority of food that I eat is still based on beans and rice, I have been able to supplement by adding more vegetables, fruits and condiments such as salsa, sour cream and coconut milk. I think that has been very beneficial in the sense that I think I am getting more of the minerals and vitamins that I need. I think that I have learned to be more mindful of what I eat and how I eat it, even in my limited circumstances. I feel like I have had the opportunity over the last few weeks to understand how my body works and what it needs and I think that understanding has helped me to develop a better mindset about taking care of myself. It is obvious from my analysis however, that I need to do more than change my mindset however... I need to make more physical changes to use the information and resolve that I have developed over time. Habits are not something that can easily be broken with mental effort alone. You must use your mental energy to focus on working toward physical changes... and only after the physical changes have lasted more than a month can you truly be sure that you have changed your habits. Even then, you must work to keep the change as it is so much easier to fall back into bad habits then it is sometimes to keep the good habits that you have formed.

A few other habits that I am working on changing is the 'supplement are always good for you' brain-set I had when I started this class. Understanding that careful consumption will get me what my body needs and actually taking the time to really pay attention to my food I think has already started that change. It wasn't really a surprise to me that the one day that I consumed the most nutrients/vitamins/minerals, etc... was the day that I consumed fresh food and not canned. It was also the day that I added a small amount of dairy and seeds to my food. I made an appointment to speak with my doctor about whether I 'need' to take as many supplements as I am if my body is now more 'healed' and able to absorb the nutrients that I eat more fully. It was a great conversation that took over half an hour and we decided that I should stay on two of them (I probably will be on one of them for life), but we could see about removing the others after a medical procedure to see how well I have 'healed' my digestive track. I have been working on increasing fluid intake and I have for the most part seen an improvement in that as well. I think the most important thing that I have learned this semester is that eating well and taking care of yourself is truly a journey that must be taken. Consumption is almost always easy, bu whether the consumption is worthwhile takes thought, introspection and knowledge. Thank you so much for the opportunities that I have been given his semester to become more mindful, introspective, and to use the knowledge that I have gained to work towards making myself a healthier person. :)

Day 1 -
Calories: 890
total carbs: 136.5 g
dietary fiber: 21 g
sugars: 26.5 g
saturated fat: 15.5 g
poly unsaturated fat: 3 g
monounsaturated fat: 0.5 g
cholesterol: 60 mg
protein: 27.5 g
vitamin A: 380 micrograms
Vitamin B12: 1.5 micrograms
Vitamin C: 9.6 mg
Calcium: 580 mg
Iron: 7.56 mg
Potassium: 1055 mg
Sodium: 2850 mg

Day 2 -
Calories: 710
total carbs: 100 mg
dietary fiber: 7.5 g
sugars: 23 g
saturated fat: 8 g
poly unsaturated fat: 4 g
monounsaturated fat: 2 g
cholesterol: 35 mg
protein: 13.5 g
vitamin A: 710 micrograms
Vitamin B6: 1 mg
Riboflavin: 0.83 mg
Niacin: 10 mg
Thiamin: 0.75 mg
Folate: 400 mg
Vitamin B12: 6 micrograms
Vitamin C: 96 mg
Vitamin D: 180 mg
Calcium: 710 mg
Iron: 18.72 mg
Magnesium: 16 mg
Phosphorus: 60 mg
Potassium: 680 mg
Sodium: 1490 mg
Zinc: 7.5 mg

Day 3 -
Calories: 763.7
total carbs: 23.7 grams
dietary fiber: 2.83 grams
sugars: 4.1 grams
saturated fat: 10.5 grams
poly unsaturated fat: 6.93 grams
monounsaturated fat: 8.32 grams
cholesterol: 610.25 mg
omega 3: 298.4
omega 6: 6372.85
protein: 26.82 grams
vitamin A: 6001.25 iu
Riboflavin: 0.41 mg
Niacin: 1.37 mg
Thiamin: 0.1 mg
Folate: 434.2 micrograms
Vitamin B6: 0.55 mg
Vitamin B12: 0.75 mg
Vitamin C: 16.8 mg
Vitamin E: 7.6 iu
Vitamin K: 291.5 micrograms
Calcium: 323.85 mg
Iron: 6 mg
Magnesium: 303 mg
Phosphorus: 389.9 mg
Potassium: 595.7 mg
Sodium: 1200.2 mg
Zinc: 3.6 mg
Choline: 330 mg
Betane: 330.8
Selenium: 56.9 mcg
Panthothic Acid: 3.17 mg
Manganese: 0.9 mg


