V nachale slavnykh del

(At the Beginning of Glorious Days) (1986)



Director:     Sergei Gerasimov. 

Starring:     Dmitri Zolotukhin (Czar Peter the Great),  Tamara Makarova,  Natalya Bondarchuk,  Nikolai Yeryomenko Ml.,  Mikhail Nozhkin,  Peter Reusse,  Eduard Bocharov,  Lyubov Polekhina,  Lyubov Germanova,  Anatoli Barantsev,  Roman Filippov,  Yuri Moroz,  Vladimir Kashpur,  Aleksandr Belyavsky,  Nikolai Grinko.

Peter the Great and the building up of the Russian Navy


Spoiler Warning:   below is a summary of the entire film. 


Part I. 

Peters runs up the stairs to the chapel.  His mother is dying.  She pats his head. 

Tsarita comes in to see Peter.  She sees him sleeping in his clothes and boots.  She comments:  "Those Kukui habits, they drink and lie down as they are."

Anna Mons will be sent to Siberia for good. 

Tsarita says:  "Yesterday I was Dunya.  Today the Tsarina of all Russia, Great and Small and White."  She won't wear Nataly Kirillovna's old clothes.  When Sophia ruled, she wasn't much older than she. 

Tsarita says that Peter hangs around with moujiks (Russian peasants) and soldiers.  She replies to Peter that his mother always hated her.  Peter is upset about her attitude about his mother and he walks out on her.  Tsarita says that he is mad. 

A letter from Jerusalem Patriarch Dosifey.  The letter says that the Turks have taken everything away.  The first priority is to come out to the Black Sea.  Peter turns to the Boyars for help.  They agree to muster the army.  

Russia is such a wild, huge country.  A messenger has a letter from Streshnev.  The contractors are having problems.  The men are stealing. 

Peter says to load the troops on the ship and they will swoop down and take the Turkish fortress of Azov. 

Peter looks at the fortifications with a spy glass and a bullet knocks it out of his hand.  In retaliation, Peter fires a cannon at the fortress.  The Turks fire back and kill a number of Russians coming in to land on the beach. 

The Great Vizier reports the defeat of the Russian army led by Tsar Peter at the fortress of Azov.  The Russians suffered great casualties and Peter withdrew back to Moscovia.  

Peter is back in battle again against the Turks.  He shouts:  "Semyonov Regiment, follow me!" 

A letter comes from an uncle in Konigsberg.  It is a letter to his sister.  He says that Peter has built a fleet on a river, sailed it to the sea of Azov and then attacked the Azov fortress again.  The sister comments that "As usual, Elector Frederick is painting too rosy a picture."  She says King Louis of France won't like the news. 

Peter tells the boyars and others that they have different quotas to build ships.  He also plans to build a canal between the Volga and the Don Rivers.  The fifty richest men are to send their sons abroad to study math, fortification, shipbuilding and other sciences. 

Peter is going to Amsterdam to work in the shipyards there and learn all about shipbuilding.  He says Fyodor Yuryevich Remodanovsky will rule in Moscow in his absence. 

Ivan Artemyevich is leaving for Moscow to start a big business.  He has a daughter named Sanka that he wants to marry off. Tsar Peter arrives at their house.  He wants his man Vaska to marry Sanka.  Peter helps arrange the marriage. 

Peter is on a ship.  He talks with his staff and says the Elector of Brandenburg is their man.  He lives far away, he needs them and Sweden and Poland are pressing him.  He adds that Prussia will never war with Turkey.  Peter eats with the Prussian royals.  He is introduced to the court. 

In Amsterdam Peter sees Garrit Kist, a blacksmith he knows.  Peter tells him that he will be working in carpentry in the shipyard for the entire winter.  He meets with his ambassadors from Amsterdam.  Later he receives a letter from Kaiser Leopold.  He says that 12,000 Turks were killed in battle.  The Great Vizer himself has died in battle.  The brother of the Duke of Savoy, Eugene, won a victory and this was his first battle. 

Peter figures that since he is in Amsterdam, he should take advantage of it and go to England.  England is an ally.  The French have teamed up with the Sultan.  But now England urges peace between Kaiser Leopold and the Sultan.  This is frustrating to Peter.


Part II.

In Russia people are upset.  With Tsar Peter in Amsterdam, a lot of rumors are making the rounds of the huge country.  There is talk, for instance, of an imposter being put in Peter' place. 

Tsarevna Sophia Alexeyevna has written the Streltsy, that is, units of Russian guardsmen armed with firearms, 16th-early 18th centuries.  All four regiments are to come and camp by the Pevichy Monastery.  This news soon becomes known and Peter's men are notified.  Alexi Semyoniovich gives the order to stop them at the Istra (name of the river that runs through Voskresenskoe village, later named Istra).

