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Catherine II the Great
Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias
Reign 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 to (17 November [O.S. 6 November] 1796
Coronation 12 September 1762
Predecessor Peter III
Successor Paul
Empress consort of All the Russias
Tenure 25 December 1761 – 9 July 1762
Consort to Peter III of Russia
Paul of Russia
Anna Petrovna
Aleksey Bobrinsky
Full name
Sophie Friederike Auguste
House House of Romanov
House of Ascania
Father Christian Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst
Mother Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp
Born 2 May 1729(1729-05-02)
Stettin, Pomerania, Kingdom of Prussia, HRE
Died 6 November 1796 (aged 67)
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Burial Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg

Catherine II (Russian: Екатерина II Великая, Yekaterina II Velikaya), also known as Catherine the Great, born 2 May [O.S. 21 April] 1729, reigned as Empress of Russia from 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 until her death (17 November [O.S. 6 November] 1796). Under her direct auspices the Russian Empire expanded, improved its administration, and continued to modernize along Western European lines. Catherine's rule re-vitalized Russia, which grew ever stronger and became recognized as one of the great powers of Europe. Her successes in complex foreign policy and her sometimes brutal reprisals in the wake of rebellion (most notably Pugachev's Rebellion) complemented her hectic private life. She frequently occasioned scandal—given her propensity for lascivious relationships which often resulted in gossip flourishing within more than one European court. This gossip is seen as of 2010 by many as true, but historians regard almost all of these accusations as false.[citation needed]

Catherine took power after a conspiracy deposed her husband, Peter III (1728–1762), and her reign saw the high point in the influence of the Russian nobility. Peter III, under pressure from the nobility, had already increased the authority of the great landed proprietors over their muzhiks and serfs. In spite of the duties imposed on the nobles by the first prominent "modernizer" of Russia, Tsar Peter I (1672–1725), and despite Catherine's friendships with the western European thinkers of the Enlightenment (in particular Denis Diderot, Voltaire and Montesquieu) Catherine found it impractical to improve the lot of her poorest subjects, who continued to suffer (for example) military conscription.[1] The distinctions between peasant rights on votchina and pomestie estates virtually disappeared in law as well as in practice during her reign.

In 1775 Catherine 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, there were fifty provinces, nearly 500 districts, more than double the government officials, 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 in order to control the power of nobles and create a middle estate. Each of these charters had major flaws and Catherine seemingly could not gain the reform she had long desired for her country, after her death this was made even more obvious through her son Paul.


Early life

Catherine's father Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst belonged to the ruling family of Anhalt, but entered the service of Prussia and held the rank of a Prussian general in his capacity as Governor of the city of Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) in the name of the king of Prussia. Born as Sophia Augusta Frederica (German: Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, nicknamed "Figchen") in Stettin, Pomerania, Catherine did have some (very remote) Russian ancestry[citation needed], and two of her first cousins became Kings of Sweden: Gustav III and Charles XIII. In accordance with the custom then prevailing in the ruling dynasties of Germany, she received her education chiefly from a French governess and from tutors.

The choice of Sophia as wife of her second cousin, the prospective tsar – Peter of Holstein-Gottorp – resulted from some amount of diplomatic management in which Count Lestocq, Peter´s aunt (the ruling Russian Empress Elizabeth) and Frederick II of Prussia took part. Lestocq and Frederick wanted to strengthen the friendship between Prussia and Russia in order to weaken the influence of Austria and to ruin the Russian chancellor Bestuzhev, on whom Tsarina Elizabeth relied, and who acted as a known partisan of Russo-Austrian co-operation.

The diplomatic intrigue failed, largely due to the intervention of Sophie's mother, Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, a clever and ambitious woman. Historical accounts portray Catherine's mother as an emotionally cold and physically abusive woman who loved gossip and court intrigues. Johanna's hunger for fame centered on her daughter's prospects of becoming empress of Russia, but she infuriated Empress Elizabeth, who eventually banned her from the country for spying for King Frederick of Prussia. The empress knew the family well: she herself had intended to marry Princess Johanna's brother Charles Augustus (Karl August von Holstein), who had died of smallpox in 1727 before the wedding could take place. Nonetheless, Elizabeth took a strong liking to the daughter, who on arrival in Russia spared no effort to ingratiate herself not only with the Empress Elizabeth, but with her husband and with the Russian people. She applied herself to learning the Russian language with such zeal that she rose at night and walked about her bedroom barefoot repeating her lessons (though she mastered the language, she retained an accent). This resulted in a severe attack of pneumonia in March 1744. When she wrote her memoirs she represented herself as having made up her mind when she came to Russia to do whatever seemed necessary, and to profess to believe whatever required of her, in order to become qualified to wear the crown. The consistency of her character throughout life makes it highly probable that even at the age of fifteen she possessed sufficient maturity to adopt this worldly-wise line of conduct.

Princess Sophia's father, a very devout Lutheran, strongly opposed his daughter's conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. Despite his instructions, on 28 June 1744 the Russian Orthodox Church received Princess Sophia as a member with the "new" name Catherine (Yekaterina or Ekaterina) and the (artificial) patronymic Алексеевна (Alekseyevna, daughter of Aleksey). On the following day the formal betrothal took place. The long-planned dynastic marriage finally occurred on 21 August 1745 at Saint Petersburg. Sophia had reached the age of 16; her father did not travel to Russia for her wedding. The bridegroom, known then as Peter von Holstein-Gottorp, had become Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (located in the north-west of present-day Germany near the border with Denmark) in 1739.

The newlyweds settled in the palace of Oranienbaum, which would remain the residence of the "young court" for many years to come.

