How did Catherine the Great modernize and westernize Russia?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Catherine the Great, who was German by birth, considered herself an "Enlightened" monarch, and made some attempt to rule by Enlightenment ideals. Catherine imported Western architects, scholars, and even sculptors and musicians to make Russia more Western. She also introduced the use of the French language at the Russian Court. She improved education and strengthened local governments; and also restricted the use of torture and allowed some degree of religious tolerance.

All this came to a crashing halt when a revolt by Emelian Pugachev, who claimed to be her dead husband, convinced her that the peasants were dangerous and she must rely on the nobility. She then confiscated church lands, expanded serfdom, and freed the nobles from paying taxes. By the time of her death; Russia was in worse shape than when she ascended the throne.

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