220 years ago, on November 17, 1796, the Russian Empress Catherine II Alekseevna passed away. The foreign policy of Russia in the era of Catherine met national interests. Russia returned the West Russian lands, which for a long time were under Poland (including modern White Russia and part of Lesser Russia - Ukraine). Also, the ancient lands in the Black Sea region (the annexation of New Russia, Crimea, and partly the Caucasus) were returned to the Russian state. The Black Sea again became, as in antiquity, Russian. The Black Sea Fleet was created, which inflicted a number of heavy defeats on the Turkish the fleet. The Russian army successfully defeated all opponents. Therefore, this era is called the "golden age" of Catherine the Great.
However, the Catherine's era was marked by the maximum enslavement of the peasants and the comprehensive expansion of the privileges of the nobility. What finally split the Russian people into two parts: the privileged "Europeans" - the nobles, whose cultural and economic interests were linked to Western Europe and the rest of the people, most of whom were enslaved. As a result, this was the main cause of the geopolitical catastrophe of the year 1917, when the Romanov empire died.
Ekaterina II Alekseevna, nee Sophia Frederick Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst, was born on April 21 (May 2) 1729, in the small town of Stettin in East Prussia in an impoverished princely family. Since childhood, she has been distinguished by curiosity, ability to learn, perseverance. In 1743, the Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, selecting a bride for her heir, Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich (the future Russian emperor Peter III), made a choice in favor of Frederica. In 1744, she came to Russia to marry Peter Fedorovich, who was her second cousin (the mother of the future Russian empress, Johann Elizabeth from the Gottorp sovereign house, had a cousin Peter III). 28 June (9 July) 1744 of the year Sofia Frederick Augustus moved from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy and received the name of Ekaterina Alekseevna, and the next day she was engaged to the future emperor. The mother of the future empress turned out to be a “Prussian spy”, and she was expelled, but this did not affect the position of Sofia herself.
21 August (1 September) 1745, at the age of sixteen, Catherine was married to Peter Fedorovich. The relationship between the royal couple did not exist. Peter was cold to his wife, called his wife “a spare madam” and openly made mistresses. This was one of the reasons for the emergence of favorite lovers among Catherine. Catherine devoted much time to self-education, she studied Russia, her history, language, tradition. The young queen also did not forget about the dances, balls, hunting and riding. 20 September (1 October) 1754, Catherine gave birth to a son Pavel. The baby was immediately taken away from the mother by the will of the reigning Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, and deprived Catherine of the opportunity to educate her, allowing only occasionally to see Paul. It is believed that the true father of Paul was the lover of Catherine S. V. Saltykov. In general, in the future, normal relations between Catherine and Pavel did not develop. Pavel believed that the mother was guilty of the death of the official father, Peter. In addition, he was annoyed by the too free atmosphere of the Catherine Palace, he himself lived almost as an ascetic, given his position.
Catherine did not like her position, and she began to create her own “circle”. So, the close friend and confidant of Catherine was the British ambassador Williams. He repeatedly provided her with significant amounts in the form of loans or subsidies: only in 1750 was 50 thousand rubles transferred to her, and in November 1756 thousand rubles were transferred to her 44. In exchange, he received various confidential information from her. In particular, about the Russian army in Prussia. This information was transmitted to London, as well as to Berlin by the Prussian king Frederick II (he was an ally of the British). After Williams left, she received money from his successor, Keith. In one of her letters to Williams, Catherine promised as a token of gratitude “to lead Russia to a friendly alliance with England, to provide her everywhere with assistance and preference necessary for the good of all of Europe and especially Russia, before their common enemy, France, whose greatness is a disgrace for Russia. I will learn how to practice these feelings, justify my fame on them and prove to the king, your sovereign, the strength of these my feelings. ” True, the empress Catherine was not an "English agent." In fact, this smart woman used the British to their advantage.