Portrait by George Christoph Grooth of the Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alekseyevna around the time of her wedding, 1745
Tsar Peter III reigned only 6 months; he died on 17 July 1762

Count Andrei Shuvalov, chamberlain to Catherine, knew the diarist James Boswell well, and Boswell reports that Shuvalov shared private information regarding the monarch's intimate affairs. Some of these rumours included that Peter took a mistress (Elizabeth Vorontsova), while Catherine carried on liaisons with Sergei Saltykov, Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov (1734–1783), Stanisław August Poniatowski, Alexander Vassilchikov, and others. She became friends with Princess Ekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova, the sister of her husband's mistress, who introduced her to several powerful political groups which opposed her husband.

Catherine read extensively and kept up-to-date on current events in Russia and in the rest of Europe. She corresponded with many of the prominent minds of her era, including Voltaire and Denis Diderot.

The reign of Peter III and the coup d'état of July 1762

After the death of the Empress Elizabeth on 5 January 1762 [O.S. 25 December 1761], Peter, the Grand Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, succeeded to the throne as Peter III of Russia, and his wife, Grand Duchess Catherine became Empress Consort of Russia. The imperial couple moved into the new Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.

The new tsar's eccentricities and policies, including a great admiration for the Prussian king, Frederick II alienated the same groups that Catherine had cultivated. Besides, Peter intervened in a dispute between his Duchy of Holstein and Denmark over the province of Schleswig (see Count Johann Hartwig Ernst von Bernstorff).

Peter's insistence on supporting Frederick II of Prussia, who had seen Berlin occupied by Russian troops in 1760 but now suggested partitioning the Polish territories with Russia, eroded much of his support among the nobility. (Russia and Prussia fought each other during the Seven Years War (1756–1763) until Peter's accession.)

Equestrian portrait of the Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alekseyevna.

In July 1762, barely six months after becoming the Tsar, Peter committed the political error of retiring with his Holstein-born courtiers and relatives to Oranienbaum, leaving his wife in Saint Petersburg. On 13 July and 14 July the Leib Guard revolted, deposed Peter, and proclaimed Catherine the ruler of Russia. The bloodless coup succeeded; Ekaterina Dashkova, a confidante of Catherine who became President of the Russian Academy in 1783, the year of its foundation, seems to have stated[citation needed] that Peter seemed rather glad to have rid himself of the throne, and requested only a quiet estate and his mistress.

But three days after the coup, on 17 July 1762 – just six months after his accession to the throne – Peter III died at Ropsha, at the hands of Alexei Orlov (younger brother to Gregory Orlov, then a court favorite and a participant in the coup). Historians find no evidence for Catherine's complicity in the supposed assassination.[2] (Note that at that time other potential rival claimants to the throne existed: Ivan VI (1740–1764), in closed confinement at Schlüsselburg, in Lake Ladoga, from the age of 6 months; and Princess Tarakanova (1753–1775).)

Catherine, although not descended from any previous Russian emperor, succeeded her husband as Empress Regnant. She followed the precedent established when Catherine I (born in the lower classes in the Swedish East Baltic territories) succeeded her husband Peter I in 1725.

Legitimists debate Catherine's technical status: seeing her as a Regent or as a usurper, tolerable only during the minority of her son, Grand Duke Paul. In the 1770s a group of nobles connected with Paul (Nikita Panin and others) contemplated the possibility[3] of a new coup to depose Catherine and transfer the crown to Paul, whose power they envisaged restricting in a kind of constitutional monarchy. However, nothing came of this, and Catherine reigned until her death.

Foreign affairs

During her reign Catherine extended the borders of the Russian Empire southward and westward to absorb New Russia, Crimea, 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 miles² (518,000 km²) to Russian territory.

Catherine's foreign minister, Nikita Panin (in office 1763–1781), 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 BourbonHabsburg League. When it became apparent that his plan could not succeed, Panin fell out of favor and Catherine had him replaced with Ivan Osterman (in office 1783–1797).

Catherine agreed a commercial treaty with Great Britain in 1766, but stopped short of a full military alliance.[4] Although she could see the benefits of Britain's friendship, she was wary of Britain's increased power following their 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 that Peter had begun. Catherine made Russia the dominant power in south-eastern Europe after her first Russo-Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire (1768–1774), 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 the vast steppes of 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.

A 1791 British caricature of an attempted mediation between Catherine (on the right, supported by Austria and France) and Turkey.

Catherine annexed the Crimea as late as 1783, a mere nine years after the Crimean Khanate had gained independence, 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. The Treaty of Kutschuk Kainardzhi, signed 10 July 1774, gave to the Russians the "new" territories at Azov, Kerch, Yenikale, Kinburn and the small strip of Black Sea coast between the rivers Dnieper and Bug.

The Ottomans re-started hostilities in the second Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792). This war proved catastrophic for the Ottomans and ended with the Treaty of Jassy (1792), which legitimized the Russian claim to the Crimea.

Relations with Western Europe

Ever conscious of her legacy, Catherine longed for recognition as an enlightened sovereign. She pioneered for Russia the role that Britain would later play throughout most of the nineteenth and early twentieth century  – that of international mediator in disputes that could, or did, lead to war. Accordingly, she acted as mediator in the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778–1779) between Prussia and Austria. In 1780 she set up 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 in the Russo-Swedish War against Sweden, instigated by Catherine's cousin, King Gustav III of Sweden. Expecting to simply overtake the Russian armies still engaged in war against the Ottoman Turks and hoping to strike Saint Petersburg directly, the Swedes ultimately faced mounting human and territorial losses when opposed by Russia's Baltic Fleet. After Denmark declared war on Sweden in 1788 (the Theater War), things looked bleak for the Swedes. After 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 peace ensued for 20 years, aided by the assassination of Gustav III in 1792.

