What Did Catherine the Great Believe In What Did Catherine the Great Believe In

What Did Catherine the Great Believe In? Promoting Reason, Toleration, and Curbing Fanaticism

Catherine the Great was the influential Empress of Russia in the eighteenth century. She was a woman of remarkable intellect and fervent beliefs. Born Sophia Augusta Fredericka in Prussia, she adopted the name Catherine upon her conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church.
But what did Catherine the Great believe in? To unveil her beliefs is to unravel her multifaceted personality and the ideological underpinnings that guided her reign.
The empress, known for her strength, intelligence, and cunning, crafted a legacy that has captivated the world for centuries.
This article sheds light on the depths of Catherine the Great’s hidden world that swirled around her royal court. She immersed herself in the study of arcane knowledge, often consulting with esteemed practitioners of the occult arts

Introduction to Catherine the Great and Her Vision

Monument to Catherine II
Source- Shutterstock

Known for her vibrant reign that spanned over three decades, Catherine the Great is a vital figure in world history. She ascended the throne as Empress of Russia in 1762 and remained in power until her death in 1796.

During this time, she embarked on an ambitious project to reshape the Russian Empire. Her vision was deeply influenced by the principles of the Enlightenment. Catherine’s vision was characterized by an avowed commitment to the principles of reason, toleration, and curbing religious fanaticism, all of which had a profound impact on the Russian Empire.

A Vision Guided by Enlightenment Principles

Catherine’s rule was guided by a clear vision. One that shined with Enlightenment ideals such as reason, toleration, and opposition to religious fanaticism. She regarded these principles as essential tools in her mission to modernize Russia. She visioned to bring it closer to the progressive ideas flourishing in Western Europe.

For example, her policy of religious tolerance abolished the demolition of mosques. It demonstrated her willingness to appreciate spiritual beliefs different from her own. This was a significant step in fostering religious diversity and peaceful coexistence within the Empire.

Reforming the Administration of the Russian Empire

One of Catherine’s primary objectives was to reform the administration of the Russian Empire. She championed educational reform and promoted the arts, but her influence extended beyond cultural development.

Under her reign, Russia experienced the largest territorial gain since Ivan the Terrible, marking a significant period of expansion.

In her quest to modernize Russia, Catherine reorganized the country’s internal space. She complemented it with territorial expansion and commercial growth.

Catherine’s vision of progress shared the commitment of the broader Enlightenment to the principles of reason, toleration, and opposition to religious fanaticism. She viewed stability as the sine qua non of good kingship. She defended absolutism against all forms of popular rule because she believed it delivered economic, cultural, and social achievements.

In this manner, her belief system shaped her reign and had a lasting impact on the trajectory of Imperial Russian history.


1. Catherine’s Enlightenment Ideals

As an enlightened despot, Catherine the Great fervently committed to the principles of the Enlightenment. Her vision of progress was deeply rooted in reason, tolerance, and curbing religious fanaticism. It reflects the broader Enlightenment values shared across Europe.

Catherine believed that her role as a ruler required her to improve the lives of her subjects. The philosophy is known as enlightened despotism. This meant taking responsibility for her subjects, even if it precluded their political participation.

Integration of European Technology

One of Catherine’s significant contributions was her dedication to integrating European technology into Russian society. The ruler’s keen interest in advancing her nation led her to establish ties with technologically superior European nations. This in turn aided Russia’s progress.

  • The introduction of European technology greatly enhanced Russia’s agricultural and industrial sectors.
  • It propelled the country forward on the path of modernization.
  • The influence of Enlightenment ideals on Catherine’s policies also brought economic stability and growth to the Russian Empire.

Establishment of a Free Economic Society

Another prominent aspect of Catherine’s commitment to Enlightenment ideals was the establishment of the Free Economic Society in 1765.

  • This institution was founded with the express purpose of promoting Russia’s economic advancement and technological development.
  • It served as a platform for discussing and implementing innovative ideas in agriculture and industry.
  • The Society played a pivotal role in disseminating European technological advancements within Russia.

Promotion of Arts and Culture

Under Catherine’s reign, Russia also experienced cultural and literary flourishing.

  • She was an avid reader and patron of the arts, demonstrating her affinity for enlightenment ideals.
  • Her personal collection of paintings, sculptures, and books formed the basis of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
  • She actively encouraged intellectuals and scientists to come to Russia, while also contributing her own works of literature, comedy, and memoirs.

Improvement in Governance Methods

In terms of governance, Catherine sought to mimic some of the democratic principles.

Thus, Catherine’s commitment to the principles of the Enlightenment not only shaped her reign but influenced the trajectory of the Russian Empire, pushing it towards progress and modernity.


