Her Early Life
Catherine comes from a good family with a wast background and a German heritage. They even had a claim to the throne of Sweden, which her cousins would later inherit. In the sphere of education she was tutored by a French governess. She had a disturbing childhood, her family had claim to the titles and was considered an aristocracy, they had no money at all. They were considered poor on those standards. But her family pulled the right strings and along with the help of Fredrick the great she was soon to be marrying the future King of Russia, Peter III. They first met at the age of 10, Peter was only a year older. From the first time and until the end she disliked him.
The current queen didn’t like Catherine very much, she found her odd and strange. Catherine started learning the Russian language and later mastered it. She was converted to orthodoxy and took upon a new name, after this act was done the couple was betrothal. The wedding took place in Saint Petersburg in 21 August 1745. Catherine had just turned 16, so a marriage could commence. The couple had two children, with exceptions from the ones which died. A boy and a girl, but Catherine claimed that they aren’t Peter’s children because they never laid with each other. She lived a private life while with Peter and was as she wrote “unhappy”.
There is an article about Peter III, he ruled for only six months. He had a really short reign and the reason for his abdication is Catherine and her plot. She removed him from the throne and grabbed it for herself.
Her Reign (1762–96)
She was crowned in 28 June 1762, what Catherine would do for her kingdom both foreign and domestic is very serious. This would give her make her appear as “the Great”, a title that no woman have ever held. First we are going to cover her foreign campaigns and later her domestic reforms and reorder of the kingdom.
- Russian Turkish War
Russia had a problem, what Peter did when he made Russia get out on both sea’s was magnificent. But this wasn’t enough, the Baltic sea and the Azov Sea offered a huge economical and military benefit for Russia. If they had a good amount of control they could become a key player in Europe. The difference here is that Catherine would gain huge portions of land both north and south, this would give Russia huge control over sea. The first is the south.
The war against the Ottoman Empire was something serious, it started in 1768 and lasted until 1774. About being serious, the Ottomans held a huge land and had amazing power, but here came a problem. They suddenly started losing, the Turks didn’t have the same might as before and times have changed. Catherine started defeating the Turkish armies and pushed them South. There is a treaty signed called Kucuk Kaynarca in 1774. Russia gained Azov, Kerch, Yenikale, etc. They had control over the Azov sea. In order not to confuse you, this area was firstly given independence and later Catherine took it. This was the old Crimean Khanate, a thorn in Russia for quite some time.
But this made things interesting. As Russia advanced south, the other powers saw that it could take over a lot of territories. Especially the Austrian Monarchy interfered and wanted to even start a war with the Russians. If they advanced south into today’s Romania, Bulgaria, etc. They would cause serious unbalance in the world and nobody could stop them. In order to resolve this Fredrick the Great made a plan. He used Russia and Austria to gain. He was the ruler of Prussia, here is a map:
As you can see the resolution was to split Poland. Poland was currently a puppet of Catherine, it was ruled by one of her lovers which she gave him the title. They made three deals as you can see and split Poland three times. Prussia connected it’s territories and Russia got huge sea territories. As you can see here Russia now has good control over the Baltic sea and could start with their dominance.
Nobody asked Poland about this, the country was split three ways – three times. There was a revolt but it was instantly crushed by Russia, the people reacted but no results. Why was Poland split? Well as mentioned a tension between Austria and Russia was escalating. If Russia advanced further down a war could broke loose and nobody was ready for that war. This made things acceptable and balanced for now.
War Against the Persians
There was a pact with the Georgians signed in 1783. The Russians made a promise to them for protection as a fellow orthodox country against invaders. Currently they were the Persians. Catherine started a war against them in 1796 after they have invaded Georgia. Russia’s goal here was to overthrow the current king and replace him with a puppet one for control. He would play as a defense zone for Russia and a fellow ally.
A good portion of Russian troops stormed in Persian territory. There wasn’t much of resistance and took the three main cities. But this was where Catherine was old and she passed away, her successor Paul retreated the troops from Persia.
Russia also expanded in her Asian territories far east. They engaged in a trade diplomacy with them, which activated the eastern part of the Empire.
Catherine was a pretty interesting woman, she had many lovers which she enjoyed in each and every one. Gifted males were tested before they were sent in bed with her, after she got used to them she would keep them and give them land, titles, roles, etc. she never forgot them. It was considered that she enjoyed sex and was a nymphomaniac, she even had a pretty interesting “room” covered in everything sexual. There is a story about here and her love towards horses but it isn’t considered true.
She was a lover of the arts, literature and education. The Museum, called the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace of Peter began as a personal collection. She was a writer herself, writing various comedies and memoirs. She had a contact and invited Voltaire in her country. She was in contact with him for 15 years until his death. They never met which is pretty interesting but they were really close. The famous encyclopedia was started back then and the writers were banned from France, she invited them to write here. The Enlightenment she started had a huge effect present and future.
She started many reforms which had amazing effect. Let’s start with the reform of administration which she included. This made a good decentralization of the crown but it showed to have amazing effect, even though there was a big revolt. What she did was divide the country into smaller provinces and districts. Each has it’s own organs and made it easy to manage, as long as they payed taxes. What did this change? Well if I wanted to make a village in Siberia and I had to walk all over to the capital back west it’s pretty silly, this made it easier to manage and administrate. There were 50 provinces and 500 districts.
She imported various artists, inventors, etc. to her country for the Russian Enlightenment. This help grew the country from inside.
Her educational reforms are really important. She had love towards the European culture and philosophy. Now Catherine had a task to educate the people. Looking at it like this, less educated people are easily controlled and manipulated. But there was a reason why she wanted to educate everyone and this showed it’s effect. Making various institutes for nobles and also public schools helped the country grow. She also stated that noble girls should get their educations the same as the males. During Catherine educational reforms, that didn’t quite had the money to finance them but later showed beneficial had over 62 000 people educated which wasn’t quite a big number.
The power of the church fell, it had no longer the same authority and Catherine used it for her benefit. She nationalized all of the Church estates leaving the Priests landless and surviving off other activities. She needed the land for money and the money for war. The church was losing and she speed up the process. Even though she wasn’t a believer she still supported the church in a way. This was in order to control the people and to gain leverage on the Ottomans.
For the Muslim population she had a really aggressive approach, she banned Islam in a way. She wanted and gave benefits to everyone who is going to convert from Islam to Orthodox, she gave the Serfs freedom, she banned Muslims from having serfs and all other laws in order for the people to convert without violence.
For the Jews she gave them an extra tax’s and if converted that tax would be lifted away. With the Polish territories she gained a lot of Jews which she didn’t want to move to the other parts of the country and made them stay there. But she needed the Jews in order to assimilate the economy of Russia.
Orthodoxy was growing and that part of Christianity was dominant there. Catherine had plans of restoring the great Byzantine empire which backfired and weren’t finalized in the end.
There was a huge revolt against Catherine that took over a vast territory and played as a threat for the kingdom, she managed to suffocate it but it showed that people weren’t satisfied. Various types of people were united under one banner, there were Muslims, Cossacks, Serfs, etc. This is known as the Pugachev’s Rebellion and it was during the Russian Turkish war.
Later Catherine died and left the throne to her son. Her rule ended but she gained massive territories, reformed the country gaining control of the church, education, etc. and also she made Russian into a great power.