In the historiography, Catherine II was the only woman to have been awarded the title "the Great". In her reign, she not only enlarged the Russian territory but also went down in history through her countless love affairs.
Origin and teenage years:
Catherine was born on May 2, 1729 in Szczecin as Princess Sophie Auguste Friederike of Anhalt- Zerbst. Her parents were Prince Christian August von Anhalt-Zerbst and Johanna Elisabeth von Holstein-Gottorf.
In 1739, at the age of ten, she met her later husband, the Russian heir-apparent, Grand Duke Peter Fjodorowitsch and later Emperor Peter III at the Eutin Castle.
On the advice of the Prussian King Frederick II, a marriage was to take place between the two. In January 1744, Princess Sophie traveled to Moscow, where she arrived in February. On June 29, 1744, the engagement took place, the marriage was carried out on August 21, 1745. In the time leading up to the wedding, Sophie quickly learned the Russian language and converted from the Evangelical Lutheran to the Orthodox faith.
The marriage with the later emperor Peter III. however, was problematic from the start. Even the first child was born only on October 1, 1754, which was probably a child of a love of Catherine. On December 9, 1757 then came the second child, which, however, already died on March 9, 1759.
The coup d'etat under Catherine:
On December 25, 1761, the ruling Tsarina Elisabeth died, bringing the throne to her son Peter III. fell. But even during the day of mourning Peter should not have behaved according to the circumstances and thus have drawn the displeasure of the nobility and parts of the population. In addition, one of his first official acts was peace with Prussia, with which Russia was in conflict during the Austrian War of Succession. Peace and a reform program brought more benefits than advantages to the country.
With the support of the guards regiments Catherine then planned the coup to drop her husband. On July 9, 1762, she made herself proclaim the Tsarina and declared Peter III. for deposed. Then she marched with her faithful soldiers in Peterhof, where Peter was last. Although he was able to flee to Kronstadt, returned shortly thereafter and signed the abdication certificate. On the very day of the signature Catherine was proclaimed Tsarina by the Metropolitan Sechin in the Kazan Cathedral of Saint-Petersburg. Peter was subsequently captured and died on July 17, 1762 under circumstances still unclear.
Shortly after her reign, Catherine implemented reforms that would modernize and make the huge Russian empire more effective. Thus, a new administrative structure was introduced in the country, which divided it into 40 provinces and involved the nobility and the business elite more in the administration.
Catherine also put much effort into getting foreigners into the country. Settlers were promised freedom of religion and taxation as well as the right to dispose of their land. She put special emphasis on German settlers, who should settle alongside the Volga, hence the name Volga German, which was used until the Second World War.
From 1764 onwards, Catherine's elementary schools and grammar schools were built in every province. Although the lessons were voluntary for the students, they were free of charge. Until her death the number of schools could be increased from 6 to 316.
Despite all these reforms, the standard of living of the peasants could not be increased, and in some cases even worsened. So it came in the years 1773-1775 to the so-called Pugachev uprising (also called Russian peasant war), which spread from the core area around the Ural River and could be crushed only with the massive use of the army.
Foreign policy Catherine pursued a consistent expansion of their empire. Particular attention was paid to the decaying Ottoman Empire and Poland. Thus it came to the Russian-Turkish and the Russian-Polish war, whereby in the end Poland under Russia, Prussia and Austria was divided and disappeared from the map as well as the Ottoman rich had to cede large areas.
The private life of Catherine:
Catherine was not only talked about by her political reforms and military campaigns. In her private life, she often changed her lover and over the years she came across a stately number of them. In particular, around 20 people are known who had a relationship or relationship with Catherine, but the actual number is likely to be higher. Some of the best-known lovers include:
- Count Saltykov, her lover during the marriage with Peter and probable father of her first child
- Stanislaus II. August Poniatowski, later King of Poland and leader of the rebellion against Russia, presumably the father of Katharina's second child
- Count Grigori Orlow, was involved in the coup and later gave Katharina the famous, named after him Orlov diamond, which was used in the scepter of the Russian tsars. Probably also father of one of the children of Catherine
- Prince Potjomkin, is considered her great love
Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov was the only one to be out of favor with Poniatowski when he left the Tsarina in favor of a sixteen-year-old lady-in-waiting
- Prince Platon Alexandrovich Subow, Catherine's last lover until her death
On November 17, 1796 Catherine died in Saint Petersburg. The official cause of death is the result of a stroke.
You can find the right literature here:
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
Catherine the Great: A Life From Beginning to End (Biographies of Women in History)
Catherine the Great is one of the most influential rulers in Russian history. Though born in Prussia, she endeavored to gain the throne of Russia and went on to be the longest-ruling empress in Russian history. She ruled as an enlightened despot, promoting the principles of the European Enlightenment as she sought to modernize her beloved country. She reformed the educational system of Russia, creating a national system that utilized modern educational theory in a co-educational setting. She attracted some of the most brilliant thinkers to her court and engaged their assistance in modernizing the arts and sciences as well as the Russian economic system. Because of her efforts, she ruled over what is considered the Golden Age of Russian Enlightenment.
The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia
An art-oriented biography of the mighty Catherine the Great, who rose from seemingly innocuous beginnings to become one of the most powerful people in the world. A German princess who married a decadent and lazy Russian prince, Catherine mobilized support amongst the Russian nobles, playing off of her husband's increasing corruption and abuse of power. She then staged a coup that ended with him being strangled with his own scarf in the halls of the palace and herself crowned the Empress of Russia.
Intelligent and determined, Catherine modeled herself off of her grandfather in-law, Peter the Great, and sought to further modernize and westernize Russia. She believed that the best way to do this was through a ravenous acquisition of art, which Catherine often used as a form of diplomacy with other powers throughout Europe. She was a self-proclaimed "glutton for art" and she would be responsible for the creation of the Hermitage, one of the largest museums in the world, second only to the Louvre. Catherine also spearheaded the further expansion of St. Petersburg, and the magnificent architectural wonder the city became is largely her doing. There are few women in history more fascinating than Catherine the Great, and for the first time, Susan Jaques brings her to life through the prism of art.
24 pages of color illustrations
Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great
This major international production traces the sensational rise of Catherine the Great, renowned Empress of 18th Century Russia and part of the Romanoff dynasty. Ekaterina begins her journey as a German princess selected to marry Peter the Third, heir to the Russian throne and grandson of Peter the Great. Her story shows that even in an age of imperial dynasties, power is not given. It is taken.