2. Cultural and Literary Flourishing under Catherine’s Reign

Monument to Catherine the Great
By Tamara Malaniy from Unsplash/ Copyright 2021

Catherine the Great, during her reign, fostered an environment of intellectual growth and cultural development. Her commitment to enlightenment ideals led to a significant increase in literary and cultural societies.

It enriched the cultural fabric of Russia and left an indelible mark on its history.

Exploration of the Proliferation of Literary and Cultural Societies

The period of Catherine’s reign was categorized by a flourishing of literary and cultural societies.

The Free Economic Society, for instance, founded in 1765 by Catherine, became the country’s oldest voluntary association. It was devoted to collecting data and publishing works related to Russia’s natural and productive resources until 1917.

Society, among others, played a pivotal role in advancing academic discourse and intellectual exploration, which was at the heart of Catherine’s vision for progress.

The Significance of Institutions like the Academy of Fine Arts and Various Learned Societies

Catherine’s reign also saw the emergence of numerous learned societies and institutions like the Academy of Fine Arts. These were not merely centers of learning but also platforms that fostered the diffusion of knowledge and culture.

For example, during the reign of Alexander I, universities were granted the right to sponsor learned societies. This led to the foundation of new societies including the Society of Russian History and Antiquities, the Physics and Medical Society, the Society of Naturalists, and the Society of Friends of Russian Literature.

Such institutions marked a large change in Russian culture and thought, furthering Catherine’s mission of integrating Russia culturally and economically with Europe.

The Legacy of These Societies and Institutions in Shaping Russian History and Culture

These societies and institutions left a lasting legacy in shaping Russia’s intellectual landscape.

  • They contributed to a leap-start in Russian intellectual life due to a more managerial attitude to the economy, relative freedom of the press, and a liberal policy toward migrants.
  • Furthermore, the establishment of civic spaces such as the theatre, where these societies could meet, also marked a significant change in Russian culture.
  • The growth in print culture and the advancement of science signified a shift towards a more enlightened and progressive Russia.

All this echoes Catherine’s commitment to the principles of reason, toleration, and curbing religious fanaticism.


3. Territorial Expansion and Economic Growth

Catherine the Great’s reign was marked by a fervent ambition for territorial expansion. It had significant implications for Russia’s global standing.

Her strategic vision was to extend Russia’s borders southwards to secure warm-water ports along the Black Sea. This move was not just about geographic conquest, but it was vital for stimulating commercial growth.

The annexation of these territories, including the Crimean Peninsula in 1783, played a significant role in shaping Russia’s economic future.

Role of Black Sea Ports

Black Sea
By Ömer Serdar Ören from Unsplash/ Copyright 2020

As part of her expansion strategies, Catherine set her sights on the Black Sea. She recognized its potential to boost Russia’s commerce.

  • The ports along the Black Sea became crucial hubs for trade.
  • They contributed to Russia’s commercial growth.
  • These ports facilitated the flow of goods and raw materials, attracting international trade partners and solidifying Russia’s position as a key player in global commerce.

The Anglo-Russian Commercial Treaty

Another testament to Catherine’s foresight and strategic acumen was the Anglo-Russian Commercial Treaty.

  • This crucial agreement reduced duties on raw material exports.
  • It made Russian products more competitive in the international market. The treaty not only bolstered Russia’s economic growth but also fostered stronger ties with Britain.

In this way, Catherine ensured that Russia was not merely growing internally, but was also strengthening its international alliances and influence.

Economic Liberalisation and Growth

Beyond territorial expansion and international treaties, Catherine took the initiative on economic liberalization. This further stimulated growth.

  • By dismantling the regulation of manufacturing and keeping grain prices low to attract export markets, she laid the foundation for an economy that was more open and competitive.
  • This move towards liberalization significantly contributed to Russia’s economic advancement during her reign, highlighting her commitment to progress and modernization.

As we delve into Catherine the Great’s vision and policies, it becomes clear that her strategies for territorial expansion and economic growth were not isolated initiatives. They were part of an interconnected plan to bolster Russia’s global standing and influence.


4. Catherine’s Views on Stability and Absolutism

To understand the distinctive views of Catherine the Great, one must first delve into her perspective on stability and its crucial role in good kingship.

Her Belief in Stability

As an archetypal example of an enlightened absolutist, Catherine strongly believed that a stable reign was the key to successful governance.

Her vision was to create a robust, prosperous Russia, standing as a beacon of stability in the face of the French Revolution’s anarchistic tendencies.

Catherine viewed stability not merely as the absence of chaos but as a result of good kingship, a product of effective governance grounded in reason and enlightenment principles.

