Peter the Great

Peter the Great


  • The outstanding Russian reformer Peter the Great was born in Moscow and lived there most of his life, having left a discernible trace in its outlook and destiny.
  • Izmaylovo Open-Air Museum, the former residence of the Romanovs where Peter the Great spent his youth, is the very place to enjoy the atmosphere of Ancient Rus.
  • Remarkable monuments, such as the house of Dutch doctors, Lefortovo Palace and the park, have survived to this day in the German Quarter where Peter the Great spent his adolescence.
  • Among the finest samples of Petrine Baroque architecture are St. Gabriel’s Church, Alexander Menshikov’s home church and Sts Peter and Paul Church.
  • Besides items that belonged to Peter the Great, the Moscow Kremlin’s Armoury Chamber exhibits the ‘double throne’ of young Russian tsars Ivan V and Peter the Great.
  • The Historical Museum owns the bronze death mask of Peter the Great as well as documents signed by him personally.

Remembered as a great reformer, Emperor Peter I the Great (1672-1725) was born in Moscow and spent most of his life there. He therefore played a crucial role in the city’s appearance and destiny. His legacy includes the Lefortovo PalaceRussian: Lefortovskiy dvorets or Лефортовский дворец, the BotikRussian: botik Petra I or ботик Петра I, which is the scaled-down warship nicknamed ‘the grandfather of the Russian navy’, and some beautiful pieces of Petrine Baroque architecture, such as the Church of Archangel Gabriel on Clear PondsRussian: Hram Arhangela Gavriila na Chistyih Prudah or Храм Архангела Гавриила на Чистых Прудах and the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the Novaya Basmannaya SlobodaRussian: Hram svyatyih apostolov Petra i Pavla v Novoy Basmannoy slobode or Храм святых апостолов Петра и Павла в Новой Басманной слободе.


1434_image2_sSeveral old imperial country residences were located to the northeast of Moscow, one of them being PreobrazhenskoyeRussian: Преображенское, where Peter I spent his childhood and adolescence. Precocious and inquisitive, he formed a toy army known as the Preobrazhensky children’s ‘amusement’ regiment Russian: detskiy poteshnyi Preobrazhenskiy polk or детский потешный Преображенский полкand had the toy fortress PressburgRussian: Пресбург built in the same village of Preobrazhenskoye. The Preobrazhensky and the SemyonovskyRussian: Семёновский Regiments would later become the core of the Imperial Russian Guard.

After the tsar and his court moved to St. Petersburg, Preobrazhenskoye ceased to be his country residence, instead becoming the Preobrazhensky soldier settlementRussian: Preobrazhenskaya soldatskaya sloboda or Преображенская солдатская слобода. An Old BelieverRussian Orthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Russian Orthodox Church as they existed prior to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666 community which had settled in Preobrazhenskoye in the 18th century gave this area a special character, and it eventually became the workers’ outskirts of Moscow in the 19th century.

Unfortunately, the wooden imperial palace in Preobrazhenskoye has not survived. Only some street names in this former Preobrazhensky soldier settlement carry any living memory of Peter the Great’s glorious times: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bukhvostova StreetRussian: 1-ya, 2-ya i 3-ya ulitsy Buhvostova or 1-я, 2-я и 3-я улицы Бухвостова named after the soldier and, later, officer of the Preobrazhensky Regiment; 9th Rota StreetRussian: ulitsa 9-ya rota or улица 9-я рота, where Squadron 9 of the Preobrazhensky Regiment used to be housed; and Poteshnaya StreetRussian: Poteshnaya ulitsa or Потешная улица (or ‘amusement street’) located near Peter’s Pressburg toy fortress.

