Author of the painting: Vigilius Eriksen

Szczecin, Kingdom of Prussia, May 2, 1729-St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, 17 November 1796

Catherine II was a Russian Empress whose sovereignty was experiencing a “Golden Age” of the Russian Empire, one of the most influential women in history.

In 1745 she married the Grand Duke Peter, thus becoming the Grand Duchess Catherine. However, in 1762 the Grand Duke abdicated and was assassinated eight days later, so Catherine took power and was proclaimed Empress. Smart and ambitious, she was sympathetic to the European Enlightenment, so she expanded the Westernization of Russia. She produced a document known as “Nakaz” to try to change the Russian feudal system and in 1767 formed a legislative committee to draft a constitution, but the desired results were not obtained.

Young Catherine / Artist: Louis Caravaque

Young Catherine / Artist: Louis Caravaque

She reformed the administration and founded new cities and towns. Powered the development of the arts, education and high culture and ordered the Smolny Institute to be built, the first institution of higher education in Europe funded by the state. However, she increased the level of dependence of the servants and failed to create further progress in favor of farmers, and instead granted privileges to Russian nobles through the “Letter to the nobility” of 1785.

Catherine delimited the borders of Poland and annexed to Russia many territories to expand her empire to the south and west. Her agreements with Prussia and Austria took three partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, respectively.

Catherine the Great brought Russia to a golden age and the country became a power able to be compared with other European nations. She held power for 34 years.