What traditional institutions did Peter the Great see as impediments to progress in Russia?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between when Peter made reforms to protect the progress of Russian culture or to protect his own power and prestige.

Peter saw western European culture and traditions as superior to the traditional way of life of Russia.  He would need to change Russian culture itself to transform Russia into a modern power.  He made the Russian nobility and government officials wear Western style of dress and shave their long beards as an example.

Peter felt the church was blocking cultural progress.  The archbishops of the church traditionally had as much, if not more, power and wealth than the czar.  The church supported traditional values and customs and could not be considered progressive and reform-minded.  Also, the church recruited able-bodied and intelligent men to join its ranks in monasteries.  Peter believed these men could better serve Russia outside of the church.  

The Russian system of feudalism, according to Peter, was backwards and needed reform.  He felt that the state could manage resources and create profit better than the large landholding nobility.  He felt he could better utilize the unskilled serfs for the government's own needs. As an example, he drafted many of the serfs for military service that would be mandatory for life.  

The Russian education system was flawed and blocked progress towards modernization.  Peter instituted compulsory education for the nobility and created institutions of learning that centered around different goals that he had for Russia.  These goals included industrial and military strength as well as the dream of making Russia a naval power.

Peter felt that the government bureaucracy was very inefficient and was a major obstacle to Russian progress.  He overhauled the government to make it more efficient at collecting taxes and other administrative functions.  He disbanded groups within the government and replaced them with committees that were smaller and more efficient.

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