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Alexei Petrovich


(16901718), tsarevich, son of Emperor Peter I of Russia and his first wife Yevdokia Lopukhina.

Peter raised Alexei as his heir, making him study a modern curriculum with foreign tutors and taking him to visit battlefields and naval displays to teach him to "love everything that contributes to the glory and honor of the fatherland." When Alexei was in his twenties, Peter entrusted him with important duties on the home front in the war against Sweden. Peter's correspondence reveals little affection for Alexei, who in turn felt intimidated by his demanding and unconciliatory father (Peter had banished Alexei's mother in 1699). Alexei was intelligent, devout, often sick, and indifferent to military affairs. In 1712 Peter married him off to the German princess Charlotte of Wolf-fenbüttel, whom he quickly abandoned for a peasant mistress. After the birth of Alexei's son Peter (the future Peter II) in 1715, Peter accused Alexei of neglecting the common good and threatened to disinherit him: "Better a worthy stranger [on the throne] than my own unworthy son." Under increasing pressure, in 1716 Alexei fled and took refuge with the Habsburg emperor, but in 1718 Peter lured him back home with the promise of a pardon, then disinherited him and demanded that he reveal all his "accomplices" in a plot to assassinate his father and seize the throne. Evidence emerged that Alexei hated Peter's cherished projects and that some Russians from elite circles viewed him as an alternative. Tried by a special tribunal, Alexei confessed to treason under torture and was condemned to death, dying two days later following further torture. His fate and the witch hunt unleashed by his trial have disturbed even ardent admirers of Peter, who was willing to sacrifice his son for reasons of state. Soviet historians dismissed Alexei as a traitor, but he has been viewed more sympathetically since the 1990s.

See also: peter i; peter ii


Bushkovitch, Paul. (2001). Peter the Great: The Struggle for Power, 16711725. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hughes, Lindsey. (1998). Russia in the Age of Peter the Great. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Lindsey Hughes

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