Catherine the Great (1729-1796). This woman was the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Under her, Russia finally became one of the leading world powers.
The empress herself was fond of literature, corresponded with European educators, collected masterpieces of painting. The Empress surrounded herself with favorites, which caused a lot of gossip and gossip.
Today, Catherine's activities for the good of Russia are generally assessed positively, but an objective assessment is hampered by numerous myths about this bright person. And modern films and TV series only add to the confusion - for the sake of scandal, intrigue and plot, historical facts are simply ignored. Some myths about Catherine the Great will be considered by us.
Catherine was not a beauty. The nee Sophia Augusta Frederica herself said that she had received great sensitivity from nature and, if not beautiful, then an attractive appearance. Catherine wrote that in her youth she liked her at first sight, without putting any effort into it. The Empress was a brunette of medium height. There were also flaws in her appearance that she knew and fought with them. The woman was inclined to be overweight. And as soon as she developed a double chin, she immediately developed a posture in herself to hide it. One of the foreign ambassadors recalled that the empress's figure was noble and pleasant, and her gait was proud. The woman's manner was full of grace, she had a regal appearance. The men admired Catherine.
Sophia Augusta Frederica was brought up like a real princess. Catherine's father was Field Marshal Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst. And although the prince had a loud title and pedigree, he was never rich. The nobleman served the Prussian king, was the governor of the city of Stettin. Sophia in childhood had to play in the square with the children of ordinary burghers. Mother slapped her in the face for poor boiler cleaning. The girl had to respectfully kiss the hem of the dresses of the wives of wealthy townspeople when they entered the house. And only thanks to a happy occasion, the princess became the bride of the heir to the Russian throne. Naturally, no one saw her at the head of state. Catherine arrived in Russia with only a few shirts. Once, already in 1762, her friend, Princess Dashkova, found the princess washing her lace cuffs in a trough. Catherine calmly replied that there was nothing to be surprised at, she was being prepared as a wife for a petty German prince, teaching both to do the laundry and to mess with the children.
Catherine hated her husband, Peter III. This statement seems logical - Catherine overthrew her hated husband. But the relationship between the spouses was rather complicated. Peter got married at a fairly early age, at 17. His bride was even less - 16. The groom at that time was a notorious young man who liked to play soldiers. Unlike her eccentric husband, Fike was an active and energetic girl who saw her future perfectly. Catherine wrote about her husband that she could not clearly say whether she liked Peter or not, she only knew how to obey. The main task of her mother was to give her daughter in marriage. But Catherine herself liked the Russian crown more than the personality of her husband. He was 17, he and his wife only talked about the soldiers and their toys, which occupied him all day. The girl had to listen to Peter out of politeness, pleasing him. But the language of love between them was not, and it was not she who should have started this topic. Over time, Peter began to see his wife as a friend, to complain to her on various issues. But at a certain point, the husband began to interfere with Catherine on her way to power. She didn’t want to kill him, but that’s how the circumstances were. Either the guards overdid it, or Peter's poor health played a fatal role.
Catherine's son, Paul, was not born of Peter, but of a lover. And yet Paul was born, most likely from Peter. This is evidenced by the external similarity, the similarity of temperaments. Saltykov's claims about his paternity remain empty bragging rights. Yes, and Catherine herself never told her husband that her son was not from him, as shown in the TV series. Such a confession of her infidelity would cost her at least imprisonment in a monastery, at most - the death penalty. The baby from Catherine was immediately taken away, he was brought up for some time by Elizabeth's associates. In the early years of marriage, Peter and Catherine did not have marital relations. The reason was both cold relationships and tender age. Paul was born only after 9 years of marriage, when Elizabeth directly demanded that Catherine give birth to an heir. Before the birth of her son, the princess had two more unsuccessful pregnancies.
