Originally being a foreigner, Catherine II loved Russia and cared for the prosperity of its people. She ascended the throne as the result of the Palace Coup, she’s the longest ruling female leader.


She was born in 1729 as Princess Sophie Auguste Friederike of Anhalt-Zerbst in Stettin, Prussia. Got home education, simultaneously studying foreign languages, history, religion and taking dancing classes.

In 1744, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna invited Sophie to Russia, where she was christened as Ekaterina Petrovna. Soon after their engagement with Petr Feodorovich was announced.

Catherine understood that people didn’t accept some strange features of Peter, so the chance for her to become a country leader was huge after Elizabeth’s death. Catherine studied the works of Enlightenment and law that affected her ideology a lot. She also put a lot of effort to understand the history and traditions of the Russian state.

Rokotov. The reign of Catherine 2
Portrait of Catherine II (1763). F.S. Rokotov


After Elizabeth’s death, Catherine’s relations with her husband got even worse. Being afraid of a possible arrest, with the support of Orlov brothers, Panin, Razumovsky, Dashkov, Catherine organized a palace coup. That was on June 28, 1762 when the Emperor was in Oranienbaum. Later Peter III was sent to Ropsha where he soon died.

Catherine tried to increment the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment in the government work and create a strong state according to this powerful European movement. She was proactive, always suggesting new changes and improvements.

This country leader founded several new education institutions and implemented a liberal program of governing the country. She paid special attention to the education of women and established several schools, Russian Academy and Smolnyy Institution. Another important part of her internal policy belonged to healthcare. Psychiatric and infection hospitals were opened, and vaccination became compulsory and managed on a governmental level.

After the end of Russo-Turkish war and the suppression of Pugachev’s rebellion, Catherine developed more reforms. She offered free opening of industrial entities and maintained a provincial reform that stayed until 1917. The external policy was characterized by the strengthening of Russia, affiliation of Crimea, Georgia and active presence in revolutionary France.

Monument to Catherine the Great in Catherine's Garden


Catherine’s epoch was defined by the maximum enslavement of peasants and through-out expansion of nobility’s privileges. The system of governmental management was reformed for the first time after Peter the Great era.

The boarders of Russian empire extended a lot to the west (the First Partition of Poland ) and to the south (adjoining of Novorossiya, Crimea, partly Caucasus).

Speaking of the cultural heritage of the Catherine’s times, Russia became among the greatest European powers. The Empress herself was very interested in literature, collected international masterpieces and was in close relations with French representatives of the Age of Enlightenment.

Generally, the policy and reforms of Catherine the Great fit the tendency of Enlightened absolutism of XVIII century. Catherine’s contribution to Russian history is huge, thus many artworks of our culture save the memory of the Empress.

To learn more about Catherine’s times and view the related sights in St Petersburg, enjoy a private guided tour. ⠀