Here, for the first time, in its final form and in a new translation, is the epic Russian novel which has sold in its native country over two million copies. Alexey Tolstoy (who was not related to the author of War and Peace) began to study the character of his hero, Peter the First, in 1917. When he died almost thirty years later, Tolstoy was still working on his masterpiece, this huge historical canvas which gives brilliant life and meaning to a crucial period in Russian history. Tolstoy reanimates the past by a succession of character creations which range from the serf, Ivan Brodkin, to Peter's sinister and opportunistic favorite, Alexander Menshikoff; from the old Boyars shorn of their beards and their prerogatives to the foreign captains of the new Russian navy. Here in these pages are the beautiful Anna Mons, Peter's first mistress; his wife Eudoxia, whom he never loved; and the peasant girl who eventually was to be crowned Empress Catherine the First. We see these men and women moving across a tapestry of battles abroad, and amid the dark, opulent luxury of the great families and the Imperial Court. In Tolstoy's moving crowded pages we see the emergence of Russia, thrust forward by Peter's inexorable will, from a backward medieval state to her final position as one of the great powers of Europe. Here are magnificent portraits, the fruits of years of historical research, of Peter's principal opponents: August, Elector of Saxony, indefatigable in his amusements, and King Charles XII of Sweden, a great military genius, flawed by passion and indulgence. But the true hero of Tolstoy's epic is Peter himself. We see him grow to be a man---awkward, suspicious, prone to spasms ofcowardice, but always driving, sometimes provoked almost to madness, to free his country from the chains of backwardness and superstition to take her place as an equal among the nations of the west. And in the last analysis it is this greatness and originality of character in its hero which gives the stamp of greatness to the book itself. Alexey Tolstoy was born in 1883. In 1918 he published his first full length work, Nikita's Childhood. In 1919 he fled from the Bolshevik government and settled in Paris. In 1922 he asked for and received permission to return home. For the next twenty-four years he lived in Russia, until his death in 1946.
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