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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
This topic is about Catherine the Great

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited May 21, 2012 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 26511 comments *POTENTIAL SPOILERS*

This is the glossary for Catherine the Great. This is not a non spoiler thread so any urls and/or expansive discussion can take place here regarding this book. Additionally, this is the spot to add that additional information that may contain spoilers or any helpful urls, links, etc.

This thread is not to be used for self promotion.

Catherine the Great  Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie by Robert K. MassieRobert K. Massie

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Bentley | 26511 comments The PBS Special:

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Tim Schultz | 26 comments One major theme and influence on Catherine's reign was the Enlightenment, the ideas of which were spread throughout the western world through massive amounts of correspondence between enlightenment figures. Catherine herself had several pen pals among the enlightenment philosophers, and these relationships guided the evolution of her thinking on many topics. This nifty tool allows you to visually explore the spread of enlightenment ideas:

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Bentley | 26511 comments Thanks a lot Tim.

Joanne | 649 comments An exclusive exhibit concerning Catherine the Great is running July 13 - October 21, 2012 at the National Museum of Scotland.

"Sharp, funny, generous, iron-willed and passionate, Catherine the Great was one of Russia’s most successful rulers and one of the greatest art collectors of all time."

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Tim Schultz | 26 comments Several people have commented on the introduction thread that they might find a family tree to be helpful, so here is a link to one from Wikipedia.

Donna (drspoon) | 488 comments Thanks, Tim. I made a copy to keep inside my book.

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Thanks all, great contributions. The family tree is long and complex andhard to keep track of in your head. With the name changes it gets downright dizzying.

message 9: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Global NF, HF, European/Brit. Hist/Music (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments A portrait of the young Catherine by George Grooth.

Joanne | 649 comments Whether it has been decades since you studied Russian History or you are looking for a survey to orient yourself, I recommend the Teaching Company course: "History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev" by Prof. Mark D. Steinberg.
Prof. Steinberg is also the author of several books, including "Petersburg Fin de Siecle."
Petersburg Fin de Siecle by Prof. Mark D. Steinbergby Prof. Mark D. Steinberg

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Thanks Joanne! Some of us are new to Russian History so it's nice to have a recommendation for further reading.

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Kathy (Kathy_H) | 2561 comments Joanne wrote: "Whether it has been decades since you studied Russian History or you are looking for a survey to orient yourself, I recommend the Teaching Company course: "History of Russia: From Peter the Great t..."

Just be sure to wait until the course comes on sale. Every course eventually comes on sale and that makes it much more affordable. Looks like the Russian history is not on sale so I'll wait until later to get it.

I don't remember much if anything on Russian history so Catherine is mostly all new to me.

Joanne | 649 comments Kathy wrote: "Joanne wrote: "Whether it has been decades since you studied Russian History or you are looking for a survey to orient yourself, I recommend the Teaching Company course: "History of Russia: From Pe..."

Absolutely! All courses go on sale and, then, are very affordable. My public library also has many titles.

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Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments Another site which provides a biography of Peter the Great, father of Elizabeth and the ruler who brought Russia out of the Dark Ages.

Joanne | 649 comments In November of 2011, Diane Rehm interviewed Robert Massie about "Catherine the Great." The 50-minute audio is available at in her archive.

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp

Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp (24 October 1712 – 30 May 1760) was a princess of the House of Holstein-Gottorp and later the Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst. She is best known as the mother of Catherine the Great of Russia.

She was born at Gottorp, the daughter of Christian August, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach. She was the Regent of Anhalt-Zerbst from 1747 to 1752 for her minor son, Frederick Augustus.

Early life
She had been brought up at the court of Brunswick, by her godmother and aunt by marriage, Elisabeth Sophie Marie, the Duchess of Brunswick-Luneberg, to whom the duke of Holstein-Gottorp was glad to relinquish one of his several daughters. Johanna Elisabeth grew up on the same footing as her cousin, the duchess's daughter and it was the duchess who arranged her marriage at 15 and provided her dowry.

Johanna Elisabeth was married in 1727 to Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst, who coincidently had the same Christian name as her father, who had died the previous year. He was a general in the Prussian army, and served under Frederick William I of Prussia. After her marriage, Johanna Elisabeth went travelled with her husband to Stettin, a city on the limits of the bay of Pomerania, where the base of the regiment of her husband was located. It is said that a father-daughter like relationship developed between Johanna Elisabeth and her husband.

Johanna Elisabeth found her existence with her sober, middle aged husband in the misty grey and dull town of Stettin a far cry from the livelier atmosphere she had grown up in at the Court of Brunswick. The city offered little scope for a young girl like Johanna Elisabeth, who craved for an exciting social life. Neither did the birth of her first child bring her much joy. Her attitude towards Sophie (the future Empress Catherine II) was always ambivalent. The birth was a difficult one and Joanna Elisabeth seems to have thought that the reward was insufficient, considering what she went through. According to her daughter, she nearly died in the process and it took her 19 weeks to recover.

The main governor of Anhalt-Zerbst, cousin of Christian August, apparently could not have children and his older brother, Louis, was unmarried: this meant that if Johanna Elisabeth would have given her husband a son, their family's position would have changed considerably, and she would have been able to leave Stettin forever. Later on, Johanna Elisabeth's priority thus remained the political advancement of her children and to give them a more distinguished future than she had, being forced to marry a man of a lower rank despite being the great-granddaughter of a king of Denmark. However, she always wanted to be a step ahead of her daughter, constantly feeling jealous of her and wanting to put her down, to the extent that she even allowed her brother, Georg Ludwig of Holstein-Gottorp to openly displaying his strong liking for Sophie, so much so that he kissed her on the lips. Infatuated by Sophie, Georg Ludwig proposed marriage, which was thoroughly considered by his sister, who had begun to think of Sophie as a future sister-in-law and friend. However, this was never to happen as the Empress Elizabeth of Russia sent a letter to Joanna Elisabeth requesting her and her daughter's presence at the royal palace in Russia.

For the adored William, everything was tried, but without success. The thermal baths which he was put in likely resulted in a respiratory disease which eventually caused his death. For Johanna Elisabeth this was a hard blow, since he was her favorite son. When the prince of Anhalt-Zerbst died, he was succeeded by Louis of Anhalt-Zerbst, who appointed his nephew Frederick as his successor. By this the family transferred itself to Zerbst.

In Russia
When her brother Adolf Frederick was chosen to succeed to the throne of Sweden, Johanna Elisabeth began to forge the idea to marry her daughter to a party of high rank. Johanna Elisabeth followed her daughter to her wedding in Russia. She tried to remain at the Russian court at least until the marriage of her daughter. But rumors of a love affair with Count de Beckij, well-known for conspiring against Empress Elizabeth, caused The Empress to threaten to force them both to return to Germany. After the marriage between Catherine and Peter, Johanna was forced to leave Russia. She was prohibited entrance back into Russia and even prevented from maintaining correspondence with her daughter, although she managed to send some letters to her in clandestine manner.

Regency and later life
In 1747, she was widowed and made regent of Anhalt-Zerbst in place of her minor son. She ruled until 1752. After this, Johanna Elisabeth went to live in Paris.

She died on 30 May 1760 at age 47 at Paris, France.


message 17: by Alisa (last edited Jul 12, 2012 12:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst

Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst (Dornburg, 29 November 1690 – Zerbst, 16 March 1747) was a German prince of the House of Ascania. He was a ruler of the Principality of Anhalt-Dornburg, then, from 1742, a ruler of the entire Principality of Anhalt-Zerbst. He was also a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall, but is best known for being the father of Catherine the Great of Russia.

Christian August was the third son of John Louis I, Prince of Anhalt-Dornburg and Christine Eleonore of Zeutsch. After the death of his father in 1704, Christian August inherited Anhalt-Dornburg jointly with his brothers John Louis II, John Augustus (died 1709), Christian Louis (died 1710) and John Frederick (died 1742).

After possibly six months as a captain in the regiment guard in 1708, on 11 February 1709 he joined the Regiment on foot in Anhalt-Zerbst (No. 8) which later changed its name to the Grenadier's Regiment King Frederick William IV of Prussia. It was stationed in Stettin. In 1711 Christian August was awarded the Order De la Générosité, later renamed in Pour le Mérite, and on 1 March 1713 was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. After he took part in several military campaigns during the Spanish War of Succession and in the Netherlands, in 1714 Christian August was appointed Chief of the Regiment; two years later, on 4 January 1716 he was named Colonel and on 14 August 1721 became Major-General.

