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Catherine the Great was the longest reigning empress of the Russian empire who made Russia the dominant power of the South-Eastern Europe and played a major role in the Russian age of enlightenment.

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Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great was born as Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste on May 2, 1729 in Pomerania, in the kingdom of Prussia. Her father Christian August, also known as the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, ruled as the governor of the city, Stettin. Her mother was the Princess Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. She received her formal education from a French governess and some other teachers.

In 1745, at the age of 16, she married the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, Karl Ulrich, who was the grandson of Peter the Great, and this is when she took the name, Catherine. During this time, Russia was ruled by the empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Her husband became the emperor in 1761 shortly after the death of Empress Elizabeth and he ruled the empire as Peter III.

Soon after becoming the new emperor, Peter formed an alliance with Frederick II of Prussia and ended a seven years long war and he wanted to get himself rid of Catherine. Catherine conspired against her husband. She had the support of the army with the help of Grigory Orlov. Peter III was captured and assassinated after reigning for just six months, and Catherine became the empress of Russia under the name Catherine II in September of 1762. This was the beginning of a golden era of the Russian Empire. Catherine was a true ruler, unlike Peter II. Even though she was a native Prussian, she desired to make Russia a powerful empire and her devotion to Russia was greatly admired by her followers.

Having control over major ports in the region was essential for Russia to become a powerful empire. The Black Sea was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and to win control, the Russian and Ottoman empires were at war for more than a century. With successful battles led by Catherine the Great, the Russian empire secured the control of the Black Sea and the Russian Empire became a dominant power of Europe.

In 1782, a commission was set up by Catherine the Great to observe and analyze educational systems existing in other countries and a statute was put into effect that resulted in free primary and secondary education. She structured the educational system by providing guidance to teachers with subjects and teaching methods. This educational reform greatly affected society as education was more available and the government sponsored art, science, and philosophy. She established many boarding schools and orphanages and also improved the social status of women.

Catherine the Great had a stroke and died at the age of 67 after reigning for 34 years.

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Significant Accomplishments of Catherine the Great

  • Longest reigning female ruler of Russian empire
  • Led the forces against Ottoman Empire successfully
  • Made Russian empire a dominant power
  • Educational reforms to develop education

Catherine the Great Quotes

“The more a man knows, the more he forgives.”

“Power without a nation's confidence is nothing.”

“In politics a capable ruler must be guided by circumstances, conjectures and conjunctions.”

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