Under Catherine the Great were all officers appointed for five years?

Under Catherine the Great were all officers appointed for five years?

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I noticed that the chief commandants of Kamchatka seemed to serve terms of about five years (Koselev 1802-1807, Petrovskii 1807-1813, Rudakov 1813-1817). Their rank (IV) qualified them to be made regional commandant, and I have no idea how long they spent at rank IV, but they spent five years in charge.

Lots of sources describe decades of total service to the army, but I haven't found anything on the specific appointments making up officers' careers. A few years earlier, Catherine the Great established a rule that civil servants would get automatic promotions every seven years.

Were Imperial army officers' appointments to specific garrisons or companies all five years long?

You mistake service length (25 years, in this case) with time served in a certain rank (5 years, here).

Times have changed, but to become a general officer takes a lot of time, practice and experience. Usually more than 20 years. On the military cursus honorum * one has to serve in each rank a certain number of years, before being promoted to the next rank. One simply cannot become general within those 25 years. (Unless one is - in this period - of noble birth, has connections, etc.)

In many armies today the break point is the rank of major. It's relatively easy to become lieutenant and captain. The next step is far more difficult. Only a few captains make it to major. Many captains remain in that rank until they retire or resign (depends very much on the period - this is general).

The next big hurdle is from colonel to general. Only a few colonels are promoted to general. Again, many colonels (pending time period) remain colonel or resign if they are passed over for promotion.

Assume 2-10 years in each rank. 2 ranks of lieutenant, captain, major, ltn-col, col, brig-gen. Add that up: you'll need those 25 years to become general.

*= cursus honorom here is the usual path for promotion

The Messed Up Truth Of Catherine The Great

Catherine II, or Catherine the Great as she's best known today, has earned her place in history as one of Russia's best-remembered rulers and one of the world's most influential queens. She was never even supposed to rule — that was supposed to be her husband, Emperor Peter III. However, through sheer intelligence and cunning, Catherine not only managed to escape a miserable political marriage, but she successfully wrested power away from her husband and claimed the Russian throne for herself. She held power in Russia for the next 35 years — up until her death — making her the longest-reigning female ruler in Russian history.

Catherine is credited for shifting Russia from a provincial, rustic country to a paragon of European splendor and power. There have been many stories about the legendary monarch, and new interest in the infamous Russian Empress has been sparked thanks to Hulu's new series, The Great — loosely based on the monarch's early years. But the real story of Catherine the Great shows that the truth can be stranger than fiction.

Female artists

Catherine's rule brought about something of a golden period for female artists. While it was Peter I (reign 1682-1725) that brought about reforms that gave women greater freedom to pursue education it was during the mid-18th century, the time that Catherine the Great rose to power, that female artists also rose in Russia.

"Brandishing their newly won literacy, Russian women writers and poets, followed closely by Russian women composers, set pen to paper, starting in the mid-1700s," wrote Anne Harley, a professor of music at Scripps College, in a paper published in 2015 in the "Journal of Singing."

These female artists tended to be from the aristocratic class but they followed the lead of Catherine II ("the great") and other women who held power in Russia in the 18th century. "These female aristocrats followed a new model of empowered and extremely cultured womanhood, modeled by four women who ruled the Russian empire for more than two-thirds of the 18th century: Catherine I, Anna, Elisabeth, and Catherine II," wrote Harley in her paper.

Among the most prolific Russian female artists was Princess Natalia Ivanovna Kurakina (lived 1768-1831) who wrote at least 45 songs. "Kurakina's songs were so popular that Breitkopf (Petersburg) published a collection of eight of her French romances in 1795," wrote Harley.

2 Partition of Poland

Russia, Prussia and Austria saw Poland as a problem. Sandwiched between the three powers, the country's insistence on independence became a thorn of contention. In 1763, Catherine assisted Stanislaw Poniatowski, a former lover, in becoming king of Poland. She thought the grateful king would reward her by becoming a puppet to Russian interests. Instead, Poniatowski introduced reforms designed to make Poland more independent from its neighbors. In 1772, the frustrated Catherine, together with Prussia and Austria, seized substantial portions of Polish territory. The three states made agreements in 1772, 1793 and 1795 to divide Poland between them, resulting in the elimination of Poland as an independent nation. It would be 1918 before Poland would regain its sovereignty.

Reign (1762–96)

Coronation (1762)

On 28 June 1762, with the aid of her lover Grigory Orlov, Catherine rallied the troops of Saint Petersburg to her support and declared herself Catherine II, the sovereign ruler of Russia, later naming her son Paul as her heir. She had Peter arrested and forced him to sign an act of abdication. When he sought permission to leave the country, she refused it, intending to hold him prisoner for life. He had only a few days to live, though, as shortly after his arrest, he was strangled to death by Catherine's supporters though, no one knows what part Catherine had in Peter's death. [27] She was crowned at the Assumption Cathedral in Moscow on 22 September 1762. [28] Catherine's coronation marks the creation of one of the main treasures of the Romanov dynasty, the Imperial Crown of Russia, designed by Swiss-French court diamond jeweller Jérémie Pauzié. Inspired by the Byzantine Empire design, the crown was constructed of two gold and silver half spheres, representing the eastern and western Roman empires, divided by a foliate garland and fastened with a low hoop. The crown contains 75 pearls and 4,936 Indian diamonds forming laurel and oak leaves, the symbols of power and strength, and is surmounted by a 398.62-carat ruby spinel that previously belonged to the Empress Elizabeth, and a diamond cross.

The crown was produced in a record two months and weighed only 2.3 kg. [29] From 1762, the Great Imperial Crown was the coronation crown of all Romanov emperors, till the monarchy’s abolition and the death of last Romanov, Nicholas II, in 1918. It is one of the main treasures of the Romanov dynasty, and is now on display in the Moscow Kremlin Armoury Museum in Russia. [30]

Foreign affairs

During her reign, Catherine extended the borders of the Russian Empire southward and westward to absorb New Russia, Crimea, Northern Caucasus, Right-bank Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Courland at the expense, mainly, of two powers – the Ottoman Empire and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. All told, she added some 200,000 square miles (520,000 km 2 ) to Russian territory.

Catherine's foreign minister, Nikita Panin (in office 1763–81), exercised considerable influence from the beginning of her reign. A shrewd statesman, Panin dedicated much effort and millions of rubles to setting up a "Northern Accord" between Russia, Prussia, Poland, and Sweden, to counter the power of the Bourbon–Habsburg League. When it became apparent that his plan could not succeed, Panin fell out of favour and Catherine had him replaced with Ivan Osterman (in office 1781–97).

Catherine agreed to a commercial treaty with Great Britain in 1766, but stopped short of a full military alliance. [31] Although she could see the benefits of Britain's friendship, she was wary of Britain's increased power following its victory in the Seven Years' War, which threatened the European balance of power.

