Any discussion of the new Petrine institutions and methods, any attempt to understand the whole drift and nature of Peter’s achievement, must start with the armed forces. It was the demands of the army and navy for men, for equipment, for money and not least for organization and leadership, which inspired many of the most important changes and the most striking innovations of the reign. These demands were, at least for the first twelve years or more of the eighteenth century, crushingly heavy. The life and death struggle with Sweden faced the creaking traditional machinery of government with tasks which it was ill-equipped to fulfil. It imposed upon the Russian people unprecedented burdens. At times, during the crisis of the Great Northern War in 1708–9 and the struggle with the Ottoman empire in 1711–13, it seemed that these tasks might become unmanageable, these burdens unbearable.