On 22 January 1729 he became Commander of Stettin, after having been chosen there on 24 May 1725 as a knight of Order of the Black Eagle. Christian August was designated on 28 May 1732 Lieutenant-General and on 8 April 1741 Infantry General. On 5 June of that year he was designated Governor of Stettin. On 16 May 1742 King Frederick II of Prussia awarded him the highest military dignity, the rank of Generalfeldmarschall.

Six months later, the death of his cousin John Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, without any issue made him and his older and only surviving brother, John Louis II, the heirs of Anhalt-Zerbst as co-rulers. Christian August remained in Stettin and his brother took full charge of the government, but he died only four years later, unmarried and childless. For this reason, Christian August had to leave Stettin and return to Zerbst, but he only reigned four months until his own death.

Marriage and issue
On 8 November 1727 in Vechelde, Christian August married Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp (24 October 1712 - 30 May 1760), daughter of Prince Christian August of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin and sister of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden. They had five children:

Sophie Auguste Fredericka (2 May 1729 - 17 November 1796), who later became Catherine II the Great, Empress of Russia.
William Christian Frederick(17 November 1730 -27 August 1742).
Frederick Augustus (8 August 1734 -3 March 1793).
Auguste Christine Charlotte (10 November 1736 -24 November 1736).
Elisabeth Ulrike (17 December 1742 -5 March 1745).


message 18: by Alisa (last edited Jul 12, 2012 02:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Elizabeth of Russia

Elizaveta Petrovna (Russian: Елизаве́та (Елисаве́т) Петро́вна) (29 December [O.S. 18 December] 1709 – 5 January 1762 [O.S. 25 December 1761]), also known as Yelisavet and Elizabeth, was the Empress of Russia from 1741 until her death. She led the country into the two major European conflicts of her time: the War of Austrian Succession (1740–8) and the Seven Years' War (1756–63). On the eve of her death, Russia spanned almost 4,000,000,000 acres (16,000,000 km2).

Her domestic policies allowed the nobles to gain dominance in local government while shortening their terms of service to the state. She encouraged Mikhail Lomonosov's establishment of the University of Moscow and Ivan Shuvalov foundation of the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. She also spent exorbitant sums of money on the grandiose baroque projects of her favourite architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, particularly in Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo. The Winter Palace and the Smolny Cathedral in Saint Petersburg remain the chief monuments of her reign. She remains one of the most popular Russian monarchs due to her strong opposition to Prussian policies and her abstinence from executing a single person during her reign.

Early life
Elizabeth, the second-oldest surviving daughter of Peter I of Russia and Catherine I of Russia, was born at Kolomenskoye, near Moscow, on 18 December 1709 (O.S.). Her parents were secretly married in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in St. Petersburg in November 1707. The marriage was made public in February 1712. As her parents were not publicly acknowledged as being married at the time of her birth, Elizabeth's 'illegitimacy' would be used by political opponents to challenge her right to the throne. On 6 March 1711, she was proclaimed a Tsarevna, and on 23 December 1721, a Tsesarevna.

Out of the twelve children of Peter and Catherine (five sons and seven daughters), only two daughters, Anna and Elizabeth survived. Anna was betrothed to the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, nephew of the late King Charles XII of Sweden, Peter's old adversary. Her father had tried to also find a brilliant match for Elizabeth with the French Royal court when he paid a visit there. It was Peter's intention to marry his second daughter to the young French King Louis XV, but the Bourbons declined the offer as Elizabeth`s mother`s origin was deemed too obscure. Elizabeth had been betrothed to Prince Karl Augustus of Holstein-Gottorp, son of Christian Augustus, Prince of Eutin. Politically, it was a useful and respectable alliance. A few days after the betrothal, Karl Augustus died. At the time of Peter's death, no marriage plan had succeeded.

As a child, Elizabeth was bright, if not brilliant, but her formal education was both imperfect and desultory. Her father adored her. Elizabeth was his daughter and in many ways resembled him as a feminine replica, both physically and temperamentally. Peter had no leisure to devote to her training, and her mother was too down-to-earth and illiterate to superintend her formal studies. She had a French governess, and was fluent in Italian, German and French. She was also an excellent dancer and rider. From her earliest years, she delighted everyone with her extraordinary beauty and vivacity. She was commonly known as the leading beauty of the Russian Empire.

So long as Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov remained in power, Elizabeth was treated with liberality and distinction by the government of her adolescent half-nephew Peter II. The Dolgorukovs, an ancient boyar family, deeply resented Menshikov. With Peter II's attachment to Prince Ivan Dolgorukov, and with two of their family members on the Supreme State Council, they had the leverage for a successful coup. Menshikov was arrested, stripped of all his honours and properties and exiled to northern Siberia, where he later died in November 1729. The Dolgorukovs hated the memory of Peter the Great, and practically banished Peter's daughter from Court.

With the death of her father and the later accession of the Empress Anna, no royal court or noble house in Europe could allow a son to pay court to Elizabeth, as it would be seen as an unfriendly act to the Empress.[9] Marriage to a commoner was not possible as it would cost Elizabeth not only her title, but also her property rights and her claim to the throne. Elizabeth's response was to make a lover of Alexis Shubin, a handsome sergeant in the Semyonovsky Guards regiment. After his banishment to Siberia (having previously been relieved of his tongue) by order of the Empress Anna, she turned to a coachman and even a waiter. Eventually she consoled herself with a young Ukrainian peasant with a good bass voice who had been brought to Saint Petersburg by a nobleman for a church choir. Elizabeth acquired him for her own choir. His name was Alexis Razumovsky. Razumovsky was a good and simple-minded man, untroubled by personal ambition. Elizabeth was devoted to him, and there is reason to believe that she could have married him in a secret ceremony. Razumovsky would later become known as "the Emperor of the Night" and Elizabeth would make him a Prince and Field Marshal on becoming Empress. The Holy Roman Emperor would also make Razumovsky a Count of the Holy Roman Empire

1741 coup
During the reign of her cousin Anna (1730–1740), Elizabeth was gathering support in the background; but after the death of Empress Anna, the regency of Anna Leopoldovna with infant Ivan VI was marked by high taxes and economic problems. Such a course of events compelled the indolent, but by no means incapable, beauty to overthrow the weak and corrupt government. Elizabeth, being the daughter of Peter the Great, enjoyed much support from the Russian guards regiments. Elizabeth often visited the regiments, marking special events with the officers and acting as godmother to their children. The guards repaid her kindness when on the night of 25 November 1741, Elizabeth seized power with the help of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. Arriving at the regimental headquarters dressed in a metal breastplate over her dress and grasping a silver cross she stated, "Who do you want to serve? Me, the natural sovereign, or those who have stolen my inheritance?" After winning the regiment over, the troops marched to the Winter Palace where they arrested the infant Emperor, his parents and their own lieutenant-colonel, Count von Munnich. It was a daring coup and passed without bloodshed. Elizabeth had vowed that if she became Empress that she would not sign a single death sentence, an unusual promise that she—notably—kept to throughout her life.

Domestic policies
At the age of thirty-three, this naturally indolent and self-indulgent woman, with little knowledge and no experience of affairs, found herself at the head of a great empire at one of the most critical periods of its existence. Her proclamation as Empress Elizabeth I explained that the preceding reigns had led Russia to ruin:

"The Russian people have been groaning under the enemies of the Christian faith, but she has delivered them from the degrading foreign oppression."

Russia had been under the domination of German advisers and Elizabeth exiled the most unpopular of them, including Heinrich Ostermann, Burkhard von Munnich and Carl Gustav Lowenwolde. Elizabeth crowned herself Empress in the Dormition Cathedral on 25 April 1742.

Fortunately for herself and for Russia, Elizabeth Petrovna, with all her shortcomings (documents often waited months for her signature), had inherited some of her father's genius for government. Her usually keen judgment and her diplomatic tact again and again recalled Peter the Great. What sometimes appeared as irresolution and procrastination, was most often a wise suspension of judgment under exceptionally difficult circumstances.