Russo-Turkish Wars

While Peter the Great had succeeded only in gaining a toehold in the south on the edge of the Black Sea in the Azov campaigns, Catherine completed the conquest of the south. Catherine made Russia the dominant power in south-eastern Europe after her first Russo-Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire (1768–74), which saw some of the heaviest defeats in Turkish history, including the Battle of Chesma (5–7 July 1770) and the Battle of Kagul (21 July 1770).

The Russian victories allowed Catherine's government to obtain access to the Black Sea and to incorporate present-day southern Ukraine, where the Russians founded the new cities of Odessa, Nikolayev, Yekaterinoslav (literally: "the Glory of Catherine" the future Dnepropetrovsk), and Kherson. The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, signed 10 July 1774, gave the Russians territories at Azov, Kerch, Yenikale, Kinburn, and the small strip of Black Sea coast between the rivers Dnieper and Bug. The treaty also removed restrictions on Russian naval or commercial traffic in the Azov Sea, granted to Russia the position of protector of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire, and made the Crimea a protectorate of Russia.

Catherine annexed the Crimea in 1783, nine years after the Crimean Khanate had gained nominal independence—which had been guaranteed by Russia—from the Ottoman Empire as a result of her first war against the Turks. The palace of the Crimean khans passed into the hands of the Russians. In 1787, Catherine conducted a triumphal procession in the Crimea, which helped provoke the next Russo–Turkish War.

The Ottomans restarted hostilities in the second Russo-Turkish War (1787–92). This war, catastrophic for the Ottomans, ended with the Treaty of Jassy (1792), which legitimised the Russian claim to the Crimea and granted the Yedisan region to Russia.

Russo-Persian War

In accordance with the Treaty of Georgievsk (1783) Russia had signed with the Georgians to protect them against any new invasion of their Persian suzerains and further political aspirations, Catherine waged a new war against Persia in 1796 after they, under the new king Agha Mohammad Khan, had again invaded Georgia and established rule over it in 1795 and had expelled the newly established Russian garrisons in the Caucasus. The ultimate goal for the Russian government however was to topple the anti-Russian shah (king), and to replace him with a half-brother, namely Morteza Qoli Khan, who had defected to Russia, and was therefore pro-Russian. [32] [33]

It was widely expected that a 13,000-strong Russian corps would be led by a seasoned general (Gudovich)—but the Empress followed the advice of her lover, Prince Zubov, and entrusted the command to his youthful brother, Count Valerian Zubov. The Russian troops set out from Kizlyar in April 1796 and stormed the key fortress of Derbent on 10 May. The event was glorified by the court poet Derzhavin in his famous ode he later commented bitterly on Zubov's inglorious return from the expedition in another remarkable poem.

By mid-June, Zubov's troops overran without any resistance most of the territory of modern-day Azerbaijan, including three principal cities — Baku, Shemakha, and Ganja. By November, they were stationed at the confluence of the Araks and Kura Rivers, poised to attack mainland Iran.

In that month, the Empress of Russia died and her successor Paul, who detested the Zubovs and had other plans for the army, ordered the troops to retreat to Russia. This reversal aroused the frustration and enmity of the powerful Zubovs and other officers who took part in the campaign: many of them would be among the conspirators who arranged Paul's murder five years later.

Relations with Western Europe

Catherine longed for recognition as an enlightened sovereign. She pioneered for Russia the role that Britain later played through most of the 19th and early 20th centuries as an international mediator in disputes that could, or did, lead to war. She acted as mediator in the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778–79) between the German states of Prussia and Austria. In 1780, she established a League of Armed Neutrality, designed to defend neutral shipping from the British Royal Navy during the American Revolution.

From 1788 to 1790, Russia fought a war against Sweden, a conflict instigated by Catherine's cousin, King Gustav III of Sweden, who expected to simply overtake the Russian armies still engaged in war against the Ottoman Turks, and hoped to strike Saint Petersburg directly. But Russia's Baltic Fleet checked the Royal Swedish navy in a tied battle of Hogland (July 1788), and the Swedish army failed to advance. Denmark declared war on Sweden in 1788 (the Theatre War). After the decisive defeat of the Russian fleet at the Battle of Svensksund in 1790, the parties signed the Treaty of Värälä (14 August 1790), returning all conquered territories to their respective owners and confirming the Treaty of Åbo. Peace ensued for 20 years, aided by the assassination of Gustav III in 1792.

Partitions of Poland

In 1764, Catherine placed Stanisław August Poniatowski, her former lover, on the Polish throne. Although the idea of partitioning Poland came from the King Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine took a leading role in carrying it out in the 1790s. In 1768, she formally became protector of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, which provoked an anti-Russian uprising in Poland, the Confederation of Bar (1768–72). After the uprising broke down due to internal politics in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, she established in the Rzeczpospolita, a system of government fully controlled by the Russian Empire through a Permanent Council, under the supervision of her ambassadors and envoys.

After the French Revolution of 1789, Catherine rejected many principles of the Enlightenment she had once viewed favourably. Afraid the May Constitution of Poland (1791) might lead to a resurgence in the power of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the growing democratic movements inside the Commonwealth might become a threat to the European monarchies, Catherine decided to intervene in Poland. She provided support to a Polish antireform group known as the Targowica Confederation. After defeating Polish loyalist forces in the Polish–Russian War of 1792 and in the Kościuszko Uprising (1794), Russia completed the partitioning of Poland, dividing all of the remaining Commonwealth territory with Prussia and Austria (1795).

Relations with Japan

In the Far East, Russians became active in fur trapping in Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands. This spurred Russian interest in opening trade with Japan to the south for supplies and food. In 1783, storms drove a Japanese sea captain, Daikokuya Kōdayū, ashore in the Aleutian Islands, at that time Russian territory. Russian local authorities helped his party, and the Russian government decided to use him as a trade envoy. On 28 June 1791, Catherine granted Daikokuya an audience at Tsarskoye Selo. Subsequently, in 1792, the Russian government dispatched a trade mission to Japan, led by Adam Laxman. The Tokugawa shogunate received the mission, but negotiations failed.

Economics and finance

The economic development was well below the standards in western Europe. Historian Francois Cruzet says her Russia:

had neither a free peasantry, nor a significant middle class, nor legal norms hospitable to private enterprise. Still, there was a start of industry, mainly textiles around Moscow and ironworks in the Ural Mountains, with a labor force mainly of serfs, bound to the works. [34]

Catherine strongly encouraged the migration of the Volga Germans—farmers from Germany who settled mostly in the Volga River Valley region. They indeed helped modernize the sector that totally dominated the Russian economy. They introduced numerous innovations regarding wheat production and flour milling, tobacco culture, sheep raising, and small-scale manufacturing. [35] [36]

In 1768, the Assignation Bank was given the task of issuing the first government paper money. It opened in St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1769. Several bank branches were afterwards established in other towns, called government towns. Paper notes were issued upon payment of similar sums in copper money, which were also refunded upon the presentation of those notes. The emergence of these Assignation rubles was necessary due to large government spending on military needs, which led to a shortage of silver in the treasury (transactions, especially in foreign trade, were conducted almost exclusively in silver and gold coins). Assignation rubles circulated on equal footing with the silver ruble a market exchange rate for these two currencies was ongoing. The use of these notes continued until 1849. [37]

Arts and culture

Catherine had a reputation as a patron of the arts, literature, and education. The Hermitage Museum, which now occupies the whole Winter Palace, began as Catherine's personal collection. At the instigation of her factotum, Ivan Betskoy, she wrote a manual for the education of young children, drawing from the ideas of John Locke, and founded (1764) the famous Smolny Institute, which admitted young girls of the nobility.

