Catherine II

Catherine II

It is impossible to envisage Russian history without a mention of the Romanov family. While most of us may relate the family to 1918 shooting of the Tsar Nicholas II along with other family members, this dynastic rule, also referred to as the ‘House of Romanov’ reigned Russia since the early 17th century. Amidst the reign by the Romanov’s lies Russia’s ‘34 Years of Greatness’ under a daughter in law of German descent, Catherine the Great.

Birth and Early Years

Born to Christian August, the ruling Prince of Anhalt, Central Germany and Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, on the 2nd May 1729 as Sophie Friederike Auguste, Catherine spent a rather dull childhood amidst diverse lives of her parents and the death of 4 siblings. Resultantly, she would end up spending a lot of her time on education and honing her lingual capabilities, including the Russian language – which as time proved would aide her pursuits. While little is known of her relationship with her father, it is the otherwise strained relation with her mother which evolved gradually, as some historians articulate, given her mother’s ambition and greed to use Sophia as a tool to move up the social circles.

Path to the throne

Using her familial connections, Johanna Elisabeth in 1944 travelled to Russia along with Sophie upon the behest of Empress Elizabeth. With her demeanour, Sophie impressed Empress Elizabeth to such an extent, to her seeking Sophie’s hand in marriage for her son Peter III. Following a conversion to Russian Eastern Orthodoxy and adoption of the name Catherine, the marriage took place in August 1745. What followed though was a period of intense marital discord leading to extra marital liaisons. Amidst the same in 1954, Catherine gave birth to a male heir, Paul – historians though debate the paternity of the child given the strained relations of the couple.

The Empress’s death in 1762 led Peter III as the successor to the throne. In what many historians refer to as an area of dispute is the ‘giving up’ of power by Peter III or as some put it the over throw within barely a year of assuming charge and his subsequent death, paving the way for Empress Catherine II.  

Years at the helm

Over the course of her tenure, Empress Catherine II laid focus, not just on domestic issues handing the might of the military and nobility succinctly but placed importance on Russia’s foreign affairs. Leading wars with Poland and Turkey, she ensured Russian military might garner the focus of world forces, with the extension of its borders. Domestically, she aimed to evolve Russia out of its otherwise backward social and economical image amongst outsiders and set up institutes promoting art and education. She has been credited with development of St. Petersburg in her quest for establish it amongst the foremost cities of the world.

Later years and legacy

Empress Catherine II remained mentally and physically active till her last day. She died on the 17th November 1796 at the age of 67 leaving a question mark on her succession, which against her wishes, went to her son Paul I. In a society which is largely male dominated, she left behind a legacy unmatched in being the longest serving female ruler of Russia.

Catherine II Quotes

All this is only for the mice and myself to admire!
- Catherine the Great

Your wit makes others witty.
- Catherine the Great

Men make love more intensely at 20, but make love better, however, at 30.
- Catherine the Great

I am one of the people who love the why of things.
- Catherine the Great

I shall be an autocrat: that's my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that's his.
- Catherine the Great

I beg you take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster.
- Catherine the Great

I praise loudly. I blame softly.
- Catherine the Great

For to tempt and to be tempted are things very nearly allied - whenever feeling has anything to do in the matter, no sooner is it excited than we have already gone vastly farther than we are aware of.
- Catherine the Great