Cancer, Chemicals and Hormones

I recently read an article potentially linking chemicals and cancer. I enjoyed the article, but I will admit that I have been one of those people who have suspected chemicals of cancer and other medical problems for a long time. When I was growing up, my family used to joke about how small I was and how much bigger my younger siblings were. In the end, no matter what the causes, I am truly the shortest person in my family- all of my younger siblings are around 6’ tall... or over. When I left my parents home, I was free to become one of those scary crunchy granola environmentalists that you hear about and in many ways I have stayed that way. Lack of funds has caused me to change some of my priorities and I sometimes eat things now or shop at places that I refused to before- haven’t changed all my standards…. Wal-Mart is still once a year or less! I still use very little electricity, eat mostly veggies (even if they are canned) and live as cleanly as possible. I haven’t used a microwave since I moved out of my parent's home and until recently nothing I owned was stored in plastic. I haven’t had a working refrigerator for about a decade so food has to be purchased more often and eaten fairly quickly- any waste goes to the chickens which is very expensive so I try not to have extra.

There were a few tidbits in the article that I didn’t know. For instance, I had never heard the statistics on lower rates of breast cancer depending on onset of menstruation/puberty. That caused me to smile because I was definitely a ‘late bloomer’ – I loved the idea that in that regard, I have less risk. (I did know that menstruation was beginning later… I just had no idea that came with some benefits that many of our girls now lack.) However, there are so many studies out there that suggest that our water and our environment is awash in estrogen because it is given to animals in their food, etc... so I suspect that we are all at high risk for cancer if estrogen is a cause because-male or female- we are all surrounded by it in our water, food, etc.... I also didn't know that there were any safe plastics so for the most part I don't have any in my house- especially in the kitchen. That said I am not sure that silicon and wood are the most healthful either... has silicon ever been tested for chemical leaching? And what is actually in it?

I was happy to see that one of our elected representative introduced a bill to try and work towards dealing with this problem, but then I noticed that this article is almost 3 years old... so I suspect that not only did it not pass, but hasn't been brought up again. I find that a bit sad- I am assuming and didn't look it up but I cant imagine that it passed and it wasn't really big news. I haven't heard about it so again I have assumed. :) I really feel that the regulation in this country tends towards protecting companies, not constituents. And I think that goes for all areas of the market- not just the food market. (An example is cash for clunkers... most cars that were turned in were good cars by individuals who could have afforded to buy a new car anyway... whereas the really bad cars are driven by people who can't think of affording a car with better gas mileage and so they are still driving them. It might have helped with gas consumption a little bit, but it really just seemed to be another bailout for auto companies.) This can be traced a little bit by looking at the organic certification. A few times regulators have tried to water it down for larger conventional business and now I know many organic farmers who do not certify themselves because they are not 'big enough' for it to be worth it. The cost to be allowed to say 'organic' plus the regulation takes all of their profit. I would love for food safety to be taken more seriously in this country and for slaughterhouses to be run at a less breakneck speed- I think it would be better for the animals, the workers and the food. I think that emphasis on local and paying the farmers a living wage (and the people around the farmers a living wage so that they can afford the food) would be one of the best ways to promote food safety and health. I do not suspect that I will be lucky enough to see that in my lifetime however. :)


Peter the Great: The Modernizer of Modern Russia

Upon the death of Tsar Alexei Mihailovich Romanov in January 1676, Russia again faced a crisis of succession over the next few years. His son Feodor III ascended to the throne, but died without an heir in April 1682. This left one son from Tsar Alexei's first wife (Ivan) and one son from his second wife (Peter) with potential for the rise to the throne and the matriarchal relatives of each boy to continue the power struggle over the crown. In a nutshell, Ivan was considered weak, possibly mentally retarded and unfit for the throne, but was the oldest male (14 years old) and heir from the first wife. Peter was the best match physically and mentally, but was from the second wife and was younger (10 years old). So an agreement was reached between the two families that both Ivan and Peter would rule with an older sister Sophia as acting regent (she was Ivan's full sister from Tsar Alexei's first wife.) During the next few years, Sophia tried to gain more power but when Peter was seventeen years old, the crisis ended, leaving Peter I as tsar and Sophia in a convent. His brother Ivan was still considered co-tzar and kept his title, but he never participated in government for the rest of his life. This paper will discuss the life and achievements of Tsar Peter I.

