The article below was published in Pinnable’s newsletter in .

Tsar Peter House

A Small House for a Great Man

When Tsar Peter the Great embarked on his Grand Embassy to Western Europe in 1697, one of his objectives was to study the ins & outs of the shipbuilding trade. To do so, he arrived in Zaandam on 18 August to work as a shipbuilder in one the shipyards there, incognito, under the name of Pyotr Mikhaylov. He left for Amsterdam seven days later, after the locals had recognized the strikingly tall stranger and started to annoy him. During his brief stay the Tsar lodged in the rather humble dwelling of blacksmith Gerrit Kist, known today as Tsar Peter House, which is one of the country’s oldest wooden houses (1632). Thanks to its prominent tenant, the house survived the centuries and is now a museum — or, to be precise, the main object in the museum that was built around it in 1896 & 1897.

Tsar Peter House
Peter the Great was here

In 1818, King Willem I purchased the house and presented it as a maternity gift to his daughter-in-law, Anna Pavlovna, the sister of Tsar Alexander I. She had a protective casing erected over the rear section of the house, where her ancestor had resided, and had the front part of the building demolished. Her son King Willem III presented the ‘précieux souvenir historique’ to his great-nephew Tsar Alexander III in 1886, and it was his son Nicholas II, the last Russian monarch, who ordered the construction of the museum building as we know it today. A visit to Tsar Peter House takes some 30 minutes, unless you’re fortunate enough to have curator Farida Guseynova as your hostess, whose stories about Peter the Great and the house & its many distinguished visitors will easily entertain you for twice as long.

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Emperor Peter the Great (1672–1725) is noted for modernizing Russia — which, at the start of his rule, had greatly lagged behind the Western countries — and transforming it into a major power. Through his numerous reforms, Russia made incredible progress in the development of its economy & trade, education, science & culture, and foreign policy.


After Czar Peter I moved to Amsterdam on 25 August, he worked at the East India Company’s Oostenburg Yard, where he helped build the frigate Peter & Paul, named after St Petersburg’s patron saints. The Czar left the city on 6 January 1698 to sail for England, where he learned to appreciate the English plan-based approach to shipbuilding (‘Managing Successful Projects with CZAR’) over the Dutch way of working based on experience.


The neighbourhood of Tsar Peter House dates from around 1900 and is called the ‘Russian Quarter’ because many streets were named after eminent Russians: Tsars Peter I & Nicholas II, Tsarina Catherine I, Fyodor Alekseyevich Golovin & Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov, who both accompanied Peter on his Grand Embassy, and Boris Ivanovich Kurakin, the Russian ambassador to the Dutch Republic in the early 18th century, as well as the noted writers Pushkin, Tolstoy & Chekhov. One street is named after Aleksandr Petrovich Jazykov, who would have been long forgotten if not for the book he wrote in 1872 about Peter the Great’s visits to Zaandam & Amsterdam in the years 1697 & 1717.