IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 5. National Patterns, 1648–1815 > j. Russia > 1762–96
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
CATHERINE II (the Great), an exceptionally astute and energetic ruler, who furthered the work begun by Peter the Great. In domestic affairs, Catherine was influenced by the teachings of the French Enlightenment (especially Voltaire) and tried to establish a benevolent despotism. On the other hand, she was obliged to cultivate the goodwill of the nobility, to which she owed her power.  1
Catherine secularized church lands.  2
Catherine called a legislative commission (met 1767–68). This commission reflected Catherine's commitment to Enlightenment thought. It comprised 564 deputies, the vast majority elected, but was unable to agree on any changes and divided along class lines.  3
WAR WITH THE OTTOMANS (See 1768–74), as a result of Russian advances into Poland (See 1772, Aug. 5), in which the Russians won unprecedented victories.  4
PUGACHEV'S REBELLION. Emelian Pugachev declared he was Emperor Peter III, having escaped Catherine's plot to kill him. He declared the serfs free and the elimination of officials and officers. Helped by the war with the Ottomans, Pugachev was initially successful in gaining support and territory. However, he was defeated in 1774, fled to the Urals, and was handed over to the government by his own forces.  5
1774, July 21
The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji ended the war against the Ottoman Empire. Russia acquired Kinburn, Yenikale, and Kertch in the Crimea and secured the right of free navigation for commercial ships in Ottoman waters.  6
The statute of provincial administration completely reorganized local government in an effort to minimize the possibilities of another rebellion such as Pugachev's. Catherine's encouragement of education, art, and letters contributed to the growth of a liberal public opinion on the social problem. After the outbreak of the French Revolution, Catherine became decidedly hostile to this movement. Alexander Radishchev (1749–1802) was arrested and exiled to Siberia (1790) for having published his Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, which contained a vigorous protest against serfdom.  7
Armed neutrality at sea, an idea advanced by Russia during the War of American Independence, was a method of protecting commerce. The idea of a League of Armed Neutrality was supported by Denmark and Sweden (1780), and later by Prussia, Austria (1782), and Portugal (1783); France and Spain recognized the principle, but Britain prevented Holland from joining the league by declaring war on the Dutch. The league demanded (1) free passage of neutral ships from port to port and along the coasts of combatants; (2) freedom of enemy goods in neutral ships (le pavillon couvre la marchandise), except for contraband; (3) definition of blockade (nominal “paper” blockade not sufficient; a blockade, to be legal, must be effective).  8
Visit of Emperor Joseph II to Catherine and conclusion (1781) of an Austro-Russian treaty. Catherine's Greek scheme for the disruption of the Ottoman Empire and division of the Balkans between Russia and Austria.  9
In keeping with her Near Eastern plans, Catherine carried through the Annexation of the Crimea, on the plea of restoring order. The Ottoman leaders were with difficulty dissuaded by Britain and Austria from declaring war on Russia.  10
Charter of the nobility, recognizing their corporate rights. A similar charter was issued for the towns but not for the peasantry.  11
War with Sweden and the Swedish invasion of Finland. Under Prussian pressure, the Austrians finally backed out of the Ottoman war and Russia concluded the Treaty of Jassy (Jan. 9, 1792), by which it secured Oczakov and the boundary of the Dniester River.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.