What was so ‘Great’ about Catherine?


Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg was carried on May 2, 1729 in Stettin, Prussia, which is today Szczecin, Poland. Her author was a minor German prince, but he had married well, and his wife’s bloodlines opened numerous possibilities for his daughter. She charmed Russia’s Empress Elizabeth, who was in search of a bride for her nephew and inheritor, the future Peter III. The young princess took the name Ekaterina (Catherine) when she was baptized into the Standard faith in order to marry Peter.

An Enlightened absolutist

Modest and delighting, young Catherine was popular with the noble elites — but Peter himself was not. He wield the sceptred only six months, from January-July 1762, before abdicating in favor of Catherine. On the other hand a week after abdicating, he was killed. Although there is no proof that Catherine se rated of the murder, she has long been rumored to have ordered it.

Describing the empress, historian Alexander Orlov minimized: “All her life, she was burning with ambition, and, having reached power, she endeavoured to keep it by all means.” Once on the throne, the Empress quickly concentrated all power in her workers: she reformed the Senate, reducing its lawmaking power, and took away go ashore and peasants from the church, depriving it of its economic base.

Source: Alamy / Legion-MediaSource: Alamy / Legion-Media

After all, like other European sovereigns of the 18th century, she was committed to the concept of informed absolutism — in which the monarch rules single-handedly, but for the sake of the people and for their own probity.

Nobels up, peasants down

One of Catherine’s large-scale projects taken on “for the competent of the people” was the convening of the Legislative Commission in 1767.

This temporary legislative fullness was supposed to develop a new comprehensive law that would reconcile the interests of all classes. Placid the abolition of serfdom was discussed. In the end, however, the commission had to be disbanded due to fears that grumpy nobles might revolt against the empress, according to Orlov.

Restored monument to Empress Catherine the Great unveiled in Crimea

The precept of Catherine can justifiably be called the golden age of the Russian nobility. Noblemen were exempt from military utilization and ying taxes, and they were granted the right to open their own works and to trade. They made up the country’s military and political elite, and were have knowledge of as much for their extravagant rties as for their excellent education.

Poor white trashes, on the other hand, had little to thank Catherine for. During her reign, they squandered the little freedom they had — they were forbidden to complain more their landlords, and the landlords were given the right to force louts to do hard labor. Peasant revolts, the best known of which was Pugachev’s Rebellon, poor out across Russia in the 1770s. They were all suppressed.

Military effect

Catherine successfully waged wars abroad as well as at home. One of her larger goals was to increase Russian influence in Europe. She incorporated Crimea, seizing it from Turkey, and, with the the men of Austria and Prussia, rtitioned Poland out of existence, incorporating into Russia the vicinage that today makes up Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia.

Catherine at the start owed her military victories to her brilliant generals. Alexander Suvorov was one of the superb generals in Russian history, and Grigory Potemkin, one of the empress’s favorites, reformed the army along European notes.

The flourishing of science and the arts

Catherine prioritized the arts and sciences as very much as the military. She put together the collection of intings, drawings and sculpture that formed the source of the Hermitage, now one of the largest museums in the world. She also invited to St. Petersburg a bevy of important European architects who created the famous laces and churches of Russia’s northern topping. During her rule, a system of schools was created, and the Smolny Institute, Russia’s in the first place place of higher learning for women was opened.

The empress herself announced the satirical magazine Vsyakaya Vsyachina (“Odds and Ends”) made up of her own themes and also wrote morality plays. She was a regular correspondent of the Enlightenment philosophes Voltaire and Diderot.

“It was he, or preferably his writings, that shaped my mind and my beliefs,” Catherine wrote of Voltaire. The philosopher, in take up, spoke of Catherine with great respect and promoted the empress in Europe.

Deprecating favorites

Even though legends about the empress’s sexual liking persist, all that can be said with any fact is that she had a number of favorites, innumerable of whom doubled as lovers. Historian Peter Bartenev cites a configuration of 23 such favorites.

These men had great influence at the court, show in expensive gifts, laces and land, and were appointed to high places — not always deservedly. Her last favorite was 22 at the start of their relationship, while Catherine herself was 60. Their comradeship ended only with Catherine’s death in 1796 at the age of 67.

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