Peter was born on June 9, 1672 to Tsar Alexei and his second wife Nataliya Naryshkina. It was at 5:00 AM that the bell known to those who lived in Moscow as 'Great Ivan' began to toll proclaiming the birth of Peter- the first child of this union... and while the Tsar celebrated in the Kremlin, other areas of the country including the Solovetsky Monastery were in open defiance of the tsar and his new religious innovations. There is little known about his first three years of life, but it was in Peter's third year of life that his father died and his half brother Fyodor was named czar. Feodor III was frail, pious and loved learning... in short, he left the running of his government to his relatives. At the age of five, Peter was given a tutor who taught him to read from the Bible, sing, some very basic math, and some grammar and spelling- although his handwriting, grammar, and spelling remained erratic throughout his life. Showing an aptitude for 'war games', Peter also passed his days with boys of all classes organizing 'regiments' for mock battles. This would teach him many lessons of a positive nature, but also a few negatives - sometimes people died in these 'sham' battles as real military equipment and ammunition was used in them and in one of these battles at least 24 young men were killed and it was quoted in one source that one five pound rocket “took of the head of a boyar.” It was also during this time that the tsar displayed a great willingness to mix with and work with people of all classes- a principle that seemed to guide Peter throughout his life was that advancement for anyone in any field should be based on merit and not on rank or origin... which helped to promote many people of the lower classes.

Upon the death of Tsar Fyodor in 1682, Peter was proclaimed Tsar (at the age of ten years) and then later that same year after an uprising of the Streltsy and a compromise between the squabbles of the two matriarchal families, Peter was declared co- czar with his brother Ivan. His first public appearance as Tsar was at Fyodor's funeral which caused some scandal when he left half way through the service. In his youth, Peter avoided spending time in the Kremlin and he spent a lot of time in the German Quarter of Moscow- he preferred the company of foreign individuals with whom he was able to learn different occupations including stone-masonry, carpentry, horse shoeing, and how to pull teeth. He was well known for his curiosity and combined with Peter's apparently endless energy and enthusiasm for learning, the future czar learned many different tasks/occupations including those of foreign origin. It is not hard to understand his lack of comfortable feelings in the Kremlin with the political intrigue throughout his childhood as well as the violence and deaths of the Streltsy riots could certainly have formed negative impressions in a young child's mind that would have lasted his whole life. The government was run by his half sister Sophia until he was seventeen years old. (By the age of sixteen, the tsar had been able to do almost whatever he pleased and only attended court ceremony or special church services when his mother requested it of him. To please his mother whom he genuinely loved, Peter was married to Eudoxia Lopukhin in 1689- this was an unhappy marriage- clearly political in nature- and a decade later Peter had her sent to a nunnery.)

At seventeen, Sophia's concern about her security as regent (and autocrat as she had started using and signing her name with that title) and possible plots against Peter in an attempt to keep Sophia on the throne came to a head as both Sophia and Peter began to have conflicts in how they wanted the country to be run. With a possible plot of death for himself and his family hanging over his head, Peter fled to the Trinity Monastery where he stayed safe and was able to muster up his supporters - one source suggests St. Sergius monastery. Having enough supporters, including the Patriarch of the Russian orthodox church, Peter was able to force Sophia into confinement in the Novodevichii Convent and removed her most loyal supporters from high governmental positions. Even then, Peter allowed his mother and other relatives (including his uncle Leo Naryshkin) to rule until he was 22 years old. For the years between the age of seventeen and twenty two, the tsar used the time to travel and with a group of companions he traveled through the Swedish port of Riga, spent some time in Holland, then England as well as Austria- during the tours Peter would try to go incognito and went by the name of Peter Mikhailov which was not very successful because of the Tsar's unusual physical appearance and strength. This tour of continuous travel took about five years and he learned many talents and new tasks including new lifestyles, new ideas and a thorough revulsion and rejection of the 'backward and primitive elements' in Russia. His ambition was to bring the country of Russia into the modern era or as he was quoted- 'to sever the people from their former Asiatic customs and instruct them how all Christian peoples in Europe comport themselves.'

