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HOMEHISTORY OF ST. PETERSBURGCATHERINE THE GREAT (CATHERINE II)

Catherine the Great (Catherine II)

Catherine The Great, RussiaBorn: April 21 (May 2), 1729 Szczecin, Pomerania (Prussian Kingdom)

Died: November 6 (17), 1796 Tsarskoye Selo, Russia

The future Catherine the Great was born a German princess in one of many tiny German states, but ended her life a powerful and enlightened ruler of the vast Russian Empire. In 1745 she married Prince Carl Peter Ulrich, the heir to the Russian throne (the future Emperor Peter III). Being a bright personality with a strong sense of determination she joined the Russian Orthodox Church, learned the Russian language and through personal study acquired a brilliant education. She was proud to be a friend and an active correspondent of some of the brightest thinkers of the day, such as the prominent philosophers of the French Enlightenment, Rousseau and Diderot.

In June 1762 Catherine took an active part in a coup against her husband Emperor Peter III. He was overthrown and later killed "in an accident", and Catherine became Russia's autocratic ruler. Throughout her long reign she undertook many reforms and ensured the extension of the Russian Empire by acquiring territories in Southern Ukraine and the Crimea. Amongst her reforms was the extension of rights and privileges granted to the Russian nobility, which won Catherine popularity among the Russian social elite.

Catherine had a string of sensationalized and widely publicized love affairs with various army officers and politicians, although much of what was reported was untrue. Nevertheless, she promoted most of her lovers to the highest ranks and some of them proved themselves extremely talented and able figures (for example Prince Potyomkin, a very prominent general and political figure of the day).

Catherine the Great, being the foreign element in the Romanov dynasty, wanted to establish strong links with earlier Russian history and the Romanov Tsars and with this in mind she commissioned an impressive monument to Peter the Great - the Bronze Horseman. Most experts agree that Catherine changed the appearance of St. Petersburg quite significantly, and turned it into one of the most impressive capital cities in European.

Catherine the Great died in 1796 at the age of 67, having lived longer than any other Romanov monarch. She was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.


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