Peter’s adolescence in Izmailovo

Bridge tower and the Cathedral in IzmailovoThe village of IzmailovoRussian: Измайлово near Preobrazhenskoye was one of the residences of the Romanovsthe second dynasty to rule Russia, after the House of Rurik, reigning from 1613 until the February Revolution of 1917 in the 17th century. Peter would often come here, and on one of his visits he discovered an old English boat (‘botik‘). It was on this boat that the tsar-to-be learned how to sail. The Museum of Peter the Great’s BotikRussian: muzey «Botik Petra I» or музей «Ботик Петра I» located in the village of VeskovoRussian: selo Ves'kovo or село Веськово (Pereslavsky DistrictRussian: Pereslavskiy rayon or Переславский район, Yaroslavl OblastRussian: Yaroslavskaya oblast or Ярославская область) is devoted to the history of Peter’s ‘amusement fleet’. It features the boat FortunaRussian: Фортуна – the only remaining ship of the flotilla.

Today, the former imperial residence houses a cultural and entertainment centre Izmailovo KremlinRussian: Izmaylovskiy Kreml or Измайловский Кремль (73 Zh, Izmailovskoye HighwayRussian: Izmaylovskoe shosse or Измайловское шоссе), where you can feel the atmosphere of ancient Kievan Rus, and learn about its traditions, arts and crafts and everyday activities.  Two gems of 17th century Russian architecture, the Bridge TowerRussian: Mostovaya bashnya or Мостовая башня and the Intercession CathedralRussian: Pokrovskiy sobor or Покровский собор have survived to our days on the premises of the open-air Museum of IzmailovoRussian: muzey-zapovednik Izmaylovo or музей-заповедник Измайлово. These buildings are part of the former tsar residence in Izmailovo. The multicolour-tiled Intercession Cathedral is now open worshippers and visitors, and the Bridge Tower houses a museum.

Peter’s youth at THE GERMAN QUARTER

1447_image9_sThe German QuarterRusssia: Nemetskaya sloboda or Немецкая слобода was a neighbourhood in Moscow bounded by PokrovskayaRussian: Покровская (now SpartakovskayaRussian: Спартаковская) Street and the Yauza Rivera river in Moscow, a tributary of the Moskva River. In the mid-17th century, it was inhabited by foreigners who were in the service of the Moscow tsar. Here they built a tiny town reminiscent of typical European cities of that time and very different to the rest of Moscow. Peter the Great was a frequent guest here.

A number of remarkable landmarks have come down to us from the old German Quarter, for instance the Lefortovo Palace (3, 2nd Bauman StreetRussian: 2-ya Baumanskaya ulitsa or 2-я Бауманская улица), which was built in 1697–1698 by architect Dmitry Aksamitov for Franz Lefort, Peter the Great’s friend and associate. Traditional Russian carved white-stone architraves and ‘teremthe upper story of a home or castle, often with a pitched roof’ roofs mingle with European enfilades and the façade’s regular design. After Lefort’s death, Peter occupied this palace, which became his principal Moscow residence. The building was badly damaged during the 1812 Fire of Moscowduring the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812 and later reconstructed and topped with an additional floor. The former palace has housed a military archive for the past 200 years.

1424_image10_sOn the opposite bank of the Yauza River is the Lefortovo ParkRussian: Lefortovskiy park or Лефортовский парк (3, Krasnokazarmennaya StreetRussian: Krasnokazarmennaya ulitsa or Красноказарменная улица) featuring an early 18th-century grotto and a dam. The park was part of the Baroque Winter Annenhof PalaceRussian: zimniy dvorets «Annengof» or зимний дворец «Анненгоф» built for Empress Annaruled as Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740 of Russia by the celebrated architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli who also designed the Winter PalaceRussian: Zimniy dvorets or Зимний дворец and the Smolny CathedralRussian: Smol'nyi sobor or Смольный собор in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, this wooden palace burned down in the 18th century.

The classical-style Catherine PalaceRussian: Ekaterininskiy dvorets or Екатерининский дворец (3/5, 1st Krasnokursantsky DriveRussian: 1-y Krasnokursantskiy proezd or 1-й Краснокурсантский проезд), a magnificent landmark created by architects Antonio Rinaldi, Karl Blank and Giacomo Quarenghi stands today on the site of the former Annenhof Palace. Remarkably, a bridge was built across the Yauza River in 1771 to connect the Catherine Palace with the Lefortovo Palace. It is now the oldest bridge in Moscow.