When his mother died, Tsar Peter took up the reins of his autocracy. Peter was quoted as writing in a textbook: “For learning is good and fundamental, and as it were the root, the seed, and first principle of all that is good and useful in church and state.” He had already built a ship on his own and soon he began to modernize the army and to create the navy. These modernizations were bitterly resented by the Streltsy and the Streltsy were to 'revolt' several times during his reign -they were tortured, killed and disbanded early in his reign. He was also sorry and grieved at the death of his brother and co-tzar in February 1696, but continued with running the country in very short order... and cared for Ivan's window and children throughout the rest of his life. Peter was considered a very 'secular' tsar and his court was filled with 'drink and debauchery'- his belief that the church had it's place and that place was to teach obedience was very much part of his overall dealings with the Orthodox church. (When once asked about his lifestyle, Peter I was known to have said that if he were not the ruler of Russia, he would want to be an English admiral... which says something about the lifestyle of an English admiral.) During his reign Peter fought a war with Turkey, Sweden, Estonia, Livonia and had some skirmishes with Poland as well as some of his own subjects (between the Cossacks and the Streltsy and other rebellions). He reorganized the military and emphasized that the military's interests should be in the interests of the state... and not his (the Tsar's) own needs- when he was working on his reorganization of the military, he crossed off the lines “the interests of his Tsarist majesty” as the object of military usefulness and devotion and substituted the words 'the interests of the state.' He also can be quoted from his address to the troops immediately preceding the battle of Poltava: 'Let the Russian host know that that hour has come to place the fortunes of our entire Fatherland in their hands; either to perish utterly or for Russia to be reborn in a better condition. And let them not think that they were armed and put forth for Peter, but for the state entrusted to Peter, for their kin, for the Russian people....' He also met Catherine Skavronsky in 1702 who was later to become his second wife on November 8, 1707 in a private ceremony- she had been Tsar Peter's mistress for a few years already and also had married her in a official and formal ceremony later on. His son from his first marriage (Alexei) was not considered a success and eventually the disagreements between the Tsar and his son ended with the death of Alexei of a seizure- there is no evidence that Alexei died at his father's hand although Alexei had already been sentenced to death presumably for treason against his father. In 1721, after the Treaty of Nystad was signed with Sweden, Peter I was offered the titles of “Emperor”, “Great”, and “Father of the Fatherland” by the state chancellor Count Gabriel Golovkin and in the name of the senate... and this honor was accepted by the Tsar. (One source suggests that these titles were the initiative of Bishop Thephan Prokopovich.)

One of Tsar Peter's great achievements was the building of the city of St Petersburg- named after his patron saint. The site was chosen on May 27, 1703 by the tsar and construction began almost immediately. (The site is located at the mouth of the Neva River where the river enters the Gulf of Finland.) The chosen site was, for all intents and purposes, impractical as it was described as a swamp, marshy, and prone to flooding. However, this was the site chosen and a fortress was built without delay for the towns protection. Peter then commenced to reconquer the land around it to keep the town safe as well. One important point that must be noted is that the building of St Petersburg was a great drain in resources- both physical and human. Some historians have estimated that over half a million people lost their lives in the building of the city due to poor living and working conditions as well as the diseases that come with working the marshy areas such as fevers and malaria. The financial burdens of the extra taxation fell especially hard on the peasantry and laws set to push construction along also fell hard on the most impoverished. The tsar and his family moved to St Petersburg in 1710 and it was designated as the capital of Russia in 1712.

There were many changes that happened during the reign of Peter the Great. The largest change was that the tsar challenged custom and in some ways began a cultural revolution as well as 'modernization'- in the past the tzars rarely interfered in the private lives of the constituency and if they did it was usually to reinforce customs and traditions. Another change was the firm reorganization that Peter I performed with the orthodox church which concentration all the powers of church leadership into his hands... and not those of the church- this included the creation of the Holy Synod and the decree of 1722 which required that priests disregard confidentiality in the confessional for certain government matters or concerns. Another religious change was that Peter I was fairly tolerant of religious differences; he even passed a law allowing Orthodox Christians to marry Western Christians. Another occurrence was in the calling of the zemsky sobor- these gatherings of the different class groups to discuss matters of special importance had already started to dwindle over time, but Tsar Peter abandoned the practice. He insisted on the boyars forgoing beards and wearing more Western attire and to encourage other constituents a beard tax was instituted. (One quote about this process was written by John Perry: 'Nothing but the absolute authority of the Tzar could ever have prevailed with the Russes to have parted with their beards.') He changed the military by incorporating new styles, making sure that the armies were better equipped and instituting lifelong draftees. He also created and developed a Russian Navy. He made Russia into an empire and gave Russia its first empress in his second wife Catherine. Russia under his tutelage 'invaded' Europe- diplomatically and commercially- making Russia a power to be reckoned with . The Tsar's obsessive pursuit of western knowledge led to an expansion of books in Russia- before 1700, there were around 500 books that were mostly devotional and religious works... by 1725, there were over 1300 books and most were on secular subjects. Another outcome that is steeped in irony was that in his attempts to create freedom, progress and to improve the life of his people, he further suppressed the serfs and some of his ambitions led more to slavery and oppression for them and in a word- despotism. Also, the Tsar was able to foster more trade with other nations by building more canals, roads and bridges which included the canals that completed the water passage from the Baltic sea to the Caspian sea. Lastly, the creation of the Table of Ranks allowed the Tsar to 'force' education of the noble classes and allowed people from all classes of life the option to become a noble or to change their class... it was even possible to make that hereditary. Hard work and intelligence, not birth became the key.