Catherine had hundreds of lovers. In her personal life, Catherine was not an ascetic. Until the age of 43, she had only three lovers. The connection with Grigory Orlov was the strongest, it lasted 11 years. As a result, a son, Alexei Bobrinsky, was born. Novels with Sergei Saltykov and Stanislav Poniatovsky were fleeting. But after the death of Orlov, Catherine broke up. There were always handsome young men with her who served her for a simple purpose. The woman needed to have good personal time so that she could better work for the good of the country. For their service, the young favorites received an award, but had to follow certain rules. They had no right to leave Catherine's chambers without her permission, they could not accept invitations without her knowledge, and had to devote all their time to the Empress. If the Empress was no longer interested in the favorite, then he was immediately dismissed. He received a good rank and dowry. The exception was Grigory Potemkin. He managed to become not only a lover, but also a close friend, companion until his death. The empress even managed to get married with Potemkin. Historians were able to roughly calculate the number of Catherine's lovers. There were about 20 of them (13 according to other sources), but not hundreds. For a time when European monarchs regularly changed their favorites, this behavior was not considered out of the ordinary. Naturally, there is no need to talk about the strong feelings of young people for an aging woman.
The lovers chosen by Catherine fell straight into her bed. The contender for the role of the empress's lover was tested for the possibility of performing intimate duties. All her favorites passed through this ceremony. The man who was destined to be a concubine was examined by Rogerson, a physician, and then sent to Anna Stepanovna Protasova for a three-night trial. If a man showed himself, then the maid of honor reported to the empress about the reliability of the man. The next day after the first date, the new favorite was taken to his already permanent rooms, where they were given a uniform with a diamond hairpin and one hundred thousand rubles for pocket money. The metropolitan came to the favorite on the same day and blessed him with holy water.
The favorites received nothing from Catherine. The empress generously endowed her lovers. So, her last favorite, Platon Zubov, begged for money, estates, serfs for himself and his relatives. In just two years, the lover received about 3.5 million rubles in silver - a colossal fortune at that time. But there were also lands and serfs. Potemkin and Bezborodko received 50 million rubles for their own needs, and in fact they also stole a lot while running the country. Relations with the Orlov brothers cost Catherine 17 million rubles, in addition to land and serfs. The Empress paid Lansky 8 million, even Zorich and Korsakov, who had not stayed for long with Catherine, received a million each. In addition, all the favorites got into debt, which the empress generously paid. English stripes Harris somehow calculated what all the favorites of the queen had cost the country. The amount in cash was about 100 million rubles. And this, taking into account the country's entire budget of 80 million per year, was a huge amount.
Catherine ruled calmly, without fear of conspiracies. Throughout her life, Catherine was haunted by the feeling of an illegal accession to the throne. Not only did she overthrow her husband, but he also died. The ghost of Peter III did not leave Catherine alone. During the years of her reign, at least seven proclaimed themselves the deposed king. The most famous impostor is Emelyan Pugachev. Twice the conspirators tried to free from prison John Antonovich, the great-grandson of Tsar Ivan V, the brother of Peter I. He clearly had more rights to the Russian throne than the visiting Prussian princess. During another attempt to free Tsar Ivan VI, he was killed by guards.
Catherine took Russia in ruin and left it prosperous. It is often written that the reign of Catherine is a golden age for the country. Under her, indeed, the Russian Empire grew significantly. But this happened mainly due to the partitions of the Commonwealth and the conquest of the Crimea. On average, four cities arose in the country every year. Russia began to play an important role in world trade. Under her, new educational institutions appeared, medicine developed. It is interesting that when Catherine ascended the throne, she immediately began to complain about the lack of funds in the treasury. In her memoirs, the empress wrote that everything was in decline, the army did not receive a salary for three months. However, Catherine was cunning. Even after the Seven Years War, the country's finances were not depleted. The budget deficit in 1762 was only 8% of revenues - about a million rubles. At the same time, Catherine herself contributed to this, for the first six months of her reign, generously rewarding the participants in the coup with money and peasants. And the depletion of finances happened just during the reign of Catherine. Under her, for the first time, Russia had an external debt. After the death of the empress, it turned out that the government's debts amounted to 205 million rubles, expenses exceeded revenues, and the treasury was empty. While the industrial revolution was raging in the West, Russian production remained patriarchal and serfdom. As a result, in the last years of Catherine's rule in Russia, an acute social and economic crisis erupted, which grew into a financial one. Pushkin wrote that historians have yet to appreciate the empress's despotism, hidden under her meekness. The people had to endure the governors, the treasury was plundered by Catherine's lovers, many mistakes were made in domestic politics.
Catherine sold Alaska to America. This myth appeared thanks to the song of the Lyube group. The musicians said: "Ekaterina, you were wrong!" However, with her, the development of this region has just begun. And the sale of Alaska took place in 1867 under Alexander II.
