Tsar Peter I, the Great (1672-1725, Emperor/Tsar 1682-1725) truly deserved the title "Great" as he was both a powerful ruler that brought Russia into the modern World and was, at 6 feet 8 inches tall, also a giant for the time period. He was a man of immense energy, ruthless when need be, cruel when crossed and a lover of power and war. His vision to make Russia a World power led to a cultural change that was not popular with many Russian nobles and commoners alike. After visiting Western European countries as a young man he decided to modernize his military, his government and even build a new capital, appropriately named after himself-St. Petersburg. It was a small matter that the land for his new capital belonged to Sweden at the time, war would settle that problem. Dealing with his own people was a challenge in its self, he passed laws enforcing a variety of Western European ideas such as clothing, building a modern navy, reorganization the army and the like. He even made a law that encouraged shaving by taxing beards.
Through war Peter enlarged the Russian Empire, through politics he reorganized and streamlined the government, forced the Orthodox Church hierarchy to obey him and increased his already near total power over the state. To further Russia's claims in Siberia and the Pacific Coast, he sent both settlers and explorers to the East. The most famous of the latter was Captain Vitus Bering whose explorations gave Russia a claim the to lands bordering the sea that bears his name.
By the end of his reign with his death in 1725, Tsar Peter I had forever changed the face of Russia and the political power system of European Nations. Russia was now one of the major powers, although her importance would often be enhanced or diminished by the quality of the Tsars and Tsarinas who held the autocratic power. Yet Peter had set the nation on the path to greatness, after him there would be no going back to the old ways. Other powerful Russian leaders would build upon his foundations, Russia was now a major player on the World stage.