The partitions of Poland

Catherine II of Russia

In 1764 Catherine placed Stanisław Poniatowski, her former lover, on the Polish throne. Although the idea of partitioning Poland came from the Prussian king Frederick the Great, Catherine took a leading role in carrying this out in the 1790s. In 1768 she formally became protectress of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, an event which provoked an anti-Russian uprising in Poland, the Confederation of Bar (1768–1772). After smashing the uprising 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 of the principles of the Enlightenment which she had once viewed favorably. Afraid that the May Constitution of Poland (1791) might lead to a resurgence in the power of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and that 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 anti-reform group known as the Targowica Confederation. After defeating Polish loyalist forces in the Polish War in Defense of the Constitution (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 in 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 Kōdayū an audience at Tsarskoye Selo. Subsequently, in 1792, the Russian government dispatched a trade-mission led by Adam Laxman to Japan. The Tokugawa government received the mission, but negotiations failed.

Arts and culture

Marble statue of Catherine II in the guise of Minerva (1789–1790), by Fedot Shubin.

Catherine's patronage furthered the evolution of the arts in Russia more than that of any Russian sovereign before or after her.

Catherine had a reputation as a patron of the arts, literature and education. The Hermitage Museum, which now occupies the whole of the Winter Palace, began as Catherine's personal collection. At the instigation of her factotum, Ivan Betskoi, she wrote a manual for the education of young children, drawing from the ideas of John Locke, and founded (1764) the famous Smolny Institute, admitting 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 lured the scientists Leonhard Euler and Peter Simon Pallas from Berlin 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, acquired his collection of books from his heirs, and placed them in the National Library of Russia.

Portrait of Catherine in an advanced age, with the Chesme Column in the background.

Within a few months of her accession in 1762, having heard that 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, 1766, she endeavoured to embody in a legislative form the principles of Enlightenment which she had imbibed from the study of 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 advisers, she refrained from immediately putting them into execution. After holding more than 200 sittings the so-called Commission dissolved without getting beyond the realm of theory.

In spite of this, some later codes (such as the Statute of Local Administration 1775, the Code of Commercial Navigation and the Salt Trade Code of 1781, the Police Ordnance of 1782, the Charter to the Nobility and the Charter of the Towns of 1785, the Statute of National education of 1786) addressed some of the modernization trends implicit in Catherine's initial 1766 Nakaz. In 1777 the Empress described to Voltaire her legal innovations within an apathetic Russia as progressing "little by little".

During Catherine's reign, Russians imported and studied the classical and European influences which inspired the Russian Enlightenment. Gavrila Derzhavin, Denis Fonvizin and Ippolit Bogdanovich laid the groundwork for the great writers of the nineteenth century, especially for Alexander Pushkin. Catherine became a great patron of Russian opera (see Catherine II and opera for details).

When Alexander Radishchev published his Journey from Saint 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. (The same sort of censorship also happened at that time in many other European countries as a reaction to the civil violence in France.[citation needed])

Religious affairs

Catherine's apparent whole-hearted adoption of things Russian (including Orthodoxy) may have prompted her personal indifference to religion.[5] She did not allow dissenters to build chapels, and she suppressed religious dissent after the onset of the French Revolution.[5] Politically, Catherine exploited Christianity in her anti-Ottoman policy, promoting the protection and fostering of Christians under Turkish rule.[5] 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.[6] Nevertheless, Catherine's Russia provided an asylum and a base for re-grouping to the Society of Jesus following the suppression of the Jesuits in most of Europe in 1773.[6]

Personal life

Catherine, throughout her long reign, took many lovers, often elevating them to high positions for as long as they held her interest, and then pensioning them off with large estates and gifts of serfs. After her affair with her lover and capable adviser Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin ended in 1776, he would allegedly select a candidate-lover for her who had both the physical beauty as well as the mental faculties to hold Catherine's interest (such as Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov). Some of these men loved her in return, and she always showed generosity towards her lovers, even after the end of an affair. One of her lovers, Zavadovsky, received 50,000 rubles, a pension of 5,000 rubles, and 4,000 peasants in the Ukraine after she dismissed him in 1777.[7] The last of her lovers, Prince Zubov, 40 years her junior, proved the most capricious and extravagant of them all.[citation needed]

In her memoirs, Catherine indicated that her first lover, Sergei Saltykov, had fathered Paul, but Paul physically resembled her husband, Peter.[8] Catherine kept near Tula, away from her court, her illegitimate son by Grigori Orlov, Alexis Bobrinskoy (later created Count Bobrinskoy by Paul).[9]


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 dashing 22-year-old Poniatowski in 1755, therefore well before encountering the Orlov brothers. Two years later, 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 August III of Poland died in 1763, and therefore Poland needed to elect a new ruler. Catherine supported Poniatowski as a candidate to become the next king. Some people venture that Catherine told her ambassador to Poland, Count Kayserling, that she wanted Poniatowski to rule, but she would settle for Adam Czartoryski, Poniatowski's uncle[citation needed].

Catherine sent the Russian army into Poland to avoid possible disputes right away. Russia invaded Poland on 26 August 1764, threatening to fight and forcing Poniatowski to become 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 strongly.

She had no intention of marrying him, having already given birth to Orlov´s child and to the Grand Duke Paul by then; and she told Poniatowski[citation needed] to marry someone else, in order to remove all suspicion. Poniatowski refused: he never married.

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 km2) between them. Russia got territories east of the line connecting, more or less, RigaPolotskMogilev.

In the second partition, 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.

After this, uprisings in Poland led to the third partition, 1795, one year before the death of Catherine.