The substantial changes made by Elizabeth's father, Peter the Great, had not exercised a really formative influence on the intellectual attitudes of the ruling classes as a whole. Elizabeth made considerable impact and laid the groundwork for its completion by her eventual successor, Catherine II

Selecting an heir
As an unmarried and childless Empress, it was imperative for Elizabeth to find a legitimate heir to secure the Romanov dynasty. She chose her nephew, Peter of Holstein-Gottorp. Elizabeth was only too aware that the deposed Ivan VI, whom she had imprisoned in the Schlusselburg Fortress and placed in solitary confinement, was a threat to her throne. Elizabeth feared a coup in his favour and set about destroying all papers, coins or anything else depicting or mentioning Ivan. Elizabeth had issued an order that, should any attempt be made for him to escape, he was to be eliminated. Catherine II upheld the order and when an attempt was made he was killed and secretly buried within the fortress.

The young Peter had lost his mother, Elizabeth's sister Anna, at three months old and his father at the age of eleven. Elizabeth invited her young nephew to Saint Petersburg, where he was received into the Orthodox Church and proclaimed heir on 7 November 1742. Elizabeth gave him at once Russian tutors. Keen to see the dynasty secured, Elizabeth settled on Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst as a bride for her nephew. On her conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church, Sophie was given the name of Catherine in memory of Elizabeth's mother. The marriage took place on 21 August 1745 with a son, the future Paul I, finally born on 20 September 1754.

There is considerable speculation as to the actual paternity of Paul I. It is suggested that he was not Peter's son at all, but that his mother had engaged in an affair—to which Elizabeth had consented—with a young officer named Serge Saltykov, and that he was Paul's real father. In any case, Peter never gave any indication that he believed Paul to have been fathered by anyone but himself. He also did not take any interest in parenthood. Elizabeth though most certainly took an active interest. She removed the young Paul and acted as if she were his mother and not Catherine. The Empress had ordered the midwife to take the baby and to follow her. Catherine was not to see her child for another month and then on the second time briefly for the churching ceremony. Six months later Elizabeth let Catherine see the child again. The child had in effect become a ward of the state and in a larger sense, the property of the state. In her infinite capacity for self-deception, Elizabeth had made the decision to bring up the baby as she believed he should be—as a true heir and great-grandson of her father, Peter the Great.

excerpted from:

message 19: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Global NF, HF, European/Brit. Hist/Music (last edited Jul 12, 2012 08:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments This short video is comprised of portraits of Sophie/Catherine through the years with music from the soundtrack of the film Ogniem I Mieczem. Quite interesting.

message 20: by Joanne (last edited Jul 14, 2012 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joanne | 649 comments For some pure Hollywood hokum, enjoy the opening of "The Scarlet Empress"(1934), starring Marlene Dietrich. She may be a blonde Catherine the Great, but at least she's German!

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments and if you were from Germany who wouldn't want to have their life portrayed by Marlene Dietrich? fun addition.
Marlene DietrichMarlene Dietrich

message 22: by Joanne (last edited Jul 14, 2012 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joanne | 649 comments Alisa wrote: "and if you were from Germany who wouldn't want to have their life portrayed by Marlene Dietrich? fun addition.
Marlene DietrichMarlene Dietrich"

Delicious! Especially as seen through the eyes of Josef von Sternberg.

The Idea of the Image  Josef Von Sternberg's Dietrich Films by Carole Zucker by Carole Zucker

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Joanne, your book citation didn't come out right. Can you fix it please? Thanks!

message 24: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1219 comments Joanne wrote: "For some pure Hollywood hokum, enjoy the opening of "The Scarlet Empress"(1934), starring Marlene Dietrich. She may be a blonde Catherine the Great, but at least she's German!"

How funny! You can see the whole thing here: (1h. 43m.)

Thanks -

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Yes, thanks so much.

message 26: by Jill, Assisting Moderator - Global NF, HF, European/Brit. Hist/Music (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments For more of the Hollywood hokum, here is the character actress, Louise Dresser, as Empress Elizabeth from The Scarlet Empress

Joanne | 649 comments Jill wrote: "For more of the Hollywood hokum, here is the character actress, Louise Dresser, as Empress Elizabeth from The Scarlet Empress


Love the Mirror . . . .

message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jul 23, 2012 12:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 26511 comments Here is a post from Rich:

Rich stated:

"Strangely, I just finished the book "Why Nations Fail" where institutions such as autocratic Russia are extractive, meaning the rich and powerful extract from everyone else in society creating major inequality. So while I am fascinated by this book and with some of its characters, I'm constantly reminded that if you were the majority in this time and place, you were powerless, poor, and taken advantage of in every way by the elite. I don't know anything about Catherine in history which makes this more suspenseful for me but I'm hopeful that Catherine does something good to make this inequality and consequentially, the majority of people's lives better. However, I become more doubtful that this happens as the chapters roll on and Catherine seems to become more astute in how the powerful remain powerful."

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Why Nations Fail  The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoğlu by Daron Acemoğlu (no author's photo available)

Please feel free to discuss Rich's comment on this "spoiler" thread. Thank you.

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Peter III of Russia, aka the Duke of Holstein

Peter III (21 February 1728 – 17 July [O.S. 6 July] 1762)

(Russian: Пётр III Фëдорович, Pyotr III Fyodorovich) was Emperor of Russia for six months in 1762. He was very pro-Prussian, which made him an unpopular leader. He was supposedly assassinated as a result of a conspiracy led by his wife, who succeeded him to the throne as Catherine II.

Early life and character
Peter was born in Kiel, in the duchy of Holstein-Gottorp. His parents were Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (nephew of Charles XII of Sweden), and Anna Petrovna, a daughter of Emperor Peter I and Empress Catherine I of Russia. His mother died three months after his birth. In 1739, Peter's father died, and he became Duke of Holstein-Gottorp as Charles Peter Ulrich (German: Karl Peter Ulrich).

When his aunt, Anna's younger sister Elizabeth, became Empress of Russia she brought Peter from Germany to Russia and proclaimed him her heir-presumptive in the autumn of 1742. Previously in 1742, the 14-year-old Peter was proclaimed King of Finland during the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743), when Russian troops held Finland. This proclamation was based on his succession rights to territories held by his childless granduncle, the late Charles XII of Sweden who also had been Grand Duke of Finland. About the same time, in October 1742, he was chosen by the Swedish parliament to become heir-presumptive to the Swedish throne. However, the Swedish parliament was unaware of the fact that he had also been proclaimed heir-presumptive to the throne of Russia, and when their envoy arrived in Saint Petersburg in November, it was too late. It has been reported that the underage Peter's succession rights to Sweden were renounced on his behalf.

Empress Elizabeth arranged for Peter to marry his second cousin, Sophia Augusta Frederica (later Catherine the Great), daughter of Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst and Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. The young princess formally converted to Russian Orthodoxy and took the name Ekaterina Alexeievna (i.e., Catherine). They married on 21 August 1745. The marriage was not a happy one, but produced one son: the future Emperor Paul; and one daughter: Anna Petrovna (20 December 1757 – 19 March 1759). Catherine later claimed that Paul was not fathered by Peter, that, in fact, they had never consummated the marriage. During the sixteen years of their residence in Oranienbaum Catherine took numerous lovers, while her husband did the same thing she did in the beginning.

The classical view of Peter's character is mainly drawn out of his wife's and usurper's memoirs. She described him as an “idiot”, “drunkard from Holstein”, “good-for-nothing” etc. This portrait of Peter can be found in most history books, including 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica: Nature had made him mean, the smallpox had made him hideous, and his degraded habits made him loathsome. And Peter had all the sentiments of the worst kind of small German prince of the time. He had the conviction that his princeship entitled him to disregard decency and the feelings of others. He planned brutal practical jokes, in which blows had always a share. His most manly taste did not rise above the kind of military interest which has been defined as "corporal's mania," the passion for uniforms, pipeclay, buttons, the "tricks of parade and the froth of discipline." He detested the Russians, and surrounded himself with Holsteiners.

There have been many attempts to revise the traditional characterisation of Peter and his policies. The Russian historian A.S. Mylnikov gives us a very different view of Peter III: Many contradictory qualities existed in him: keen observation, zeal and sharp wit in his arguments and actions, incaution and lack of perspicuity in conversation, frankness, goodness, sarcasm, a hot temper, and wrathfulness.

The German historian Elena Palmer goes even further, portraying Peter III as a cultured, open-minded emperor who tried to introduce various courageous, even democratic reforms in the 18th century’s Russia. Currently, a newly established union is working on a project to build a memorial for Peter III in Kiel (North Germany), his city of birth.

