.. ed remarkable results. Russia’s primary exports were timber, hemp, flax, raw leather, furs, linen, cloth and iron. After the Treaty of Kyakhta was signed in 1768, camel caravans were soon passing to and from Manchuria. Russia exported furs, leather and linens to China, and imported cottons, silks, tobacco, silver and tea, among other commodities from China.
As early as 1765 three quarters of the Empress Elizabeth’s debt was repaid, and a budget deficit had been turned into a surplus. A decree issued by Catherine in 1764 to all governor-generals instructed them to take accurate census, map their provinces and report on agriculture and trade. They were to build and repair roads and bridges, oversee the fighting of fires, and ensure that orphanages and prisons were properly administrated. Catherine now turned to education. There were few schools in Russia. She started to convert a convent in St. Petersburg into a boarding school for girls, the Smolny Institute. She sent for Daniel Dumaresq, who had been a colleague of hers at Oxford and installed him as a member of the Educational Committee.
In 1786, Catherine issued the Statue for Schools for all of Russia. It said that every district town was to establish a minor school with two teachers and every provincial town a major school with six teachers. She did not deal with the founding of Universities, as she knew that Russia lacked qualified teachers for such institutions. However, she did increase the number of grants to study abroad. When she looked at public health at the beginning of her reign, she found that its need was just as great as it was for education.
She knew that children were plagued most by smallpox. So she brought Dr. Thomas Dimsdale, who had published a paper on how to treat smallpox, to St. Petersburg. Catherine volunteered to set an example by being the first person to be administered this vaccine. Dimsdale declared the vaccination a success and many followed her example. Catherine bought houses in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where Dr.
Dimsdale could operate vaccination hospitals. In 1763, Catherine founded Russia’s first College of Medicine, which consisted of a director, a president and eight members. The College was instructed to train Russian doctors, surgeons and apothecaries to serve in the provinces. Peter the Great had built military hospitals, while Catherine founded hospitals for civilians. When she reorganized the provinces in 1775, she decreed that each provincial capital must have a hospital.
Each county with a population between 20,000 and 30,000 should have a doctor, a surgeon, an assistant surgeon, and a student doctor. Catherine’s efforts prompted her gentry to follow her example. Baron von Kleichen founded a 300 bed hospital in St. Petersburg, which in the 1790’s the College added 250 more beds. These are some of the visible results of Catherine’s domestic reforms. There would be many more during her long reign, but one can get an idea of her tireless striving for improvements.
Catherine was also an enthusiastic collector of the arts. She built up the Imperial art collection from a dozen works to an incredible 3926. She commissioned the building of Palaces and pumped millions of rubbles into the creation of the Hermitage, which can still be seen today. She built a theater where artists that were invited to Russia could perform operas and plays. Catherine, herself tried her hand at writing several operas, and some were performed there.
Later in life she wrote stories for her grandchildren. She had new monuments erected throughout Russia and transformed St. Petersburg into a truly European city of Imperial pretensions. Her great love for Russia and pride in her country comes through to us when we look at this beautiful collection of paintings done by the world’s greatest masters, acquired not for personal indulgence, but as an effort to make Russia respected. Throughout all of this domestic reform, there were problems that took place outside of her empire.
In 1768, Turkey and Russia had gone to war; the Turks were suffering great losses. In 1772, Frederick of Prussia convinced Catherine that a partition of Poland was necessary and she complied. After many decisions, it was agreed that Poland would be separated into three regions. Russia, Prussia and Austria would each take one of these regions. In 1773, Yemelian Pugachev led the Cossacks, which were independent tribes of fierce warriors, and others in revolts that encompassed large parts of eastern Russia.
The Cossacks fought with the Russians against the Turks to resist the government’s attempt to absorb them into the government. These Cossack revolts showed Catherine how important these people were. In 1775, Catherine granted special privileges to the Cossacks, gaining in return their loyal support. The Russians had been at war once again with the Turks and were gaining land at a fast pace. These confrontations caused Catherine to realize that reforms were necessary for her survival. She began to abandon some of her principles and slipped deeper into the role of an autocrat, at the same time maintaining the look of an enlightened ruler. By 1774, the Russian army had gained great advances on the Turks and reached the Black Sea. At the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji, the Turks handed over access to the Black Sea, Crimean peninsula and other Turkish waters to the Russians.
