Sophia Augusta Fredericka also known as Catherine the great was a Russian empress who reigned in the period 1762-1796. She was born on 21st April, 1729 in Stettin, Prussia which is now known as Szczecin, Poland. Having been born of Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst and princesses Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein- Gottorp, she was automatically a German princess.
It was after her conversion to orthodoxy that she adopted the name Catherine and was married to the heir to the Russian throne by the name the Grand Duke peter in 1745. The marriage was however not a happy one. The marriage problems nevertheless did not deter her intellectual and political interests and capabilities and Catherine made some efforts in the removal of her husband from the throne and she later took power as the queen hence the title Catherine II.
Catherine had always been ambitious and intelligent and had the desire to be the head of the Russian empire despite the fact that she was born in German. She used various tactics to gain the support of the Russian people for instance through her loyalty to Russia and the Russian orthodox (Streeter 4).
It was in the year 1761 25th December, when Empress Elizabeth died and peter became the emperor, Peter II, hence making Catherine the great to be the empress. Peter was faced with a lot of political, military and even church related problems.
There were even attempts to overthrow him and placing his son Paul on the thrown while at the same time having Catherine as the temporary ruler until the son reached the optimum age of being a ruler. This plan however did not consider the fact that Catherine had a very strong desire to be a ruler by herself and that she could not stand the position of being a background figure as she awaits her son Paul to be of age but rather she had to fight intelligently.
It was on the 28th day of June the year 1762 that Catherine combined efforts with her then lover, Gregory Orlov and brought together the troops of St. Petersburg to her aid and declared herself as the solitary ruler of the Russian empire hence the name Catherine II. Peter was arrested and after a short period of time he was killed and nothing could deter Catherine’s determination of ruling the Russian empire.
Although Catherine was very ambitious and had great plans in regard to improving the domestic and foreign matters of the country, she concentrated much on securing and laying a firm foundation of her position during her initial years of her reign.
This is because she was aware of the fact that a majority of people were not for her idea of being a ruler but rather considered her son, Paul, to be the appropriate person to take on the leadership position. She was also viewed by many as having seized her husband from power illegally. She therefore saw these people as a threat and had to do everything possible to gain their support and trust and make her stay as a ruler comfortable and appealing to many.
She was very keen not to cause any further disparities but rather to unite the people, for instance, she understood that the people needed to rebuild Russian peace before she could indulge on homeland affairs. A foreign policy was necessary and Catherine placed Count Nikita Panin in charge of foreign affairs to implement the policies and was successful.
It was two years later, 1964, that Catherine was now ready to perpetrate reforms as she now felt secure and had gained the trust of the majority through her loyalty.
The reform acts and agendas set by Catherine were driven by the enlightenment and education idea. Her first notable reform for instance was facilitated by the enlightenment spirit. She advocated for the change of the Russian legal system as she considered it ineffective based on the fact that the system relied on old code of laws which were long passed by time making them ineffective.
She aimed at bringing positive changes in the legal system for instance through enactment of laws and policies that ensures that there is equal protection for all individuals without any form of discrimination. She also advocated for the prevention of participation in criminal activities as opposed to the imposition of cruel and harsh punishment of the offenders as prevention is always better than cure and more so less costly for the particular country.
It was in June 1767 that Catherine the great established a legislative commission that was supposed to take part in the revision of the old laws and although she was very hopeful that the commission would do its best and achieve the expected results, there were very little positive achievements to an extent that Catherine suspended the activities of the commission toward the end of the year 1768.
Apart from being involved in domestic affairs, Catherine also dealt with the foreign affairs, for instance, she made it possible for Russia to access the black sea coast without restrictions (Henry 1).
Catherine the great is a very significant figure in Russia as she is associated with the expansion of the Russian empire for instance to the central Europe and the black sea, the improvement in the administration and management practices and also her vigorous persuasion of the westernization and modernization policies.
It is under her rule that Russia was able to have strong foundations to an extent that it could now rival with Asia and Europe. Catherine dedicated her time and capabilities to issues associated with the domestic affairs specifically the functioning of the government.
Education and enlightenment was also a major aspect that Catherine the great promoted in Russia. She was actively involved in the expansion of the Russian education system for instance she established a plan that aimed at expanding and improving the education system in Russia in 1786.
Although she did not live to make the plan a complete success due to her death, she saw to it that there was an increase in the number of the educational institutions including elementary and secondary schools after which other aspects of the plan were carried on by his son.
She also advocated for improvement in arts for instance theatre, painting and music and also sciences in schools and the society at large as she saw this as a source of recognition and good reputation for the country hence a source of civilization. It was in 1796 that Catherine the great died and her throne was succeeded by her son by the name Paul (Lewis 1).
Henry, Cavendish. “Catherine the Great Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2011. Mar. 14, 2011
Lewis J. Jone. “Catherine the Great.” About.com, 2011. Mar. 14, 2011
Streeter, Michael. Catherine the Great. London: Haus Publishing, 2007.