Peter the Great
Peter the Great (1672–1725) realized that Russia should be westernized to ensure its independence. Already fascinating by mechanical inventions, he studied government and business models of the West. But Peter also believed in starting from the bottom and working his way up. He learned ship building from the Europeans he invited to Russia, and built a ship himself, which he captained as Peter Alekseevich. In 1697, he accompanied an embassy to European courts as a carpenter named Peter Mikhailov. He also served as seaman, soldier, barber and, to the discomfort of his courtiers, as dentist. Peter sent Russians to be educated in the West, and imported skilled labor, military and administrative experts from abroad. He encouraged smoking, but taxed tobacco. Because European men usually were clean shaven, he taxed Russians wearing beards. He modernized the calendar, simplified numerals, and encouraged private industry and mining. Remarkably, Peter managed to modernize Russia without borrowing money for his state but he taxed his citizens instead.