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, he and Catherine had become lovers although no one in the know told Catherine's husband, the Grand Duke Peter. Catherine saw Orlov as very useful, and he became instrumental in the July 1761 coup d’état against her husband, but she preferred to remain the Dowager Empress of Russia, rather than marrying anyone.

Catherine the Great's natural son by Count Grigory Orlov -Aleksey Grigorievich Bobrinsky, ( 11 April 1762 – 20 June 1813 in his estate of Bogoroditsk, near Tula). Born just 3 months before the deposition and assassination by the Orlov brothers of her husband Peter III

Grigory Orlov and his other three brothers found themselves rewarded with titles as Counts, 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 St. Petersburg when Catherine became Empress.

Orlov died in 1783. His and Catherine's son, Aleksey Grygoriovich Bobrinsky, (1762–1813) had one daughter, Maria Alexeeva Bobrinsky (Bobrinskaya), (1798–1835) who married aged 21 in 1819 the 34-year-old Prince Nikolai Sergeevich Gagarin (London, England, 12 July 1784 – 25 July 1842, assassinated by a furious servant he employed) who took part in the Battle of Borodino ( 7 September 1812) against the Napoleonic forces, and later served as Ambassador in Turin, the capital of the Duchy of Savoy.


Grigory Potemkin had had involvement 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 grow threatening. 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 favor, and his family moved into the palace. He later became governor of New Russia.

In 1780 the son of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Emperor Joseph II of Austria, 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 traveling 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 that he would not finish his work developing the south as he had planned. Potemkin died at the age of fifty-two in 1791.


Catherine officially kept Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov as her favorite from 1778 to 1779.


Catherine suffered a stroke on 6 November [O.S. 5 November] 1796 and died in her bed at 9:20 the following evening without having regained consciousness. Despite an urban myth connecting her death with a sexual incident involving a horse, there is no basis to this story. Catherine was buried at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

Romanov dynastic issues

Pretenders and potential pretenders to the throne

  • Ivan VI of Russia (born 1740), as a former Tsar (reigned as an infant, 1740–1741) represented a potential focus of dissident support for successive rulers of Russia, who held him in prison. When she became Empress in 1762 Catherine tightened the conditions of his incarceration. His jailers in the prison of Shlisselburg killed Ivan, as per standing instructions, in the course of an attempt to free him in 1764.
  • Yemelyan Pugachev (1740/1742–1775) identified himself in 1773 as Tsar Peter III of Russia (Catherine's late husband). His armed rebellion, aiming to seize power and to banish the Empress to a monastery, became a serious menace until crushed in 1774. The authorities had Pugachev executed in Moscow in January 1775.

Succession to the throne

It seems highly probable that Catherine intended to exclude Paul from the succession, and to leave the crown to her eldest grandson Alexander (whom she greatly favored, and who subsequently became the emperor Alexander I in 1801). Her harshness to Paul stemmed probably as much from political distrust as from what she saw of his character. Whatever Catherine's other activities, she emphatically functioned as a sovereign and as a politician, guided in the last resort by reasons of state.[citation needed] Keeping Paul in a state of semi-captivity in Gatchina and Pavlovsk, she resolved not to allow her son to dispute or to share in her authority during her lifetime.

Titles and styles

  • Her Serene Highness Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst (1729–1745)
  • Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseievna of Russia (1745–1761)
  • Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of all the Russias (1761–1762) (as Empress consort)
  • Her Imperial Majesty The Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias (1762–1796) (as Empress regnant)


In popular culture

1910 100-ruble banknote

In 2006, Emily Bruni portrayed the empress in the feature length PBS documentary "Catherine the Great."

  • One of Serbia's most famed New Wave bands, Ekatarina Velika (which translates as "Catherine the Great") (1982–1994) took its name from Catherine II of Russia.
  • Folk-rock songwriter Freddy Blohm's "Catherine, You're Great!" relates Catherine's most infamous urban myth from an equine point-of-view.
  • The Barenaked Ladies song "Go Home" has a line concerning this urban legend as well: "If you think of her as Catherine the Great // Then you should be the horse to help her meet her fate."
  • In the 2002 television series Clone High the clone of JFK supposedly has sex with Catherine's clone, complaining when someone disturbs his activities that he's "trying to nail Catherine the Great" – but quickly corrects himself, adding "Or should I say, Catherine the So-SO." Catherine's clone appears several times in the series, depicted as having an hourglass figure, blonde curly hair and speaking with a California Valley Girl accent. She usually wears pedal pushers and a midriff top.
  • German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly has a picture of Catherine II in her office, and characterises her as a "strong woman".
  • The Russian slang word for money "babki" (literally: "old women") refers to the image of Catherine II printed on pre-Revolution 100-ruble banknotes.[citation needed]
  • In the anime Le Chevalier D'Eon, a young Catherine the Great appears under her Russian name of Ekaterina. As in real life, she takes over Russia from Peter (Pyotr). She despises him and has no problems overthrowing him. Jessica Boone voices the character in the English adaptation, and Sachiko Takaguchi in the Japanese version.
  • American author Ted Dekker sets his upcoming 2010 novel, Immanuel's Veins during the reign of Catherine the Great.[citation needed]


See also

List of prominent Catherinians

Pre-eminent figures in Catherinian Russia include:



