New View of Peter the Great’s Instructions to Vitus Bering in 1725 in the Context of Struggle for Colonies in the North Pacific

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The study is devoted to the detailed analysis of Peter the Great’s handwritten instruction to the head of the First Kamchatka Expedition Vitus Bering dated January 6, 1725. Despite its wide popularity, this document is still understudied and interpreted by Russian and foreign historians in different ways. The reason is that the instruction seems hard to understand; it contains inconsistencies and incomprehensible points. For the purpose of a comprehensive and maximally objective analysis, the authors conducted a historiographic study, identified the main points of view of historians and characterized them. Afterwards, a textual analysis was carried out. In order to make the most objective assessment of the instructions, the interpretations of this document were determined by the participants in the events (Vitus Bering, Alexei Chirikov, Martin Shpanberg, the Admiralty Board and the Senate). It was concluded that the instruction of Peter I was a real program of Russia's actions in the Arctic and Pacific oceans, aimed at decades ahead. It gave a powerful impetus to the study of the country's Far Eastern borders, contributed to the strengthening of Russia's influence in this region, led to the discovery of America from Asia, and the emergence of Russian colonies in the New World. The instructions also included the idea of opening navigation along the northern sea route and the development of sea trade. During the period of its maximum power, which Russia reached in the first quarter of the 19th century, the empire's possessions extended over the entire northern part of the Pacific Ocean. Russia claimed a part of California and the Hawaiian Islands, tried to open sea trade with China and Japan. All these successes were achieved thanks to the vector of movement that the instructions of Peter I set to the country.

About the authors

Aleksandr Yu. Petrov

Russian Academy of Sciences; Moscow State Linguistic University

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1688-4096

Dr. Habil. Hist., Chief Research Fellow, Center for North American Studies, Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor, Moscow State Linguistic University

32a Leninsky prospect, Moscow, 119334, Russia; 38, Osotizhenka Str., Moscow, 119036, Moscow, Russia

Alexey N. Ermolaev

Kemerovo State University; The Federal Research Center of Coal and Coal-Chemistry of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6903-5883

Dr. Habil. Hist., Professor of the Department of Russian History, Kemerovo State University; Chief Researcher, The Federal Research Center of Coal and Coal-Chemistry, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

6, Krasnaya Str., Kemerovo, 650000, Russia; 18, Sovetsky Ave., Kemerovo, 650000, Russia


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Copyright (c) 2022 Petrov A.Y., Ermolaev A.N.

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