Much of Peter the Great’s inspiration for the sweeping reforms he would make in Russia came from his visit to western Europe in 1697 during the Grand Embassy. Although the mission’s original aim, to secure diplomatic backing against the Ottomans, failed, it provided the tsar with invaluable first-hand experience of the modern technologies behind western Europe’s success. He even spent four months learning the practicalities of shipbuilding in the Netherlands. Upon his return to Russia, Peter enacted widespread economic reforms. Mining development was prioritized as the base of all industry and pig iron production quadrupled between 1700–20. The Great Northern War against Sweden was the main driver behind industrial growth, with 86 new factories being established to meet demands. All industries were owned by the government and made possible through large tax increases and cheap serf labour. A canal system was also built in the western territories, although agriculture remained decidedly primitive.
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