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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

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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