Peter was a man of extraordinary physical attributes. He was almost seven feet tall and quite powerful and energetic... and not afraid of physical labor. Few individuals could keep up with the occupations and energy level of the tsar. The Bishop of Burnet stated that “the providence of God... has raised up such a furious man to so absolute authority over so great a part of the world”. One source states: 'He was one of his country’s greatest statesmen, organizers, and reformers.' Peter was determined and didn’t give up readily- for example, after learning of a disastrous defeat by Sweden, the tsar remarked: 'I know very well, the Swedes will for some time beat us, but at length, we may learn to beat them.' It should also be noted that while the wars fought by Peter I were very destructive, Tsar Peter didn't see war as an end in itself and preferred to have less destruction and death. In one instance, the tsar berated a Swedish commander for his 'stubborn' defiance that had caused extra bloodshed and destruction. He was also known to be generous in victory and one example was the victory by Russia against Sweden on July 8th, 1709. Czar Peter invited the captured officers to banquet on the battlefield and even offered them a toast: ' Our teachers in the art of war'... the Swedish General Rehnskold is then said to have replied 'It is well that you have paid us for our lesson'.

He had a few difficult or negative traits that were easily seen in some situations. His savage temper and belief in his absolute power made it easy for him to overreact.... and over react he did in so many instances. One example of this would be at a banquet held soon after his return to Russia from Europe. Before a large group of people, he accused a man of selling commissions in the army and attacked him with a sword. A few people were injured, but a few minutes later Peter was cheerful and acted as if nothing had happened. During a banquet his lieutenant Mishokov told the tsar that his son Alexei was 'an idiot and [he] will undo all your [Peter's] work'- the Tsar then gave the lieutenant a blow to his head (even though the tsar himself was very much concerned about that as well.) Peter always acted as the autocrat and it was not unheard of for him to beat his high officials with a stick... to which even his closest friend was not ignored. Peter has been described as a man who could use 'bestial cruelty' to a man of selfless devotion. One source suggests that the 'very magnitude of his ambition' might have been Peter the Great's largest flaw as his ambition allowed him to not see the present costs and in the end it was the Russian people who paid the costs for his ambition... even though his ambition was to help them rise above all.

If the tsar did have one fault that contributed to his death, it was that he would not rest. In the summer of 1724 his health took a turn for the worse and Peter found if necessary to have an operation on his bladder. He continued to have difficulties and on January 27, 1725 an infection forced him to be bedridden and he was never able to leave it. In February of 1725, Peter I died at the age of 53 in St Petersburg and is believed to have died of pneumonia with his wife Catherine at his side. (other sources suggest complications of his urinary ailment.) Some of his former subjects enjoyed repeating the caption of a famous cartoon that came out after the tzar’s death: “The Mice Bury the Cat.”... in a metaphor of Peter I and his life and ambition. There is still discussion between historians about the elements of his reign and what positive and negative aspects his decisions left behind. If nothing else, Peter the great has cemented himself in our memories as a ruler that was almost 'larger than life' with an ambition and energy to match it.


Brain Junk....

I feel like my brain has the tendency to scatter very easily these days like a jar of beans dropped to the floor. I have so much in my head and trying top work around it can be difficult to say the least. I find myself in the present moment remembering things that must be done as well as trying to accomplish what I am actually doing as well as trying to keep my mind open for inspiration and revelation. It sometimes feels like figuring out the way to accomplish all three of these tasks is going to literally turn my brain to mush as I feel the chaos in head doesn't make much sense. My brain flits from one thought to another -many of which do not appear to have any relation to each other- as work on the present situation becomes more difficult. I find in all this chaos, my brain conjures up phrases from songs that either bring my some comfort or pain, inspiration or confusion. And parts of my dreams are constantly coming back to haunt my daylight. It is a strange place to be in... and almost reminds me of an Ann Rand novel- which God bless me always confused me as well.

So I wake up in the morning and feel the dream start to ebb into my subconscious (at least the conversations from the dreams start to and then the different 'beans' of thought start to fall...and if I am lucky they wait until after my prayer so it is possible finish a coherent prayer.