Her Belief in Absolutism

One cannot discuss Catherine’s vision without examining her defense of absolutism against popular rule. Despite her commitment to Enlightenment principles, Catherine’s rule was marked by a strong undercurrent of absolutism.

This was reflected in her legal reforms and the creation of the Nakaz. It was a document that aimed at rationalizing Russian law and making it more consistent.

The Nakaz was designed to embody modern principles. Yet it enshrined law and justice as emanating from the Empress, not the Nation or the People.

This clear demonstration of Catherine’s enlightened absolutism stance underscores her belief in the necessity of maintaining autocratic power while applying Enlightenment principles to governance.

So, Catherine’s unique blend of Enlightenment-inspired reforms and absolute sovereignty set the stage for a transformative era in Russian history. While her views may have been seen as contradictory, they were undeniably instrumental in shaping the trajectory of Imperial Russia during her reign and beyond.


5. Integration of Russia into Europe

Throughout her reign, Catherine the Great held a vision of a culturally and economically integrated Russia within Europe.

One of her greatest missions was to refute the widespread perception of Russia as a barbaric “other” and to bridge the gap between Russia and European civilization. She aimed to unlock Russia’s economic and human resources.

She believed that these were key aspects of catching up with the advanced nations of Europe. Her vision extended beyond mere economic integration; she sought to transform Russian culture and thought as well.

Monument to Catherine the Great
By Multipedia from Unlimphotos

Catherine’s Engagement with European Philosophes

One of the most significant ways Catherine worked towards integrating Russia with Europe was by engaging with philosophes like Voltaire and Diderot.

This engagement led to her being hailed as Russia’s Enlightener-in-Chief. Her interactions with these thinkers allowed her to absorb their ideas. She then applied Those ideas to her rule, furthering Russia’s progress toward enlightenment.

The influence of these philosophes on Catherine’s reign can be seen in her enlightened seigneurialism.

This enabled a leap-start in Russian intellectual life due to a more managerial attitude to the economy, relative freedom of the press, and a liberal policy toward migrants.

Cultural and Economic Changes under Catherine’s Reign

Under Catherine’s rule, Russia experienced a major shift in its cultural and thought landscape.

Massive growth in print culture, the establishment of civic spaces such as theaters, and the advancement of science marked significant changes in Russian society.

These changes, initiated by Catherine, were instrumental in bringing about an intellectual revolution in Russia. They integrated the country into the European framework of ideas and ideologies.

As far as economic integration is concerned, Catherine’s reign was marked by an ambitious plan for Russian expansion.

Catherine played a pivotal role in integrating Russia with Europe both culturally and economically. Her efforts brought about a shift in Russian culture, thought, and economy, aligning them more closely with those of the European nations.



Who was Catherine the Great?

Catherine the Great’s birth name was Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg. She was the Empress of Russia from 1762 until her death in 1796. She is widely known for her modernization of Russia and her contributions to its cultural development.

What are some of Catherine the Great’s hidden beliefs?

Catherine the Great held a number of hidden beliefs, including her fascination with Enlightenment ideals, her interest in self-improvement and education, and her secret religious views.

What Enlightenment ideals did Catherine the Great embrace?

Catherine the Great was greatly influenced by Enlightenment ideals, such as the importance of reason, progress, and individual freedom. She believed in the power of education and the need to modernize and reform Russia.

How did Catherine the Great promote education?

Catherine the Great took several measures to promote education in Russia. She established schools and universities, encouraged the translation of foreign literature, and personally engaged with various intellectuals to discuss philosophy and ideas.

What are some of Catherine the Great’s cultural contributions?

Catherine the Great played a crucial role in developing Russia’s cultural landscape. She supported and sponsored artists, writers, and musicians, and her patronage led to the creation of notable works of art and literature during her reign.

When did Catherine the Great die?

Catherine the Great died on November 17, 1796, at the age of 67, due to a stroke. Her death marked the end of an era in Russian history.


What Did Catherine the Great Believe In? A Conclusion

Catherine the Great was one of history’s most legendary rulers. She possessed a multitude of beliefs that shaped her reign. Her expansive knowledge of enlightenment principles fueled her desire to modernize Russia. She made it a formidable force on the global stage.

As we bring our exploration to a close, it is vital to reflect on the substantial contributions of Catherine the Great. They played a significant role in shaping Imperial Russian history.

Her greatest accomplishments include establishing educational reform, championing the arts, and extending Russia’s borders in the largest territorial gain since Ivan the Terrible.

These achievements were not just monumental during her reign, but they also had long-term impacts that shaped the trajectory of Russia’s development.

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