Peter the Great oversaw a period of modernization and military expansion throughout his reign, bringing Russia to a level of development that was comparable with the monarchies of western Europe. He recognized that Russia needed to expand its maritime presence and as such aimed to secure a warm-water port on the Black Sea. The strength of the Ottoman Empire in the region made this task difficult, however; Peter eventually defeated forces of the Khanate of Crimea and secured the port of Azov in 1696. He then headed an alliance against Charles XII of Sweden in the Great Northern War to secure access to the Baltic Sea. After Charles’s army made its way into Ukraine in 1709, momentum turned in Peter’s favour and he secured a decisive victory. Swedish lands were subsequently ceded to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. Peter had previously founded St Petersburg in 1703 and made it his capital in 1712.
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