... Father, I'm not sure I can do today and I'm not sure I want to. Help!... I really need to catch up on my paper... 'I don't always sleep at night just waiting for the light to come and find me'...I wonder how Bug is doing? I wish I didn't feel so yucky and I felt like eating.... 'Don't be afraid, oh my love... I'll be watching you from above'....Oh, crud- nutrition class is due today and I haven't started it yet. And I forgot Bug's book- need to order that...... 'Don't be sad for me- everything is how it had to be.'...Stop it. You're shaking like a leaf. That's crazy. What are you so afraid of?... That's funny that she still has the same haircut. I wonder why.... 'Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end' ...I made it. Thank God I wasn't sure I would. Why are you twisting that? They will think you are nervous. Stop it!... 'In the breath of a wind and sigh... there is no need to cry.'... Why am I so scared...it's just church.... 'Don't be afraid'... This is nice. I wonder what Brock is doing now... What does this mean?... 'You ask me for an answer and I'm so tired of up in the air up in the air'... I wish I didn't feel this guilt...and I'm not even sure what I am feeling the guilt for... 'Closing time- you don't have to go home but you can't stay here'... 'Counting up to twenty has been difficult for some, but as we learn to count to twenty, it should be easy to get to twenty one.'... Hey, I blogged about this song- it really is a nice song. I should think about looking at some more of her work... 'Sometimes I wish I had no pride; I'd go off and sell my soul'.... That's a neat scripture... maybe I should stop reading in order and just flip around for a few days. Amy picked a good one- hey, I have it marked... That's nice... 'I'm not crazy or anything'... I have so much to do when I get home... I wonder what I should do first. Peter I or nutrition?... 'Walking beside the guilty and the innocent, how will you raise your hand when they call your name'... Who should I make cards for? I don't like itchy ears... Do you want to look at these?... 'The church has need of helping hands and hearts that know and feel'... That letter was odd... I wonder what she was trying to achieve by sending it.... A few minutes and it should be done... Gosh, I am tired... 'Every second of the night I live another life' Why do I start crying over everything? It's so silly and not very attractive... The skirt is nice though... How can I laugh and cry at the same time- that is daft... 'Looking for special things inside of me'... Did I remember the stamps?... I wonder how Al is doing? Gosh it must be miserable to be sick for so long... Thank goodness I haven't been sick for a bit... I wish I didn't keep thinking that!.... 'Believe that the sun will rise tomorrow and that your saints and sinners bleed' How can I help? I wonder if she will be offended if I hug her... maybe I should just get some scissors and wack it off. That would be cheaper....
'When you smile be sure to smile wide and don't let them know that they have won'
... I would love to goof with Achilles... do groomers groom cats? I should could use a nap.

And that is just a taster. If nothing else, my brain is full... and not with anything useful. And finding a way to control my worry is tough. I have started using a list to write down the things I remember that need doing and no longer do homework within one hour of bed. I try to read something simple and have gotten in the habit of falling asleep listening to Winnie the Pooh stories on my phone... which is helpful. I am looking for more techniques to try and calm the incessant chatter in my head... and hopefully I can calm this brain mess down to a dull roar soon. It would be nice to be able to think clearly again! :)


Counting Blessings...

One of the truly blessed things about the trials that Heavenly Father gives us and others is that not only are we able to learn, but I have found that sometimes a blessing in disguise comes to the foreground in my own life. We all have discovered this a few times in our lives I am sure. We discover the blessing of a nose when we get sick and it is constantly runny- very rarely do we thank the Father for our wonderful nose nor do we really remember it is there unless there is something wrong with it. And there are so many of those blessings in all of our lives. The blessings of kidney and liver function, of laughter...of breathing.

Last night, I was given some great news as I found that a relative is out of prison and back home. His problems have weighed heavily on my mind over the last few years. As I thanked my Father in prayer, I recognized that while my relative is no longer in prison, he is now on 'house arrest'. While I find that much better, being trapped in the house can also be seen as a large burden. While I sometimes wake up in the morning and feel tired and 'growly' that I 'have' to go out, the blessing is found in the realization that I can go out... I really can! So while I am out volunteering today, passing out food and trying to give advice and cheer... I am thankful that no matter how tired or grumpy or sad... Or even happy and hyper... I have the ability to do what I feel I need to do without the limitations that some others have to deal with in their lives.

It's a blessed day!


The Cultural and Religious Life of Russia: 1533-1689

Religion has held an important role in the culture and politics of Russia since the early days of Kievan Rus. The earliest religious thought and practice in Russia was paganism which was quite popular with most of the population. The beginnings of Christianity in Russia are attributed to the reign of Vladimir I in 988 AD. This ruler, after looking at a few different religions, chose orthodox Christianity as his preferred 'national' religion and then encouraged and 'invited' the nobles and other citizens to join. In time, orthodox Christianity took firm hold and the spirits/ earth deities of paganism were slowly put aside. And with the support of the Russian rulers as well as the immersion of the religious beliefs and behaviors into Russian culture, it has become a little difficult sometimes to see the threads of where religion is separate from other parts of the Russian constituent's life as it had been in the past. By the reign of Ivan IV, Orthodox Christianity was the only major religion in the Russian state and territories. This paper will discuss the role that religion played in the lives of the Russian people between the years of 1533-1689 and how Western religion tried to influence the Russian orthodox religion.