She wrote comedies, fiction, and memoirs, while cultivating Voltaire, Diderot, and d'Alembert—all French encyclopedists, who later cemented her reputation in their writings. The leading economists of her day, such as Arthur Young and Jacques Necker, became foreign members of the Free Economic Society, established on her suggestion in Saint Petersburg in 1765. She recruited the scientists Leonhard Euler and Peter Simon Pallas from Berlin and Anders Johan Lexell from Sweden to the Russian capital.

Catherine enlisted Voltaire to her cause, and corresponded with him for 15 years, from her accession to his death in 1778. He lauded her accomplishments, calling her "The Star of the North" and the "Semiramis of Russia" (in reference to the legendary Queen of Babylon, a subject on which he published a tragedy in 1768). Though she never met him face to face, she mourned him bitterly when he died. She acquired his collection of books from his heirs, and placed them in the National Library of Russia.

Within a few months of her accession in 1762, having heard the French government threatened to stop the publication of the famous French Encyclopédie on account of its irreligious spirit, Catherine proposed to Diderot that he should complete his great work in Russia under her protection.

Four years later, in 1766, she endeavoured to embody in legislation the principles of Enlightenment she learned from studying the French philosophers. She called together at Moscow a Grand Commission—almost a consultative parliament—composed of 652 members of all classes (officials, nobles, burghers, and peasants) and of various nationalities. The Commission had to consider the needs of the Russian Empire and the means of satisfying them. The Empress herself prepared the "Instructions for the Guidance of the Assembly", pillaging (as she frankly admitted) the philosophers of Western Europe, especially Montesquieu and Cesare Beccaria.

As many of the democratic principles frightened her more moderate and experienced advisors, she refrained from immediately putting them into practice. After holding more than 200 sittings, the so-called Commission dissolved without getting beyond the realm of theory.

In spite of this, Catherine began issuing codes to address some of the modernisation trends suggested in her Nakaz. In 1775, the Empress decreed a Statute for the Administration of the Provinces of the Russian Empire. The statute sought to efficiently govern Russia by increasing population and dividing the country into provinces and districts. By the end of her reign, 50 provinces and nearly 500 districts were created, more than double the government officials were appointed, and they were spending six times as much as previously on local government. In 1785, Catherine conferred on the nobility the Charter to the Nobility, increasing further the power of the landed oligarchs. Nobles in each district elected a Marshal of the Nobility, who spoke on their behalf to the monarch on issues of concern to them, mainly economic ones. In the same year, Catherine issued the Charter of the Towns, which distributed all people into six groups as a way to limit the power of nobles and create a middle estate. Catherine also issued the Code of Commercial Navigation and Salt Trade Code of 1781, the Police Ordinance of 1782, and the Statute of National Education of 1786. In 1777, the Empress described to Voltaire her legal innovations within a backward Russia as progressing "little by little".

During Catherine's reign, Russians imported and studied the classical and European influences that inspired the Russian Enlightenment. Gavrila Derzhavin, Denis Fonvizin, and Ippolit Bogdanovich laid the groundwork for the great writers of the 19th century, especially for Alexander Pushkin. Catherine became a great patron of Russian opera.

When Alexander Radishchev published his Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 1790 (one year after the start of the French Revolution) and warned of uprisings because of the deplorable social conditions of the peasants held as serfs, Catherine exiled him to Siberia.

Catherine also received Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (formerly court painter to Marie Antoinette) at her Tsarskoye Selo residence in St Petersburg, by whom she was painted shortly before her death. Madame Vigée Le Brun vividly describes the empress in her memoirs: "the sight of this famous woman so impressed me that I found it impossible to think of anything: I could only stare at her. Firstly I was very surprised at her small stature I had imagined her to be very tall, as great as her fame. She was also very fat, but her face was still beautiful, and she wore her white hair up, framing it perfectly. Her genius seemed to rest on her forehead, which was both high and wide. Her eyes were soft and sensitive, her nose quite Greek, her colour high and her features expressive. She addressed me immediately in a voice full of sweetness, if a little throaty: "I am delighted to welcome you here, Madame, your reputation runs before you. I am very fond of the arts, especially painting. I am no connoisseur, but I am a great art lover."

Madame Vigée Le Brun also describes the empress at a gala: "The double doors opened and the Empress appeared. I have said that she was quite small, and yet on the days when she made her public appearances, with her head held high, her eagle-like stare and a countenance accustomed to command, all this gave her such an air of majesty that to me she might have been Queen of the World she wore the sashes of three orders, and her costume was both simple and regal it consisted of a muslin tunic embroidered with gold fastened by a diamond belt, and the full sleeves were folded back in the Asiatic style. Over this tunic she wore a red velvet dolman with very short sleeves. The bonnet which held her white hair was not decorated with ribbons, but with the most beautiful diamonds."


Catherine held western European philosophies and culture close to her heart, and she wanted to surround herself with like-minded people within Russia. [38] She believed a 'new kind of person' could be created by inculcating Russian children with European education. Catherine believed education could change the hearts and minds of the Russian people and turn them away from backwardness. This meant developing individuals both intellectually and morally, providing them knowledge and skills, and fostering a sense of civic responsibility. [39]

Catherine appointed Ivan Betskoy as her advisor on educational matters. [40] Through him, she collected information from Russia and other countries about educational institutions. She also established a commission composed of T.N. Teplov, T. von Klingstedt, F.G. Dilthey, and the historian G. Muller. She consulted British education pioneers, particularly the Rev. Daniel Dumaresq and Dr John Brown. [41] In 1764, she sent for Dumaresq to come to Russia and then appointed him to the educational commission. The commission studied the reform projects previously installed by I.I. Shuvalov under Elizabeth and under Peter III. They submitted recommendations for the establishment of a general system of education for all Russian orthodox subjects from the age of 5 to 18, excluding serfs. [42] However, no action was taken on any recommendations put forth by the commission due to the calling of the Legislative Commission. In July 1765, Dumaresq wrote to Dr. John Brown about the commission’s problems and received a long reply containing very general and sweeping suggestions for education and social reforms in Russia. Dr. Brown argued, in a democratic country, education ought to be under the state’s control and based on an education code. He also placed great emphasis on the "proper and effectual education of the female sex" two years prior, Catherine had commissioned Ivan Betskoy to draw up the General Programme for the Education of Young People of Both Sexes. [43] This work emphasised the fostering of the creation of a 'new kind of people' raised in isolation from the damaging influence of a backward Russian environment. [44] The Establishment of the Moscow Foundling Home (Moscow Orphanage) was the first attempt at achieving that goal. It was charged with admitting destitute and extramarital children to educate them in any way the state deemed fit. Since the Moscow Foundling Home was not established as a state-funded institution, it represented an opportunity to experiment with new educational theories. However, the Moscow Foundling Home was unsuccessful, mainly due to extremely high mortality rates, which prevented many of the children from living long enough to develop into the enlightened subjects the state desired. [45]

