The Contributions of Catherine II (Catherine the Great), Empress of Russia

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The Contributions of Catherine II (Catherine the Great), Empress of Russia Catherine II, or Catherine the Great, empress of Russia (1762-96), did much to transform Russia into a modern country. Originally named Sophie Fredericke Augusta, she was born in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland), on May 2, 1729, the daughter of the German prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. At the age of 15 she went to Russia to become the wife of Peter, nephew and heir of Empress ELIZABETH. Elizabeth died on Dec. 25, 1761, and Catherine's husband succeeded as PETER III. The new ruler soon made himself unpopular, especially with certain army officers. Led by Aleksei ORLOV (whose brother Grigori was Catherine's lover), the officers staged a coup in June…show more content…
Not much came of the venture. In 1773, Yemelian PUGACHEV led Cossacks, peasants, and others in a revolt that engulfed large parts of eastern Russia. The revolt, ruthlessly crushed by the army in 1775, alerted Catherine to the necessity for reform. In 1775, she reorganized the local administration, integrated the Cossacks into the regular army, and put the serfs belonging to the Russian Orthodox church under the administration of the state. In 1785, she issued two charters--to the towns and to the nobility--to involve the educated classes in local administration in return for protection of their status and property rights. In a similar spirit, Catherine established (1765) the Free Economic Society to encourage the modernization of agriculture and industry. She promoted trade and the development of underpopulated regions by inviting foreign settlers such as the Volga Germans, and she founded new towns (Odessa, for example) and enterprises on the Black Sea. Herself a prolific writer, Catherine patronized arts and letters, permitted the establishment of private printing presses, and relaxed censorship rules. Under her guidance the University of Moscow and the Academy of Sciences became internationally recognized centers of learning; she also increased the number of state and private

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