One important factor that must be considered when discussing Russian religion during this time frame is the idea that emphasis was put on Moscow as the center of the 'true' Christian civilization. The fall of the Byzantine empire to the Ottomans gave Russia the unexpected opportunity to become a potential leader of the world wide orthodox community. This opportunity was taken advantage of in different ways. In 1589 and shortly after the death of Ivan IV, the orthodox church in Russia elevated its 'metropolitan'* to the title of 'patriarch' which helped to separate the Byzantine church from the Russian church... and in Russian eyes and most practical matters, the Patriarch’s word and opinion was now the most important of all the 'heads' of the differing orthodox churches. By 1533, the influence of the orthodox church... or at least monasticism was starting to wane and the government as well as the church began to hold more sway over the population. And time gave the government more ability to strengthen its powers over the church. In 1649, the law code passed by Tsar Alexei forbid sermons to be insulting to the upper classes and removed some church lands from the church and placed them in governmental control- this action was not considered acceptable to all church nobility and some members of the upper church nobility refused to sign the law code due to the perceived 'semi-secularization' of the church. By 1686, the Russian orthodox church (or the Church of the Third Rome) dominated all orthodoxy in Northern Europe. Reforms and schism within the church itself changed the way that the church was viewed by much of the population... as well as how the ritualistic behaviors of the church were performed.

Another important factor that should be discussed when examining the religion and culture of Russia during this time was the growth of foreign influences- especially in the seventeenth century. The pope of the Roman Catholic Church thought of members of the Byzantine or Orthodox church as heretics or schismatics – and had since the 'schism' of 1054. So it was not unheard of for the pope to allow or even advocate 'crusades' against the infidels- which could and would include the Orthodox Christians. This was only one factor in the many wars that graced Russian soil, but one important reason nonetheless. (In fact, around 1240 when the Mongols were invading Russian territory, Prince Daniel of Galicia (Romanovych) acknowledged the Roman church and accepted a 'papal' crown in an attempt to get help from other Roman Catholics with men and resources to fight the Mongols. His hope was in vain and no help from the other Christian church was forthcoming. Another example would be in the case of 'Pseudo' Dmitri I who was supported by the Catholic Church and the Jesuits as he had promised to become a Catholic and 'roman-ize' Russia if successful in his quest for the tzardom.) Between the years of 1533-1689, Russia fought in wars with Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, and Lithuania... as well as uprisings of the native population. Between the wars, natural disasters and other conflicts as well as the church schism, foreign influences were able to have more opportunities to influence and change the Russian culture that they collided with.

It must be noted that the Russian population and culture did have a mistrust and suspicion of foreign individuals, their religions and their unknown cultures. One prominent Scottish officer stationed in Russia is quoted as saying: 'strangers being looked upon by the best sort as scarcely Christians, and by the plebeians as mere pagans.' Another quote that furthered the sense of Russia’s superiority when it came to religion and the culture of other countries can be found in the quote by the Constantinople Patriarch’s declaration to Tsar Feodor: 'Your great Russian Tsardom, the third Rome, surpasses all in piety; you alone in all the universe are referred to as the Christian Tsar.” To try and limit influence of Westerners, their religions and their ideas, Tsar Alexei attempted to isolate 'non-orthodox foreigners' in Moscow by creating a separate place in the town for them to live in 1652- which later became known as the German Quarter. However, as the government grew stronger and the influence of the church on the population lessened, the defenses that had been built to try and protect the population from Western influences were weakened as well. Part of the 'schism' in the church itself appears to be based on what powers belongs to the church and which powers were the Tsars... a possible influence of Western spiritual thought as the church felt it should have control over all spiritual decisions and authority while the state very much disagreed.

Religion was very much an important part of the lives of all those living in the country of Russia during this time. The church was still an influencing force in the lives of the population as the leaders tried to curb drinking or drunkenness, pagan practices as well as perceived inappropriate entertainment, activities, and disrespect to the church. It seems a safe guess that the schism in the church would have also been very much on the mind of late sixteenth century constituents as laws were passed, people tortured or killed themselves to support their faith, and the resistance (or insistence) to church reforms became widespread. (One source suggests that millions of clergy and laity refused to accept the reformed Russian liturgy.) Many holidays and popular activities were based on religious holidays or celebrations. As serfdom became settled law, the church encouraged the upper classes to treat the serfs with generosity and compassion. Both the church and the Russian government concentrated heavily on the teaching of obedience and the church was also responsible for much of the education that was performed during these years for the upper classes, etc... Religion also heavily influenced art, architecture as well as literature.

Western religion influenced the Russian orthodox religion in a few ways. Western influences changed the way that Russians looks at the arts are well as architecture. Architecture and suburbs began to take on a more 'western look' in the late seventeenth century which can be seen in the ornate window decorations, mirrors and imported goods of the period. Theater was also brought to Russia and was even viewed by the czar... even though the orthodox church didn't approve of drama. Secular artists became more prominent and over time were no longer the minority when compared to numbers of icon painters. One of Tsar Alexei's chief advisers started a monastery with a free school to teach Latin, Greek, and philosophy. It must be noted that even with western influences, the orthodox church was able to dominate intellectual life even during the time of the European Renaissance and the Reformation.

