Catherine The Great Essay Research Paper CATHERINE

Catherine The Great Essay, Research Paper


I. Early life

a. Childhood

b. Interests

II. Relationship with Peter III

a. Marriage and Motherhood

b. Overtaking of Peter III

c. Death of Elizabeth II

III. Catherine Empress of Russia

a. Russian Orthodox Clergy

b. Philosophers

c. Pastimes

d. Worries

IV. Love and Power

a. Love affairs

b. Accomplishments

V. Conclusion

a. Catherine II was worth of the title, ?Catherine the Great.?

1/4/58 ?Women fell under her spell as well as men, for underlying her engaging femininity was a masculine strength which gave her the courage to present a bland and smiling mask in the face of the greatest tribulations.? Sophia Augusta Frederica was born into a small Prussian kingdom in 1729. Her hometown was in Stettin, Germany. Her birth was a great disappointment to her parents, her father, Prince Christian August of Anhalt- Zerbst and her mother, Johanna Elizabeth, daughter of the prince of Holstein ? Gottorp. Both parents had hoped for a son. After they did finally have a son, she was neglected even more. Although, when her parents discovered that she had a good memory, they encouraged her to study religion, history and geography. Besides learning, Sophia also became more interested in hunting and riding horses rather than what were considered more feminine past times and was somewhat of a tomboy. Throughout her life, her mother only spoke to her to criticize her. Her father cared very much for her, but was too engrossed with his military work to show her much affection. She spent much time with her governess who taught her to question everything and everybody and to trust her own common sense. Her guidance from her governess and her ability to be independent at a young age helped her to later become a strong leader.

At a very young age, she wished to marry her second cousin, Peter Ulrich, who later changed his name to Peter Fyodorvich. Elizabeth I of Russia chose her to marry her son, Peter Fyodorvich. Catherine prepared for the role of czarina by studying the Russian language intently. Love played no role in her thoughts to marry Peter; Catherine was only interested in the throne. As a strict Lutheran, Catherine?s father was very unhappy about Catherine marrying a Russian Orthodox. Her father wrote her letters begging her not to abandon Lutheranism. Catherine was determined to gain the respect of the Russian orthodox, so when she became deathly ill, she called for a Russian orthodox priest instead of a Lutheran. She won the trust and sympathy of Russia. On June 28, 1744, Catherine was baptized into the Russian orthodox faith. The next day she and peter Fyodovich had an elaborate betrothal at the Cathedral of St. Sophia. She married Peter in August of1745, and their marriage was a disaster from the beginning. Peter was very immature and spent most of his time playing with toy soldiers. 2/1/952 ?The marriage was a complete failure. The following eighteen years were filled with deception and humiliation for her.? Peter hurt Catherine deeply when he told her of women in the court that he loved and thought were beautiful. Catherine became very lonely and resorted to reading, by the time Catherine was 23, she was even more intelligent. After many years, Catherine still had not born a child with Peter. Elizabeth, determined to have an heir, arranged for Catherine to bear a child with another man. Catherine then chose her own lover, an imperial guard officer and war hero, to have a child with. Catherine had many lovers throughout her marriage to Peter III. Soon after the birth of Catherine?s second child, Elizabeth grew very sick. As Elizabeth deteriorated, so did Catherine and Peter?s relationship. Catherine soon found a new lover Grigory Orlov, a lieutenant in the palace guard, he ended up being one of Catherine?s most important allies. After the death of Empress Elizabeth on December 25, 1761, peter no longer felt that he had to disguise his hatred toward his wife. Catherine became powerless and could not fight back because she was pregnant with Oriole?s child. Because Peter could use this evidence of infidelity against her, she wore loose, heavy mourning clothes with long veils. This clothing was appropriate to wear when Elizabeth?s body was displayed in the palace. For ten days after Elizabeth?s death, Catherine knelt in prayer, while Peter was out laughing, drinking and having a good time at parties. Catherine was clearly the model ruler.