  1. ^ Hosking, Geoffrey (1997). Russia: people and empire, 1552-1917. Harvard University Press. p. 80. ISBN 9780674781191. Retrieved 2010-03-12. "Although other European countries had effected mass levies before [...], Russia was the first country to institute conscription as a permanent method of raising its armed forces. [...] It enabled Peter to win a great victory [...] at Poltava in 1709, and to follow it up by a sustained [...] campaign which ended in the capitulation of Sweden in 1721. [...] But its effect on Russian society was to impose new obligations and to impart a new rigidity to the system of state service." 
  2. ^ Rounding, Virginia (2007) Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power New York: St. Martin’s Press ISBN 9780312328870 
  3. ^ Memoirs of Decembrist Michael Fonvizin (nephew of writer Denis Fonvizin who belonged to the constitutionalists' circle in the 1770s); see: Фонвизин М.А. Сочинения и письма: Т. 2. – Иркутск, 1982. С. 123 [Fonvizin, M.A.: Works and letters, volume 2. Irkutsk:1982, page 123]
  4. ^ N.A.M Rodger. Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815. London, 2005. p.328
  5. ^ a b c "Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911". Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  6. ^ a b "The Religion of Russia". Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  7. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.7. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  8. ^ Genealogical Dates in Stoyan. According to this site, Catherine had two children from her marriage to Peter III before the birth of Paul, one on 14 December 1752 and the other on 2 or 3 August 1753. The gender of these children remains unknown. The date of the end of the second pregnancy may indicate a miscarriage. After Paul, Catherine bore a daughter, Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna, in Saint Petersburg on 20 December 1757. As with Paul, rumours made the lover of her mother by that time, Stanisław August Poniatowski her biological father, but these remain unproven. Grand Duchess Anna died in Peterhof on 19 March 1759 aged only fifteen months.
  9. ^ According to Catherine and Orlov had another child, a daughter, called Elizabeth Alexandrovna Alexeeva (born in Saint Petersburg, 1761 – died 1844), born one year before Alexis. She married (1787) Friedrich Maximilian Klinger and from this marriage she had one son, Alexander, who apparently died young in 1812.
  10. ^ "Tarakanova, knyazhna [Princess Tarakanova]". Malyi entsiklopedicheskii slovar'. Brokgaus i Efron. 1890–1906. 
  11. ^ "Tarakanova, knyazhna [Princess Tarakanova]" (in in Russian). Malyi entsiklopedicheskii slovar'. Brokgaus i Efron. 1890–1906. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 
  12. ^ "Tarakanova Elizaveta [Yelizaveta Tarakanova]" (in in Russian). Bol'shaya sovetskaya entsikolpediya, 3rd edition. Sovetskaya entsiklopediya. 1969–1978. Retrieved 2009-07-11. 

Annotated bibliography

  • De Madariaga, Isabel.(born 1919). Catherine the Great: A Short History (Paperback). Yale University Press, New Haven and London, (1993).ISBN 0-300-04845-9 (hardbook), ISBN 0-300-05427-0 (paperback), 240 pages. De Madariaga, of Spanish/Scottish extraction, holds the position of Professor Emeritus of Slavonic Studies at the University of London, (England). "De Madariaga´s book will be the standard and essential guide for all students and scholars of Russian and European history of the second half of the eighteenth century" . Opinion of Prof. Marc Raeff, in Journal of Modern History. – "A remarkably fresh, lucid and well-paced survey....As a single volume introduction, this study is unlikely to be bettered , and it deserves the widest readership" , Opinion of Prof. H. M. Scott in Slavonic and East European Review.
  • Dixon, Simon. Catherine the Great (Profiles In Power) (Paperback).
  • Kolchin, Peter. "Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, (U. S. A.), (1987). Some interesting conclusions from this comparison. Kolchin has worked for many years as a Professor of History and holds many professional awards at the University of Delaware, (U. S. A.). He has become well known[citation needed] for his lengthy studies in American slavery and Russian serfdom.
  • Reddaway, W.F. "Documents of Catherine the Great.The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of 1767 in the English Text of 1768" . Cambridge University Press, (England), (1931), Reprint (1971).
  • Rounding, Virginia. (2008). Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power, New York: St. Martin's Press. 501 pages. An extensive biography; not as saucy as the title might imply. Rounding has relied heavily on primary source materials and her extensive bibliography includes (amongst other material): letters written both by Catherine and her associates (many of them foreign ambassadors, who played a large role in the Russian court) as well as Catherine's own memoirs. Rounding, an established author, has written a book on 19th century courtesans and edited volumes of poetry. This readable book addresses itself to the layperson interested in Russian rulers and perhaps to students of women's studies. This text includes 16 pages of color photos.

Further reading

  • Alexander, John T. Catherine the Great: Life and Legend. New York: Oxford University Press (USA), 1988 (hardcover, ISBN 0-19-505236-6); 1989 (paperback, ISBN 0-19-506162-4).
  • Cronin, Vincent. Catherine, Empress of All the Russias. London: Collins, 1978 (hardcover, ISBN 0-00-216119-2); 1996 (paperback, ISBN 1-86046-091-7).
  • Dixon, Simon. Catherine the Great (Profiles in Power). Harlow, UK: Longman, 2001 (paperback, ISBN 0-582-09803-3).
  • Herman, Eleanor. Sex With the Queen. New York: HarperCollins, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-06-084673-9).
  • Madariaga, Isabel de. Catherine the Great: A Short History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-04845-9); 2002 (paperback, ISBN 0-300-09722-0).
  • The Memoirs of Catherine the Great by Markus Cruse and Hilde Hoogenboom (translators). New York: Modern Library, 2005 (hardcover, ISBN 0-679-64299-4); 2006 (paperback, ISBN 0-8129-6987-1).
  • Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner. New York: Vintage, 2005 (paperback, ISBN 1-4000-7717-6).
  • Rounding, Virginia (2006). Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-179992-9. 
  • Smith, Douglas, ed. and trans. Love and Conquest: Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois UP, 2004 (hardcover, ISBN 0-87580-324-5); 2005 (paperback ISBN 0-87580-607-4).
  • Troyat, Henri. Catherine the Great. New York: Dorset Press, 1991 (hardcover, ISBN 0-88029-688-7); London: Orion, 2000 (paperback, ISBN 1-84212-029-8).
  • Troyat, Henri. Terrible Tsarinas. New York: Algora, 2001 (ISBN 1-892941-54-6).

