The Russia into which Peter was born, on 9 June 1672, 1 was already in some ways a part of Europe, or rapidly becoming one. It differed radically, none the less, from the states and societies to be found further west. Though much smaller in terms of territory than it was to become under Peter and his successors, it already covered a huge area. In the west it was severed from the Baltic by Sweden’s possession of Finland, Ingria and Estonia. The great fortress-city of Smolensk, only 150 miles west of Moscow, bitterly contested for many years, had been finally wrested from the Poles as recently as 1654, and not until 1667 was the Polish Republic forced to surrender Kiev. Moreover, Russia had no outlet on the Black Sea, from which it was separated by hundreds of miles of largely uninhabited steppe as well as by the Moslem Nogais and Tatars of the Khanate of the Crimea, a vassal-state of the Ottoman empire since the later fifteenth century. Its only usable coastline, on the White Sea in the far north, where the new port of Archangel had been established at the end of the sixteenth century, was blocked by ice for much of the year. In the Caucasus, though its influence was growing, Russia as yet held no territory. It had nevertheless, in spite of these still restricted European frontiers, already shown both the desire and the capacity for territorial growth on a great scale. In the 1550s Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) had made a gigantic forward step by conquering the Tatar khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, thus gaining control of the whole course of the river Volga. From the 1580s onwards the exploration and conquest of Siberia had been pushed ahead with remarkable speed, so that by the 1630s Russian adventurers had already reached the shores of the north Pacific. Long before Peter’s birth, therefore, 2his country had become, in mere size, a giant who dwarfed all the states of Europe.