Books: Russia's Giant

PETER THE GREAT: HIS LIFE AND WORLD

by Robert K. Massie Knopf; 909 pages; $17.95

In 1698, when Peter the Great returned to Moscow from a voyage to Europe, the 26-year-old Tsar horrified his male subjects with a stern proclamation: they were to cut off their beards immediately. No matter that to the elders of the Orthodox Church, beardlessness was godlessness. Most of the up-to-date Westerners Peter had seen had been clean-shaven, so off came the beards in his own land — first among the courtiers at the Kremlin, sometimes with Peter's good-humored but...

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