External links

Catherine II of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of Anhalt
Born: 2 May 1729 Died: 6 November 1796
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Peter III
Empress regnant of Russia
9 July 1762 – 6 November 1796
Succeeded by
Paul I
Russian royalty
Preceded by
Martha Skowrońska
Empress consort of Russia
25 December 1761 – 9 July 1762
Succeeded by
Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CATHERINE II. (1729-1796), empress of Russia, was the daughter of Christian Augustus, prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and his wife, Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. The exact date and place of her birth have been disputed, but there appears to be no reason to doubt that she was right in saying that she was born at Stettin on the 2nd of May 1729. Her father, who succeeded to the principality of Anhalt-Zerbst in 1746 and died in 1747, was a general in the Prussian service, and, at the time of her birth, was military commandant at Stettin. Her baptismal name was Sophia Augusta Frederica. In accordance with the custom then prevailing in German princely families, she was educated chiefly by French governesses and tutors. In 1744 she was taken to Russia, to be affianced to the grandduke Peter, the nephew of the empress Elizabeth (q.v.), and her recognized heir. The princess of Anhalt-Zerbst was the daughter of Christian Albert, bishop of Lubeck, younger brother of Frederick IV., duke of Holstein-Gottorp, Peter's paternal grandfather. The choice of her daughter as wife of the future tsar was the result of not a little diplomatic management in which Frederick the Great took an active part, the object being to strengthen the friendship between Prussia and Russia, to weaken the influence of Austria and to ruin the chancellor Bestuzhev, on whom Elizabeth relied, and who was a known partisan of the Austrian alliance. The diplomatic intrigue failed, largely through the flighty intervention of the princess of AnhaltZerbst, a clever but very injudicious woman. But Elizabeth took a strong liking to the daughter, and the marriage was finally decided on. The girl had spared no effort to ingratiate herself, not only with the empress, but with the grand-duke and the Russian people. She applied herself to learning the language with such zeal that she rose at night and walked about her bedroom barefoot repeating her lessons. The result was a severe attack of congestion of the lungs in March 1744. During the worst period of her illness she completed her conquest of the good-will of the Russians by declining the religious services of a Protestant pastor, and sending for Simon Todorskiy, the orthodox priest who had been appointed to instruct her in the Greek form of Christianity. When she wrote her memoirs she represented herself as having made up her mind when she came to Russia to do whatever had to be done, and to profess to believe whatever she was required to believe, in order to be qualified to wear the crown. The consistency of her character throughout life makes it highly probable that even at the age of fifteen she was mature enough to adopt this worldly-wise line of conduct. Her father, who was a convinced Lutheran, was strongly opposed to his daughter's conversion, and supplied her with books of controversy to protect her Protestantism. She read them, and she listened to Todorskiy, and to other advisers who told her that the Russian crown was well worth a mass, or that the differences between the Greek and Lutheran churches were mere matters of form. On the 28th of June 1744 she was received into the Orthodox Church at Moscow, and was renamed Catherine Alexeyevna. On the following day she was formally betrothed, and was married to the archduke on the 21st of August 1745 at St Petersburg.

At that time Catherine was essentially what she was to remain till her death fifty-one years later. It was her boast that she was as "frank and original as any Englishman." If she meant that she had a compact character, she was right. She had decided on her line in life and she followed it whole-heartedly. It was her determination to become a Russian in order that she might the better rule in Russia, and she succeeded. She acquired a full command of all the resources of the language, and a no less complete understanding of the nature of the Russian people. It is true that she remained quite impervious to religious influences. The circumstances of her conversion may have helped to render her indifferent to religion, but their influence need not be exaggerated. Her irreligion was shared by multitudes of contemporaries who had never been called upon to renounce one form of Christianity and profess belief in another in order to gain a crown. Her mere actions were, like those of other and humbler people, dictated by the conditions in which she lived. The first and the most important of them was beyond all question the misery of her married life. Her husband was a wretched creature. Nature had made him mean, the smallpox had made him hideous, and his degraded habits made him loathsome. And Peter had all the sentiments of the worst kind of small German prince of the time. He had the conviction that his princeship entitled him to disregard decency and the feelings of others. He planned brutal practical jokes, in which blows had always a share. His most manly taste did not rise above the kind of military interest which has been defined as "corporal's mania," the passion for uniforms, pipeclay, buttons, the "tricks of parade and the froth of discipline." He detested the Russians, and surrounded himself with Holsteiners. For ten years the marriage was barren, and the only reason for supposing that the future tsar Paul, who was born on the 2nd of October 1754, was the son of Peter, is the strong similarity of their characters. Living in the grossly animal court of the empress Elizabeth, bound to a husband whom she could not but despise and detest, surrounded by suitors, and entirely uninfluenced by religion, Catherine became and remained perfectly immoral in her sexual relations to men. The scandalous chronicle of her life was the commonplace of all Europe. Her male favourites were as openly paraded as the female favourites of King Louis XV. It may be said once and for all that her most trusted agents while she was still grand-duchess, and her chief ministers when she became empress, were also her lovers, and were known to be so.

