Catherine the Great – Book Review Part 2

My reading interests tend toward historical fiction, which covers a lot of territory. This was my first autobiography; I doubt it will be my last. There is so much history in this book. While I found it a bit tedious at times, overall it was an excellent read.

Here is my review…

Catherine II was German born (Sophie) in 1729 and was summoned to Russia in 1744 to marry the nephew of Empress Elizabeth, Grand Duke Peter of Russia. In 1745 they married.

Peter ascended to the throne upon Empress Elizabeth’s death in 1761. But over the years he had lost the confidence of the people, knew nothing about ruling and, frankly, cared nothing about ruling. Catherine had guided him this far and people knew she was much more capable than Peter.

Peter’s reign only lasted 6 months and he was over-thrown and killed. Catherine was crowned in 1762. She reigned until her death in 1796.

Catherine wanted a better life for her people. She sought their ideas, complaints, and challenges. Her attempt to form a tribunal of representatives from each class and area of the region failed. Her desire to free the surfs (slaves) was met with much resistance and she abandoned the effort. Her great grandson eventually succeeded.

She fought wars, negotiated treaties, acquired land, gave up land, and loved many. In 1762, Russia was a landlocked empire; Catherine was able to acquired access to the Black Sea in the south and Baltic in the north. Russia prospered.

Upon her death in 1796, her son Paul ascended to the throne.

“It was a long and remarkable journey that no one, not even she, could have imagined when, at fourteen, she set off for Russia across the snow” *

*from Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman, page 574 – author Robert K. Massie

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