Catherine the Great, also known as Catherine II, reigned as
Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, and in those four years made
significant changes to both Russia and Europe as a whole.
Politically, Catherine was very focused on foreign policies; she
strengthened connections with Britain, agreeing to a commercial
treaty with them in 1766. She extended the borders of the Russian
Empire southward and westward, absorbing New Russia, Crimea,
Lithuania, Belarus, and many more, adding roughly 200,000 mi2 to
Russian territory. She also acted as a mediator in the War of the
Bavarian Succession and established a League of Armed Neutrality
designed to defend neutral shipping from the British Royal Navy.
She also had friendly relations with Japan, trading supplies and
food between the two. She also oversaw brutal reprisals in the wake
of rebellion, such as Pugachev's Rebellion. Ultimately, Catherine
II wanted to be recognized as an enlightened sovereign, and
attempted to achieve this through her political actions.
Economically, she created many beneficial trading deals with
countries such as Japan and Britain. Within Russia, she instituted
the Assignation Bank, issuing the first paper money of the
government. Assignation rubles were created due to large government
spending, which led to a shortage in silver; however, the creation
of such a system greatly affected the way the economy worked in
Russia at the time.
Socially, Catherine furthered the evolution of the arts more
than any Russian sovereign before or after her. She wrote comedies,
fictions and memoirs, all the while communicating with philosophers
and economists of the time to drive the artistic scene forward.
During her reign, Russians imported and studied classical and
European influences that inspired the Russian Enlightenment; in a
way, you could say that Catherine the Great instigated the Russian
Enlightenment. In terms of education, Catherine believed that
education could change the hearts and minds of the Russian people,
and therefore pushed for a national school system. She created many
schools to educate females as well, including The Smolny Institute
for Noble Girls. Finally, in 1786 Catherine achieved her goal by
promulgating the Russian Statute of National Education;
unfortunately, only a very small population was educated by this
system. Religiously, Catherine was indifferent to religion,
disallowing dissenters from building churches and exploiting
Christianity through her anti-Ottoman policy. This extremely
affected the religious views of Russia at the time.
Catherine II was arguably one of the greatest sovereigns of the
Russian empire, extending its borders while drastically improving
its arts and education system. Through her success in foreign
policy, Russia became known as one of the great powers of