The Will of Peter the Great

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The Will of Peter the Great, a political forgery, purported to express the geopolitical testament of Emperor Peter I of Russia (r. 1682–1725), which allegedly contained a plan for the subjugation of Europe. For many years it influenced political attitudes in Great Britain and France towards the Russian Empire. [1][2]

Forged at the beginning of 19th century,[1] it resurfaced during the Crimean War of 1853 - 1856, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, during World War I (1914-1918) and in the immediate post-World War II period. [2]


In 1812, Charles-Louis Lesur [fr] wrote, under Napoleon's command, a memoir Des Progrès de la puissance russe depuis son origine jusqu'au commencement du XIXe siècle ("Progress of the Russian Power, from Its Origin to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century"), in which a summary of the alleged Will was inserted. The memoir intended to justify Napoleon's war plans against Russia.[1]

Walter K. Kelly in his History of Russia (1854) quotes The Will from Frederic Gaillardet's Mémoires du Chevalier d'Éon (1836). Gaillardet claimed that this document was stolen from Russia by d'Éon. While questioning its authenticity, Kelly comments that the document fairly reflects the politics of Russia in the past 100 years.[2] The same was noted by Russian historian Sergey Shubinsky, who commented that the first 11 points of The Will is a fair recapitulation of Russian foreign policy since Peter's death (1725) until 1812.[2]

In 1912, Polish historian Michel Sokolnicki (Michał Sokolnicki) found in archives of French Ministry of Foreign Affairs a 1797 memorandum "Aperçu sur la Russie of his ancestor, general Michał Sokolnicki and wrote a journal article "Le Testament de Pierre le Grand: Origines d'un prétendu document historique".[3] General Sokolnicki claimed that he glimpsed a plan of Peter I to subjugate Europe in Russian archives and memorized major points. These points bear a remarkable similarity to those presented by Lesur, so it is quite possible that Lesur borrowed from Sokolnicky.[2] Historian Sokolnicki also maintains that his ancestor did not invent The Will himself, but rather wrote down a long-existing Polish tradition.[3]

In fiction[edit]

From the speculative fiction novel The Third World War: The Untold Story by John Hackett:

Tsar Peter the Great in 1725, shortly after his annexation of five Persian provinces and the city of Baku, and just before he died, enjoined his successors thus: "I strongly believe that the State of Russia will be able to take the whole of Europe under its sovereignty… you must always expand towards the Baltic and the Black Sea.<...>" In 1985 Peter the Great, the mystical-absolutist, might have conceded, had he been aware of events, that the dialectical-materialist usurpers in the Kremlin were not doing so badly.

The purported testament is referenced in, and included as an appendix to, Constance (1982) by Lawrence Durrell, the third novel of The Avignon Quintet.


  1. ^ a b c John Barrow, The Life of Peter the Great, Chapter "Note on the Alleged Will of Peter the Great"
  2. ^ a b c d e Dimitry V. Lehovich, "The Testament of Peter the Great", American Slavic and East European Review Vol. 7, No. 2 (Apr., 1948), pp. 111-124 JSTOR 2492188
  3. ^ a b The American Historical Review, 1912, p.705