In 1698, Peter I hastily returned from his first visit to Western Europe determined to crush the streltsy along with their adherence to the old ways and to put into practice his new ideas for the transformation of Russia. As well as cutting off the heads of the streltsy, he cut off the beards of his courtiers, the outward symbols of their adherence to Muscovite tradition. From 1 January 1700, Russia moved closer to the West by adopting the Julian calendar and starting to record time from the birth of Christ rather than from the dawn of creation. Later on in that year, Russia suffered a great defeat in the battle of Narva at the beginning of the Great Northern War against Sweden, and the long journey which then began back to reconstruction of the armed forces, complete victory and a secure foothold on the Baltic has often been seen as the major theme of Peter the Great’s reign. As Pushkin put it, Russia entered the ranks of the great powers like a launched ship with the knock of axes and the roar of cannon.
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