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live on and do all things Peter I (The Great)

Peter I, was born to Alexis Romanov and his second wife Natalia Naryshkina. Peter grew up in a turbulent period of Russian history. His fathers early death at the age of thirty-one left a bitter struggle for power between the family of Alexiss first wifes family, the Miloslavskaias, and Peters family. A brief period of reign by Peters half brother Fedor (1676-1682) was followed by his half sister Sofia assuming control of Russia as regent from 1682-1689. During this time Peter and his half brother, Ivan V, waited as co-Czars until they came of age.
Meanwhile Peter spent many of his formative years in the country estate of Preobrazhenskoe, just outside of Moscow. It was here that Peter fostered his love of warfare, and had his first contact with Westerners. Rather than being educated in the traditional manner, Peter was allowed to play war games. From an assortment of commoners, courtiers, and foreigners Peter formed two regiments, the Preobrazhenskii and Semenovskii, which he outfitted with real weaponry and drilled into what would later become his imperial guard. Also during this time, Peter developed two other passions. The first was sailing, which he first came in contact with by discovering an old English sailboat. The second was the love of all things Western, which came from his frequent visits to the nearby foreign quarter of Moscow.
By 1689 Peter had grown to the towering height of six feet seven inches, and was armed with a quick mind and boundless ambition. At this time Sofia attempted to murder Peter, but failed due to strong support for Peter from loyal Muscovites and foreigners. Shortly after assuming full power in 1695, Peter left on an unprecedented tour of Europe, in which he traveled undercover as a diplomat. Upon his return to Russia in 1698, Peter began his reign in earnest. Armed with much knowledge of the West, he started a series of military campaigns, enacted sweeping reforms, and nearly single handedly thrust Russia to the forefront of European power.
Peter is perhaps best known for his reforms that altered the face of Russia permanently. Peters hatred of traditional Muscovite custom prompted many of his reforms. Amongst reforms aimed at creating a Western culture were laws demanding men to be clean-shaven and all clothing and riding attire must be of German style. Peter also changed the calendar to the same style used in most of Europe.
Peters most influential reforms, though, dealt with the military. Peter essentially founded Russias military tradition. During his reign the Russian military increased from around 30,000 men in 1695, to nearly 300,000 men in 1725, and that included the newly formed navy. Peter was able to do this for a number of reasons. First he began mass conscriptions of both peasants and nobles. To logistically support the military, he completely restructured the government into a bureaucratic state with its capital in the newly built city of St. Petersburg. To pay for it he nearly tripled the taxes through various means. The most profitable tax was the head tax in which nearly every Russian male had to pay solely because they lived in Russia. To outfit the military, Peter created iron foundries and textile mills. To train it, he hired Western advisors to make up for the lack of Russian expertise. Nearly all of this was done to feed Peters imperial ambitions.
The most important part of Peters imperialism was the Great Northern War with Sweden, which lasted for nearly his entire reign. Through much difficulty Russia eventually won the war with the signing of the Treaty of Nystadt in 1721. Although Russia had really won the war in 1709 at the battle of Poltava, Sweden continued to fight because of support from France and Britain. The results of the war made Russia the most powerful country in Northern Europe, and the undisputed master of the Baltic Sea. The Great Northern War also, and more importantly, made Peter revered throughout Europe as a powerful, successful, and ultimately Western style leader of a respected nation.

Notes:


Bibliography:
Mackenzie, David, and Curran, Michael W., A History of Russia, the Soviet Union, and Beyond, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 1993
Dukes, Paul, The Making of Russian Absolutism, 1613-1801, Longman ... more

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Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism

Amidst the chaos of political instability and constant warring of the Zhou era, arose many intellectual thinkers that brought such a profound impact in the fields of politics, religion, and philosophy.  Even to this day, their influence can be seen on the many matters of China.  Confucianism became the paramount school of thinking and later significant philosophies such as Daoism and Legalism gained immense recognition as well.  Each party had their own proposals for creating an idealistic political society where the many problems they faced in their everyday lives could be eliminated.  All three approaches were very distinct but at the same time, they contained similarities as well.  In my reasoning, I find that Confucianism and Daoism could be paralled in many ways to find several common grounds.  On the other hand, Legalism goes on to take a more unique approach which was much different from the previous two.  
Confucius was born in 551 B.C.E, to a poor family of the lower nobility.  Throughout his life, he relentlessly tried to gain an office with a prominent ruler of the time who was willing to adopt his various concepts.  Unfortunately, Confucius died in 479B.C.E., before such a change ever took place.  However, he succeeded in winning over a handful of devote followers who continued his legacy and Confucianism later went on to become one of the most influential thought systems of Chinese history.  Of his followers, Mencius and Xunzi became one of the most renown.  Since Confucius did not succeed in completing a manual of his views, these followers had to derive their own interpretations of the system, which now formulate, the Analects.  The Analects portray an idealized gentleman, and his various duties in terms of the society, family and rituals.  Confucius explains about the way (Dao) which he believed, that if the people accepted its terms and were willing to abide, they would succeed in creating a utopian society.
By the beginning of the Common Era, another philosophy emerges and gains wide acceptance among the commoners.  Daoism, just like the predecessor and also as the name implies, puts emphasis on the way that a certain individual is to abide to.  Even though the two systems had different concepts about the way, the common denominator of both schools was to achieve total harmony in society.  Confucianism focuses mainly on social order while Daoism puts its central; focus on being one with the nature.
If an individual can practice five things anywhere in the world, he is a man of humanity...reverence, generosity, truthfulness, diligence and kindness (Ebrey 19).  Confucius gentleman has to possess these fine qualities to achieve success.  On the other side of the token, Daoism emphasized the need for similar entities.  Laozi explains: For minds, the depth is good.  In social relations, human-heartedness is good.  In speaking, the trustworthiness is good.  In government order is good (Ebrey 28).  Both systems, through through different approaches, promote peace and goodwill among the family, society and with neighboring states.
Both Confucianism and Daoism accept the presence of a supernatural entity but do not provide a clear explanation on it.  Both thought systems consider it mostly as a mystery that the human mind cannot fully comprehend or alter.  Confucius put great importance in conducting numerous rituals for various occasions.  He found it to be an essential part for the well being of society.  He said, when superiors love ritual, the people are easy to direct (Ebrey 22).  Xunzi provides a more elaborate explanation.  He said Ritual conduct is the perfection of decorum...Sages comprehend it, gentleman comfortably carries them out, officials preserves them and the common people consider them custom (Ebrey 25).  The same sense of mystery or vagueness can be sensed in Daoism.  Laozi said, The way that can be discussed is not the constant way...nameless is the source of Heaven and earth...Their identity can be called a mystery (Ebrey 27).
Both Confucianism and Daoism disfavored a harsh government.  Confucius urged to lead the people with virtue and rituals as opposed to government policies and punishment.  He believed that the ruler should gain respect through his deeds rather that achieving it through his status and authority.  Likewise, Daoism disliked the emphasis of status being displayed in ... more

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