Russia has never been a part of the West

In 1697 Tsar Peter the Great set out on a great journey across western Europe, seeking the support of European monarchs in his confrontation with the Ottoman Empire. Unsuccessful in securing alliances, he returned instead laden with ideas acquired in his travels through Britain and Holland, which he promptly put into action in modernising Russia. The most visible symbol of this new nation was Saint Petersburg, the intended new capital of his empire. By 1858, an English visitor to the city described it as ‘one of the handsomest cities in Europe’, with a street of residences ‘so large that 50 extend over an English mile.’ And so it was that