The Empress of Russia Catherine II raised the political and cultural life of her country to the European level.
At the birth of the girl was given the name of Sofia Frederic Augustus. Her father, Christian Augustus, was the prince of the small German principality Anhalt-Zerbst, but gained fame by achievements in the military field. The mother of the future Catherine, the princess of Holstein-Gottorp, Johanna Elizabeth, took little care of the upbringing of her daughter. So the girl was raised by the governess.
Catherine’s education was taught by tutors, and, among them, a chaplain, who gave the girl lessons of religion. However, many questions the girl had her own point of view. She also mastered three languages: German, French and Russian.
Entering the royal family of Russia
In 1744 the girl goes with her mother to Russia. The German princess engages with the Grand Duke Peter and accepts Orthodoxy, receiving the name of Catherine at baptism.
August 21, 1745 Catherine marries the heir to the throne of Russia, becoming a crown princess. However, family life was far from happiness.
After long childless years, Catherine II finally produced an heir. Her son Paul was born on September 20, 1754. And then heated debate about who really is the boy’s father. Whatever it was, but her first-born Catherine almost did not see: soon after birth, the child is brought up by the Empress Elizabeth.
Capture of the throne
On December 25, 1761, after the death of Empress Elizabeth, Peter III ascends to the throne, and Catherine becomes the wife of the emperor. However, it has little to do with state affairs. Peter and his wife were frankly cruel. Soon, because of the stubborn support rendered to him by Prussia, Peter becomes alien to many courtiers, secular and military ranks. The founder of what we now call progressive internal state reforms, Peter quarreled with the Orthodox Church, taking away the church lands. And now, six months later, Peter was deposed from the throne as a result of a conspiracy in which Catherine entered with her lover, Russian lieutenant Grigory Orlov, and a number of other persons, in order to seize power. She safely manages to force her husband to abdicate and take control of the empire in their own hands. A few days after the abdication, in one of his estates, in Ropsha, Peter was strangled. What role in the murder of her husband played Catherine, is unclear to this day.
Fearing herself to be thrown off by the opposing forces, Catherine does her best to win the favor of the troops and the church. She recalls the troops sent by Peter to the war against Denmark and encourages and endorses in every way those who cross her side. She even compares herself with Peter the Great, revered by her, declaring that she follows in his footsteps.
Despite the fact that Catherine is a supporter of absolutism, she nevertheless undertakes a number of attempts to carry out social and political reforms. She publishes a document, “The Order”, which proposes to abolish the death penalty and torture, and also proclaims the equality of all people. However, the Senate rejects any attempts to change the feudal system.
After finishing work on the “Nakaz”, in 1767 Catherine summoned representatives of various social and economic strata of the population to form the Commission. The legislative body did not come out of the commission, but its convocation went down in history as the first time when representatives of the Russian people from all over the empire were given the opportunity to express their views on the needs and problems of the country.
Later, in 1785, Catherine issued the Charter of the Nobility, which fundamentally changes politics and challenges the power of the upper classes, under which most of the masses are under oppression of serfdom.
Catherine, a religious skeptic by nature, seeks to subordinate the Orthodox Church to her authority. At the beginning of her reign, she returned the church lands and property, but soon changed her views. The Empress declares the church a part of the state, and therefore all her possessions, including more than a million serfs, become the property of the empire and are taxed.
During her reign, Catherine expanded the boundaries of the Russian Empire. Significant acquisitions she makes in Poland, having previously seated on the throne of the kingdom of his former lover, the Polish prince Stanislaw Poniatowski. Under the agreement of 1772, Catherine gave part of the lands of the Commonwealth of Prussia and Austria, while the eastern part of the kingdom, inhabited by many Russian Orthodox, departs from the Russian Empire.
But such actions cause extreme disapproval of Turkey. In 1774 Catherine concluded peace with the Ottoman Empire, according to which the Russian state receives new lands, and access to the Black Sea. One of the heroes of the Russian-Turkish war was Grigory Potemkin, a reliable adviser and lover of Catherine.
Potemkin, a faithful supporter of the policy of the Empress, and he proved himself as an outstanding statesman. It was he who, in 1783, convinces Catherine to annex Crimea to the empire, thereby strengthening its position on the Black Sea.
Love of education and art
At the time of Catherine’s accession to the throne, Russia for Europe was a backward and provincial state. The Empress with all her might tries to change this opinion, expanding opportunities for new ideas in education and the arts. In St. Petersburg, she founded a boarding school for the girls of noble birth, and later in all cities of Russia open schools.
Catherine patronizes many cultural projects. She conquers the glory of a zealous collector of arts, and most of her collection is exhibited at her residence in St. Petersburg, in the Hermitage.
Catherine, passionately fond of literature, especially favorably refers to the philosophers and writers of the Enlightenment. Endowed with literary talent, the empress describes her own life in a collection of memoirs.
The love life of Catherine II became the subject of many gossip and false facts. Myths about her insatiability are debunked, but this royal person for her life really had a lot of love connections. She could not marry again, because the marriage could shake her position, and therefore in society she had to wear a mask of chastity. But, far from extraneous views, Catherine showed an unusual interest in men.
End of the Board
By 1796, Catherine had, for several decades, absolute power in the empire. And in the last years of government she showed all the same liveliness of mind and fortitude of spirit. But in mid-November 1796, she was found unconscious on the floor in the bathroom. At that time, everyone came to the conclusion that she had had a stroke.
The great Russian Empress Catherine II lived to the next night, but did not come to consciousness. November 17, 1796, she passed away. Her son, Paul, ordered to put next to her coffin and the remains of her father, arranging Peter III funeral, which he was not awarded after the murder. Catherine II and Peter III are buried in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul.
Catherine II made a significant contribution to the development of the Russian Empire, conducting educational reforms and encouraging the development of the arts. During her reign, she expanded the borders of the state with the help of the military power of the empire and her own diplomatic talent.
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