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Peters Great Toy Army

Published: May 7, 2014 (Issue # 1809)



  • Peter the Greats toy army went on to become an elite military unit.
    Photo: Alexei Kivshenko / Wikimedia Commons

Throughout St. Petersburg you can see references to preobrazhensky meaning transfiguration. These references are particularly frequent around Liteiny Prospekt and one could be forgiven for thinking that they are a reflection of the religious character of Russian society. Instead, they reflect the critical role that the Preobrazhensky regiment played in Russias history and its curious inception.

A favorite story told about Peter the Great is how he used to play soldiers and created his own toy army his poteshnye voiska. The story is often told to reveal Peters ambition and his ability to organize his peers but the creation of this toy army is firmly rooted in the political rivalry of the late 17th century.

The death of Tsar Fedor III on April 27, 1682, caused a political crisis in Russia. The Romanov family was split into two factions with the obvious heirs to the throne still in their minority. Streltsy troops were spurred into rebellion by rumors, spread by the Mikhailovsky faction opposed to Peter the Greats accession. On May 17, Streltsy troops broke into the Kremlin and killed in front of the 10 year old prince, Peters two uncles Kirill and Ivan Naryshkin. Although, Peter survived the attack, it had a deep impact on the tsarevich.

The political solution led to the regency of Sophia Alekseyevna during the minority of Peter the Great and Ivan V. It was this same year that Peter established his poteshnye voiska with which he played his war games.

Whether or not this was just a child wanting to play soldiers, the poteshnye voiska soon took on a much more serious nature and by 1683 the troops consisted not only of Peters friends and servants, but had also recruited a serving soldier and the toy army was organized into a unit of 100. By the time Peter was 13, the toy army was recruiting soldiers and foreign officers to provide military expertise and specific military training to the so-called toy army. Whether Peter intended it or not, he was creating a personal bodyguard which would form the basis of his later political authority.

The establishment and ongoing development of Peters toy army is also important for the insights it gives into Peter the Greats own military education and his approach to military affairs. His military training focused on taking children at a young age and developing their physical strength and agility at the ages of 9 to 12 by playing games and doing gymnastic exercises. The next step was to develop childrens bravery by adding an element of danger to the games by climbing cliffs and ravines, walking on rickety bridges, playing on logs and pretending to be bandits. These games also included guard duty and reconnaissance. The next stage in developing childrens military abilities included teaching them to use weapons Peter the Great could fire a canon when he was 12. Other technical skills were also taught and a greater focus was placed on discipline, honor and comradeship. Patriotism and purpose were also taught by teaching selective moments of Russias history and the dangers and ambitions of neighboring countries. From these classes, children were taught a love of their fatherland and a love for the army.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Nov. 28


Join table-top game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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