The reign
Foreign policy

After Peter gained the throne in 1762, he withdrew from the Seven Years' War and made peace with Prussia (the "Miracle of the House of Brandenburg"). He gave up Russian conquests in Prussia and offered 12,000 troops to make an alliance with Frederick II, which relieved Russia financially. Russia was switched from an enemy of Prussia to an ally — Russian troops were withdrawn from Berlin and sent against the Austrians.[3] This dramatically shifted the balance of power in Europe, suddenly handing Frederick the initiative. Frederick recaptured southern Silesia and forced Austria to the negotiating table.

Being a Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, Peter planned war against Denmark in order to restore Schleswig to his Duchy. He focused on making alliances with Sweden and England to ensure that they would not interfere on Denmark’s behalf, while forces were concentrated at Kolberg in Russian occupied Pomerania. Alarmed at the Russian troops concentrating near their borders, unable to find any allies to resist Russian aggression, and short of money to fund a war, the government of Denmark threatened in late June to invade the free city of Hamburg in northern Germany to force a loan from it. Peter considered this a casus belli, and prepared for open warfare against Denmark.

In June 1762, 40,000 Russian troops were assembled in Pomerania under General Pyotr Rumyantsev. They were preparing to face 27,000 Danish troops under the French general Count St. Germain in case the Russian-Denmark freedom conference, scheduled for 1 July 1762 in Berlin under the patronage of Frederick II, failed to resolve the issue. But shortly before this Peter was dethroned and the conference did not occur. The problem with Schleswig remained unresolved. Peter was accused of planning an unpatriotic war.

While historically Peter's planned war against Denmark was seen as being a political failure, recent scholarship has portrayed it as part of a pragmatic plan to expand Russian power westwards —he saw gaining territory and influence in Denmark and Northern Germany as more useful to Russia than taking East Prussia. Equally, he saw that friendship with Prussia and Britain, following its triumph in the Seven Years War, could offer more to aid his plans than either Austria or France.

The reign of Peter the Third is cast by Palmer as progressive for its focus on transforming economically developed feudal Russia to a more advanced European state. Palmer claims that his reform efforts were welcomed by society as a whole. It is Palmer's further contention that a plot against him by members of the government and influential nobles is unjustified: that the aristocratic names in the list of conspirators belonged to Guards officers, those who had lost influence and impoverished families who had no access to high government positions and were forced into service, some resentment within the Guard could not have led to a change of government. A revolt of the Guards regiments against the emperor, to whom they had sworn allegiance, could only lead to an alternative emperor. Palmer claims that the conspiracy against Peter III was carried out by Catherine and Guards officer Orlov and was in fact nothing more than a murder for personal reasons. With the aid of the two Guards troops that Peter had planned to discipline more harshly, the emperor was arrested and forced to abdicate on 28 June. Shortly thereafter, he was transported to Ropsha where he was supposedly assassinated.

In December 1796, after succeeding Catherine, Peter's son the Emperor Paul, who disliked his mother, arranged for his remains to be exhumed and then reburied with full honors in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, where other tsars were buried.

After his death, four fake Peters (five if Šćepan Mali of Montenegro is included) came forth, supported by revolts among the people who believed in a rumor that Peter had not died, but had secretly been imprisoned by Catherine. The most famous was the Cossack peasant Pugachev. Under this guise, he led what came to be known as Pugachev's Rebellion in 1774, ultimately crushed by Catherine's forces.

The legend of Peter is still talked about, especially in the town where he lived most of his life, former Oranienbaum, later Lomonosov, situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, 40 km west of St. Petersburg. Peter’s palace is the only one of the famous palaces in the St. Petersburg area that was not captured by the Germans during Second World War. During the war, the building was a school and people say the ghost of Peter protected the children of Oranienbaum from getting hurt by bombs. Furthermore, it was near this town that the siege of Leningrad ended in January 1944. People say that Peter, after his death, stopped Hitler’s army near Leningrad, as the living Peter stopped the Russian army near Berlin.

Cultural references
Peter has been depicted on screen a number of times, almost always in films concerning his wife Catherine. He was portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in the 1934 film The Rise of Catherine the Great and by Sam Jaffe in The Scarlet Empress the same year. In 1991 Reece Dinsdale portrayed him in the television series Young Catherine. La Tempesta (1958) depicts Yemelyan Pugachev's effort to force his recognition as Peter III and offers a critical view of Catherine the Great, with Van Heflin in the role of Pugachev and Viveca Lindfors as Catherine.


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The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs
The Emperors and Empresses of Russia  Rediscovering the Romanovs by Donald J. Raleigh by Donald J. Raleigh

Reform and Regicide: The Reign of Peter III of Russia
Reform and Regicide  The Reign of Peter III of Russia by Carol S. Leonard by Carol S. Leonard

Peter III, Emperor of Russia: The Story of a Crisis and a Crime
Peter III, Emperor of Russia: The Story of a Crisis and a Crime (no cover) by Robert Nisbet Bain

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Frederick II

(German: Friedrich II.; 24 January 1712 – 17 August 1786) was a King in Prussia (1740–1772) and a King of Prussia (1772–1786) from the Hohenzollern dynasty.[1] He is best known as a brilliant military campaigner and organizer of Prussian armies. He became known as Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Große) and was named Der Alte Fritz ("Old Fritz").

Interested primarily in music and philosophy and not the arts of war during his youth, Frederick unsuccessfully attempted to flee from his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, with childhood friend Hans Hermann von Katte, whose execution he was forced to watch after they were captured. Upon ascending to the Prussian throne, he attacked Austria and claimed Silesia during the Silesian Wars, winning military acclaim for himself and Prussia. Near the end of his life, Frederick physically connected most of his realm by conquering Polish territories in the First Partition of Poland.

Frederick was a proponent of enlightened absolutism. For years he was a correspondent of Voltaire, with whom the king had an intimate, if turbulent, friendship. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and promoted religious tolerance throughout his realm. Frederick patronized the arts and philosophers, and wrote flute music. Frederick is buried at his favorite residence, Sanssouci in Potsdam. Because he died childless, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick William II of Prussia, son of his brother, Prince Augustus William of Prussia.

Reign (1740–1786)
Before his ascension, Frederick was told by D'Alembert, "The philosophers and the men of letters in every land have long looked upon you, Sire, as their leader and model." Such devotion, however, had to be tempered by political realities. When Frederick ascended the throne as "King in Prussia" in 1740, Prussia consisted of scattered territories, including Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg in the west of the Holy Roman Empire; Brandenburg, Hither Pomerania, and Farther Pomerania in the east of the Empire; and the former Duchy of Prussia, outside of the Empire bordering the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was titled King in Prussia because this was only part of historic Prussia; he was to declare himself King of Prussia after acquiring most of the rest in 1772.

Frederick managed to transform Prussia from a European backwater to an economically strong and politically reformed state. His acquisition of Silesia was orchestrated so as to provide Prussia's fledgling industries with raw materials, and he protected these industries with high tariffs and minimal restrictions on internal trade. Canals were built, including between the Vistula and the Oder, swamps were drained for agricultural cultivation, and new crops, such as the potato and the turnip, were introduced. Frederick regarded his reclamation of land in the Oderbruch as a province conquered in peace. With the help of French experts, he reorganized the system of indirect taxes, which provided the state with more revenue than direct taxes. Frederick the Great commissioned Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky to promote the trade and—to take on the competition with France—put a silk factory where soon 1,500 persons found employment. Frederick the Great followed his recommendations in the field of toll levies and import restrictions. In 1763 when Gotzkowsky went broke during a financial crisis, which started in Amsterdam, Frederick took over his porcelain factory, known as KPM, but refused to buy more of his paintings.

One of Frederick's greatest achievements included the control of grain prices, whereby government storehouses would enable civilian population to survive in needy regions, where the harvest was poor.

During the reign of Frederick, the effects of the Seven Years' War and the gaining of Silesia greatly changed the economy. The circulation of depreciated money kept prices high. To revalue the Thaler, the Mint Edict of May 1763 was proposed. This stabilized the rates of depreciated coins that would not be accepted and provided for the payments of taxes in currency of prewar value. This was replaced in northern Germany by the Reichsthaler, worth one-fourth of a Conventionsthaler. Prussia used a Thaler containing one-fourteenth of a Cologne mark of silver. Many other rulers soon followed the steps of Frederick in reforming their own currencies—this resulted in a shortage of ready money thus lowering prices.

Frederick gave his state a modern bureaucracy whose mainstay until 1760 was the able War and Finance Minister Adam Ludwig von Blumenthal, succeeded in 1764 by his nephew Joachim who ran the ministry to the end of the reign and beyond. Prussia's education system was seen as one of the best in Europe. Frederick also abolished torture and corporal punishment for most cases.

