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3.2 Catherine, the Great
Catherine is regarded as one of the enlightened despots of the eighteenth century. She took a leading part in the international relations and thereby lifted Russia almost without aid to her eminent position. If Peter, the Great westernized Russia, Catherine made Russia a force to be reckoned with among the nations of Europe. Due to her efforts, the prestige of Russia highly increased. Besides this, Russia also acted as the mediator in European politics.
Catherine II (1762-96), was the most remarkable of Peter's successors and the most distinguished of the women sovereign in Russia. She was the daughter of the german prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. In 1745 she married the Russian grand duke Peter III, the heir to the Russian throne. After her husband had ruled less than a year, she had him murdered by two of her favorites and became ruler herself.
3.2a Home Policy adopted by Catherine
The domestic policy of Catherine, the Great was all for the development of the nation in all areas. Although Catherine acquired the throne of Russia by means of crime, she wielded power with consummate skill.
Like Peter, Catherine II also aimed at the ideal of absolute despotism. She centralized the administrative system and made the Russian government more absolute than ever before, She held that the Russian people were unfit for self-government. The whole country was divided into territorial units entrusted to governors and deputy governors responsible to the central authority. She further subordinated the church by secularizing church property. When the French Revolution broke out she took strong measures to prevent the spread of any revolutionary ideas in Russia. She suppressed with merciless cruelty the peasants who revolted thrice during her reign.
Though unscrupulous, she was intelligent and energetic. Inspite of her German descent, she reproduced the characteristic features of the Russian monarchy. She was a remarkable woman with enough good sense to accept the traditions of Peter's reign and enough ability to continue with them.
Being of western birth, Catherine II naturally favored the western mode of civilization. In line with the policy of Peter, the Great, she established schools, improved industries and manufacture and fostered commerce. She patronized literature and showed a keen interest in the movement of thought in France and Western Europe. She also encouraged in her court the development of French ideas and manners and corresponded with Diderot and Voltaire. Many of the foremost intellectuals of Europe gathered at her court.