|Fig.1: The greatest thing about Peter the Great is that
Johnny Depp could easily play him in a bio-pic.
Peter's ascension to the throne wasn't assured upon his birth in 1672, but luckily he had a little help from a friend called genetics. The three most eligible heirs of Peter's father, Tsar Alexei, all had issues: Fyodor was physically disabled, Ivan was both physically and mentally disabled, and Sofia had the biggest disability of them all in 17th century Russia: she had lady parts. Feodor III did succeed his father in 1676, but just had to die six years later. Many nobles were tempted to place ten-year-old Peter on the throne, but the military made a big stink about it (they have managed to have a say in everything Russian since Russia), and they decided to make both Ivan V and Peter co-tsars under the regency of their sister Sofia. She used this unprecedented power given to a female to get all controlling and manipulative, and wouldn't approve any decision, from the agreements the tsars made with diplomats to their need for an air hockey table in the throne room, without her absolute say-so (women... Amiright, fellas?). This went on until 1689 when Peter, now at the edge of seventeen, did everyone a favor and forced Sofia into a convent where she could nag the Lord above all she wanted. Russia vowed to never give someone of the female persuasion so much power ever again (spoiler alert: they actually would, but it worked out a lot better).
|Fig.2: Add some comic relief characters and a
monkey, and you've got the theatrical poster
for Pirates V!
Obviously, the Ottomans were none too pleased about this, and Peter knew Russia would have a tough time taking on the Turks all by his lonesome. So he embarked on a year-long journey throughout Europe, going door-to-door to his fellow monarchs to ask them to sign his Anti-Ottoman petition, and to boost his daughter's Girl Scout Cookie sales as well. Peter made many friends throughout the West, especially King William III of England, with whom he had a sleepover and played Sega Genesis until sunrise. Unfortunately, no one was willing to help in the fight against the Ottomans; the days of crusading against the Muslims had ended about the hundred years prior, as Europeans found that it was easier (and thus, much more fun) to convert and/or kill the indigenous peoples of the Americas instead.
|Fig.3: Russian nobles don't look half-bad all cleaned up.
In order for Peter to keep ties open with his bros to the west, he knew he needed another seaport to set up his extensive communication system of cup-and-string. Unfortunately those water hogs in Sweden wouldn't let anyone else play in the Baltic Sea; King Charles XII even encouraged his subjects to relieve themselves in the waves, just to mark their territory. Russia teamed up with Poland and Denmark to invade Swedish territory in 1700, beginning the Great Northern War (so named because it was sponsored by the Great Northern Popcorn Company). Things didn't start out too great for the allies: Russia suffered a large defeat at the Battle of Narva, the Swedes counter-invaded Poland and removed their king from the throne, and the Danish siege equipment made out of Legos was not nearly as effective as it was colorful and child-friendly.
But Peter was persistent, and his army captured a Swedish fort on the Baltic in 1703. On this site, he commissioned his new city of St. Petersburg, which was totally not named for himself. No one is that narcissistic. (*cough* Constantine *cough*) Anyway, despite reports that St. Petersburg is gloomy and bleak, it became a thriving seaport that only increased in prosperity once Peter moved the capital there in 1712. Built in a baroque architectural style popular in Western Europe, Peter wished for his new city to rival those of Paris, London, and Vienna in terms of culture, prestige, and oversized rats feeding on the rampant waste of the population (which is the true measure of wealth in a city). The longterm survival of St. Petersburg was assured after the Russian victory over the Swedish at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, forcing Charles XII to flee to the Ottomans all whiny and teary-eyed. Thus began Russia's unashamed dominance of Eastern Europe.
|Fig.4: Contrary to popular belief, the Winter Palace is located in St. Petersburg, not in Narnia.
|Fig.5: Even on his
deathbed, Peter still