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Catherine II by F.Rokotov after Roslin (c.1770, Hermitage)
Catherine II of Russia

Catherine II of Russia (Also titled Catherine the Great or Yekaterina Aleksei'evna) (April 21, 1729, Stettin, GermanyNovember 17, 1796 Tsarskoye Selo, Russia) was Empress of Russia. She greatly increased the power of the crown. She also increased Russian land, adding land in the west and south. This land included a part of Poland. During Catherine's rule, Russia became a strong power in Europe.


Early life

Catherine was born in Stettin, which was a part of Germany at the time. She was the daughter of Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst and Princess Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. She had five brothers and sisters. She married Peter III at age fifteen, and became empress of Russia at age 32. She was smart in many subjects such as three languages (Russian, German and French). She grew up as a Lutheran (Protestant). When she married Peter, she changed to the Russian Orthodox church.


Catherine's marriage was said to be unfaithful and distraught. Peter was said to be cheating on Catherine, as Catherine was doing to Peter. After they had been married nine years, Catherine bore a son, Paul. Paul was born on 1 October [O.S. 20 September] 1754. Both parents accepted him as legitimate, even though there had been rumours about Catherne having been unfaithful. Catherine also had a daughter Anna, born in 1757. Anna died in 1759. Catherine and Peter had a very difficult relationship. When Peter died, Catherine was left to rule Russia on her own. Catherine had many lovers, probably because of the difficult marriage. Over twenty lovers are known. A few of these seem to be more important:

  • Count Serge Saltykov was her first lover, and was probably the father of Paul
  • Count Stanisław August Poniatowski was made king of Poland, because of Catherine's help
  • Count Grigory Orlov was one of the leading figures of the coup against Peter III, together with his brother Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov. They also gave Catherine the Orlov diamond as a gift. This diamond was later put into the Russian sceptre.
  • Prince Grigory Potyomkin was very successful in the military forces. He started the Black Sea Fleet, founded cities such as Sevastopol or Kherson. He is said to have been Catherine's true love. The two are said to even have married in secret.
  • Count Platon Zubov was her last love. When she died, aged 67, he was not even 40 years old.


Six months after Peter took the throne, he died in the hands of his brother. Catherine was not linked to any assassinations or plots that may have caused Peter's death. She was greatly admired by the public. She showed great political smarts. She was involved in many foreign affairs, including the Russo-Turkish war.


Catherine suffered a stroke on 6 November [O.S. 5 November] 1796. Due to the stroke, she lost consciousness. She died in her bed at 9:20 the following evening, while she was still unconscious. Catherine was buried at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

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