Not long after the Moscow Foundling Home, Catherine established the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls to educate females. The Smolny Institute was the first of its kind in Russia. At first, the Institute only admitted young girls of the noble elite, but eventually it began to admit girls of the petit-bourgeoisie, as well. [46] The girls who attended the Smolny Institute, Smolyanki, were often accused of being ignorant of anything that went on in the world outside the walls of the Smolny buildings. Within the walls of the Institute, they were taught impeccable French, musicianship, dancing, and complete awe of the Monarch. At the Institute, enforcement of strict discipline was central to its philosophy. Running and games were forbidden, and the building was kept particularly cold because too much warmth was believed to be harmful to the developing body, as was excess play. [47]

During 1768–1774, no progress was made in setting up a national school system. [48] Catherine continued to investigate educational theory and practice of other countries. She made many educational reforms despite the lack of a national school system. The remodelling of the Cadet Corps 1766 initiated many educational reforms. It then began to take children from a very young age and educate them until the age of 21. The curriculum was broadened from the professional military curriculum to include the sciences, philosophy, ethics, history, and international law. This policy in the Cadet Corps influenced the teaching in the Naval Cadet Corps and in the Engineering and Artillery Schools. After the war and the defeat of Pugachev, Catherine laid the obligation to establish schools at the guberniya—a provincial subdivision of the Russian empire ruled by a governor—on the Boards of Social Welfare set up with the participation of elected representatives from the three free estates. [49]

By 1782, Catherine arranged another advisory commission to study the information gathered about the educational systems of many different countries. [50] A system produced by a mathematician, Franz Aepinus, stood out in particular. He was strongly in favour of the adoption of the Austrian three-tier model of trivial, real, and normal schools at village, town, and provincial capital levels. In addition to the advisory commission, Catherine established a Commission of National Schools under Pyotr Zavadovsky. This commission was charged with organising a national school network, training the teachers, and providing the textbooks. On 5 August 1786, the Russian Statute of National Education was promulgated. [51] The statute established a two-tier network of high schools and primary schools in guberniya capitals that were free of charge, open to all of the free classes (not serfs), and co-educational. It also regulated, in detail, the subjects to be taught at every age and the method of teaching. In addition to the textbooks translated by the commission, teachers were provided with the "Guide to Teachers". This work, divided into four parts, dealt with teaching methods, the subjects taught, the behaviour of the teacher, and the running of a school. [51]

Judgment of the 19th century was generally critical, claiming that Catherine failed to supply enough money to support her educational programme. [52] Two years after the implementation of Catherine’s programme, a member of the National Commission inspected the institutions established. Throughout Russia, the inspectors encountered a patchy response. While the nobility put up appreciable amounts of money for these institutions, they preferred to send their children to private, more prestigious institutions. Also, the townspeople tended to turn against the junior schools and their pedagogical methods. An estimated 62,000 pupils were being educated in some 549 state institutions near the end of Catherine’s reign. This was only a minuscule number of people compared to the size of the Russian population. [53]

Religious affairs

Catherine's apparent whole-hearted adoption of all things Russian (including Orthodoxy) may have prompted her personal indifference to religion. She nationalised all of the church lands, to help pay for her wars, largely emptied the monasteries, and forced most of the remaining clergymen to survive as farmers or from fees for baptisms and other services. Very few members of the nobility entered the Church, which became even less important than before. She did not allow dissenters to build chapels, and she suppressed religious dissent after the onset of the French Revolution. [54]

However, Catherine promoted Christianity in her anti-Ottoman policy, promoting the protection and fostering of Christians under Turkish rule. She placed strictures on Roman Catholics (ukaz of 23 February 1769), mainly Polish, and attempted to assert and extend state control over them in the wake of the partitions of Poland. [55] Nevertheless, Catherine's Russia provided an asylum and a base for regrouping to the Jesuits following the suppression of the Jesuits in most of Europe in 1773. [55]


Catherine took many different approaches to Islam during her reign. Between 1762 and 1773, Muslims were actively prohibited from owning any Orthodox serfs. They were also pressured into Orthodoxy through monetary incentives. [56] Catherine promised more serfs of all religions, as well as amnesty for convicts, if Muslims chose to convert to Orthodoxy. [57] However, the Legislative Commission of 1767 offered several seats to people professing the Islamic faith. This commission promised to protect their religious rights, but did not do so. Many Orthodox peasants felt threatened by the sudden change, and burned mosques as a sign of their displeasure. [57] Catherine chose to assimilate Islam into the state rather than eliminate it when public outcry against equality got too disruptive. After the "Toleration of All Faiths" Edict of 1773, Muslims were permitted to build mosques and practise all of their traditions, the most obvious of these being the pilgrimage to Mecca, which had been denied previously. [58] Catherine created the Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly to help regulate Muslim-populated regions, as well as regulate the instruction and ideals of mullahs. The positions on the Assembly were appointed and paid for by Catherine and her government, as a way of regulating the religious affairs of her nation. [59]

In 1785, Catherine approved the subsidisation of new mosques and new town settlements for Muslims. This was another attempt to organise and passively control the outer fringes of her country. By building new settlements with mosques placed in them, Catherine attempted to ground many of the nomadic people who wandered through southern Russia. [60] In 1786, she assimilated the Islamic schools into the Russian public school system, to be regulated by the government. The plan was another attempt to force nomadic people to settle. This allowed the Russian government to control more people, especially those who previously had not fallen under the jurisdiction of Russian law. [61]


Russia often treated Judaism as a separate entity, where Jews were maintained with a separate legal and bureaucratic system. Although the government knew that Judaism existed, Catherine and her advisers had no real definition of what a "Jew" is, since the term meant many things during her reign. [62] Judaism was a small, if not nonexistent, religion in Russia until 1772. When Catherine agreed to the First Partition of Poland, the large new Jewish element was treated as a separate people, defined by their religion. In keeping with their treatment in Poland, Catherine allowed the Jews to separate themselves from Orthodox society, with certain restrictions. She levied additional taxes on the followers of Judaism if a family converted to the Orthodox faith, that additional tax was lifted. [63] Jewish members of society were required to pay double the tax of their Orthodox neighbours. Converted Jews could gain permission to enter the merchant class and farm as free peasants under Russian rule. [64] [65]

In an attempt to assimilate the Jews into Russia’s economy, Catherine included them under the rights and laws of the Charter of the Towns of 1782. [66] While this presented some benefits for Jews—they received recognition as equals to any Orthodox citizen—many people attempted to take advantage of this equality. Orthodox Russians disliked the inclusion of Judaism, mainly for economic reasons many Jews were bankers and merchants. Catherine tried to keep the Jews away from certain economic spheres, even under the guise of equality in 1790, she banned Jewish citizens from Moscow’s middle class. [67]

In 1785, Catherine declared Jews to be officially foreigners, with foreigners’ rights. [68] This re-established the separate identity that Judaism maintained in Russia throughout the Jewish Haskalah. Catherine’s decree also denied Jews the rights of an Orthodox or naturalised citizen of Russia. Taxes doubled again for those of Jewish descent in 1794, and Catherine officially declared that Jews bore no relation to Russians.