In 1775, Catherine reorganized the local administration and integrated the Cossa troops into the Russian army. She drafted the Fundamental Law of 1775, which was the basis of her domestic policy, which lasted until 1861. By now she was a complete autocrat with viceroys and governors helping her rule the land. In 1787, another Russo-Turkish war broke out. Once again, the Russians responded with great strength, making great advances southward. By the end of this conflict, Russia had gained the areas of Georgia and Crimea.
By the time 1793 came, uprisings were occurring in Poland and the government in Poland was trying to establish a constitutional monarchy. Once word of this broke out, Catherine sent in her Russian forces and the second partition of Poland occurred. Two years later, in 1795, the third partition of Poland occurred due to the uprisings of peasants and serfs. Catherine would no longer tolerate Poland; she dissolved Poland into Russia, gaining many of the Kievan lands, something many Russians value. In 1796 the peasantry – private serfs and state peasants – compromised one million privately owned serfs under the control of the state. Catherine began to attack the Orthodox Church, just as Peter the Great had done.
Catherine seized its wealth and turned its prelates and priests into state employees under her control. As the church became more dependent on the state, the clergy declined in great numbers. The government began to close many monasteries; Catherine made the church subservient to the state. Catherine, however, granted a toleration law to Old Believers and revoked their double taxation law. Catherine wanted to bring the Russian people back to Russia. To attract colonists and improve her image, she granted the freedom of worship to Protestants and Catholics.
When her son Paul was old enough, she arranged a marriage to a German princess. Paul’s wife died in childbirth, but her son Alexander survived. In 1776, he married Princess Dorothea of Wuertemberg, who was re-named Maria Federovna. Catherine raised Alexander, just as Elizabeth had done with Paul. The succession of her family line was never a worry for Catherine. It was her great regret during her long reign that she was unable to abolish serfdom.
She realized that she would alienate the nobility with such an act, who depended on the labor of the serfs for their great estates. She did, however, issue several decrees for the humane treatment of the serfs. Catherine hoped that her grandson Alexander would be in a stronger position to free the people. After she had distanced herself from Gregory Orlov, another important public figure appeared on the scene. Gregory Potemkin was a man of exceptional ability, and she soon entrusted him with important affairs of State. Through him, Catherine was able to annex the Crimea from the Turks, a region of great importance.
In the 1780’s Potemkin was the most important man in Russia. Catherine’s Empire now reached from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Some Historians state that there was a possibility that Catherine may have married Potemkin in a secret ceremony. We do know that they had a loving relationship for some year, however there is no solid proof that such a marriage existed. He was deeply devoted to Catherine till his death. Catherine possessed majesty without being pompous like the many before her.
Over the years she lived through hurtful criticism, rebellion, war and estrangement from her son, whom she thought was incapable of ruling Russia. Paul never forgave his mother for how she treated him and for the involvement she played in the death of Peter III, whom he always believed to be his farther. Catherine had planned to bypass him as heir to the throne, leaving it to her grandson Alexander. She was a woman alone without her own family, except her beloved grandchildren. We can read how devastated she was, when as Grand Duchess, she had learned of the death of her beloved father. She felt much guilt at the time because she had gone against her father’s wishes and changed her religion.
As Empress, she showered her grandsons with much love, but some suggest that this was a void she tried to fill with the many relationships she formed with men. Perhaps we misunderstand her many attachments. She loved to teach, and she had much knowledge to give. We can see from her many letters to Baron von Grimm, that she took pride in the education of her young protgs. Perhaps what many historians interpret as promiscuous behavior, was nothing more than her filling the lonely hours by sharing her vast knowledge with the young men she deemed worthy of her attention.
She had long and lasting relationships with Orlov and Potemkin, and it seems that she was capable of being faithful and devoted. Russia owes her much. After a long reign of thirty-four years, Catherine died of a stroke on November 17, 1796. History knows her as Catherine the Great, a title she was offered during her lifetime and rejected. I leave it to posterity to judge impartially what I have done she said at the time; and Catherine has done well.
Domestically, She dealt with peasant revolts, pretenders, and noble opposition. Abroad, she increased Russia’s territory, prestige and international importance. Regardless of her much emphasized personal life and sexual relations, she deserves the title because she earned it. Endnotes History Essays.