For some time after the marriage, the young couple were controlled by the empress Elizabeth, who appointed court officials to keep a watch on their conduct; but before long these custodians themselves had become the agents of Catherine's pleasures and ambition. After the birth of Paul she began to take an active part in political intrigues. Her abilities forced even her husband to rely on her judgment. When in difficulty he ran to her and flattered her with the name of Madame La Ressource - Madame Quick Wit - which did not prevent him from insulting and even kicking her when the immediate need of her help was over. In 1758 he endeavoured to turn the empress Elizabeth against her, and for a time Catherine was in danger. She faced the peril boldly, and reconquered her influence over the sovereign, but from this time she must have realized that when the empress was dead she would have to defend herself against her husband. That Peter both hated and dreaded her was notorious. The empress Elizabeth died on the 5th of January 1762. The grand duke succeeded without opposition as Peter III. His behaviour to his wife continued to be brutal and menacing, and he went on as before offending the national sentiment of the Russian people. In July he committed the insane error of retiring with his Holsteiners to Oranienbaum, leaving his wife at St Petersburg. On the 13th and 14th of that month a "pronunciamiento" of the regiments of the guard removed him from the throne and made Catherine empress. The history of this revolt is still obscure. It has naturally been said that she organized the mutiny from the first, and some plausibility is conferred on this belief by the fact that the guards were manipulated by the four Orlov brothers. The eldest, Gregory, was her recognized chief lover, and he was associated with his brother Alexis in the office of favourite. On the other hand, there does not appear to have been any need for organization. The hatred felt for Peter III. was spontaneous, and Catherine had no need to do more than let it be known that she was prepared to profit by her husband's downfall. Peter, who behaved with abject cowardice, was sent to a country house at Ropcha, where he died on the 15th or 18th of July of official "apoplexy." The truth is not known, and Frederick the Great at least professed long afterwards to believe that Catherine had no immediate share in the murder. She had no need to speak. Common-sense must have shown the leaders of the revolt that they would never be safe while Peter lived, and they had insults to avenge.

The mere fact that Catherine II., a small German princess without hereditary claim to the throne, ruled Russia from 1762 to 1796 amid the loyalty of the great mass of the people, and the respect and admiration of her neighbours, is sufficient proof of the force of her character. Her title to be considered a great reforming ruler is by no means equally clear. Voltaire and the encyclopaedists with whom she corresponded, and on whom she conferred gifts and pensions, repaid her by the grossest flattery, while doing their best to profit by her generosity. They made her a reputation for "philosophy," and showed the sincerity of their own love of freedom by finding excuses for the partition of Poland. There is a very great difference between Catherine II. as she appears in the panegyrics of the encyclopaedists and Catherine as she appears in her correspondence and in her acts.

Her foreign admirers amused her, and were useful in spreading her reputation. The money they cost her was a small sum in comparison to the f 12,000,000 she lavished on her long series of lovers, who began with Soltykov and Stanislaus Poniatowski before she came to the throne, and ended with the youthful Platon Zubov, who was tenant of the post at her death. She spent money freely on purchasing works of art and curios. Yet she confessed with her usual candour that she had no taste for painting, sculpture or music. Her supposed love of literature does not appear to have amounted to more than a lively curiosity, which could be satisfied by dipping into a great number of books. She had a passion for writing, and produced not only a mass of letters written in French, but pamphlets and plays, comic and serious, in French and Russian. One on the history of Oleg, the more or less legendary Varangian, who was guardian to the son of Rurik, was described by her as an "imitation of Shakespeare." The scheme is not unlike that of a "chronicle play." Her letters are full of vivacity, of colour, and at times of insight and wit, but she never learnt to write either French or German correctly. The letters to Voltaire attributed to her are not hers, and were probably composed for her by Andrei Shuvalov. The philosophers and encyclopaedists who, by the mouth of Diderot, complimented Catherine on being superior to such female affectations as modesty and chastity, flattered her to some extent even here. She enforced outward decency in her household, was herself temperate in eating and drinking, and was by no means tolerant of disorderly behaviour on the part of the ladies of her court. They flattered her much more when they dwelt on her philanthropy and her large share of the enlightenment of the age. She was kind to her servants, and was very fond of young children. She was rarely angry with people who merely contradicted her or failed to perform their service in her household. But she could order the use of the knout and of mutilation as freely as the most barbarous of her predecessors when she thought the authority of the state was at stake, and she did employ them readily to suppress all opinions of a heterodox kind, whether in matters of religion or of politics, after the beginning of the French Revolution. Her renowned toleration stopped short of allowing the dissenters to build chapels, and her passion for legislative reform grew cold when she found that she must begin by the emancipation of the serfs. There were exceptions even to her personal kindness to those about her. She dropped her German relations. She kept a son born to her shortly before the palace revolution of 1762, whose paternity could not be attributed to Peter, at a distance, though she provided for him. He was brought up in a private station under the name of Bobrinski. She was a harsh mother to her son Paul. It seems highly probable that she intended to exclude him from the succession, and to leave the crown to her eldest grandson Alexander, afterwards the emperor Alexander I. Her harshness to Paul was probably as much due to political distrust as to what she saw of his character. Whatever else Catherine may have been she was emphatically a sovereign and a politician who was in the last resort guided by the reason of state. She was resolved not to allow her authority to be disputed by her son, or shared by him.