Russian Orthodoxy

In many ways, the Orthodox Church fared no better than its foreign counterparts during the reign of Catherine. Under her leadership, she completed what Peter III had started the church's lands were expropriated, and the budget of both monasteries and bishoprics were controlled by the College of Economy. [69] Endowments from the government replaced income from privately held lands. The endowments were often much less than the original intended amount. [70] She closed 569 of 954 monasteries and only 161 got government money. Only 400,000 rubles of church wealth were paid back. [71] While other religions (such as Islam) received invitations to the Legislative Commission, the Orthodox clergy did not receive a single seat. [70] Their place in government was restricted severely during the years of Catherine's reign. [54]

In 1762, to help mend the rift between the Orthodox church and a sect that called themselves the Old Believers, Catherine passed an act that allowed Old Believers to practise their faith openly without interference. [72] While claiming religious tolerance, she intended to recall the Believers into the official church. They refused to comply, and in 1764, she deported over 20,000 Old Believers to Siberia on the grounds of their faith. [72] In later years, Catherine amended her thoughts. Old Believers were allowed to hold elected municipal positions after the Urban Charter of 1785, and she promised religious freedom to those who wished to settle in Russia. [73] [74]

Religious education was also strictly reviewed. At first, she simply attempted to revise clerical studies, proposing a reform of religious schools. This reform never progressed beyond the planning stages. By 1786, Catherine excluded all religion and clerical studies programmes from lay education. [75] By separating the public interests from those of the church, Catherine began a secularisation of the day-to-day workings of Russia. She transformed the clergy from a group that wielded great power over the Russian government and its people to a segregated community forced to depend on the state for compensation. [70]

Personal life

Catherine, throughout her long reign, took many lovers, often elevating them to high positions [76] for as long as they held her interest, and then pensioning them off with gifts of serfs and large estates. The percentage of state money spent on the court increased from 10.4% in 1767 to 11.4% in 1781 to 13.5% in 1795. Catherine gave away 66,000 serfs from 1762–72, 202,000 from 1773–93, and 100,000 in one day: 18 August 1795. [77] :119 Just as the church supported her, hoping to get their land back, Catherine bought the support of the bureaucracy. From 19 April 1764, any bureaucrat holding the same rank for seven years or more got instantly promoted. On 13 September 1767, Catherine decreed that after seven years in one rank, civil servants would be automatically promoted regardless of office or merit. [78]

After her affair with her lover and adviser Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin ended in 1776, he allegedly selected a candidate-lover for her who had the physical beauty and mental faculties to hold her interest (such as Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov and Nicholas Alexander Suk [79] ). Some of these men loved her in return, and she always showed generosity towards them, even after the affair ended. One of her lovers, Pyotr Zavadovsky, received 50,000 rubles, a pension of 5,000 rubles, and 4,000 peasants in Ukraine after she dismissed him in 1777. [80] The last of her lovers, Prince Zubov, was 40 years her junior. Her sexual independence led to many of the legends about her. [81]

Catherine kept near Tula, away from her court, her illegitimate son by Grigori Orlov, Alexis Bobrinskoy (later created Count Bobrinskoy by Paul).


Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, the British ambassador to Russia, offered Stanisław Poniatowski a place in the embassy in return for gaining Catherine as an ally. Poniatowski, through his mother's side, came from the Czartoryski family, prominent members of the pro-Russian faction in Poland. Catherine, 26 years old and already married to the then-Grand Duke Peter for some 10 years, met the 22-year-old Poniatowski in 1755, therefore well before encountering the Orlov brothers. In 1757, Poniatowski served in the British forces during the Seven Years' War, thus severing close relationships with Catherine. She bore him a daughter named Anna Petrovna in December 1757 (not to be confused with Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia, the daughter of Peter I's second marriage).

King Augustus III of Poland died in 1763, so Poland needed to elect a new ruler. Catherine supported Poniatowski as a candidate to become the next king. She sent the Russian army into Poland to avoid possible disputes. Russia invaded Poland on 26 August 1764, threatening to fight, and imposing Poniatowski as king. Poniatowski accepted the throne, and thereby put himself under Catherine's control. News of Catherine's plan spread and Frederick II (others say the Ottoman sultan) warned her that if she tried to conquer Poland by marrying Poniatowski, all of Europe would oppose her. She had no intention of marrying him, having already given birth to Orlov's child and to the Grand Duke Paul by then. She told Poniatowski to marry someone else to remove all suspicion. Poniatowski refused.

Prussia (through the agency of Prince Henry), Russia (under Catherine), and Austria (under Maria Theresa) began preparing the ground for the partitions of Poland. In the first partition, 1772, the three powers split 20,000 square miles (52,000 km 2 ) between them. Russia got territories east of the line connecting, more or less, Riga–Polotsk–Mogilev. In the second partition, in 1793, Russia received the most land, from west of Minsk almost to Kiev and down the river Dnieper, leaving some spaces of steppe down south in front of Ochakov, on the Black Sea. Later uprisings in Poland led to the third partition in 1795, one year before Catherine's death. Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation until 1918, in the aftermath of World War I.


Grigory Orlov, the grandson of a rebel in the Streltsy Uprising (1698) against Peter the Great, distinguished himself in the Battle of Zorndorf (25 August 1758), receiving three wounds. He represented an opposite to Peter's pro-Prussian sentiment, with which Catherine disagreed. By 1759, Catherine and he had become lovers no one told Catherine's husband, the Grand Duke Peter. Catherine saw Orlov as very useful, and he became instrumental in the 28 June 1762 coup d’état against her husband, but she preferred to remain the Dowager Empress of Russia, rather than marrying anyone.

Grigory Orlov and his other three brothers found themselves rewarded with titles, money, swords, and other gifts, but Catherine did not marry Grigory, who proved inept at politics and useless when asked for advice. He received a palace in Saint Petersburg when Catherine became Empress.

Orlov died in 1783. Their son, Aleksey Grygoriovich Bobrinsky (1762–1813), had one daughter, Maria Alexeyeva Bobrinsky (Bobrinskaya) (1798–1835), who married in 1819 the 34-year-old Prince Nikolai Sergeevich Gagarin (London, England, 12 July 1784 – 25 July 1842) who took part in the Battle of Borodino (7 September 1812) against Napoleon, and later served as ambassador in Turin, the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia.


