Catherine The Great

Catherine Empress

Was the most renowned and the longest ruling female leader of Russia, reigning from 1762 until her death in 1796 at the age of 67. Born in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland), Pomerania, Prussia as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, she came to power following a coup d’état when her husband, Peter III, was assassinated. Russia was revitalized under her reign, growing larger and stronger than ever and becoming recognized as one of the great powers of Europe.

The future supreme Tsarina’s name was actually Sophia Augusta Frederica, was of German nationality and was born in the town of Stettin in Pomerania, Prussia (now called Szeczin in Poland). The child saw the light of the day in the family of Christian Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. She spent her childhood in an austere atmosphere, but marked by scholarly discussion and often joyful ones. Her father was a very strict and religious man, then commanding a regiment of the Prussian army. Her mother, Princess Johanna Elizabeth von Holstein-Gottorp was closely akin to the monarchs who ruled Prussia, Denmark and Sweden.

In 1743, the young princess was baptized in the Lutheran Church rite to accomplish her mother’s wish, although soon after she married Tsar Peter III of Russia, the young girl switched to Orthodoxy without any regret. In 1744, Catherine received an invitation from Empress Elizabeth of Russia, an invitation which actually sought the arranging of a marriage between her son and Sophia Augusta. Her future husband was actually a second cousin, who was then only 11 years old and was already addicted to alcohol. Later, Catherine realized that getting married to the heir of Russia’s throne will pave the way to a dream life, so the princess accepted the ambitious plan of the two families.

The two just married cousins soon proved to be totally incompatible with each other. However, Catherine tried to keep up the appearances for the sake of the court’s situation, she was patient with her slob and eccentric husband because she was following her goals in silence and with great ambition. Unlike her husband, Catherine was an ambitious woman, intelligent and talented in many areas. Her strong mind was of a male type, being always eager to learn and to discover new things. In fact come to Russia to accomplish their career and destiny.

As a leader with vast interests, Catherine was involved in various courses of action simultaneously. Having an extremely hardworking and conscientious nature, the Queen woke up every day at 5 AM and worked on various administrative matters. In the early years of her reign, the Empress had big plans in both domestic and foreign policy of Russia, but she preferred to strengthen her position and situation. As there were enough influential people who saw a dim in her and her son’s, Paul ascension, the Queen quickly understood that without the support of the noble class and of the military, she could be overthrown in a few years.

Catherine paid great attention to the introduction of education and literacy. She didn’t only manage the set up several elementary schools, but her reforms were continued by her successors to the throne. As one of her most important concerns was to strengthen the Russian economy, the Empress encouraged trade by reducing taxes and invited both Russian and foreign investors to settle in disadvantaged areas. Under her leadership, Sankt Petersburg has been partially restored and has become one of the most sumptuous cities of the time. Under her patronage, the Academy of Sciences has developed unprecedented.

Also, she is the person who founded the Hermitage, a museum in an annex building of the Winter Palace. During her reign, she managed to add 11 new provinces to the Russian Empire and the Empire’s population has doubled. Catherine the Great founded 144 new cities at a rate of 4 new cities emerging within a year. She strengthened the Russian army and fleet that had a number of 78 victories during her reign, propelling Russia to the status of world power. Having a modest nature, the Empress used to say that everything she did for Russia was the equivalent of a drop of water in the ocean. Catherine the Great died of a heart attack on 6 November 1796.

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