This introductory chapter describes Russia's early history and the founding of St. Petersburg. It considers the accomplishments of Peter the Great and how he dragged Russia out of its medieval backwater and into the modern age. Peter's revolution went far deeper than the external manifestations of modernization—changes in the liturgy, calendar, and alphabet, Western garb, and shaved-off beards. He unraveled the threads that made up the tissue of Russian society and replaced them with new ones of his own making. The chapter also discusses the French domination of the Russian cultural scene and the unveiling of Peter's statue in 1782.
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