May 2 marks 300 years since the death of Prince Vasily Vasilyevich Golitsyn in remote northern exile. Just 30 years earlier, Golitsyn had been at the pinnacle of power.
The favorite of Tsarevna Sofia and de facto ruler of the Russian state, whose borders he played a role in expanding, the prince was a committed Westernizer. His house in Moscow – filled with books in many languages, maps of the world, paintings by European artists, and mirrors, all extremely out of place in the Russia of his day – was a little island of Europe in the era immediately preceding Peter the Great's westernizing reign.
In order to strengthen Russia's ties with Europe, Golitsyn invited foreigners to Moscow and helped found the Slavic Greek Latin Academy. He also had plans to transform the army and develop trade. Alas, all these endeavors were stopped in their tracks once the future Peter the Great, still a boy, replaced his sister Sofia on the throne and locked her away in a convent, sending Golitsyn into exile.
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