Frederick began titling himself "King of Prussia" after the acquisition of Royal Prussia (West Prussia) in 1772; the phrasing "King in Prussia" had been used since the coronation of Frederick I in Königsberg in 1701

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Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma
Frederick the Great  The Magnificent Enigma by Robert B. Asprey by Robert B. Asprey

History of Friedrich II. of Prussia Called Frederick the Great
History of Friedrich II. of Prussia Called Frederick the Great (no cover) by Thomas CarlyleThomas Carlyle

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Kiev or Kyiv (Ukrainian: Київ [ˈkɪjiw] ( listen); Russian: Киев) is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press.

Kiev is an important industrial, scientific, educational, and cultural centre of Eastern Europe. It is home to many high-tech industries, higher education institutions and world-famous historical landmarks. The city has an extensive infrastructure and highly developed system of public transport, including the Kiev Metro.

The name Kiev is said to derive from the name of Kyi, one of four legendary founders of the city (brothers Kyi, Shchek, Khoryv, and sister Lybid). During its history, Kiev, one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, passed through several stages of great prominence and relative obscurity. The city probably existed as a commercial centre as early as the 5th century. A Slavic settlement on the great trade route between Scandinavia and Constantinople, Kiev was a tributary of the Khazars,[3] until seized by the Varangians (Vikings) in the mid-9th century. Under Varangians rule, the city became a capital of the Rus', the first East Slavic state. Completely destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1240, the city lost most of its influence for the centuries to come. It was a provincial capital of marginal importance in the outskirts of the territories controlled by its powerful neighbours; first the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, followed by Poland and Russia.

The city prospered again during the Russian Empire's industrial revolution in the late 19th century. In 1917, after the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence from the Russian Empire, Kiev became its capital. And from 1921 onwards Kiev was an important city of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and, from 1934, its capital. During World War II, the city again suffered significant damage, but quickly recovered in the post-war years, remaining the third largest city of the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian independence of 1991, Kiev remained the capital of Ukraine.

Kiev is one of the oldest cities of Eastern Europe and has played a pivotal role in the development of the medieval East Slavic civilization as well as in the modern Ukrainian nation.

It is believed that Kiev was founded in the late 9th century (some historians have wrongly referred to as 482 CE)[5] The origin of the city is obscured by legends, one of which tells about a founding-family consisting of a Slavic tribe leader Kyi, the eldest, his brothers Schek and Khoriv, and also their sister Lybid, who founded the city (The Primary Chronicle). According to it the name Kyiv/Kiev means to "belong to Kyi". Some claim to find reference to the city in Ptolemy’s work as the Metropolity (the 2nd century).[6] Another legend points that Saint Andrew passed through the area and where he erected a cross, a church was built. Also since the Middle Ages an image of the Saint Michael represented the city as well as the duchy.

The non-legendary time of the founding of the city is harder to ascertain. Scattered Slavic settlements existed in the area from the 6th century, but it is unclear whether any of them later developed into the city. 8th century fortifications were built upon a Slavic settlement apparently abandoned some decades before. It is still unclear whether these fortifications were built by the Slavs or the Khazars. If it was the Slavic peoples then it is also uncertain when Kiev fell under the rule of the Khazar empire or whether the city was, in fact, founded by the Khazars. The Primary Chronicle (a main source of information about the early history of the area) mentions Slavic Kievans telling Askold and Dir that they live without a local ruler and pay a tribute to the Khazars in an event attributed to the 9th century. At least during the 8th and 9th centuries Kiev functioned as an outpost of the Khazar empire. A hill-fortress, called Sambat (Old Turkic for "High Place") was built to defend the area. At some point during the late 9th or early 10th century Kiev fell under the rule of Varangians (see Askold and Dir, and Oleg of Novgorod) and became the nucleus of the Rus' polity. The date given for Oleg's conquest of the town in the Primary Chronicle is 882, but some historians, such as Omeljan Pritsak and Constantine Zuckerman, dispute this and maintain that Khazar rule continued as late as the 920s (documentary evidence exists to support this assertion – see the Kievian Letter and Schechter Letter.) Other historians suggest that the Magyar tribes ruled the city between 840 and 878, before migrating with some Khazar tribes to Hungary. According to these the building of the fortress of Kiev was finished in 840 by the lead of Keő (Keve), Csák and Geréb, the three brothers, possibly members of the Tarján tribe (the three names are mentioned in the Kiev Chronicle as Kyj, Shchak and Khoriv, none of them are Slavic names and it has been always a hard problem to solve their meaning/origin by Russian historians. Though the three names was put into to the Kiev Chronicle in the 12th century and they were identified as old-Russian mythological heroes).

Kiev in the late 19th century
During the 8th and 9th centuries, Kiev was an outpost of the Khazar empire. However, being located on the historical trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks and starting in the late 9th century or early 10th century, Kiev was ruled by the Varangian nobility and became the nucleus of the Rus' polity, whose 'Golden Age' (11th to early 12th centuries) has from the 19th century become referred to as Kievan Rus'. In 968, the nomadic Pechenegs attacked and then besieged the city.[8] In 1203 Kiev was captured and burned by Prince Rurik Rostislavich and his Kipchak allies. In the 1230s the city was besieged and ravaged by different Rus' princes several times. In 1240 the Mongol invasion of Rus led by Batu Khan completely destroyed Kiev, an event that had a profound effect on the future of the city and the East Slavic civilization. At the time of the Mongol destruction, Kiev was reputed as one of the largest cities in the world, with a population exceeding one hundred thousand.

During the 18th and 19th centuries city life was dominated by the Russian military and ecclesiastical authorities; the Russian Orthodox Church formed a significant part of Kiev's infrastructure and business activity. In the late 1840s, the historian, Mykola Kostomarov (Russian: Nikolay Kostomarov), founded a secret political society, the Brotherhood of Saint Cyril and Methodius, whose members put forward the idea of a federation of free Slavic people with Ukrainians as a distinct and separate group rather than a subordinate part of the Russian nation; the society was quickly suppressed by the authorities.

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Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербург, tr. Sankt-Peterburg; IPA: [sankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk] ( listen)) is a city and a federal subject (a federal city) of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. In 1914 the name of the city was changed to Petrograd (Russian: Петроград; IPA: [pʲɪtrɐˈgrat]), in 1924 to Leningrad (Russian: Ленинград; IPA: [lʲɪnʲɪnˈgrat]) and in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg.

In Russian literature, informal documents, and discourse, the "Saint" (Санкт-) is usually omitted, leaving Petersburg (Петербург, Peterburg). In common parlance Russians may drop "-burg" (-бург) as well, leaving only Peter (Питер, Russian: [ˈpʲitʲɪr]).

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27 [O.S. 16] 1703. From 1713 to 1728 and from 1732 to 1918, Saint Petersburg was the Imperial capital of Russia. In 1918 the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow. It is Russia's second largest city after Moscow with almost 5 million inhabitants. Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and also an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea.

Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Western city of Russia. It is also the northernmost city in the world to have a population of over one million. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is also home to The Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and other businesses are located in Saint Petersburg.

History of Saint Petersburg
Peter the Great was interested in seafaring and maritime affairs, and he aimed to have Russia gain an ability to take to the seas, so it could trade with other maritime nations. In order to do so, he needed a better seaport than Arkhangelsk, which was on the White Sea to the north.

On May 12, 1703, during the Great Northern War, Peter the Great captured Nyenskans, and soon set about replacing that fortress. On May 27, 1703, closer to the estuary (5 km/3 miles inland from the gulf), on Zayachy (Hare) Island, he laid down the Peter and Paul Fortress, which became the first brick and stone building of the new city.

The city was built by conscripted peasants from all over Russia; a number of Swedish prisoners of war were also involved in some years under the supervision of Alexander Menshikov. Tens of thousands of serfs died building the city. Later the city became the centre of Saint Petersburg Governorate. Peter moved the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg in 1712, 9 years before the Treaty of Nystad of 1721 ended the war, although he was already referring to Saint Petersburg as the capital (or seat of government) as early as 1704.

During the first few years of its existence the city grew spontaneously around Trinity Square on the right bank of the Neva, near the Peter and Paul Fortress. However, Saint Petersburg soon started to develop according to a plan. By 1716 Domenico Trezzini had elaborated a project whereby the city centre would be located on Vasilyevsky Island and shaped by a rectangular grid of canals. The project was not completed, but is still evident in the layout of the streets. In 1716 Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond was appointed chief architect of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great.