As a ruler, Catherine professed a great contempt for system, which she said she had been taught to despise by her master Voltaire. She declared that in politics a capable ruler must be guided by "circumstances, conjectures and conjunctions." Her conduct was on the surface very unstable. In a moment of candour she confessed that she was a great commenceuse- that she had a mania for beginning innumerable enterprises which she never pursued. This, however, is chiefly true of her internal administration, and even there it should be qualified. Many of her beginnings were carried on by others and were not barren. Her foreign policy was as consistent as it could be considering the forces she had to contend against. It was steadily aimed to secure the greatness and the safety of Russia. There can be no question that she loved her adopted country sincerely, and had an affection for her people, and an opinion of their great qualities which she did not hesitate to express in hyperbolical terms. Her zeal for the reputation of the Russians was almost comically shown by the immense trouble she took to compile an answer to the Voyage en Siberie of the French astronomer Chappe d'Auteroche. The book is in three big quartos, and Catherine's answer - which was never finished - is still larger. Chappe d'Auteroche had discovered that Siberia was not a paradise, and had observed that the Russians were dirty in their habits, and that masters whipped their servants, male and female. Her patriotism was less innocently shown by her conquests. Yet it may be doubted whether any capable ruler of Russia could have abstained from aggressions at the expense of the rights of the Saxon family in Courland, of Poland, and of Turkey (see Russia: History). It does seem now to be clearly proved that the partition of Poland was not suggested by her, as has been frequently asserted. Catherine would have preferred to control the country through a vassal sovereign of the type of Stanislaus Poniatowski, the old lover whose election she secured in 1763. Poland was incapable of maintaining its independence at the time of the first partition (1772), and the division of the unhappy country was forced on by Austria and Prussia. In the case of the second partition in 1793, she did show herself to be very unscrupulous. Her opposition to the reform of the Polish government was plainly due to a wish to preserve an excuse for further spoliation, but her conduct was less cruel and base than that of Prussia.

Catherine had adhered to her husband's policy of a Prussian alliance. While Frederick the Great lived she was impressed by his ability. But the Prussian alliance became hateful to her, and her later correspondence with Grimm overflows with contempt of his successor Frederick William II., who is always spoken of by her as "Brother Gu." Her exasperation with the affectations of the Prussian king was unquestionably increased by her discovery that he would not be induced to apply himself to a crusade against the French Revolution, which by employing all his forces would have left Russia free to annex the whole of what remained of Poland. But at least she did not enter into a solemn engagement to defend the Poles who were engaged in reforming their constitution, and then throw them over in order to share in the plunder of their country.

Catherine's Turkish policy was at first marked by a certain grandiosity. When the Turks declared war in 1768 in order to support Poland, which they looked upon as a necessary buffer state, she retaliated by the great Greek scheme. For a time it was a pet idea with her to revive the Greek empire, and to plant the cross,with the double-headed Russian eagle at Constantinople. She formed a corps of Greek cadets, caused her younger grandson to be christened Constantine, and began the policy of presenting Russia to the Christian subjects of the Porte as their deliverer. In pursuit of this heroic enterprise, which excited the loud admiration of Voltaire, she sent a fleet under Alexis Orlov into the Mediterranean in 1770. Orlov tempted the Greeks of the Morea to take up arms, and then left them in the lurch. When Catherine found herself opposed by the policy of France and England, and threatened by the jealousy of Prussia and Austria, she dropped the Greek design, observing to Voltaire that the descendants of the Spartans were much degenerated. The introduction into the treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji of 1774 of a clause by which the Porte guaranteed the rights of its Christian subjects, and of another 'giving Russia the right to interfere on behalf of a new Russian church in Constantinople, advertised the claim of the tsars to be the natural protectors of the Orthodox in the Ottoman dominions; but when she took up arms again in 1788 in alliance with Joseph II., it was to make a mere war of conquest and partition. The Turkish wars show the weak side of Catherine as a ruler. Though she had mounted the throne by a military revolt and entered on great schemes of conquest, she never took an intelligent interest in her army. She neglected it in peace, allowed it to be shamefully administered in war, and could never be made to understand that it was not in her power to improvise generals out of her favourites. It is to her credit that she saw the capacity of Suvarov, yet she never had as much confidence in him as she had in Potemkin, who may have been a man of genius, but was certainly no general. She took care never to have to deal with a disciplined opponent, except the Swedes, who beat her, but who were very few. It was the misfortune of Catherine that she lived too long. She disgraced herself by living with her last lover, Zubov, when she was a woman of sixty-seven, trusting him with power and lavishing public money on him. The outbreak of the French Revolution stripped off the varnish of philosophy and philanthropy which she had assumed in earlier years. She had always entertained a quiet contempt for the French writers whom she flattered and pensioned, and who served her as an advertising agency in the west. When the result of their teaching was seen in Paris, good-natured contempt was turned to hatred. She then became a persecutor in her own dominions of the very ideas she had encouraged in former years. She scolded and preached a crusade, without, however, departing from the steady pursuit of her own interests in Poland, while endeavouring with transparent cunning to push Austria and Prussia into an invasion of France with all their forces. Her health began to break down, and it appears to be nearly certain that towards the end she suffered from hysteria of a shameful kind. It is plain that her intellect had begun to fail just before her death, for she allowed the reigning favourite, Platon Zubov, to persuade her to despatch his brother Valerian, with the rank of field marshal and an army of 20,000 men, on a crack-brained scheme to invade India by way of Persia and Tibet. The refusal of the king of Sweden to marry into her family unless the bride would become a Lutheran is said to have thrown her into a convulsion of rage which hastened her death. On the 9th of November 1796, she was seized by a fit of apoplexy, and died on the evening of the loth.

All other accounts of Catherine II. have been superseded by Waliszewski's two volumes, Le Roman d'une imperatrice (Paris, 1893) and Autour d'un Trone: Catherine II., ses collaborateurs, ses amis, ses favoris (Paris, 1894). The original sources for the history of her policy and her character are to be found in the publications of the Imperial Russian Historical Society, vols. i.-cix. (St Petersburg), begun in 1867; her private and official correspondence will be found in vols. i., ii., iv., v., vi., vii., viii., ix., x., rill., xiv., xv., xvii., xx., xxiii., xxxii., xxxiii., xxxvi., x111., xliii., xlvii., xlviii., 1V11., lxvii., lxviii., lxxxvii., xcvii., xcviii., cvii., cxv., cxviii.

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