House of Vandergul′stov («House of Anna Mons»)Starokirochny LaneRussian: Starokirochnyi pereulok or Старокирочный переулок has another unique landmark, namely the house of a Dutch doctor named Van der HulstRussian: dom gollandskih lekarey Vandergulstov or дом голландских лекарей Вандергульстов (53 bld., 8 BaumanskayaRussian: Бауманская Street), which is the only surviving residential house in the German Quarter. Legend has it that Peter the Great’s first love Anna Mons lived here, although there is no reliable data to confirm this.  These two-storey brick chambers built in the late 17th century feature original architraves on the front façade designed in the Moscow Baroque stylethe fashionable architectural style of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining Muscovite (Russo-Byzantine) traditions with Western decorative details and proportions. Unfortunately, the ‘House of Anna MonsRussian: dom Anny Mons or дом Анны Монс’ is located on the premises of a disused factory, and it is therefore closed to the public.

Along with the heritage of world-famous people and great museums, there are many attractions in Moscow, which are not so popular, but still very remarkable. Beautiful temples in the Orthodox style, the unusual architecture of the Russian Middle Ages or the recent Soviet era, ballet and drama theaters – on our website you can learn more about what to see in Moscow.


The Novodevichy Convent in MoscowPeter became Tsar of Russia at the age of 10. As Peter was not yet able to run the country at such a young age, all the power was in the hands of his elder sister Tsarevna Sophia. In 1689, she led a revolt but did not succeed in dethroning Peter and was sent away to the Novodevichy ConventRussian: Novodevichiy monastyir or Новодевичий монастырь  (1, Novodevichy DriveRussian: Novodevichiy proezd or Новодевичий проезд). Yevdokiya Lopukhina, Peter the Great’s first wife, also spent some time in the Novodevichy Convent.


Petrine BaroqueRussian: petrovskoe barokko or петровское барокко is a unique Russian architectural style associated with Peter the Great. Drawing on Northern European architectural traditions, it features straights lines and laconic design contrasts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most illustrative example of Petrine Baroque in Moscow is the Church of Archangel Gabriel on Clear Ponds (15a, Arkhangelsky LaneRussian: Arhangelskiy pereulok or Архангельский переулок). It was the church of Peter the Great’s close associate Alexander Menshikov, which is why it was nicknamed the ‘Menshikov TowerRussian: Menshikova bashnya or Меншикова башня’. Constructed in 1707 under the supervision of architects Ivan Zarudny and Domenico Trezzini, it towered above the other buildings at the time. The wooden spire included, its height reached 84 meters, 3 meters higher than the Ivan the Great Bell TowerRussian: kolokolnya Ivana Velikogo or колокольня Ивана Великого at the Kremlin.

The Church of Archangel Gabriel is impressive with its spiraled volutes supporting the foundation of the building. Its walls sculptured with evangelical subjects so common in Catholic and Protestant churches are not at all typical of Orthodox Christian churches.

Another amazing Petrine Baroque church is the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Novaya Basmannaya Sloboda (11, Novaya Basmannaya StreetRussian: Novaya Basmannaya ulitsa or Новая Басманная улица). Apostles Peter and Paul were the patron saints of Emperor Peter the Great, in whose honour the Russian emperor had erected several churches (the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul at the Yauza GateRussian: Yauzskie vorota or Яузские ворота in Moscow and the Peter and Paul CathedralRussian: Petropavlovskiy sobor or Петропавловский собор in St. Petersburg). Interestingly, Peter the Great violated his own decree which forbade stone construction throughout the country, which was necessary to speed up the 1432_image18_sconstruction of St. Petersburg). The church was built by architects Ivan Zarudny and Ivan Michurin.

The church itself resembles a Dutch or a Swedish Lutheran church. Its rather modest decoration consists of simple plaster architraves and round lucarne windows placed beneath the vaults.  The nearby belfry was erected by architect Dmitry Ukhtomsky in the festive Moscow Baroque style in the mid-18th century.