The Streltsy, dressed in red, are just getting up in the morning when Peter's forces, dressed in blue, open fire on them with cannon. 

The news is that Peter is coming back to Russia. 

For punishment, the Streltsy leaders have their heads cut off.  Their Tsarina is taken to a convent.  Coming in to see Peter is Kukui Tsaritsa Anna Mons.  She is with a man who people refer to as "her Kenigsek". 

The boyar's wife Volkova (the old Sanka) arrives  for a party.  It is said that her husband may be sent to Paris and she wants to go there with him.

Admiral Franz Ioannovich Lefort is dying.  Peter is very upset because the man is a friend of his and a damn good admiral. 

Peter kisses Anna Mons passionately. 

At a house warming given by Volkova (the old Sanka), Volkova introduces her brother Artamosha to three princesses.   Sanka's father is Ivan.  He wants to send Artamosha to Europe to study.  Peter meets Artamosha and is very impressed with him, especially his ability to speak French, German, Dutch and other languages

A holy man burns himself, along with some adults and a lot of children in a church. 

Peter comes to dinner with Anna Mons and is not too happy when he sees her with "her Kenigsek".  At dinner they discuss Sweden.  Some believe that Swedish King Charles XII is a fool.   Anna expresses her opinion on Swedish fighting abilities and Peter tells her that the subject is none of her business.  This upsets her and she leaves the table for awhile.  Peter says it is too early to ge involved in Europe and their internal conflicts.  Russia is too busy right now with the Turks. 

Resenting Kenigsek, Peter has him drink a tremendous amount of liquor.  He gets so plastered, that he falls down the steps outside and is knocked unconscious.  He is brought back into the house and laid on a sofa.  Peter rips his necklace from his neck.  He opens the locket attached to it and sees Anna's portrait there.  Peter tells Anna that it's over between them.  He just walks out on her.  Anna cries. 

The ambassadors come to see Peter.  They are given the task of making a lasting peace between Russian and the Sultan.  Peter meets with his admiral.  He tells his staff that the fleet is burdensome for Russia, but only for now. 


Not a very good movie.  You have to know some Russian history if you are going to follow this.  It seems like a bunch of long scenes stuck together.  It deals with the Streltsy Uprising, the fight with the Turks over the fortress at Azov and the build of the Russian naval fleet.  There's not much in the way of battle scenes.  It's not an action movie.  I did like the scene dealing with the showdown between Peter and Anna Mons.  For such a man interested in knowledge and change, it seems foolish for him to concentrate on learning the trades.  Seeing a Tsar working as a craftsman was not very flattering to Peter I.  He could have had other men learn those skills from abroad or hired people from abroad who would have brought the skills to Russia.  The result was more social unrest in Russia.  Not a very smart move. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

The Streltsy Uprising of 1698, a reactionary uprising of the Moscow Streltsy regiments against the changes introduced by Peter the Great.


1695-1696 – the Moscow Streltsy participate in Peter the Great's Azov campaigns. After the battle, they are left in Azov as a garrison.

1697 – the four regiments of Streltsy are unexpectedly sent to Velikiye Luki. On their way there, they start starving and have to carry their own ordnance.

1698 (March) – 175 Streltsy left their regiments and fled to Moscow to file a complaint.

The Streltsy secretly contact with Sophia Alekseyevna (who had been incarcerated at the Novodevichy Monastery) asking for her mediation.

When the runaway Streltsy return to their units they spread discontent among the rest of the units.

1698 (June 6) – Streltsy remove their commanding officers. Four electives from each regiment go to Moscow. Blaming the boyars and foreign advisers, the Streltsy want to punish them.

The objective of the about 4,000 men want to put in Sophia or her alleged lover Vasili Golitsyn.

Peter I orders four regiments (2,300 men) and a cavalry unit under the command of Aleksey Shein and Patrick Gordon to attack the Streltsy.

1698 (June 18) – Peter’s forces defeat the Streltsy not far from the New Jerusalem Monastery (Voskresensky Monastery) 40 km west of Moscow.

57 Streltsy are executed and the rest sent into exile.

1698 (August 25) – Peter I returns.

1698 (September) to 1699 (February) – Peter executes 1182 Streltsy. The young Streltsy (601 of them) are whipped, branded with iron, or sent into exile.

1707 – the final end of the investigation and executions.

The Moscow Streltsy regiments that did not participate in the uprising are disbanded. (All Streltsy and their family members are removed from Moscow.)



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