Why did the Russian Emperor Peter I arrest and send his own son to execution?


The life of Tsarevich Alexei, the son of Emperor Peter the Great, is one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of Russia. The heir to a huge country, according to various estimates, was either a traitor or a victim of intrigue and paternal cruelty.

Alexei Petrovich was sentenced to death and, at the same time, was killed before the execution of the sentence.

Tsarevich Alexei was the eldest son of Peter I, born of the tsar’s first marriage with Evdokia Lopukhina. The family tragedy was that the spouse did not share her husband’s interests. The tsar dreamed of rebuilding life in the country in a European manner, and Evdokia, brought up in a traditional Russian family, considered these aspirations absurd.

The queen had a tough disposition and often infuriated Peter. This could not go on for a long time, the tired monarch found a mistress, and then forcibly tonsured Evdokia as a nun.

Of course, the conflict between the parents affected the child’s psyche.

Over the years, the situation has worsened. The exhausting war with the Swedes, radical reforms, higher taxes and repression did not bring Peter the Great popularity. On the contrary, this period was remembered for numerous uprisings.

Contemporaries considered Peter to be a foreign foreigner and a traitor. Alexey, on the other hand, seemed like a ray of hope. Approximate nobles only strengthened the heir’s hatred of his father.

In 1715, the Russian emperor and his second wife Catherine

The monarch set a condition for the first-born: either he corrects himself and begins to help his father, or loses his inheritance. And so that there will be no war for the throne in the future, Alexei should go to a monastery. The young man did not like this choice, and he fled to Austria under the wing of the local emperor Charles VI.

Now Alexei had no way back. In his homeland, he would probably have been killed. Its existence posed a danger to the newborn Petr Petrovich and the internal peace of the country.

Having no other way out, Alexei tried to conclude an agreement with Charles VI: to use his army and sit on the Russian throne, and in exchange to share border lands with the Austrians. Later, the same offer was sent to the Swedes.

Alexey Petrovich’s idea failed. The Austrians did not give an army, moreover, he received false information about a possible betrayal by Charles VI. In turn, Peter I in his letter promised to forgive all sins and asked only to return home.

The fugitive heir accepted the conditions and went to St. Petersburg. However, upon his return, he was immediately deprived of the right of succession to the throne and forced to take an oath to renounce the throne. At the same time, Alexei was tried for his intentions to overthrow his father and all his supporters were executed.

Tsarevich Alexei was really forgiven for all the misdeeds he recognized. Unfortunately, the former heir did not confess everything. In particular, he kept silent about his letter to the Swedes. But his mistress, the peasant Efrosinya, did not remain silent and handed over «with all the giblets.»

Alexei was charged with «treason» and in 1718

The execution of Alexei was a turning point in the history of the country. Peter I had no sons left, and he left no heirs. Over the next 40 years, 7 rulers will be replaced, and the country will be ruled by nobles and the army.