The British were aware of the plans of Catherine to overthrow the future emperor (her husband) through a conspiracy, which Williams repeatedly wrote about. Beginning with 1756, and especially during the period of Elizaveta Petrovna’s illness, Catherine was carrying out a plan to remove the future emperor from the throne. Thus, the British actually financed one of the palace coups. The British money went to the support of Catherine, who created her own shock detachment, which included officers of the guard.
Among the conspirators were the hetman of the Zaporozhian Troops, K. Razumovsky, who was the commander of the Izmailovsky Regiment, Chancellor A. P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin, and the protégé of the British Ambassador Stanislav Ponyatovsky (he was Ekaterina's favorite). At the beginning of 1758, Empress Elizaveta Petrovna suspected the Russian Army commander Stepan Apraksin of treason, with whom Catherine was on friendly terms. Apraksin, fearing a radical change in Petersburg’s policies regarding Prussia in the event of Elizabeth’s death (Peter was a “fan” of Frederick’s “Invincible”), acted slowly and indecisively, depriving the Russian army of the fruits of victory over the Prussians. Also under suspicion was Chancellor Bestuzhev. Both were arrested, subjected to inquiry, but Bestuzhev managed to destroy all his correspondence with Catherine before her arrest, which saved her from prosecution. Bestuzhev himself was sent into exile, and Apraksin died during the inquest. At the same time, Ambassador Williams was recalled to England. Thus, the previous favorites of Catherine were removed, but a circle of new ones began to form: Grigory Orlov and Ekaterina Dashkova.
The death of Elizabeth Petrovna in December 1761 and the ascension to the throne of Peter Fedorovich further estranged the spouses. Peter III began to live openly with his mistress Elizaveta Vorontsova. And Catherine became the lover of Captain G. Orlov. Catherine became pregnant by Orlov, and this could no longer be explained by the accidental conception of her husband, since the communication of the spouses ceased by that time. Catherine hid her pregnancy, and when it came time to give birth, her faithful valet Vasily Shkurin set fire to his house. Peter and the court left the palace to look at the spectacle, at this time Catherine safely gave birth. So Alexey Bobrinsky was born, to whom his brother Pavel I subsequently appropriated the title of count.
Entering the throne, Peter III set up a metropolitan officers against himself. He decided to fight with Denmark for Schleswig-Holstein and made peace with Prussia, giving up the already captured Konigsberg and Berlin (almost all of Prussia could become part of the Russian Empire!). As a result of the mood of the guard, skillfully heated agents of Catherine, were on the side of the queen. Apparently, there has not been without foreign participation. The British continued to sponsor Catherine. 28 June (9 July) 1762, Ekaterina, with the support of the Orlov brothers, raised a mutiny. Peter III the next day abdicated the throne, was taken into custody and died in dark circumstances (he was killed). Thus, Catherine became the ruler of the Russian Empire.
The time of her rule is called the “golden age” of Russia. Culturally, Russia finally became one of the great European powers, to which the empress herself, who was fond of literary activities, collected masterpieces of painting and corresponded with French enlighteners, contributed a lot. In general, the policy of Catherine and her reforms fit into the mainstream of enlightened absolutism of the XVIII century.
Catherine II carried out a number of reforms: reorganized the Senate, announced the secularization of church lands, abolished hetmanship in Ukraine. She established and led the Commission on 1767-1769 for the systematization of laws. The Empress issued an Institution to manage the province in 1775, the Letter to the nobility and the Letter to the cities in the year 1785.
In foreign policy, Catherine's actions almost completely met the interests of the Russian people. First of all, in the south, the Russian Empire returned the lands that belonged to the Old Russian power of the first Rurikovichs and annexed new territories, which met the country's military-strategic and economic interests, and the restoration of historical justice. After the first war with Turkey, Russia acquired in 1774 year important points in the mouths of the Dnieper, the Don and the Kerch Strait (Kinburn, Azov, Kerch, Enikale). The Crimean Khanate formally gained independence under the protectorate of Russia. In 1783, the Crimea, Taman, and Kuban Oblast join. The second war with Turkey ends with the acquisition of the coastal strip between the Southern Bug and the Dniester (1791), including the strategic fortress of Ochakov. In the course of these wars, Russia is creating an efficient Black Sea fleet, which is smashing the Turkish naval forces. New Russia, one of the most developed parts of the empire, is being actively created.
