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When Peter the Great became czar (he ruled from 1682 to 1725), Moscow already lay at the center of a great empire--great, at least, in terms of the territories it controlled; the Islamic threat had been ended with the defeat of the Tatars; the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church was represented by its distinctive religious architecture and powerful bishops; Peter consolidated Russia's gains and endeavored to make a modern, European-style state out of his loosely knit country; he built St. Petersburg as a forward capital on the doorstep of Swedish-held Finland, fortified it with major military installations, and made it Russia's leading port
Peter the Great, an extraordinary leader, was in many ways the founder of modern Russia; in his desire to re-make Russia, to pull it from the forests of the interior to the seas of the west, to open it to outside influences and to relocate its population, he left nothing to chance; prominent merchant families were forced to move from other cities to St. Petersburg; ships and wagons entering the city had to bring building stones as an entry toll; the czar himself, aware that to become a major power Russia had to be strong at sea as well as on land, went to the Netherlands to work as a laborer in the famed Dutch shipyards to learn the most efficient method for building ships; meanwhile, the czar's forces continued to conquer people and territory: Estonia was incorporated in 1721, widening Russia's window to the west, and in Siberia major expansion soon occurred south of the city of Tomsk