The style of Petrine Baroque, developed by Trezzini and other architects and exemplified by such buildings as the Menshikov Palace, Kunstkamera, Peter and Paul Cathedral, Twelve Collegia, became prominent in the city architecture of the early 18th century. In 1724 the Academy of Sciences, University and Academic Gymnasium were established in Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great.

In 1725, Peter died at the age of fifty-two. His push for modernization of Russia had met opposition from the Russian nobility — resulting in several attempts on his life and a treason case involving his own son.[19] Thus, in 1728, Peter II of Russia moved his seat back to Moscow. But four years later, in 1732, under Empress Anna of Russia, Saint Petersburg again became the capital of the Russian Empire. It remained the seat of the Romanov Dynasty and the Imperial Court of the Russian Tzars, as well as the seat of the Russian government, for another 186 years until the communist revolution of 1917.

In 1736–1737 the city suffered from catastrophic fires. To rebuild the damaged boroughs, a new plan was commissioned in 1737 by a committee under Burkhard Christoph von Münnich. The city was divided into five boroughs, and the city center was moved to the Admiralty borough, situated on the east bank between the Neva and Fontanka.

It developed along three radial streets, which meet at the Admiralty building and are now known as Nevsky Prospekt (which is now perceived as the main street of the city), Gorokhovaya Street and Voznesensky Prospekt. A Baroque style dominated the city architecture during the first sixty years, culminating in the Elizabethan Baroque, represented most notably by Bartolomeo Rastrelli with such buildings as the Winter Palace. In the 1760s Baroque architecture was succeeded by neoclassical architecture.

The Commission of Stone Buildings of Moscow and Saint Petersburg established in 1762 ruled that no structure in the city be higher than the Winter Palace and prohibited spacing between buildings. During the reign of Catherine the Great in the 1760s–1780s, the banks of the Neva were lined with granite embankments.

However, it was not until 1850 that the first permanent bridge across the Neva, Blagoveshchensky Bridge, was allowed to open. Before that, only pontoon bridges were allowed. Obvodny Canal (dug in 1769–1833) became the southern limit of the city.

Among the most prominent neoclassical architects in Saint Petersburg (including those working within the Empire style) were Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe (Imperial Academy of Arts, Small Hermitage, Gostiny Dvor, New Holland Arch, Catholic Church of St. Catherine), Antonio Rinaldi (Marble Palace), Yury Felten (Old Hermitage, Chesme Church), Giacomo Quarenghi (Academy of Sciences, Hermitage Theatre, Yusupov Palace), Andrey Voronikhin (Mining Institute, Kazan Cathedral), Andreyan Zakharov (Admiralty building), Jean-François Thomas de Thomon (Spit of Vasilievsky Island), Carlo Rossi (Yelagin Palace, Mikhailovsky Palace, Alexandrine Theatre, Senate and Synod Buildings, General Staff Building, design of many streets and squares), Vasily Stasov (Moscow Triumphal Gate, Trinity Cathedral), and Auguste de Montferrand (Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Alexander Column). In 1810 the first engineering Higher learning institution, the Saint Petersburg Main military engineering School were established in Saint Petersburg by Alexander I. The victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812 was commemorated with many monuments, including the Alexander Column by Montferrand, erected in 1834, and the Narva Triumphal Gate.

In 1825, the suppressed Decembrist revolt against Nicholas I took place on the Senate Square in the city, a day after he assumed the throne.

Saint Petersburg was, for a long time, capital of the Russian Empire
By the 1840s, neoclassical architecture had given way to various romanticist styles, which dominated until the 1890s, represented by such architects as Andrei Stackenschneider (Mariinsky Palace, Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Nicholas Palace, New Michael Palace) and Konstantin Thon (Moskovsky Rail Terminal).

With the emancipation of the peasants undertaken by Alexander II in 1861 and an industrial revolution, the influx of former peasants into the capital increased greatly. Poor boroughs spontaneously emerged on the outskirts of the city. Saint Petersburg surpassed Moscow in population and industrial growth and grew into one of the largest industrial cities in Europe, with a major naval base (in Kronstadt), river and sea port.

The names of saints Peter and Paul, bestowed upon original city's citadel and its cathedral (from 1725 – a burial vault of Russian emperors) coincidentally were mirrored by the names of the first two assassinated Russian Emperors, Peter III (1762, supposedly a conspiracy led by his wife, Catherine the Great) and Paul I (1801, Nicholas Zubov and other conspirators who brought to power Alexander I, the son of their victim). The third emperor's assassination took place in Petersburg in 1881 when Alexander II fell victim of narodniki (see the Church of the Savior on Blood).

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Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments 18th Century Russia
Daily Life During Catherine the Great’s Reign

Daily life in Catherine the Great’s Russia was highly stratified, with huge divisions existing between the nobles and the peasantry. Few qualities bind the classes together besides the climate, and different social castes experienced the Russian lifestyle in vastly dissimilar ways.

Despite popular perception, a small estate owner often led a boring and primitive life. The owner had few pursuits to distract him besides maintaining relationships with neighbors, religious and family obligations, and hunting, all of which made for a dull existence in the interim. Palaces did not feature privies during Catherine’s time, greatly inconveniencing the inhabitants of these abodes.

However, the most fortunate nobles enjoyed lifestyles of great luxury and refinement. They often had elaborate palaces staffed by squadrons of servants, and many of these majestic homes still stand in St. Petersburg today. The government often dictated minor details of life for the nobles; the table of ranks set up during the era of Peter the Great determined the number of horses and the type of carriage a person could use—a first rank man could have six horses and a carriage while a merchant could only have one horse and a coach. Catherine also mandated clothing styles such as the colors of threads and fabrics allotted only to a specific social class—nobles alone could wear gold and silver thread, for example. The wealthy and well educated garnered vast libraries, demonstrating their great opulence and worldliness.

Nobles often navigated around or influenced the legal system to suit themselves. A noble had the advantageous privilege of the freedom not to serve in the military, and in the event that he did choose to serve, he was given special treatment when being considered for higher positions. The government told army colonels to give young nobles preference over non-nobles when promoting soldiers to higher ranks, regardless of the quality of the man in question, though several members of the highest class went further, contending that commoners should not even be allowed to become officers. The upper class also believed—and often proposed—that they should be exempt from corporal and capital punishment and instead be charged with fines when convicted of crimes. The nobles even demanded different laws regarding property inheritance after death so that they would not be required to divide land between all of their children. All of these scenarios demonstrate the authority the nobles had in the government during Catherine’s reign.

Peasants and serfs
The lower classes led a far less engaging and enjoyable life. Daily existence was difficult for peasants and serfs, who were at the mercy of their masters at all times. They could not escape poverty and difficult working conditions, especially given the poor quality of the farmland throughout much of Russia. Scarcity almost always occurred on farms because of the cold climate, during which animals could not be let outside. The long winters thus resulted in a short growing season.

As a result of the country’s poorly developed agricultural system, the peasant diet was high in meat, fish, milk, and butter products, with bread and grains less crucial, except in especially indigent areas. The dominance of the Orthodox Church also further affected food consumption since the church often ordered that fasts be religiously observed on up to 200 days a year. Critics believe that due to the village structure of cultivation and land assignment, the evolution of agriculture was impeded for Russia.

Since the soil was often cold and difficult to farm, especially in the central and northeastern parts of Russia, many peasants went into other trades to support themselves. Many departed their towns for industrial enterprises like manufacturing or to get jobs as drivers, porters, carriers, or servants.[42] The cottage industry also thrived during this period, and many peasants turned to methods other than farming to make a living.

In addition to the struggle to eat and survive, peasant serfs faced several other difficulties. In many ways, serfdom resembled North American slavery except that serfs belonged to the same race and religion as those who ruled over them and were bound to serfdom by their society’s lack of social mobility rather than by some perceived inferiority inherent in serfs. Serfs also lacked the ability to buy their own freedoms for a fixed sum as slaves in some countries in South America could, which made their situations inescapable except in the rare instances where an owner agreed to release a serf from his duties, which occasionally occurred when a household master died. Serfs could also escape their plights if they survived twenty-five years of service in the armed forces. But in general, laws tied serfs to their masters for life and caused them to suffer under an owner’s rule. The most harrowing part of the experience was the lack of rights given to a serf, whether he was a peasant, entrepreneur, or member of the serf intelligentsia. His state was one of constant vulnerability; a bad season farming his land could bring famine and its related difficulties to his family, and he was always at the mercy of a master who could switch from benevolent to vicious at any moment. One’s stability was constantly threatened: a serf’s family could be removed from their land, sold away, or raped by their owner. The serf could be conscripted for the army, sent to Siberia, punished viciously without cause or proof of guilt, beaten, or even killed.