In conclusion, the lives of Russians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were very much affected by not only the Orthodox religion which permeated their culture and society, but also by the gradual influences that came from Europe and other surrounding countries. Peter I, the tzar known as the first Westernizer and modernizing czar, helped to open Russia to reforms that, unlike his predecessors, were openly encouraged to flourish and grow.... changing Russia and its culture in many ways that can still be felt today.

* A metropolitan is the name for a leader in the Orthodox church. Unlike Rome, the various eastern churches were united in faith, but not controlled by one man. A patriarch could be seen as the spiritual ruler for that area or that section of the church, whereas a metropolitan was subservient to the ruler and/or patriarch of the Byzantine church. By creating a patriarch in Russia, the church's authority was placed more squarely in the hands of Russians and not foreigners... even if they were 'faithful' foreigners. :)


Thoughts on Conversation and Healing...

When I was volunteering yesterday, I was given a blank diary from 2008 with beautiful pictures and quotes on different pages. I liked the pictures so I brought it home to glance through and a quote on one page really caught my eye. It is:

'One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other's stories' – Rebecca Falls

I had three thoughts as I was reading and pondering this. The first was that it really is healing to be able to talk about what is on your mind- at least it is for me. When I do not talk about things it almost feels like bad thoughts are able to 'fester' and become an infection in my mind. And healing an 'infection' is a lot harder than trying to deal with the original thoughts. I can understand the need for secrets and for not discussing EVERYTHING on your mind, but I also think that many times, problems are more easily ironed out if the feelings and thoughts are discussed quickly. I think that having someone who cares for you and listens is great and does help in the healing process especially in very painful circumstances. I don't even think that they have to actually agree with you... to just be there and to care means so much.

Another thought was that some people do not feel comfortable listening or even being listened to except in rare circumstances. And other individuals have suggested that discussing a hurt can be not only complaining but harmful depending on the complaint. An example that I thought of was a discussion on Facebook where a friend discussed her hurt and anger at the treatment she had received by church members in her ward in Utah. Another person piped in and suggests that she was in the wrong to even suggest something bad happened at church because that makes the church look 'bad'. It was even suggested by someone that saying anything that can be construed as bad is 'anti- Mormon'... and so therefore this person is as well. In this case, an act of potential healing became another painful act which created more hurt, anger, and separation- even feelings of betrayal. Nobody, even the church defenders, were looked at in a positive light by the outsiders of the conversation that I heard from. And that feels fairly sad, because I have no doubt that everyone, including the original speaker, loves the Mormon church. But the conversation itself became another nail that could be used against the church instead of an opportunity for healing. While I agree that some people in some instances and due to our perception may discuss the same hurts more times than we think they should, I can see how that would happen if the individuals never felt listened to or had their feelings validated at any time in any conversation.

The last thing that I thought of was how polarized I feel our society is right now... and it feels like nobody wants to listen to anybody unless the individuals involved already agree on everything. I feel like the world is full of so much blame and anger and there is nothing that I can do. Yes, I can listen and I can pray and I can hope and show patience.... but I am just one. And it doesn't feel like it makes a difference at all. I go to the foodbank every week and I listen to those who are looking for work and have been for so long and have been unsuccessful for reasons they can do nothing about such as poor teeth, chaotic living arrangements, homelessness, disability, mental illness, no transportation, etc... These people are stuck in catch 22's and I cannot help them either. Heck, I didn't get the last job that I applied for and I am still looking. Last year, I joined a program to help my family become more stable, more financially independent and to get the help we need to move forward. The program is over and considered a success, with promises never fulfilled and our family even less together and stable than when we entered the program. We have no team, no help, less financial stability and our family is broken. We are more alone than we have ever been. And so many others are as well. In a world full of people, that doesn't really make sense to me at all. I want to help, but I am starting to think that my hands are not strong enough to even help/support me... let alone anyone else.

I really believe that being able to talk can really heal pain and sorrow (and anger) and can help people move forward. How can we draw a line so that people can talk without so much fear? The fear of judgment and being misunderstood looms large in many... including myself which is why I have learned to hold my tongue on so much. I am not sure that I am served in that regard as well. I do think that my soul is starting to fester which makes it even harder for me to feel comfortable around anyone. What can you do in your life to try and change this? What suggestions do you have to help other's feel comfortable talking with you? What would make it easier to talk to someone else when you need to spill? How would you support yourself if you needed some help for a while from someone outside your family- whether emotional, financial, etc...?