Peter the Great modernized Imperial Russia, reforming both its army and navy. He was keen to catch up with other European powers and built the Baltic port Kronstadt, a shipyard at Arkhangelsk, and the empire's first navy base at Taganrog.

By Peter's time, ships from Castile/Spain, England, Portugal, and Holland had already circumnavigated the globe. The Admiralty cartographer Fedor Soymonov recommended that Peter send a Siberian expedition to open trade with the Philippines and America, which didn't happen, though Peter did send Vitus Bering on his first expedition from Okhotsk around Kamchatka. I'm not sure whether this was preliminary to another trip that Peter would have sponsored had he lived longer. The first Russian voyage around the world, that of Krusenstern, took place most of a century after Peter's death.

Is there evidence that Peter hoped, tried, or intended to sponsor a circumnavigation?

  • 3
    I'm afraid that any question about Peter's hopes or intentions would be unanswerable, maybe the last sentence should be "Is there any evidence that Peter planned a circumnavigation"? Feb 8, 2018 at 10:23
  • Of course I am interested in the evidence. Edited accordingly. Feb 8, 2018 at 17:55
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    I hate posting an answer that states no because I can't find any evidence on it, simply because I'm never sure if the answer is no it didn't happen, or it did happen I just can't find evidence of it.
    – Twelfth
    Feb 8, 2018 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


Not my favorite type of answer, but I'm coming to a no answer as I can't find anything to suggest that circumnavigating the globe was on Peter the Great's to do list. I suspect a few reasons:

  1. Lack of Russian expertise. Unlike the nations that had already circumnavigated the globe, the Russians badly lacked naval experience in both manpower and shipbuilding (techniques and resources). Peter the Great visited Amsterdam and learned of the resources required to build ships (and dispatched convoys to a few other places/people such as the Knight Templar on Malta) and construction of the Russian fleet would depend on outside expertise (people such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Kruys). Most Russian sailors were fishermen and really only proficient around coastal waters and not in the open ocean

  2. Fleet locations and existing conflicts. Peter the Great had to contend with the Swedish in the Baltic seas (great northern wars) and the Ottoman empire in the black sea. The majority of his shipbuilding resources was dedicated to these conflicts, making it difficult to justify the resources on circumnavigating the globe. The White Sea port was really their only port they could depart from that wouldn't require travelling through hostile waters before hitting the open ocean.

  3. Need. The number 1 reason to circumnavigate the globe was to find an alternate route to India and China and bypass the giant landmass that was Russia. Being that Russia already had land routes to India and a common border with China, the need wasn't there in the same manner. Even more so that Russia already possessed pacific ports, it was simpler to construct there than to sail around the world. Russia also possesses vast amounts of land and natural resources, which was another driving factor behind the more sea faring nations setting out.

Still looking for any reference to Peter the Great wanting to circumnavigate the globe...but this is the best I have after a day of looking.

  • Russia was still hiring foreign officers and buying ships abroad in the era of Krusenstern. You're right that the land route to Amur and Kiakhta would have made the voyage less appealing than it was for other European powers. Feb 10, 2018 at 22:48

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