Thus, the strategic tasks that had been confronting the Russian state for centuries were solved. Russia again went to the Black Sea, annexed the Northern Black Sea region, strengthened in the Caucasus, solved the problem of the Crimean Khanate, built a navy, etc.
It is also worth noting that Catherine's government was on the verge of capturing Constantinople-Constantinople and the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. The Black Sea Fleet under the command of F. F. Ushakov and the Russian troops were ready to fulfill the strategic task, but it didn’t work out (they had to solve Polish affairs). And such a step was made by the Black Sea - by the internal Russian, reliably defended the southern borders, giving Russia a powerful supporting bridgehead in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Second, the in the western strategic direction, the government of Catherine also solved the centuries-old task that stood before the Russian people. Catherine united most of the Russian civilization and the Russian superethnos, returning the lands of Western Russia. This happened during the division of the Commonwealth.
Initially, Catherine II was not going to dismember the Commonwealth. Weakened by internal problems Poland since the time of Peter was in the sphere of influence of St. Petersburg. Russia needed a buffer between our lands and Prussia and Austria. However, the decay of the Polish "elite" reached a stage when the collapse of the Commonwealth became irreversible. The arrogant and decayed Polish gentry itself killed its statehood. In 1772, the first section of the Commonwealth took place: Russia received the eastern part of White Russia to Minsk (Vitebsk and Mogilyov provinces) and part of the Baltic states (Latvia). In 1793, the second section of the Commonwealth took place: Russia received Central Belarus with Minsk and a part of Little Russia-Russia. In 1795, the Third Section of the Commonwealth took place: Russia received Lithuania, Courland, western Volyn and Western Belarus.
In this way, Historical justice was restored: most of the lands of Russia and the Russian super-ethnos were united. By significantly pushing the borders to the west, Russia has strengthened its military-strategic positions in this area, has increased its demographic potential and economic capabilities. There was also a historic revenge - Poland, which for centuries was the main enemy of the Russian state, was "rammed" in the hands of the masters of the West. At the same time, ethnic Polish lands were in the hands of Prussia and Austria, becoming their problem.
In the same period, Russia is fixed in the Caucasus. In 1783, Russia and Georgia signed the St. George Treaty, establishing a Russian protectorate over the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in exchange for Russia's military defense. In 1795, Persian troops invaded Georgia and ravaged Tbilisi. Russia, fulfilling the terms of the treatise, began fighting against Persia, and in April 1796, Russian troops stormed Derbent and suppressed the resistance of the Persians on the territory of modern Azerbaijan, including the major cities (Baku, Shemakha, Ganja). The Russian corps under the command of Lieutenant-General V. Zubov reached the confluence area of the Kura and Araks rivers, preparing for further advance into the interior of Persia. In fact, Persia was already at the feet of Russia. The Russian empire had the opportunity to gain a foothold in these lands and get a strategic springboard for the march on Constantinople from the west through Asia Minor. However, the fruits of these victories stole the death of Catherine Alekseevny. Pavel I decided to oppose revolutionary France, and in December 1796, the Russian troops were withdrawn from the Transcaucasus. However, the consolidation of Russia in the region has already become inevitable. Persia and Turkey step by step yielded the Caucasus to the Russians.
In the north-west, Russia withstood the attack of Sweden, which tried to take revenge and regain part of the previously lost territory, taking advantage of the fact that the main forces of the empire were tied with the Ottomans.
In 1764, relations between Russia and Prussia normalized and a union treaty was concluded between the countries. This treaty served as the basis for the formation of the Northern system - the union of Russia, Prussia, England, Sweden, Denmark and the Commonwealth against France and Austria. Russian-Prussian-English cooperation continued. In October, 1782 was signed the Treaty of Friendship and Trade with Denmark.