Catherine was poisoned by Johannes Lestok, wanting to replace the wife of the heir. This myth appeared thanks to the TV series "Ekaterina". Allegedly, the schemer Lestock was exposed and executed. In fact, the bride of Peter III really fell seriously ill and miraculously escaped death. The fact is that upon arrival she zealously began to learn Russian, sitting in the cold evenings by the window. This turned into a serious pneumonia, the life of the princess was in danger. There was no poisoning. Lestok was indeed engaged in court intrigues, but they had nothing to do with Catherine. The physician fell into disgrace for his connection with the French ambassador de la Chtardie. Lestok was tortured in the Secret Chancellery, and then sent into exile instead of the death penalty. When Peter III became king, he freed the nobleman, returning his ranks and confiscated property.
The palace coup that led to the throne of Catherine was spontaneous. On June 28, 1762, events took place that made Catherine the empress. But the coup was not at all spontaneous; it had been prepared for several months. The conspiracy involved prominent politicians and the military. At that time, the guard and the Russian nobility were dissatisfied with the policy pursued by Peter III. In particular, the elite did not like the fact that the emperor concluded an unprofitable peace agreement with the already practically defeated Prussia. During the coup, a rumor was launched that Peter wanted to introduce Lutheranism in Russia, which did not correspond to reality. Catherine even turned to foreigners for help, having received 60 thousand rubles from the French and 100 thousand from the British.
The reason for the coup was the attempt to arrest Catherine. An attempt to arrest the wife of the heir, as well as an armed clash between the guardsmen and agents of the Secret Chancellery, which is shown in the TV series "Catherine", did not happen in reality.
Catherine ordered to kill her husband. On the morning of June 28, 1762, while Peter was in Oranienbaum, Catherine, together with the Orlov brothers, arrived in St. Petersburg, where the guardsmen swore allegiance to her, and then the army. Peter saw that it was useless to resist, signed a renunciation and was taken into custody. He was sent to Ropsha, not far from the capital. A week later, the emperor died. Rumors said that Alexei Orlov killed him, but no evidence of this was found. Officially, due to heavy drinking, Peter suffered from diarrhea and an attack of hemorrhoidal colic. An autopsy showed that Catherine's husband had heart dysfunction, intestinal inflammation and signs of apoplexy. The rumor about the murder came from a copy of Orlov's letter, but it turned out to be a late fake. Experts, on the basis of evidence and documents, confirm the probable violation of blood circulation in Peter III. The likelihood of a heart attack or stroke was indeed high.
Catherine was a great educator. During the reign of Catherine, the territory of Russia has grown significantly. But she herself did practically nothing to alleviate the fate of the population. Her attempts at government reform have become bogged down in bureaucracy. But the empress herself considered enlightened. She has written many books, brochures, educational materials designed to improve education in Russia. Catherine corresponded with Voltaire and other prominent figures of the era. She created one of the most impressive art collections - the Hermitage. The activities of the great enlightener were twofold. The implication was the need to change the existing order, but at the same time, Catherine could not allow upheavals, infringement of the nobility. But she herself understood the tragic insuperability of such a situation. Its reign is rightly called the era of enlightened absolutism.
Catherine died while trying to have sexual intercourse with a stallion. The myths about Catherine's many lovers have grown into an even more scandalous legend. They say that they tried to drag a stallion to the insatiable empress with the help of ropes, which eventually became the cause of her death. In fact, there is no evidence of Catherine's affection for horses. And this myth itself even formed the basis of the German porn of 1983 "Catherine and her wild stallions." The rumors themselves could have emerged from revolutionary France, where similar gossip was spread about Marie Antoinette.
Catherine died from injuries sustained from a chamber pot that had fallen apart under her body. One of the most popular myths about Catherine's death is her death in a chamber pot. But the toilet, in which the empress lost her creation, was one of the first full-fledged latrines in Europe with running water and a toilet.Catherine ordered a chair for him to be made of the Polish throne of the Piast dynasty. On November 16, 1796, the Empress stayed longer in the restroom in the morning. The valet opened the door and saw the body falling to the floor. The woman's eyes were closed, her face turned purple, and wheezing came from her throat. Catherine suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. They could not put the heavy body on the bed - the dying woman was placed on a morocco mattress right on the floor. Doctors made vain efforts to save the queen - on the evening of the next day she died.