Grigory Potemkin was involved in the coup d'état of 1762. In 1772, Catherine's close friends informed her of Orlov's affairs with other women, and she dismissed him. By the winter of 1773, the Pugachev revolt had started to threaten. Catherine's son Paul had also started gaining support both of these trends threatened her power. She called Potemkin for help—mostly military—and he became devoted to her.

In 1772, Catherine wrote to Potemkin. Days earlier, she had found out about an uprising in the Volga region. She appointed General Aleksandr Bibikov to put down the uprising, but she needed Potemkin's advice on military strategy. Potemkin quickly gained positions and awards. Russian poets wrote about his virtues, the court praised him, foreign ambassadors fought for his favour, and his family moved into the palace. He later became the de facto absolute ruler of New Russia, governing its colonisation.

In 1780, the son of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, Emperor Joseph II, toyed with the idea of determining whether or not to enter an alliance with Russia, and asked to meet Catherine. Potemkin had the task of briefing him and travelling with him to Saint Petersburg. Potemkin also convinced Catherine to expand the universities in Russia to increase the number of scientists.

Potemkin fell very ill in August 1783. Catherine worried he would not finish his work developing the south as he had planned. Potemkin died at the age of 52 in 1791.


According to a census taken from 1754 to 1762, Catherine owned 500,000 serfs. A further 2.8 million belonged to the Russian state. [82]

Rights and conditions

At the time of Catherine’s reign, the landowning noble class owned the serfs, who were bound to the land they tilled. Children of serfs were born into serfdom and worked the same land their parents had. The serfs had very limited rights, but they were not exactly slaves. While the state did not technically allow them to own possessions, some serfs were able to accumulate enough wealth to pay for their freedom. [83] The understanding of law in imperial Russia by all sections of society was often weak, confused, or nonexistent, particularly in the provinces where most serfs lived. This is why some serfs were able to do things such as accumulate wealth. To become serfs, people would give up their freedoms to a landowner in exchange for their protection and support in times of hardship. In addition, they would receive land to till, but would be taxed a certain percentage of their crops to give to their landowners. These were the privileges a serf was entitled to and that nobles were bound to carry out. All of this was true before Catherine’s reign, and this is the system she inherited.

Catherine did initiate some changes to serfdom, though. If a noble did not live up to his side of the deal, then the serfs could file complaints against him by following the proper channels of law. [84] Catherine gave them this new right, but in exchange they could no longer appeal directly to her. She did this because she did not want to be bothered by the peasantry, but did not want to give them reason to revolt, either. In this act, though, she unintentionally gave the serfs a legitimate bureaucratic status they had lacked before. [85] Some serfs were able to use their new status to their advantage. For example, serfs could apply to be freed if they were under illegal ownership, and non-nobles were not allowed to own serfs. [86] Some serfs did apply for freedom and were, surprisingly, successful. In addition, some governors listened to the complaints of serfs and punished nobles, but this was by no means all-inclusive.

Other than these, the rights of a serf were very limited. A landowner could punish his serfs at his discretion, and under Catherine the Great gained the ability to sentence his serfs to hard labour in Siberia, a punishment normally reserved for convicted criminals. [87] The only thing a noble could not do to his serfs was to kill them. The life of a serf belonged to the state. Historically, when the serfs faced problems they could not solve on their own (such as abusive masters), they often appealed to the autocrat, and continued doing so during Catherine’s reign, though she signed legislation prohibiting it. [88] Although she did not want to communicate directly with the serfs, she did create some measures to improve their conditions as a class and reduce the size of the institution of serfdom. For example, she took action to limit the number of new serfs she eliminated many ways for people to become serfs, culminating in the manifesto of 17 March 1775, which prohibited a serf who had once been freed from becoming a serf again. [89] However, she also restricted the freedoms of many peasants. During her reign, Catherine gave away many state-owned peasants to become private serfs (owned by a landowner), and while their ownership changed hands, a serf’s location never did. However, peasants owned by the state generally had more freedoms than those owned by a noble.

While the majority of serfs were farmers bound to the land, a noble could also have his serfs sent away to learn a trade or be educated at a school, in addition to employing them at businesses that paid wages. [90] This happened more often during Catherine’s reign because of the new schools she established. Only in this way could a serf leave the farm for which he was responsible.

Attitudes towards Catherine

The attitude of the serfs towards their autocrat had historically been a positive one. However, if the tsar’s policies were too extreme or too disliked, he was not considered the true tsar. In these cases, it was necessary to replace this “fake” tsar with the “true” tsar, whoever he may be. Because the serfs had no political power, they rioted to get their message across. But usually, if the serfs did not like the policies of the tsar, they saw the nobles as corrupt and evil, preventing the people of Russia from communicating with the well-intentioned tsar and misinterpreting his decrees. However, they were already suspicious of Catherine upon her accession, because she had annulled an act by Peter III that had essentially freed the serfs belonging to the Orthodox Church. [91] Naturally, the serfs did not like it when Catherine tried to take away their right to petition her because they felt as though she had severed their connection to the autocrat, and their power to appeal to her. Far away from the capital, they were also confused as to the circumstances of her accession to the throne. [92]

The peasants were discontented because of many other factors, as well, including crop failure, and epidemics, especially a major epidemic in 1771. The nobles were also imposing a stricter rule than ever, reducing the land of each serf and restricting their freedoms further beginning around 1767. [93] Their discontent led to widespread outbreaks of violence and rioting during Pugachev's Rebellion of 1774. The serfs probably followed someone who was pretending to be the true tsar because of their feelings of disconnection to Catherine and her policies empowering the nobles, but this was not the first time they followed a pretender under Catherine’s reign. [94] Pugachev had made stories about himself acting as a real tsar should, helping the common people, listening to their problems, praying for them, and generally acting saintly, and this helped rally the peasants and serfs, with their very conservative values, to his cause. [95] With all this discontent in mind, Catherine did rule for 10 years before the anger of the serfs boiled over into a rebellion as extensive as Pugachev’s. Under Catherine’s rule, though, despite her enlightened ideals, the serfs were generally unhappy and discontented.

3. Elizabeth had become Empress after deposing Ivan IV, who was Emperor at the time – and an actual baby.

We see him as a child on The Great – one who is never Emperor, and who is murdered by Elizabeth. But the real Ivan became Emperor at only two months old, was deposed by Elizabeth just over a year later, and was imprisoned until the age of 23, when he was murdered by his guards during the reign of Catherine the Great.

5# The Spanish problem

Napoleon’s need to control all the European coastline led him to set his eyes on the Spanish Bourbons, whom he despised as much as he did their Neapolitan cousins. Initially such animosity didn’t stop him to deal with Carlos IV of Spain, with whom he accorded the division of neutral Portugal, suspecting the country to be a depot for British products into the continent. Carlos IV agreed for French soldiers under Murat to pass through his kingdom on their way to Portugal, but their presence upset the Spaniards, who already preferred Carlos’ son, the future Ferdinand VII, and wished him to take over his father and dismiss the hated Manuel Godoy, the king’s chief minister and the main architect behind the dealings with the French.

