March 01, 1997

Secret Mission

This month Russia marks the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great’s mission to Europe. Surely such a significant tricentennial should not pass as inconspicuously as Peter sought to pass in Holland, England and the rest of Europe. So Russian Life asked one of its regular contributors, renowned Russian historian Nikolai Pavlenko, to explain why such secrecy was sought, why it never really worked and why such an “inconspicious” event ended up playing such a crucial role in the destinies of Peter the Great and the country he ruled. Photos from the personal files of the author.


In 1696, returning to Moscow after their victory over Turkish forces at the fortress of Azov, Peter the Great’s soldiers were honored with ceremonial cannon fire and public verse. Though full of his triumph over the Turks, Peter was worried that, since he had failed to conclude a peace treaty with them, the Turks might wait for a propitious moment to restart hostilities.

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