Above: Peter the Great As a Shipwright in Holland. From a painting by Cogen. Click here to enlarge..
Peter the Great went "undercover" throughout Europe, eager to learn firsthand the ways in which the nations of Europe surpassed Russia technologically (and in other ways). Peter was impressed by what he found, and upon his return to Russia, he vigorously carried out his campaign of westernization.
Peter built a Western-facing city (St. Petersburg, later, Petrograd, later still, Leningrad). Peter initiated numerous social reforms, including a beard tax on boyars (Russian nobles). Peter's beard tax was an attempt to make the Russian nobility abandon its "medieval" styles in favor of more current European fashions.
Above, left: Following an upset regarding Peter's inheritance of the throne, the life of Peter I was saved at the foot of an altar.