Lessons from a toy army

There’s a very interesting article in the current edition of The St. Petersburg Times: Peter’s Great ‘Toy Army’. It’s about Peter the Great, and his response to seeing his uncles murdered in front of him while he was still a child, and waiting to reach adulthood so that he could inherit the throne.

Quite apart from its historical interest, it sheds some light on the Cossack academies that I’ve mentioned in other posts, as well as on Andrey Karimov’s approach to teaching systema:

The establishment and ongoing development of Peter’s toy army is also important for the insights it gives into Peter the Great’s own military education and his approach to military affairs. His military training focused on taking children at a young age and developing their physical strength and agility at the ages of 9 to 12 by playing games and doing gymnastic exercises. The next step was to develop children’s bravery by adding an element of danger to the games by climbing cliffs and ravines, walking on rickety bridges, playing on logs and pretending to be bandits. These games also included guard duty and reconnaissance. The next stage in developing children’s military abilities included teaching them to use weapons — Peter the Great could fire a canon when he was 12. Other technical skills were also taught and a greater focus was placed on discipline, honor and comradeship. Patriotism and purpose were also taught by teaching selective moments of Russia’s history and the dangers and ambitions of neighboring countries. From these classes, children were taught a love of their fatherland and a love for the army.

Image credit: The Preobrazhensky regiment fighting the battle for Paris 30 March 1814, with the Montmartre in the background. Sourced from Wikicommons media under a Creative Commons license.

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