Peter the Great

A succession of revolts was the consequence of her stratagems and intrigues; and the most savage cruelties were perpetrated by all parties. Sophia evidently sought some pretense for deposing Peter, and accordingly she employed emissaries to stir up the soldiery against the Nariskin family, especially the two uncles of Peter, spreading a report that one of them had put on the imperial robes, and had attempted to strangle prince John; adding, moreover, that the late czar, Theodore, had been poisoned at their instigation by a Dutch physician. Finally, she made out a list of forty noblemen, whom she denounced as enemies to the state, and deserving of death. The mutineers began by attacking two nobles, named Dalgorouki and Matheof, whom they threw out of the palace windows. These unfortunates were received by the Strelitzes on the points of their spears, and speedily despatched, their dead bodies being afterwards dragged into the great square. Soon after this, meeting with Athanasius Nariskin, brother to the young czarina, and one of the uncles of Peter, they murdered him in like manner, and, breaking open the doors of a church where some of the proscribed had taken refuge, they dragged them from the altar, and stabbed them to death. But it would be a horrible task to narrate the atrocities which followed - the murder of the innocent physician and of the other Nariskin, and the dreadful tortures by the knout, and other forms which were practiced on the wretched victims.

Finally, Sophia succeeded in associating the name of her imbecile broth er in the sovereignty; the two princes, John and Peter, being proclaimed joint czars in 1682, and herself denominated co-regent with them. She then publicly approved of the outrages which had been committed, and rewarded the perpetrators of them, confiscating, for this purpose, the estates of the proscribed; and so completely did she enjoy all the honors of a sovereign, that her bust was engraven on the public coin. She signed all despatches, held the first place in the council, and exercised unlimited power. But new insurrections broke out; and finally, she was induced to strengthen her authority by admitting to her councils her favorite and lover, prince Basil Galitzin, whom she created generalissimo, minister of state, and lord-keeper. This new minister was a man of distinguished abilities, and had received a much better education than the rest of his countrymen. One of his prudent measures was to distribute the most mutinous of the Strelitzes among different regiments, situated at distant parts of the empire.

While Galitzin was engaged with the army, Sophia governed and acted at Moscow as if altogether independent of her brothers the czars. A circumstance, however, soon took place which put an end to her intrigues and interference. In 1689, Peter's marriage with Eudoxia Federowna Lapuchin, effected through the influence of his prudent mother, withdrew him in a great measure from those dissipating vices which Sophia had done all in her power to encourage, and thus gave him a new hold on the affections of the people. Sophia having desired to be present as regent, at a religious celebration at which czars themselves were commonly present, Peter opposed it in vain; and a few faithful Strelitzes having betrayed to him her intention to assassinate him, with his wife, mother, and sister, he took refuge with them for a while in the convent of the Trinity. Here he summoned to his aid General Gordon, a Scotchman, who, with all the foreign officers, immediately hastened to Peter. The young czar soon found himself surrounded by numerous friends; and these, animated by his personal bravery, and encouraged by his affable and generous demeanor, quickly put him in a position to resist the machinations of his sister. He accordingly compelled Sophia to take the veil, while Galitzin and a few others were banished to Siberia. Peter now hastened to Moscow, into which he made a solemn entrance, and in sight of all the people embraced Ivan, who left the whole of the power in the more able hands of his brother. From this instant he began to reign in reality as Peter I, although the name of the infirm Ivan remained as joint czar till his death in 1696.

One of the most cruel wrongs Sophia had committed on her brother, was that of keeping him in ignorance, and surrounding him, at the very age when character is formed, with every temptation to excess and dissipation. It cannot be supposed that he escaped the contamination of such lures; but most truly has it been said, that his virtues were all his own, his vices those of his education and country.' He early evinced one quality of a great mind the comprehension of his own ignorance, joined to the most ardent thirst for knowledge. His, too, was that faculty inseparable from the man born for a great ruler that quick and certain appreciation of the character and talents of others, which always enabled him to know the fit instrument with which to work out his plans. Thus, happening to dine one day at the house of the Danish minister, he was struck with the manners and conversation of the private secretary, at once perceiving the superiority of his mind. This was a youthful Genevese, named Le Fort, who had been educated for a mercantile profession; but being of an adventurous disposition, and early displaying decided military talents, had enlisted as a volunteer, and served in the low countries. After encountering several dangers, and having a narrow escape of transportation to Siberia, though for what offense we cannot discover, he found his way to Moscow, and obtained employment in the capacity we have mentioned.