Catherine II the Great is one of the most significant rulers of tsarist Russia. Born Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst was the daughter of a petty prince of the Holy Roman Empire, but as a result of her marriage she became the wife of Emperor Peter III. After the palace coup, he ruled the country from 1762 to 1796.
Catherine the Great personifies an entire era in the history of Russia. Historians assess her as a subtle and intelligent diplomat, a versatile person and a strong woman. In order to comprehensively assess its activities in the public arena, it is worth considering separately its domestic and foreign policies.
Catherine's foreign policy was aimed at strengthening the prestige and role of the country in the political arena of Europe. The Empress set herself the goal of expanding the borders of the state and acquiring an outlet to the Black Sea. During her reign, as a result of two wars with Turkey in 1768-1774 and 1787-1792, the country acquired important strategic points at the mouth of the Dnieper, such as Azov, Kerch, annexed the Crimea and established itself on the Black Sea coast. As a result of subtle intrigues and complex diplomacy, after three partitions of Poland, Russia received Lithuania, Courland, Volhynia, Belarus and the Right-Bank Ukraine. As a result of the Treaty of Georgievsk in 1783, Georgia became part of Russia.
Thanks to subtle diplomacy, Russia's role in European politics has grown significantly. The created northern alliance between Russia, Prussia, England, Sweden, Denmark and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against Austria and France changed the balance of power in Europe for a long time. During the second half of the 17th century, Russia often acted as an arbiter between countries, imposing the terms of political treaties on them, taking into account its own interests.
Catherine's domestic policy is controversial and ambiguous. Catherine II personifies the era of enlightened absolutism in Russia. She opened schools, encouraged scientific research, collected paintings, and took care of the transformation of cities and the construction of palaces. In her domestic policy, she steadily strengthened the army and navy. During her reign, the Russian army doubled, the number of ships more than tripled compared to the time of her husband's reign. The country's state revenues have more than quadrupled. But at the same time, paper money appeared, which led to significant inflation, and for the first time there was an external debt of Russia. Russia came out on top in pig iron smelting. The share of exports of goods increased significantly, although trade was exclusively in raw materials, and the economy remained predominantly agrarian.
In her policy, the empress relied on the nobility, whose rights she significantly expanded. The nobles received the rights to the bowels of the earth, their property could not be confiscated, and they were also exempted from the obligation to serve. The peasant population was subjected to enslavement more and more, they were forbidden to complain about the landowner, the peasants began to be sold without land.
Catherine continued the political course that had been charted by her predecessors. She cared a lot about the greatness of the country, but did it at the expense of internal reserves. Her policy was very contradictory.