But despite the undeniable unpleasantness of peasant and serf life, it was comparatively less adverse than the existence of a commoner elsewhere. If they lived in areas with fertile land, Russian peasants led better lives than their French counterparts, who were heavily taxed while Catherine’s government reduced taxes in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and unlike the Irish, English, and French, Russians were entitled to land to farm due to the communal structure of the townships. Furthermore, due to a steady balance between population and resources during Catherine’s reign, the peasants of the late eighteenth century fared better than their nineteenth century counterparts. Masters also sometimes utilized the musical skills of their peasant serfs to entertain their guests or to play in orchestras for private balls and plays since many serfs played instruments. Peasants, while not leading a life of great luxury, could at least support themselves and their families.

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Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Russia's Rulers of the 18th century
by Rick Brainard

Discover how Russia emerged as a power during the 18th century.

Before the 18th century, Russia was considered a part of Europe only by courtesy. Hemmed in by Sweden on the Baltic and the Ottoman Empire on the Black sea, the country had no warm water ports. Archangel on the White Sea was its only outlet to the West. Consequently, there was little trade.

Beside the physical separation, Russia was separated by the customs and cultural adherence to Eastern cultural and political traditions.

During the 18th century, the Russian Empire became a Political power. This became possible because of Peter the Great. His accomplishments forced the West to take notice.

Peter The Great
The Russian Empire is usually dated from the reign of Peter the Great from 1689 to 1725 and with it the beginning of modern Russian history. When he came to power, Peter had two basic goals for his country.

Modernize his country in the western fashion.
Gain warm water ports to access to the west, thus, bringing more trade, recognition, and respect by the other European powers.
Dealing with the West
Peter set out upon his plans by at first sending a grand embassy to the European powers in 1697 to enlist their help against Turkey. He went along, pretending to be a ship's carpenter named Peter Mikhailov, and worked in English and Dutch shipyards. He studied everything from anatomy and engraving to European industrial techniques.

He was determined to give Russia an outlet to the sea, both on the Baltic Sea, which was controlled by Sweden, and on the Caspian Sea, whose shores were held by the Turks and Tartars. He brought European shipbuilders to Russia, and in 1696, with a new fleet, was able to capture Azov, the chief Turkish fortress on the Sea of Azov. As Capt. Peter Alekseevich, he commanded from the Principium, a ship built by his own hand.

In 1700, he felt ready to attack Sweden. With Poland and Denmark as allies, he started the Great Northern War, which lasted until 1721 Peter defeated the Swedes and gained an outlet to the Baltic Sea.

The Treaty of Nystad (1721) ended the war and gave Russia the prized Swedish provinces on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Sweden became a second-rate military power, and Poland was reduced to a pawn of its more powerful neighbors, Russia and Prussia.

As a result of the victory, the Russian Empire was formed on Oct. 22 (Nov. 2, New Style), 1721. On that day Peter was acclaimed Father of the Fatherland, Peter the Great, and emperor of all the Russia’s, by the Russian Senate, in gratitude for victory in the war.

Internal Affairs
At the same time as he was dealing with the west, Peter was organizing and modernizing his country, internally. He was to all intents and purposes, ruthless in this matter. He implemented reforms and forced his subjects to conform. He founded a navy, introduced factories, reformed the administrative machinery, and organized a modern army. He created a new Russian capital St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland.

In 1703, wanting to "open a window to Europe", Peter began construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress on territory that he had won, which became the new capital city of St. Petersburg and moved his imperial court there in 1712.

In order to populate St. Petersburg, Peter required all upper class Russians to move there from their estates. This of course caused some hardship on those who were required to do so.

One problem was that the country had no transportation infrastructure. What roads there were only ran east to west, and even then, they were difficult to traverse, especially during the Russian winter. Both Napoleon and Hitler found this out when they tried to invade and conquer Russia.

Peter westernized his subjects by using taxation and implementing new laws. Some examples are below:

He put a high tax on beards and Oriental dress to force the people to adopt Western dress.
He freed women from forced seclusion. He modernized the calendar, simplified the alphabet, unified the currency, and introduced universal taxation.
Russia's first modern hospitals and medical schools were built by Peter.
He encouraged the rise of private industry and the expansion of trade.
He forced education upon his officers and members of his court because many could not read.
Thus by implementing and enforcing these changes upon his subjects and gaining warm water ports for his navy, during his reign, Peter first achieved a sea to sea empire.

Peter died in 1725. His work survived almost half a century of incompetent rulers. Succession after him was unsteady, and the male Romanov line died out under Elizabeth (ruled 1741-62).

The name was nevertheless kept by her successor, Peter III, a member of the German House of Holstein-Gottorp. His widow, a member of the German House of Anhalt-Zerbst, ruled as Catherine II, who came to the throne in 1762.

She again took up the task of reform. She was widely respected for her charm and intelligence, but her casual love affairs with men younger than she made her notorious.


message 35: by Marilee (last edited Jul 29, 2012 08:50PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marilee (Hatchling) | 27 comments I found a podcast interview with Robert K. Massie, in which he's interviewed about writing his new book, Catherine.

It's at one of my favorite book review websites, called The Agony Column,

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Thanks Marilee, great find!

Athens | 40 comments Tim wrote: "One major theme and influence on Catherine's reign was the Enlightenment, the ideas of which were spread throughout the western world through massive amounts of correspondence between enlightenment..."

Tim, that is awesome. I am sharing it around.

Joanne | 649 comments For those interested in learning more about The Enlightenment, I highly recommend the following series by The Teaching Company/The Great Courses: "Birth of the Modern Mind: The Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Centuries," lectures by Professor Alan Charles Kors, Ph.D., Harvard University. There are individual lectures about Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Beccaria, which are particularly pertinent to the foundations of the philosophy of Catherine the Great. During the month of August 2012, this lecture series is very reasonably priced, on sale with other history titles. The Teaching Company rotates sale prices, making these wonderful, highly accessible lectures affordable for individuals.

Joanne | 649 comments Marilee wrote: "I found a podcast interview with Robert K. Massie, in which he's interviewed about writing his new book, Catherine."

Thanks, Marilee!

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Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments Ivan Shuvalov

He was born in Moscow, the only son of Ivan Menshoi Shuvalov, an army captain who died when the boy was ten, and Tatiana Rodionovna. The Shuvalov family fortunes changed drastically in 1741, when Elizaveta Petrovna (Empress Elizabeth Petrovna) ascended the Russian throne with some help from Ivan's powerful cousins – Peter Shuvalov and Alexander Shuvalov. The following year, they had the fourteen-year-old Ivan attached to the imperial court as a page.

In July 1749, when Ivan was visiting his brother-in-law Prince Galitzine at his country estate near Moscow, the Shuvalov brothers arranged his meeting with the Empress, who was making a pilgrimage to the Monastery of St. Sabbas. The Shuvalovs were not disappointed in their calculations: the 40-year-old Empress took notice of the handsome page, who was 18 years her junior, and bid him accompany her in the upcoming pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem Monastery.

Three months later, Shuvalov was appointed a kammer-junker, and his liaison with the Empress began. Although the cousins planned to use him as a pawn in their court intrigues, Shuvalov refused to get enmeshed in their machinations. As his biographers like to point out, Shuvalov was "mild and generous to all" and "had no enemies whatsoever".

His position at court grew stronger during Elizaveta's declining years, when he served as a virtual master of petitions to her, eclipsing her previous favourite and rumoured husband, Aleksey Razumovsky. Promoted general in 1760, Shuvalov refused most other honours that the Empress wished to bestow upon him, including the title of count.

Unlike the self-seeking favourites of Catherine the Great, Shuvalov determined to put his good fortune to constructive use for the advancement of education and the promotion of fine arts in his country. A model of the enlightened courtier, he maintained correspondence with the leading French thinkers – Helvetius, d'Alembert, Diderot, and Voltaire. He supplied the latter with materials necessary for his Histoire de l'empire de Russie sous Pierre le Grand and was later instrumental in publishing it in Russia.