On 18 th March 1808 this boiling hatred for Godoy erupted and his palace, and that of Carlos IV in Aranjuez were ransacked. Murat briskly proposed that Napoleon should mediate between father and son, and both agreed to meet him in Bayonne. The French Emperor had had plans to remove them both from the picture however, and carted them both away after Bayonne, while Joseph Bonaparte was extirpated from Naples and given the kingdom of Spain in return. Murat and his wife Caroline (Napoleon’s sister) were given Naples.

Needless to say, the Spaniards, already fed up with the French garrisons in their country, seethed with indignation at the removal of their beloved Ferdinand, and on 2 nd of May 1808, with Joseph barely unpacking his suitcase in Madrid, a massive revolt broke out, known as the Dos de Mayo Uprising. In Madrid the revolt was quickly crushed by French muskets, which provided inspiration to Goya for his famous painting.

El Tres de Mayo, painting by Goya, 1814. It depicts the French repression to the rising. Source

It was only the beginning of major troubles for Napoleon. The countryside rose in arms and soon the few French soldiers in Spain (together with Joseph) were forced to retreat north, to Burgos, and later to Catalonia, to dig up behind the River Ebro. In Portugal things got out of hand real quick too, when British regulars led by Arthur Wellesley (Future Duke of Wellington) landed to support Portugal and the Central Junta that took charge of Spanish resistance.

The failure of the Central Junta to establish a proper military command, and the broken quality of Spanish regiments was a factor that ironically played to their advantage, for time and again the French would be denied a decisive battle like those of Austerlitz, Auerstedt, or Friedland. Irregular terrain and lack of proper roads (even for the low standards of the time) would play against the French regulars, who despite counting on better discipline and skills than their foes, found it hard to counter their guerrilla tactics.


In the memoirs, Catherine often mentions a person&rsquos relatives to draw a quick portrait, to indicate his or her significance, and to explain a situation. These connections constitute the warp and woof of the Russian court, the government, and the military in the eighteenth century, and they are often unspoken because everyone knew them and took their importance for granted. While the index presents individuals, this note provides some background on the history of the complex interrelationships of noble families, which provides an essential window into the world of Catherine&rsquos memoirs.

In this memoir Catherine makes particular mention of the importance of Mme. Vladislavova, appointed by Empress Elizabeth in 1748 as head of Catherine&rsquos personal court.

Her name was Praskovia Nikitichna. She got off to a very good start she was sociable, loved to talk, spoke and told stories with intelligence, knew all the anecdotes of past and present times by heart, knew four or five generations of all the families, had the genealogies of everyone&rsquos fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, and paternal and maternal great-grandparents fixed in her memory, and no one informed me more about what had happened in Russia over the past hundred years than she.

The essential lore of the history of kinship relations of noble families at the Russian court proved invaluable to Catherine, who was an outsider. Armed with this information, she could better understand and use the women and men around her.

Individual families formed noble patronage networks through marriage, especially with the czars. Through their marriages and official and unofficial positions, families fought for prestige and power, or access to the ruler and to the distribution of patronage. Most important for Catherine&rsquos purposes, they intrigued in succession struggles to promote their candidates and bring down their opponents. Thus in this memoir, Catherine takes a great personal interest in Mme. Vladislavova&rsquos knowledge.

The wives of the seventeenth-century czars created two major extended families, the Naryshkins and the Saltykovs. Peter the Great&rsquos mother was Natalia Kirillovna Naryshkina (1651&ndash94), and the extended Naryshkin clan included the Streshnevs (Peter&rsquos grandmother) and the Lopukhins (Peter&rsquos first wife), and came to include the Golitsyns and the Trubetskois. Peter the Great&rsquos half brother and co-ruler, Ivan V, married Praskovia Fedorovna Saltykova (1664&ndash1723) their daughter Anna, Duchess of Courland, became Empress. The Saltykov clan included the Dolgorukovs and Apraksins. 1 As Catherine writes in this memoir, &ldquothe Saltykov family was one of the oldest and most noble of this empire. It was related to the Imperial house itself by the mother of Empress Anna, who was a Saltykov.&rdquo When Peter the Great&rsquos daughter Elizabeth succeeded Anna in a coup in 1741, the Naryshkins defeated the Saltykovs by adding several members to Elizabeth&rsquos senate, in particular Vice Chancellor (later Chancellor) Count Bestuzhev-Riumin and Prince Alexander Kurakin (1697&ndash1749). 2 The prestige, power, and collective fortunes of these two clans changed, but they remained the two most powerful groups throughout Catherine&rsquos reign and into the nineteenth century. 3

The ruthless competition between these two families during the succession struggles after Peter the Great&rsquos death abated under Elizabeth. 4 The Saltykovs expanded to include the Trubetskois (through three marriages), and the Naryshkins added the Kurakins and the Golitsyns. 5 In addition, Elizabeth&rsquos mother&rsquos family, the Skavronskys, provided a way to advance politically and themselves needed to solidify their power with status. Elizabeth married her niece Anna Skavronskaia to Mikhail Vorontsov (from an old noble family). Vorontsov continued his ascent by plotting with the family of Elizabeth&rsquos favorite, the Shuvalovs, against Chancellor Count Bestuzhev-Riumin, and succeeded him after his arrest in 1758, where Catherine&rsquos memoir ends. Two husbands of two other Skavronsky nieces likewise succeeded to important posts at this time, as did relatives of the Naryshkins, thus leaving the Saltykovs in the background. 6 Under Peter III, the Vorontsovs placed Elizabeth Vorontsova as his mistress, but Catherine cut short their hopes in 1762 with her coup. However, Vorontsova&rsquos sister, Princess Ekaterina Dashkova, was at Catherine&rsquos side during the coup, and the family continued to prosper under Catherine.

To maintain the balance of power between rival clans, Elizabeth went outside Russia to choose her own candidate as a wife for her nephew Grand Duke Peter. However, she turned to the two main families ten years later. Elizabeth responded to Peter and Catherine&rsquos failure to consummate their marriage and have children with a plan so sensitive that it was left out of the Russian Academy edition of Catherine&rsquos final memoir. In 1753, Elizabeth&rsquos niece Mme. Choglokova proposed that Catherine take a lover and offered her &ldquoL.N.&rdquo or &ldquoS.S.&rdquo Given the central importance of the Naryshkins and the Saltykovs to the ruling Romanov family, Elizabeth had found a respectable and reasonable, albeit unorthodox, solution to dynastic instability by proposing an affair with either Lev Naryshkin or Sergei Saltykov. Thus Elizabeth could accept Paul as a possibly illegitimate future heir. (Elizabeth herself was illegitimate, which had been an impediment to a royal marriage.) Catherine recalls the affair with Saltykov as a matter of necessity in the account of her lovers that she wrote for Potemkin. 7

In this memoir, Catherine demonstrates how she understood and used this system of relationships in which women as well as men played potentially important roles. Thus in 1757 Catherine arranged a marriage that improved her relations with the Razumovskys, the family of Elizabeth&rsquos favorite and secret husband, at the expense of the family of Elizabeth&rsquos other favorite, the Shuvalovs. These two families opposed each other in the succession struggle.