Both the Church of Archangel Gabriel on Clear Ponds and the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on Novaya Basmannaya Street are now open to Orthodox worshippers.


The remains of earthen bastions at the foot of the Tower of the Kremlin ArmoryIn the early 18th century, Russia was at war with Sweden fighting for access to the Baltic Sea. Peter lost the first battle, the Battle of NarvaRussian: bitva pri Narve or битва при Нарве. After this defeat, Peter assumed that Charles would attack Moscow and therefore began strengthening the old Moscow walls and building new earthen bastions that surrounded the Kremlin and the Kitay-gorodRussian: Китай-город area.

King Charles XII ended up attacking the Ukrainian city of Poltava, where the Russian army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Swedish troops in the summer of 1709. Moscow no longer needed Peter’s bastions, but they existed until the early 19th century. Today, Alexander GardenRussian: Aleksandrovskiy sad or Александровский сад stretches across on the site of the former Kremlin’s bastions, and the Kitay-gorod bastions have given up their place to Lubyanka SquareRussian: Lubyanskaya ploschad or Лубянская площадь, Ilyinsky GateRussian: Ilinskie vorota or Ильинские ворота and Slavyanskaya SquareRussian: Slavyanskaya ploschad or Славянская площадь. A small elevation at the foot of the Kremlin’s Armoury TowerRussian: Oruzheynaya bashnya or Оружейная башня is all that remains now of the old bastions.


1436_image21_sPeter spent most of his life on campaigns and expeditions. His mobile wooden cabin, on view in the Kolomenskoye Country EstateRussian: usad'ba Kolomenskoe or усадьба Коломенское, (39, Andropov AvenueRussian: prospekt Andropova or проспект Андропова) was built in the city of Arkhangelska city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, in the north of European Russia specifically for Peter. In the 20th century, the house was brought from Arkhangelsk to Moscow. Very modest but spacious and full of light, it corresponded to the Russian emperor’s tastes, whose preferences leant toward simplicity and functionality. Today, Peter the Great’s cabin houses an exhibition devoted to the history of the Russian Navy.

The Kremlin Armoury displays a fascinating collection of Peter’s personal belongings, including weapons, clothes and footwear. Of special interest is the unique ‘double throne’ made by Moscow craftsmen for the underage tsars Ivanan elder half-brother of Peter I who co-reigned between 1682 and 1696 and Peter. The small opening on the right side of its back was intended for the tsareviches’ elder sister Sophia who would prompt her brothers as to how to respond to petitions and other matters.

A visit to the Historical MuseumRussian: Istoricheskiy muzey or Исторический музей (1, Red SquareRussian: Krasnaya ploschad or Красная площадь) will show you what Peter the Great looked like in real life. Hall 22 is devoted entirely to the era of Peter the Great featuring, among its exhibits, a posthumous bronze mask of Peter the Great and a number of documents written by Peter himself.


.1997, a very unusual monument to Peter the Great appeared in Moscow near the Cathedral of Christ the SaviourRussian: hram Hrista Spasitelya or храм Христа Спасителя, the Patriarshy BridgeRussian: Patriarshiy most or Патриарший мост and the State Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky ValRussian: Gosudarstvennaya Tretyakovskaya galereya na Kryimskom Valu or Государственная Третьяковская галерея на Крымском Валу. It immediately attracted bitter criticism, and there were numerous attempts to blow it up, tear it down or simply to move it elsewhere, but this controversial construction in Moscow is still there. This giant 98-metre-high monument by Zurab Tseretelia Georgian-Russian painter, sculptor and architect known for large-scale and at times controversial monuments stands on an artificial island where the Moskva RiverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река meets the Vodootvodny CanalRussian: Vodootvodnoy kanal or Водоотводной канал (2, Bersenevskaya EmbankmentRussian: Bersenevskaya naberezhnaya or Берсеневская набережная). The sailing ship bearing a huge 18-metre-high statue of Peter the Great towers to a height of 30 metres.

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