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Everyday life of Peter the Great

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Everyday life of Peter the Great


Sergey Vinogradov

Jean-Marc Nattier. Tsar Perter I, 1717

The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation announced the establishment of the Assembly of Petrine Museums for the 350th anniversary of Peter the Great. The Assembly will bring together federal and regional museums - palaces and houses of Peter the Great. In Europe, where the first Russian emperor is remembered and revered, it is not the first year that the unification of places has been discussed related to the stay of the Russian tsar for tourist, cultural, and scientific purposes.

The Russian tsar’s trips to Europe - The Grand Embassy of Peter the Great in 1697-1698 and the second visit in 1716-1717 - left many prints in different countries. Today in Europe, Peters name and image are used to attract tourists, decorate cities, spark interest in museum exhibitions, set cultural and historical projects, as well as to establish international relations.

Dining in Tsar-style

The Kunstkamera was founded by Peter the Great after his first trip to Europe and is considered the first Russian public museum. It has made a list of art and science museums, as well as private collections visited by the Tsar during his Grand Embassy. The list includes dozens of Dutch, Austrian, English, German museums and collections. It was hardly possible to find any person in Peter's era who could see so many new and progressive things in just a year - national collections, offices of prominent scientists of that time, home museums of collectors.

The Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg. Photo credit: Ad Meskens /

The Russian tsars gifts and sometimes images were left after his visits. Collections of many European museums still have portraits of Peter the Great painted by court artists. The Dresden Museum exposition, for example, features the enamel portrait by the brother of Johann Melchior Dinglinger, a goldsmith. And the emperors lifetime portrait is exhibited in the Russian Art Museum in Prague.

Peter the Great's visit to the German town of Wittenberg, where Shakespeare had sent Hamlet to study, brought a different kind of exhibit for the local Martin Luther Museum - the tsars autograph. Since the museum did not have a distinguished visitors' book, privileged visitors were allowed to sign on the museum walls.

Peter the Greats autograph was among the first identified. The Tsars handwriting is firm and clear, the one that teachers usually admire. He did not write “Peter”, he wrote Pyotr, the way his name sounded in Russian. The capital "P" looks like either a pagoda or an arch in the Empire style, which was not yet known in Peter's era.

Peter the Greats autograph. Photo credit:

There is still no complete atlas with Peters footsteps in European countries, and interested people look for information in the most unexpected places. Peter's map gets new points added by travelers.

Evgeny Belyaev, a Russian blogger, has traveled half the world in search of interesting stories for his subscribers. In the Danish city of Nykøbing, which is 125 kilometers from Copenhagen on Falster Island, he saw a familiar image on street banners. The house where the Russian tsar dined and, according to some sources, stayed overnight has survived to this day being the main attraction of the town. And today visitors can still dine and stay overnight in it, and do it, of course, in the Tsar style. At least, the current owners of the establishment say so.

Peter the Greats house in Nykøbing. Photo credit: Petrine Baroque

In the restaurant, guests can read the story of the Russian tsar's staying in Denmark during his second trip to Europe. There is one fact mentioned: Peter rejected the castle that had been offered to him and chose a rather modest two-story mansion. The menu for the royal dinner is also there. If I translated correctly, the Tsar ate rye and wheat bread with butter, Dutch cheese, and drank beer and wine, the traveler says.

Peters houses

The tsar's love for good bread and wine is the story told in other houses of Peter the Great as well. Such houses are opened in Russia, the Netherlands, Estonia, and other countries. The emperor was more than 6.6ft tall, but while traveling he liked to stay in small dwellings of people of common social stratum, for instance, merchants or craftsmen. Probably, he did it to learn new things even at the time of rest. The tsar's habit, unusual for the people of his status, gave rise to a special museum phenomenon - Peters house. Some of them are so small that visitors have to duck their heads at the entrance, and touring groups do not exceed five people.

InVologda Memorial Museum of Peter I, the museum head and its only employee dressed as a man of Peter's era tells visitors about the emperor's unpretentiousness. He used to stay with his wife Catherine in a room under 32 square ft.