The marriage of Lev Naryshkin linked me more strongly than ever in friendship with the Counts Razumovsky, who were truly grateful to me for having procured such a good and advantageous match for their niece, nor were they at all upset to have gotten the upper hand over the Shuvalovs, who were not even able to complain about it and were obliged to conceal their mortification. This was yet one more advantage that I had obtained for them.

Catherine leaves the obvious unsaid: both the Razumovskys and the Shuvalovs needed to solidify their relatively recent ascents as favorites&rsquo families, and the Razumovskys gained more prestige and power from a connection with the Naryshkins than with almost any other family, thus significantly outdoing their rivals. The Shuvalovs later married into the Saltykovs. Catherine too does not explain that in return for her support, Kirill Razumovsky was instrumental in organizing her coup. Thus, noble family relations provide an essential key to understanding the dramas at court and continuous rise and fall of Catherine&rsquos position in the evolving succession struggle that forms the background for the final memoir.

John P. LeDonne, &ldquoRuling Families in the Russian Political Order, 1689&ndash1825,&rdquo Cahiers du Monde russe et soviétique 28.3&ndash4:233&ndash322 ( July&ndashDecember 1987). He includes charts of the major families.

Bestuzhev-Riumin&rsquos brother Mikhail was married to Anna Gavrilovna Golovkina (died 1751), whose father, Gavriil Golovkin, was the second cousin of Natalia Kirillovna Naryshkina. Kurakin&rsquos mother, Kseniia Fedorovna Lopukhina (1677&ndash98), was the younger sister of Peter the Great&rsquos first wife, Evdokiia. LeDonne, &ldquoRuling Families,&rdquo 298&ndash99 V. Fedorchenko, Imperatorskii dom: Vydaiushchiesia sanovniki, 2 vols. (Moscow: Olma-Press, 2000).

Neither Elizabeth nor Catherine, once widowed, officially married, but their favorites performed a similar function for the ruling class. John LeDonne, Ruling Russia: Politics and Administration in the Age of Absolutism, 1762&ndash1796 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984), 4.

LeDonne, &ldquoRuling Families,&rdquo 301.

Ivan Glebov and Nikolai Korf. LeDonne, &ldquoRuling Families,&rdquo 300.

Catherine to Potemkin, February 21, 1774. Smith, Love and Conquest, 9&ndash11.

Paul I (1796-1801)

Reigning for only 5 years, Paul spent much of his life overshadowed by his mother. Their relationship deteriorated badly once Paul hit his teenage years as he believed his mother should abdicate for him to assume his rightful position as king. As a result, one of his first actions on ascending the throne was to pass the Pauline Laws, which sought to enforce primogeniture.

Much of his foreign policy was also a direct reaction against Catherine’s, recalling almost all of the troops she had sent to the edges of the empire in order to facilitate expansion. He was vehemently anti-France, particularly following the revolution, and raised troops to participate in the French Revolutionary Wars. Paul’s attempts to reform the army were deeply unpopular, despite his apparent enthusiasm for doing so.

His behaviour did much to antagonise the nobility: he tried to tighten up the rampant corruption in the treasury, forced nobles at court to adopt a code of chivalry and implemented policies which gave peasants and serfs more rights and better working conditions.

He was assassinated by a group of army officers in March 1801 – it is said his son, Alexander, knew of the conspiracy and had tacitly sanctioned it. Paul’s official cause of death was recorded as apoplexy.

Marriage to the heir of the Russian throne

In 1743, she was introduced into the Lutheran Church at the desire of her mother, though she easily changed her religion to the Russian Orthodox faith right before her marriage to the Russian Prince Peter. Her parents were very concerned that their daughter marry and make a good match.

In 1744 Catherine’s mother received an invitation from Empress Elizabeth of Russia to visit the country with her daughter, which meant she was planning to marry the heir to the Russian throne, Peter, to Catherine. However, Catherine had already met her husband to-be, who was one of her cousins. He was only 11 when they were introduced, but he was already reputed to be addicted to alcohol. Catherine didn’t experience any affection for her cousin, but was ready to obey her parents’ decision. Moreover, she realized that marrying the heir to the Russian throne would open the door to a most brilliant life, so coveted by the young and ambitious princess. Sophia and her mother made a journey to Russia in the winter of 1744, where she was converted to Orthodoxy and renamed Catherine. She was one year younger than Peter Fedorovich, the nephew of Elizabeth, the then reigning monarch of Russia. Their marriage was decided upon by their respective families.

Image from

The two were absolutely incompatible with each other. Still, Catherine tried to keep up appearances in front of the court and was patient with her silly and eccentric husband, as long as such pretence served her ambitious purposes. These two people unfortunately brought together by circumstances were destined to break up. Catherine, unlike her husband, was a woman of great talent, intelligence and ambition. Her strong and masculine mind, so eager to learn, had been trained and developed with all the learning and accomplishments of the age. She came to Russia with the intention of achieving a memorable career. Her husband, on the contrary, had an unstable personality, tempestuous, devoid of talent, and his education had been totally neglected. His disposition was good, but his mind was uncultivated. He constantly felt the superiority of his more gifted spouse. To add to this, Catherine had a graceful and beautifully proportioned figure. Peter’s inferiority was the first step to their mutual dislike, which led to fatal results for Peter.

Peter soon started cheating on Catherine, and she repaid in kind having her own favorites. Whether Peter was the father of Paul and Anna, the two children recorded as their offspring, remains a murky question, as five years of marriage brought no pregnancy and some said Peter could not have children.

5.02 World History.

The Palace of Versailles is located outside of Paris, France. King Louis XIV of France expanded this building, which was originally a hunting lodge, into a mansion in 1661.

The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial , located northwest of Madrid, Spain, home to Spanish royalty. Construction on this mansion began in 1559.

This is an image of Buckingham Palace, located in London, England. This is the official residence and office of the reigning British monarch. Construction on this palace began in 1705.

This image shows Catherine Palace, in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, south of St.
Petersburg, Russia. This mansion was the summer residence of the Russian czars . The construction on this mansion began in 1717 under Catherine the Great.

Absolute Monarchy: Is one where the monarch has supreme or absolute power over their country.

Constitutional monarchy: The monarch is not the head of state when it comes to government power. That role is usually given to an elected official such as a prime minister.

Divine right: A divine right is a right given to them by God to rule.

Royal Absolution: Which meant that royalty had all the power and all the control.

English Civil War: This war took place over seven years between 1642 and 1649. In the end, Oliver Cromwell’s forces were victorious, and King Charles I was executed.

In Eastern Europe, absolute monarchies developed because of the need for a strong central government.

Why did some countries make the shift from absolute to constitutional monarchies?:

Watch the video: Catherine the Great - Not Quite Catherine Yet - Extra History - #1 (May 2022).