Catherine the Great (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
The long and eventful reign of Catherine II (1762-1796) set the tone for the expansion and development of imperial Russia. On the international stage, Russia’s status was enhanced by the consolidation of its position as a great power, indeed the leading state in Eastern Europe. The organs of central government and provincial administration were subjected to reform; legal norms were reviewed in the effort to answer outwardly the criteria for justice as understood by Enlightenment Europe. Advances were also achieved with systematic groundwork on the educational system. In each of these areas scholarly writers have considered the major issues in the development of politics and society, and researchers have been afforded significant perspectives on the vital issues in the growth of the Russian state. On another level, moreover, the age of Catherine the Great was one of the more colorful and distinctive periods of Russian court life. Love affairs, jealousies, and rivalries animated Catherine’s personal life and aroused comment in her own country and in much of Europe. Many of her more important ministers, and at least one head of state, figured among her lovers. Liaisons of this sort, replete with pathos and intrigue, have furnished material for numerous biographers and popular writers and indeed it is in this sense that much of the general public is familiar with Catherine’s reign.
Henri Troyat’s work is notable as one of the more sophisticated, and...
(The entire section is 1937 words.)
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