It's no secret that Peter who had such a height loved everything small. A lot of people paid attention to this, Viktor Lisitsyn, the head of the museum, told the Russkiy Mir. I deliberately studied this topic and found a lot of evidence that it had actually been so. 4.9ft beds are found not only in the accommodations where he stayed during his hikes and trips but also in some of his Petersburg palaces. It turns out that he used to bend in sleep."

Peter's house in Vologda. Photo credit: Pavel Sergeev/

It seems that while in Derbent, Peter I used to bend not only while sleeping but also walking since he stayed in a dugout hut. The house where the tsar had lived for several days during the Persian campaign was restored in 2015. There are Peter's houses in St. Petersburg, Strelna, and other towns.

And one of the most famous houses, the Czar Peter House, is located in Zaandam, the Netherlands. To tell the truth, the tsar resided in the modest house of Gerrit Kist, his good acquaintance and blacksmith, in 1697 not because he "loved everything small." He came to Zaandam incognito under the name of Peter Michaeloff to study the shipbuilding from the inside.

In the middle of the 18th century, the house received the status of a historical site and became the property of the Royal family of the Netherlands. It was not forgotten in Russia as well, representatives of the Russian royal family often came over during their travels. The house was lifted and placed onto a stone foundation; then a stone cover was erected around it. The cover has protected the house for over a hundred years.

Contributions to the maintenance of the house were made by Russian emperors. New Russia has not disregarded the museum as well. Russian philanthropists provided funds for the house restoration completed in 2013. The museum has a lot of interesting things, but most visitors, and there are about 8,000 of them per year, are surprised by the relatively small wardrobe-bed which the tsar slept on. And again there come questions - "Did he bend in sleep?", "And how did he lean his legs?"

The Czar Peter House in Zaandam, the Netherlands, cold room. Photo credit:

The Dutch have made a page of the museum in Russian. There is a brief history of the museum and the information that children under three years old will be allowed to visit Peter I for free, children and young people under 17 will be charged two euros, while adults have to pay four. There is an opportunity to visit the house free of charge. It is available to "museum friends". But there is not information in Russian on how to become one of them.

Meanwhile, the Tallinn Peter the Great House located on the territory of the Kadriorg Palace and Park Ensemble will be closed to friends and foes this summer. It is not about politics, but insects only. This year, the museum specialists have found bugs that degrade the wooden structures. So the house will be closed for examination and repair of damage.

The Kadriorg Palace (Estonia). Photo credit: SvenEst/

Peter the Great House in Kadriog. Photo credit: Avi1111/

The museum cannot afford to lose this object since the house acquired by Peter I as a Reval residence in 1714 is the oldest building in the park, the center of the exposition, and the tourists great favorite. The museum website talks about the seizure of the Estonian land by Russian troops during the Great Northern War, but the authors of the article on the history of the park report that the Russian tsar laid the foundation for the most grandiose and stylish Baroque palace and park ensemble in Estonia and regret that not all ambitious ideas of the reformer were implemented because of his imminent death."

Peter the Great

If we are to make a list of Russians with an increasing number of monuments being installed in different parts of the world, Peter the Great, Alexander Pushkin, and Yuri Gagarin will probably be the top three. Monuments to the Russian emperor have been erected in Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Latvia, and other countries.

There are some amazing ones among them. For example, Peter the Great by Mihail Chemiakin in London will strike a passer-by with its appearance and composition (there is a throne and a dwarf servant), and Peter I of Brussels surprises with its elusiveness. Russian tourists visiting the park near the Royal Palace cannot find the monument. It is located in a ravine hidden by trees, and there is no explanation on how to find the bronze Peter in the park.

Monument to Peter the Great in London (Deptford). Photo credit:

Nevertheless, the Peter the Great Foundation has been established in Belgium. It is engaged in removing the Russian tsar from historical ravines. Four years ago, a monument was erected in Liege through the efforts of the Foundation. It is the third monument to the Russian emperor in Belgium.

The Foundations plans include inviting new members to join the community of cities associated with Peter the Great's European trips and developing new tourist routes to Peter's places, as well as making a film about the Russian emperor.


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