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Russian Personalities

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Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia

Fyodor Rokotov. Portrait of Catherine the Great

Fyodor Rokotov. Portrait of Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia, who ruled from 1762 to 1796. During her rule, Russia became a strong power in Europe.
She was born Sophie Fredericke Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst on April 21, 1729 in Stettin, which was a part of Germany at that time (now Szczecin, Poland).
Catherine married Peter III when she was fifteen, and became empress of Russia at the age of 32. In 1754 she gave birth to a son, the future emperor Pavel.
During the reign she built 144 cities and won 78 military victories, actively developed medicine, education and science.
The Empress began to open urban schools and paid special attention to the development of women’s education. On October 11, 1783 Russian Academy was established.

Catherine opened hospitals for treatment of syphilis, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages. A number of fundamental works on medicine was published.
Catherine suffered a stroke and died on November 17, 1796 in Tsarskoye Selo, Russia and was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

Peter III

Aleksey Antropov. Portrait of Peter III, 1762

The Mother of the Fatherland

Catherine by Dmitry Levitsky

Catherine by Dmitry Levitsky

Hidden symbols in the picture of Catherine II painted by Dmitry Levitsky.
1. Altar with the inscription “For the common good” symbolizes her service to the state.
2. In ancient mythology poppies are the attribute of Morpheus, the god of sleep. The empress is burning the flowers, it means she is ready to lose the rest for the sake of her people.
3. The statue of Themis. Scales are the main attribute of the goddess of justice and fairness.
4. Catherine’s white dress symbolizes purity.
5. Laurel wreath says about military victories. The Empress was often called the northern Semiramis, but she preferred to be compared to Alexander the Great.
6. Order of St. Vladimir means that Catherine was the head of the Order, which was established in 1782, and the motto was: The Good, the honor and glory.
7. The Order of St. Andrew. It was the main award of the Russian Empire.
8. The eagle sitting on the books represents the legal bases of the government.
9. Olive branch is the allegorical sign of peace and welfare.
10. Ships in the sea symbolize a secure and flourishing trade.

Catherine had many lovers. Here is a list:
Count Sergei Saltykov (1726 – 1765) was her first lover. Their love affair lasted for two years. There were rumors that he was the father of Emperor Paul I.

Sergei Saltykov

Sergei Saltykov

Count Stanislaw August Poniatowski (1732 – 1798). Their relationship lasted for three years. Catherine proclaimed him King of Poland, but then annexed Poland and attached it to Russia. Stanislaw Poniatowski was the only foreigner in the list of her favorites. Born in 1757, the Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna, most likely, was the daughter of Poniatowski.

Stanislaw August Poniatowski

Stanislaw August Poniatowski

Count Grigory Orlov (1734 – 1783) 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. Orlov and Catherine were together for 12 years. After a palace coup in which Orlov took an active part, the Empress even wanted to marry him. Alas, Orlov had many mistresses. Orlov and Catherine had a son – Alex Bobrinsky, who was born in 1762.

Grigory Orlov and his son Alexei Bobrinsky

Grigory Orlov and his son Alexei Bobrinsky

Orlov diamond

Orlov diamond

Alexander Vasilchikov (1746 – 1813) was 14 years younger than Catherine. He was handsome, but uneducated and the Empress got bored. Catherine generously awarded her ex-lover: gave him 100,000 rubles in cash, fully furnished house and granted an annual pension of 5,000 rubles. After the break with the Empress Vasilchikov had never married.

Alexander Vasilchikov

Alexander Vasilchikov

Prince Grigory Potemkin (1739 – 1791) was a longtime friend of Catherine. Their love affair began in 1774. Catherine gave birth to their daughter – Elizaveta Temkina. There were rumors that they even had married in secret.

Grigory Potemkin and his daughter Elizaveta Temkina

Grigory Potemkin and his daughter Elizaveta Temkina

Peter Zavadovsky (1739 – 1812) was her lover only for a year. In 1777 Potemkin wasn’t Catherine’s favorite, but still had a great influence on her and managed to remove Zavadovsky from the Empress. But Catherine appreciated the wit of her ex-lover and made Zavadovsky the first Minister of Education. Later he married one of the most beautiful women of that time – Vera Apraksina.

Peter Zavadovsky

Peter Zavadovsky

Semen Zorich (1743 – 1799) replaced Zavadovsky. He was handsome and 14 years younger than Catherine, but uneducated and was too fond of card game.

Semen Zorich

Semen Zorich

Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov (1754 – 1831) was 25 years younger than Catherine. In addition to the handsome appearance, he had a wonderful voice – Catherine invited world renowned musicians for him. But one day she found her favorite in the arms of Countess Praskovya Bruce, and Rimsky-Korsakov was immediately removed from the court.

Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov

Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov

Alexander Lanskoy (1758 – 1784). In spring 1780 Potemkin recommended him to the Empress as a warm friend. Catherine was 54 years old, Lanskoy was 25. They were together until his death from a sore throat in 1784.

Alexander Lanskoy

Alexander Lanskoy

Alexander Yermolov (1754 – 1834). Four years after the beginning of the relationship, in 1789, the Empress became cold to him and expelled from St. Petersburg. Later Yermolov married Elizaveta Golitsina and went to Austria.

Alexander Yermolov

Alexander Yermolov

Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov (1758 – 1803) was handsome and smart, he wrote poems and plays. But once Catherine was told that Alexander had a love affair with Daria Scherbatova. According to eyewitnesses, they stood in front of her on their knees and asked for forgiveness. Catherine ordered them to leave St. Petersburg.

Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov

Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov

Count Platon Zubov (1767 – 1822) was her last love. When she died, aged 67, he was not even 40 years old.

Platon Zubov

Platon Zubov

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Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia