So…usually when reading about Peter the Great, you’ll see things like “He Westernized Russia”, “Absolute Ruler”, and “Built Saint Petersburg”. All that stuff is fine and good, but nothing is as cool as finding out he was a total freaking BRO. The dude made your frat parties look like afternoon tea…and he did it every diddlydamn day. According to his closest friends and advisers, Peter…legitimately…NEVER. STOPPED. DRINKING. EVER.
Before the incredibly mature age of ::clears throat:: 18…Peter had a merry band of 100-200 buddies that were known as ‘The Jolly Company‘. This crew traveled throughout the Russian countryside, pounding on the doors of nobleman at all hours, asking for food, shelter, and, of course, booze. They would stay up for days on end getting completely hammered. As Peter and his crew traveled, they gained followers. Eventually, the group became too large to travel with and they opted to settle in Moscow, usually at the home of Peter’s close friend, Lt. General Franz Lefort.
Lefort’s place, expectedly, was getting trashed. Hosting 300+ drunken crazies generally isn’t easy on an establishment. When Lefort brought this to Peter’s attention, Peter built Lefort a new dining hall. Eventually, even this became too small for Peter’s crew. So…Peter built Lefort a mansion that could entertain over 1500 people.
Peter’s group began to evolve. The Jolly Company eventually became known as “The All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jesters”. Their activities were quite similar, but now they began to perform mocking imitations of church rituals. The Drunken Synod had a Prince-Pope, college of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, etc. Peter created a system of commandments and rituals for them to follow, most of them involving…what else…drinking! Peter even held a special vodka baptism for himself (with his friends of course) while he was supposed to be at an annual Russian Orthodox ceremony getting sprinkled with holy water.
Many in Russia thought that Peter was mocking the Russian Orthodox church, a HUGE part of their culture. He was even, at times, called the Antichrist by people in his own country. It wasn’t until Peter told them all he was mocking the Catholic Church, not the Russian Orthodox Churh, that they began to tolerate his group’s antics.
It was widely known that Peter usually quenched his thirst from his infamous ‘Great Eagle‘ cup, which he would fill with well over a liter of vodka, and proceed to POUND in one gulp. He expected everyone else to follow suit. While at ‘The Synod’, you drink until you collapse…or die.
Guests of Peter’s shared a story of their single encounter with Peter at one of the ‘Synod’s’ gatherings. This group initially believed they were spared from the drinking when Peter instructed them to go outside and clear some trees that were blocking a path to the seashore. Well…when they returned they were shocked to find pots and pots of vodka waiting for them. Peter forced them to drink it all. Each of the men passed out…and were awakened within an hour to do it all again. The vodka-fest lasted until nearly 4 am. Talk about hazing.
“The All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jesters” was created when Peter was 18 years old and lasted until his death in 1725. That’s one hell of a party.
So…if you ever cross paths with a ‘bro’ at a party that won’t stop harassing you about not drinking enough, just remember the historical significance of his request, grab your eagle cup, and bottoms up.
Or, you know, don’t give in to peer pressure, up to you.