Catherine the Great on her wedding day.
Elizabeth too was childless, and the throne passed to the heir she had selected—her nephew the duke von Holstein-Gottorp, who became Peter III.
Peter III made himself personally unpopular with St. Petersburg society; in addition, he allowed his entourage mainly… Origins and early experience Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst was the daughter of an obscure German prince, Christian August von Anhalt-Zerbst, but she was related through her mother to the dukes of Holstein.
At age 14 she was chosen to be the wife of Karl Ulrich, duke of Holstein-Gottorp, grandson of Peter the Great and heir to the throne of Russia as the grand duke Peter.
In Catherine arrived in Russia, assumed the title of Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseyevna, and married her young cousin the following year. The marriage was a complete failure; the following 18 years were filled with disappointment and humiliation for her.
Devoted to much pleasure and luxury and greatly desirous of giving her court the brilliancy of a European court, Elizabeth prepared the way for Catherine. Catherine, however, would not have become empress if her husband had been at all normal.
He was extremely neurotic, rebellious, obstinate, perhaps impotent, nearly alcoholic, and, most seriously, a fanatical worshipper of Frederick II of Prussiathe foe of the empress Elizabeth.
Catherine, by contrast, was clearheaded and ambitious. Her intelligence, flexibility of character, and love of Russia gained her much support. She was humiliated, bored, and regarded with suspicion while at court, but she found comfort in reading extensively and in preparing herself for her future role as sovereign.
Although a woman of little beauty, Catherine possessed considerable charm, a lively intelligence, and extraordinary energy. Her true passion, however, was ambition; since Peter was incapable of ruling, she saw quite early the possibility of eliminating him and governing Russia herself.
He made no attempt to hide his hatred of Russia and his love of his native Germany ; discrediting himself endlessly by his foolish actions, he also prepared to rid himself of his wife. Catherine had only to strike: Petersburgwhere Grigory Orlovher lover, was stationed; the court; and public opinion in both capitals Moscow and St.
Petersburg and had herself proclaimed empress and autocrat in the Kazan Cathedral. Peter III abdicated and was assassinated eight days later. Although Catherine probably did not order the murder of Peter, it was committed by her supporters, and public opinion held her responsible.
In Septembershe was crowned with great ceremony in Moscow, the ancient capital of the tsars, and began a reign that was to span 34 years as empress of Russia under the title of Catherine II.
Truly dedicated to her adopted country, she intended to make Russia a prosperous and powerful state. Since her early days in Russia she had dreamed of establishing a reign of order and justiceof spreading education, creating a court to rival Versaillesand developing a national culture that would be more than an imitation of French models.
Her projects obviously were too numerous to carry out, even if she could have given her full attention to them.
Her most pressing practical problem, however, was to replenish the state treasury, which was empty when Elizabeth died; this she did in by secularizing the property of the clergy, who owned one-third of the land and serfs in Russia.
The Russian clergy was reduced to a group of state-paid functionaries, losing what little power had been left to it by the reforms of Peter the Great. Her attempts at reform, however, were less than satisfying. A disciple of the English and French liberal philosophers, she saw very quickly that the reforms advocated by Montesquieu or Jean-Jacques Rousseauwhich were difficult enough to put into practice in Europe, did not at all correspond to the realities of an anarchic and backward Russia.
In she convened a commission composed of delegates from all the provinces and from all social classes except the serfs for the purpose of ascertaining the true wishes of her people and framing a constitution.
The debates went on for months and came to nothing. It was considered too liberal for publication in France and remained a dead letter in Russia. Frustrated in her attempts at reform, Catherine seized the pretext of war with Turkey in to change her policy; henceforth, emphasis would be placed above all on national grandeur.
At that point, Russia encountered unforeseen difficulties. First, a terrible plague broke out in Moscow ; along with the hardships imposed by the war, it created a climate of disaffection and popular agitation. In Yemelyan Pugachova former officer of the Don Cossacks, pretending to be the dead emperor Peter III, incited the greatest uprising of Russian history prior to the revolution of At this point, the war with Turkey ended in a Russian victory, and Catherine sent her crack troops to crush the rebellion.
Defeated and captured, Pugachov was beheaded inbut the terror and chaos he inspired were not soon forgotten.Catherine was the first woman to rule Imperial Russia, opening the legal path for a century almost entirely dominated by women, including her daughter Elizabeth and granddaughter-in-law Catherine the Great, all of whom continued Peter the Great's policies in modernizing Russia.
Pretenders plagued Catherine the Great's reign in a way unmatched by any other period in Russian history. At least seventeen of the twenty-six pretenders during Catherine's reign appeared in one of three clusters; six from –, six from –, and five from –Predecessor: Peter III.
Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia between 9 July and November 17, Catherine seized power from her husband, Peter III, in a coup d’etat and, seeing herself as an enlightened despot, reigned over what is regarded by many as a golden era of Russian enlightenment and expansion.
Intensive introduction to major themes and approaches to the history of imperial Russia. Prepares students for the general exam but all interested graduate students are welcome. The Life and Reign of Catherine the Great | History 72e.
Catherine the Great and Russia The Triumphs of Tsarina Elizabeth I Elizabeth’s reign was marked by domestic reforms that continued the efforts of her father, Peter the Great, strengthening Russia’s position as a major participant in the European imperial rivalry.
Russia - The reign of Catherine II (the Great; –96) - Elizabeth too was childless, and the throne passed to the heir she had selected—her nephew the duke von Holstein-Gottorp, who became Peter III.