Empress Catherine the Great

Essay by stargyrlHigh School, 10th gradeA-, December 2003

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Catherine II is remembered as one of the greatest reformers of Russia. Catherine was born a German princess in one of the tiny German states, but nevertheless she turned out to be a powerful and enlightened ruler of the vast Russian Empire. After her coronation on September 22, 1762 at the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin in Moscow, she quickly began making changes in government and society. She continued the process of Westernization begun by Peter the Great and made Russia a great European power. She built marvelous new monuments across Russia and transformed St. Petersburg into a European city of imperial pretensions. The arts, music, and education where patronized by her, and Catherine pumped millions of rubles into the creation of the modernization of Russia. No other Russian monarch appreciated beauty as much as Catherine. She set the stage for the emergence of a national Russian culture that would emerge as something unique and wonderful in the nineteenth century.

Originally named Sophie Augusta Fredericka von Anhalt-Zerbst, Catherine was born in the Baltic seaport town of Stettin, Pomerania on April 21, 1729 to Christian August, a German military prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and Princess Joanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. At Empress Elizabeth's request, the family left Zerbst on January 10, 1744. They stopped in Berlin to see King Frederick II. A few days later Sophie bid farewell to her father in Schwedt, then she and her mother were on their way to Russia. At the arrival in St. Petersburg they learned that the court was at the time in Moscow. The Empress Elizabeth seemed to have taken an instant liking to Sophie. The Grand Duke was glad to see them, after all Johanna was his father's first cousin. Sophie noticed a certain frailty about Peter, and he was prone...