Catherine the Great

Tsarina of Russia


Catherine the Great was born Sophie Fredericke Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst on May 2, 1729 in Stettin Germany. At age 15, Sophia was asked to become the wife and heir of the Grand Duke, Peter of Holstein. By 16 she was brought to Russia as his wife and changed her name to Catherine II. In 1762, Peter became the tsar of Russia, but he proved to be incompetent in being a ruler. Finally on June 28, 1762, Catherine overthrew Peter with the army of Russia. Peter was then arrested and murdered 4 days later, and Catherine became the new tsarina or Russia. She reined from 1762-1796, and died on November 6, 1796 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Tsarina in Action

It is said that Catherine II was a capable, informed, and gifted leader. She established schools, hospitals, and charity institutions. She also practiced religious tolerance and promoted education for women. Catherine the Great also built factories that employed hundreds, and opened Russia to teachers, professors, scientists, actors, painters, and writers. What is most important is that she was able to control the country at a time of rebellion, and led Russia towards western expansion.

Pugachev's Rebellion

From 1773 to 1774, Don Cossack Yemelyan Pugachev rallied up serfs and ethnic minorities from Russia and formed a rebellion against the government. He wanted to execute all the royal officials and Boyer landlords, free all the serfs, and end taxation and mandatory military service. He made his way through Central and Southeastern Russia and gained an army. At the height of the rebellion, Pugachev had most of European Russia under his control. Fortunately for Catherine II, Pugachev's rebels were no match for the Russian Army. Don Pugachev was tried and executed in Moscow. He then was burned, and his bones were thrown into a cannon and fired in the direction of the Ural River. After this, Catherine decided that she was no longer going to try to make Russia a liberal country.

Westward Expansion

The continuation of the westward expansion (started by Peter the Great) was Catherine's biggest success during her reign. She won two major wars against the Ottoman Empire, one from 1768-1774, and another from 1787-1792. These wars helped Russia get more land from them Now Russia extended to the coast of the Black Sea, the Crimea peninsula, and the Caucasus region. Catherine also signed many treaties with Austria and Prussia (1772, 1793, 1795) that had Poland go through 3 separations, ultimately leading to the removal of Poland itself from the map. In the end, Russia's boundaries had now made it to Central Europe.These gained lands made Russia stronger.