In the third quarter of the XVIII century. there was a struggle of the North American colonies for independence from England. In 1780, the Russian government adopted the “Declaration of Armed Neutrality”, supported by the majority of European countries (ships of neutral countries had the right of armed defense when attacking a fleet of a belligerent country). Thus, the government of Catherine, in fact, supported the States against the British.
After the French Revolution, Catherine was one of the initiators of the anti-French coalition and the establishment of the principle of legitimacy. She said: “The weakening of monarchical power in France endangers all other monarchies. For my part, I am ready to resist by all means. It's time to act and tackle weapon". However, in reality, she was in no hurry to send the Russian army against revolutionary France. Russia was favored by the leading Western European powers (France, Austria, Prussia and England), at this time Russia could solve national problems. In particular, Catherine was occupied by the so-called. The Greek or Dacian project - on the section of the Ottoman Empire, the revival of the Byzantine Empire and the proclamation of the grandson of Catherine the Great Prince Konstantin Pavlovich as emperor. At the same time Russia received Constantinople and the straits.
If in the foreign policy of Catherine the government solved the most important tasks that the Russian state faced for many centuries, then in the internal policy there was no “golden” splendor. In fact, the era of Catherine II was marked by the maximum enslavement of the peasants and the comprehensive expansion of the privileges of the nobility.
The nobility received the opportunity to refuse the sovereign service, for which it had previously received estates and peasants. Thus, the division of the Russian people into a class of gentlemen- "Europeans", and simple people was fixed. This division began under Peter the Great, but he spent the merciless mobilization of the nobility. When he served, he served as soldiers and sailors, fought in the front ranks, stormed fortresses, mastered the marine business, went on long trips and expeditions.
Now the situation has changed radically. For the first time in a very long historical period, Russia had no enemies on its borders that could really threaten its existence. The last fragment of the Horde - Crimean Khanate, eliminated. Sweden was defeated, the Baltic States were annexed. Swedes are no longer able to seriously threaten St. Petersburg. Moreover, Russia itself can repel Finland, which ultimately happened. Poland in decline and distemper, which ended with its sections. A comparatively small kingdom of Prussia, dreams of some seizures in Germany, and not a march to the East. The Prussians cannot even dream of a raid on Russia, on the attack of Moscow or St. Petersburg. During the Seven Years' War, East Prussia and Königsberg were part of Russia for four years and did not become part of the empire only because of the controversial policy of St. Petersburg. Ideally, Berlin needs an alliance with the Russians.
Austria also needs the support of Russia against the Ottoman Empire, Prussia and France. France is far away, it cannot attack us. England can only threaten the sea. At the same time, in the isolated Baltic and Black Seas, we are able to create a local advantage, relying on the coastal infrastructure. The Ottoman Empire entered a period of prolonged degradation and itself trembled under the blows of Russian bayonets. There was a threat of partition of Turkey, in favor of Russia. In the East, Russia had no opponents at all. We actively mastered Russian America, had the opportunity to take a leading position in Japan and China.
For the first time in a very long time, Russia could weaken the mobilization regime in which the military estate fought, and the peasant men worked, providing soldiers with everything they needed. Thus, the nobleman lost his justification for his rule, turning ever more quickly into a parasite on the neck of the people. Warriors ascetics like Ushakov, Suvorov, Nakhimov became the exception to the rule rather than a common occurrence. The rest of the nobles, even those who served in the army and navy, were landowners in their psychology, and the soldiers and sailors were serfs for them.
The service of the nobles became voluntary, and serfdom not only remained, but also increased. Landowners, nobles from the point of view of a simple peasant turned into parasites. Although, it would be logical that after the Letters' Letter granted to the nobility the Letters Lettered Letters should be followed by the peasantry. The Russian people responded to this universal injustice with the peasant war of E. Pugachev. Troubles were able to suppress, but the reason remained. As a result, this was the main cause of the geopolitical catastrophe of the year 1917, when the Romanov empire died.
On the "golden age" of Catherine II
- Alexander Samsonov
Noticed oshЫbku Highlight text and press. Ctrl + Enter