Catherine II 'the Great', Empress of Russia (1729-1796), is referred to as an 'enlightened monarch'. She shaped the Russian destiny to a greater extent than almost anyone before or since, with the exception of Peter the Great.
A German Princess, born Sophie Augusta Fredericka, she married Peter III of Russia and changed her name to 'Catherine' when she accepted the Russian Orthodox faith. The marriage was unsuccessful due to Peter Ill's mental immaturity. Soon Catherine became popular with several powerful political groups. She corresponded with many of the great minds of her era, including Voltaire and Diderot. Peter's eccentricities and policies alienated many. He was made to abdicate and was killed by Alexei Orlov in 1762. Catherine became the Empress of Russia.
In 1785 Catherine issued a charter that freed the nobles from state service and taxes, made noble status hereditary, and gave the nobles full control over their serfs and lands. Catherine proceeded to 'westernize' Russia. After a peasant revolt in 1773 led by Yemelyan Pugachev, Catherine instituted several drastic reforms. First, she encouraged the modernization of agriculture and industry. Second, she supported foreign investment in economically underdeveloped areas. Third, Catherine encouraged education for the nobles and middle class. She gave equal rights to Muslims in Russia, including the right to build mosques.
Catherine made Russia the dominant power in the Middle East after her first Russo-Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire (1768— 1774). She annexed the Crimea in 1783. All told, she added some 518,000 square km to Russian territory. She also encouraged the colonization of Alaska and of conquered areas.
Catherine subscribed to the Enlightenment and considered herself a 'philosopher on the throne.' She became known as a patron of the arts, literature and education. The Hermitage Museum was begun as Catherine's personal collection. She founded the famous Smolny Institute for noble young ladies. Gavrila Derzhavin and other writers of her epoch, supported by Catherine, laid the foundation for the great writers of the nineteenth century. However, her reign was also marked by censorship. When Radishchev published his Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow in 1790, Catherine had him exiled to Siberia. Catherine died on November 5, 1796, and was buried at the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg.
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Из пособия "ЕГЭ. Английский язык.
Устные темы" Занина Е.Л. (2010, 272с.) - Part
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