After the death of his mother, Peter III began an even more disastrous reign. He offended officials of the court and of the church, while Catherine was busy gaining supporters through her lover, Orlov and his brothers. One night, while drunk, Peter announced that he planned to divorce Catherine. 14/2/69 News spread of the Tsar?s scandalsous attack on Cahterine. Instead, she and Orlov planned to overthrow him. On the night of June 27, 1762, Orlov took Catherine away to an army barracks where the solderis proclaimed her their savior, and she took the throne. Peter was imprisoned and was later put to death. Catherine was now the rightful Empress of Russia, Catherine II.

Catherine?s efforts to self educate herself paid off. She was an intelligent, well rounded leader. 2/5/488?Throughout her reign Catherine was passionately interested in education, which she firmly believed could remodel human nature.? Catherine truly wanted to improve the Russian economy. She changed her views of the world when she became Empress. She was origionally opposed to serfdom, where serfs were bound by lwaw to their land and had no rights of their own. But she soon began to treat the common people as objects to be given as gifts. During her reign, Catherine said,15/2/71 ?My only desire in which God as placed me? The glory of my own country is my own glory.? In the beginning of her reign, Russia?s foreigh and domestic affairs were in terrible shape because of the haphazard reigns of her predecessors, Peter and his mother Elizabeth. On of the ways Catherine chose to mend the problems was in 1762, she allowed nobles to build factories on their estates. This led to the expansion of industry in Russia. The backstage workings of the government interested Catherine greatly. She read all of her paper work, accounts, reports, memorandums, and atteneded all meetings. Sometimes Catherine became so involved that she would forget to eat meals. At the age of 33, on September 22, 1762, Catherine was crowned 17/2/76 ?the most serene and powerful princess and Lady Catherine the Second, empress and autocrat of all the Russias.?

Catherine?s goal was always to impress the good will of the Russian clergy. In February of 1764, Catherine signed a decree making the Russian Orthodox Church a state asset. This motion freed one million serfs. Catherine then made a pilgrimage to the city of Rostov where she set up a sliver shrine to Saint Dimitiri, this greatly impressed the Russian people. After a small battle with the church, she realized that having the clergy as an enemy did not pose a serious threat. Instead of befriending people of the clergy, she began to befriend philisophers and enlightenment thinkers.

These philisophers consisted of Denis Diderot, Montesquieu, and Voltiare. They inspired her to rewrite the antiquated, confusing code of laws. 1/2/16 Denis Diderot wrote in regards to Catherine, ?She has the soul of Brutus and the body of Cleopatra.? The Nakaz, published in 1767, instructions for the revision of legal code was the most important work of her life. Other accomplishments included liberal projects; a home for orphans; the construction of a public health department; and an institution for educating the daughters of nobility. She put an end to state intervention of commerce and built many new roads. Although it was hard to believe, Catherine was not always working.

In her spare time, she enjoyed the company of dogs, and usually had up to four of five dogs at a time. Her dogs dined with her and were treated with tender love and care. Catherine also enjoyed discovering new, unsusual foods. She greatly encouraged the cultivation of potatoes, which were considered, ?the devils weed.? She established the Russian Academy for the study of arts and published a literary magazine, wrote memoirs, enjoyed paintings, sculptures, and cameo making. Catherine was a patron of the arts and built many magnificent palaces and public buildings in St. Petersburg. Catherine stored all of her great pieces of art in a palace now called the Hermitage.

Catherine II was worried about Peter the Great?s grand-nephew, Ivan VI, who was living, without a name in the dungeon where Empress Elizabeth had sent him in 1741. Ivan VI had a legitimate claim to the crown and throne. In 1764, Catherine?s fears diminished. A young army officer believed that it was his calling from God to rescue Ivan VI from imprisonment. The guards killed Ivan when the officer attempted to free him. Another person who posed a threat to Catherine II was an army deserter who claimed to be Peter III. After much blood shed he was captured and beheaded. The only person who was now a threat to Catherine was her own son, Tsarevitch Paul. Her son loathed her because he though she killed his father. It wasn?t until Catherine?s death that he realized that his mother was innocent.

