*Simbirsk (sihm-BEERSK). Russian town (later renamed Ulyanovsk) on the Volga River 485 miles east of Moscow. In one of Simbirsk’s surrounding rural regions, Piotr’s father received a plot of land, probably after his career of military service. The town’s distance from the civilized cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg serves to show that his military service was, although honest, perhaps less than brilliant. This is also suggested when he reads in the “Court Calendar” that his peers are now high-ranking general officers. In a Simbirsk tavern, the young Piotr loses one-hundred rubles in a drunken gambling bout at the first stop en route to his military assignment. Through this experience, Piotr breaks free of his parents’ control and takes his first steps toward independence.
*St. Petersburg. Capital of Russia and center of imperial power, high society, and culture. As a nobleman, young Piotr was registered here on paper, though he lived in Simbirsk, as a sergeant with the largely ceremonial Semyonovsky Guards Regiment. When his father realizes that young Piotr is learning little in Simbirsk from his expensive, foreign tutor, he decides it is time to allow life experience on Russia’s frontier to educate the young boy. Piotr’s father refuses to approve an easy capital assignment and requests that an old friend assign Piotr to service in Orenburg—a town geographically and...
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