Shuvalov's activity brought him in touch with Mikhail Lomonosov, a Russian scholar who aspired to establish a university in Russia. Lomonosov found a loyal patron in Shuvalov and paid tribute to his accomplishments in his dedication of a couple of odes and "meditations" to him. On January 23, 1755 – the name-day of Shuvalov's mother Tatiana Rodionovna – the Empress endorsed their project to set up the Moscow University "for all sorts and conditions of people". Tatiana Day is still celebrated in Russia as "Students Day" (now falling on January 25 because of the increased difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars).

Shuvalov became the university's first curator and attracted the finest scholars to teach there. He came up with the idea of establishing The Moscow News (Московские ведомости), a newspaper published by the university press, which was also founded at Shuvalov's instigation. Apart from two colleges affiliated with the Moscow University, he also helped establish the first Russian college outside Moscow – in Kazan. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1758.

In 1757, Shuvalov submitted to the Senate his project for establishing the Academy of Three Noble Arts at his own palace in Saint Petersburg. This institution – later transformed into the Imperial Academy of Arts – was envisioned by him for the education of the most gifted boys from all strata of society. At first no formal examination was required to enter the Academy; even peasants' children – like Fyodor Rokotov and Fedot Shubin – were admitted on Shuvalov's personal recommendation.

Shuvalov served as the Academy's first president until 1763, when he was succeeded by Ivan Betskoy. In 1758, he donated to the Academy his own collection of Western drawings and paintings, which formed the nucleus of its formidable holdings of fine art. At the time, his palace also hosted performances by Russia's first theatrical troupe, led by Fyodor Volkov and Ivan Dmitrievsky.

Upon Elizaveta's death and the ascension of Catherine II, Shuvalov set off for Europe, ostensibly with the purpose of improving his frail health. During fourteen years of foreign travels, he acquired choice works of art for the Academy and the Hermitage Museum. He also commissioned copies of the finest Roman sculptures in Rome, Florence and Naples and later presented these to the Academy of Arts.

As regards politics, Shuvalov's life abroad was not as exciting as the previous period of his career. On Catherine II's request, he would go on diplomatic errands; thus it was he who persuaded the Pope to replace Durini, a Russophobic nuncio at Warsaw, with the more pliant Count Giuseppe Garampi.

His eventual return to Russia in 1777 occasioned Derzhavin's well-known epistle, while the Empress made him High Chamberlain. Shuvalov's mansion was to be frequented by the new generation of Russian intellectuals: Ekaterina Dashkova, Denis Fonvizin, Mikhail Kheraskov, Ivan Dmitriev, Aleksandr Shishkov – many of them products of the university he had established. While living at his palace, the poet Kostrov produced the first Russian translation of the Iliad.

After his imperial lover's demise Shuvalov never married and had no children. He died in the Shuvalov Palace, Saint Petersburg on 14 November 1797. His tomb is in the Annunciation Church of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. In 2003, a memorial statue of Shuvalov was unveiled in the inner court of the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. Its sculptor is Zurab Tsereteli, the current president of the Academy that Shuvalov founded. Another commemorative statue was erected in front of the Moscow University Library in 2004.

Source: Wikipedia

Brian (BrianJ48) | 53 comments Re: Peter's Attempt to Change Russian Orthodox Church

As discussed by Massie in Chapter 42 Pgs 244-245

Peter's belief that the Russian Orthodox Church should, as Massie recounts, be "remade on the Protestant model practiced in Prussia", made me recall readings I had done earlier that discussed the people's resistance to religious change and their holding on to ritual. One author felt it was tied in to the low literacy rate and desire to keep unchanged that which they knew.

In the 1790s adult male literacy was:
Russia 3 to 7%
France 47%
Britain 68%
Prussia 80%

Page 122 of:
The Romanovs  Ruling Russia 1613-1917 by Lindsey Hughes by Lindsey Hughes

Ritual was important, a constant that they understood. In 1653 a schism (the "Rakol") was created when the Tsar and Patriarch attempted to establish uniform pratices between Russian and Greek Orthodoxy. The uproar included the two-finger sign of the cross being replaced by the one with three fingers, whether "hallelujah" was to be pronounced three times instead of two, and whwther processions went clockwise or counterclockwise.

I read about this in:

Russia, 2nd Edition  A Short History by Abraham Ascherby Abraham Ascher
(Don't have page reference, sorry)

Wikipedia re: the schism at:

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Great addition, thanks Brian.

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Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments

This monument to Catherine the Great was unveiled in 1873. The Empress was adored by the people of St. Petersburg for all her efforts to improve the life and education provided by the city and her reign has long seen been known as the "golden age" of Russia. The statue of Catherine is surrounded by delicately carved figures of the most prominent individuals of her reign: politicians and poets, military men and courtiers. The monument is located in the middle of a small, grass-covered square, just off Nevsky Prospekt, which is lined by the Anichkov Palace, the Alexandrinsky Drama Theater and the Russian National Library. As one of the country's most enlightened monarchs, Catherine could not have chosen a better spot herself.

The monument was designed by the Russian artist M.O. Mikeshin and created by the best sculptors and architects of the day. Catherine the Great is dressed in her official gown and holds a scepter in her right hand and an olive wreath in her left hand. The pedestal is decorated with the symbols of royal power. Among the dignitaries, who's likenesses have been carved on the statue's pedestal, are Alexander Suvorov, perhaps the most famous general in Russian history, Prince Potiomkin, the general and politician, Ekaterina Dashkova, the first woman to chair the Russian Academy of Sciences (in the 18th century!!!) and the celebrated poet Gavrila Derzhavin.

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Thanks Jill!

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Jill Hutchinson (Bucs1960) | 8027 comments The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan where Catherine was declared Empress after the overthrow of her husband. I didn't realize how huge it was.

Joanne | 649 comments Catherine the Great's contribution as a patron of the arts and sciences significantly shaped Russian culture. For those interested in more, begin by exploring the official website of the Hermitage Museum:

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5322 comments Thanks Joanne and Jill!

message 48: by Becky (new)

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1219 comments The Russian Empire under Catherine II had significant debts. The money for the jewels, palaces, huge military expenses and the whole rigamarole came in large part from high taxes of various sorts and state monopolies.

In the 1540s, Ivan IV began setting up kabaks (кабак) or taverns in his major cities to help fill his coffers;[3][5] a third of Russian men were in debt to the kabaks by 1648.[5] By 1860, vodka, the national drink, was the source of 40% of the government's revenue.

Peter I (1672-1725) increased government costs tremendously but he also increased taxes per "head." He simply told the Senate that it was their "mission" to collect taxes. (1) The salt trade was monopolized by the government. Alcohol was taxed. Serfs who had tillable land were taxed by their masters on the production. Even wearing beards was taxed down through Catherine's time. (2) Revenue from taxes tripled under Peter I. (3)

Catherine taxed the Jews (by religion not ethnicity) and Orthodox Jews were taxed double.

The decree of 1767 completely prohibited direct petitions to the empress from the peasantry.[2] The peasants were also subject to an increase in indirect taxes due to the increase in the state’s requirements. In addition, a strong inflationary trend resulted in higher prices on all goods.[3]

"Almost all the Villages are heavily taxed. The Lords, who seldom or never reside in their Villages, lay an Impost on every Head of one, two, and even five Rubles, without the least Regard to the Means by which their Peasants may be able to raise this Money. 270. It is highly necessary that the Law should prescribe a Rule to the Lords, for a more judicious Method of raising their Revenues; and oblige them to levy such a Tax..."

Catherine increased the money supply using two methods but was cautious about this. First, she ordered the coining of more copper money, but there had been experiments with prior tsars and the result was inflation so she was careful. Second, she originated the use of paper money. This was necessary because the silver money was expensive to provide and high foreign trade required more silver. This was also kept within inflationary bounds and the system was in place until the mid-19th century.

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Kathy (Kathy_H) | 2561 comments Becky wrote: "The Russian Empire under Catherine II had significant debts. The money for the jewels, palaces, huge military expenses and the whole rigamarole came in large part from high taxes of various sorts ..."

Thanks Becky this is a great post.

Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "The Russian Empire under Catherine II had significant debts. The money for the jewels, palaces, huge military expenses and the whole rigamarole came in large part from high taxes of various sorts ..."

Thanks Becky. Your post certainly gives some balance to Robert Massie's description of Catherine II as a religiously tolerant despot. One wonders how she justified the heavy taxation of Jews. Her fiscal programs are important and revelatory of the gaps that can occur between theory and practice, especially on the grand canvas of Russia. These are given short shrift in a biography focusing on Catherine, the woman.

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