Catherine?s attitude for her love affairs was very straight forward. She thought of physical satisfaction as a completely natural and unshameful need. Although her views on sex were looked down upon by many, Catherine continued to have one lover after another. Catherine?s ex-lover, Grigory Orlov, was dismissed from court. As a parting gift, Catherine gave her ex a generous amount of money, a generous pention, riches, a marble palace, and 6,000 serfs who could act as slaves. In 1774, Catherine disovered a replacement for Grigory Orlov. Her new lover, Grigory Potemkin captured her imagination as no other man ever had. At the age of 45, she abandoned herself to her love of Potemkin, some historians believe that they were actually married for some time. When Catherine?s relationship with Potemkin began to cool down, he became her matchmaker and lifelong friend. When Catherine was 50 years old, she fell in love with a twenty-four year old who had been brought up in the palace with one of her sons. She was devastated when he died at a young age of diphtheria in 1784. To overcome his death, she studied various foreign languages spoken within Russia.

In 1772, Catherine joined forces with Fredrick William II of Prussia, and Maria Theresa, empress of Austria. They divided Poland among their three states. This angered Turkey and led to a costly war known as the Seven Years War, starting in 1768 and ending in 1774 with a tremendous Russian victory. Russia gained crucial territory bordering the Black Sea.

In 1780, Catherine issued the ?Armed Neutrality Act?. This act granted freedom of navigation and trade to countries not at war. Five years later, in 1785, Catherine passed the Nobles? Charter which gave ruling classes greater privileges and made sefts legal private property of nobility.

At age 60, Catherine still had a beautiful complexion, sparkiling eyes, but she was heavy and was missing most of her teeth. Despite her appearance, she still sought company of young men. When Poland attacked Russia in 1793, foreign affairs were on top of the list. Inspired by the French Revolution, Catherine was horrified by the killing of Louis XVI by guillotine. The idea was worsened because it was the invention of her once beloved philosophers. In 1796, Catherine was still an effective ruler despite her bad health. Her death was very unexpected and tragic. She was found in her bathroom laying on the floor. 1/4/365 ?Her face was livid, her body completely inert. With difficulty they dragged her on a mattress back to her room. It was a sad end for a sovereign who had earned the title of ?the Great.?

(paraphrase pg 104 source 3)Catherine, born a German, died a true Russian. Her 34-year reign brought both great advances and great misery to her adoptive people. Her main interests were cultural and political. Detirmined to make the backward Russian society as cultured as those of the German and French, she introduced and encouraged the studies of literature, art , science, and new philosophical ideas to the people of Russia. She was the first Russian ruler to spend large sums of money on education. She founded new universities and the nation?s first school for girls.

Catherine who herself was a dedicated reader and art collecter, encouraged both reading and appreciation of the arts among her nobles. She worked endlessly to modernize and improve the structure of the government of Russia. Although she thought of herself as a ?republican?, Cahterine actually made Russia?s already powerful rulers even stronger by increasing the power over the serfs. She began her reign with sympathy for the poor, but serfs did not benefit from her reign in anyway. Catherine?s success expanded Russian borders tremendously and increased its international prestige. Catherine had many lovers, but she never allowed any one of them to rule Russia, she was always in control. Because she was a woman, her risqu? personality was often criticized. Her enemies although, could never destroy the great record of her accomplishments. She remains today, one of the most brilliant and intellectual leaders the world has ever known. Catherine II was truly worthy of the title, ?Catherine the Great.?

?Catherine II.? Encyclopedia Britannica. 1987 ed.

Haslip, Joan. Catherine the Great. Canada: Longman Canada Limited, 1977.

Madariga, de Isabel. Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great. New Haven: Yale

University Press, 1981.

Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr. Catherine. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Steinman, Gloria. , et al. Her Story; Women Who Changed the World. New York:

Viking, 1995.


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