Catherine the Great's attempts to westernize and modernize Russia were ambitious and initially successful but failed to have much of a lasting impact. Even before she assumed power, Catherine was already considered one of the most enlightened members of the Russian court and was well-regarded by her supporters for her liberal ideas. Upon assuming power, she quickly set about continuing many of the reforms begun by Peter the Great a generation earlier.
One of her earliest reforms was to secularize the property of the clergy. This was no small task as the church owned about one-third of Russia's territory, including the serfs who worked the land. As such, the power and political influence of the Russian Orthodox Church was greatly reduced.
Catherine greatly wanted to institute a constitution based on the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers from western Europe. However, despite her best intentions, the various factions in Russia were unable to come to any substantive agreement and the idea...
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