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Lecture 3

HIST 245 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Dazzle Camouflage, Russian Culture, Philosophes

Course Code
HIST 245
Ana Siljak

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Lecture 4: Catherine the Great, Part I
I. The Return of Dynastic Politics
-After the death of Alexi, the resurgence of Dynastic Politics rose
-Catherine I (not Catherine the Great) became the ruler of Russia
-was a servant who worked her way up and eventually became Peters mistress
-She born Peter 5 children, two surviving children (Anna and Elizabeth), while she
was still the mistress —> She originally was Peters mistress, then became his wife
-Since she was uneducated, she allowed Peters old advisors to guild her in her
decision making process on how to rule Russia
-Catherine I dies in 1727
-Between both Catherine I and Elizabeth, there is a resurgence of Dynastic Politics —>
the powerful families (M & N) go back at it and try to establish power for themselves
-After Catherine I dies, Peter II (son of Alexi) takes the throne —> however, he died
-Anna (daughter of Ivan (M)) then takes the throne and she declares Ivan VI as her
successor (This means the miloslavskii’s have power)
-In 1741, Elizabeth decides that she is ready to rule —> however since she was
illegitimate, she wasn’t really a contender for the throne (causes the end of the
Miloslavskii rule)
-Originally Peter was going to use Elizabeth as a pawn for marriage with foreign
powers, but she was a bit too questionable for the French so Peter turns to the
German Principalities for a match
-She was engaged to the Prince of Holstein, but she never married him because he
died and then Peter dies before he can find her another match
-After Peters death, Elizabeth is in semi-banishment - mostly watches on the sideline
while everyone jockeys her power, but she does have her father personality and she is
developing an educated sensibility - developing courtly refinements for taking power
especially for a woman of her time
-was considered beautiful, graceful, clever and charming, used this to her advantage
-Near the end of her reign, Princess Anna had become extremely unpopular and the
miloslavskii’s were seen as alining themselves with some baltic german families —>
Anna turns to the Baltic families in order to protect herself from Dynastic Politics
(however, this was very unpopular in Russian Court —> many people in court wanted
change and wanted to end the Miloslavskii power reign)
-Elizabeth allies herself with Peters Preobrazhenskii Regiment (the original group of
boys that would play soldiers with Peter) at this time
-In 1741, she appears before them in guard uniform (regiment uniform) and the
regiment swore allegiance to her on the spot and together they marched together to
the winter palace and completely a bloodless power coup (she bribed people before
completing the coup)
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-Her dramatic entrance symbolizes the end of an old regime and the beginning of a
new one
-Her reign was very dramatic from the beginning, she was known for her luxury
-She own 15,000 gowns —> her wealthy look acted as a way to show that she had
power in court and to dazzle people in court
-She was brilliant at court politics and good at making sure she stayed in power by
keeping an eye out on intrigue at court
-She was clever in another way too —> she tried to blend the old and the new
-She was very interested in French court, but was able to blend it well with Russia’s
culture —> lived in Moscow (old Russian Court) (appeased the old families)
-She was able to appease both the Westernized people at the court as well as the
Russian traditionalists
-She realized that the Russian successor issue had been way too chaotic in the past, so
she was going to establish a line of succession (would chose an heir, but made sure
that heir would produce children as well)
-She appointed her Nephew (son of her sister Anna), Peter III (from Holstein), as
her heir, but she decides that Peter needs to bear a son asap and she begins her hunt
for a wife for him
-Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst (Catherine the Great) is a princess of a very tiny
German province —> she got lucky because the late fiancé of Elizabeth was her uncle
-Elizabeth decided to invite Sophia to court — acted as a job interview to see if this
will work out
-When Sophia received this invitation, she was 15 —> a very young age to be thrown
into the hornets nest of Russian Court and Russian Politics
II. The Grand Duchess
-Court Politics
-The Russian court is wealthy in a particular European way as its palaces and
clothing begin to resemble 18th C. European courts
-There are 3 characteristics to describe Russian Court at this time: Opulence,
Decadence and Intrigue
-Court life can be seen as a performance and a game
-Opulence: When Catherine (Sophia) met Elizabeth for the first time, Elizabeth
had a dress with gold in it and a feather and diamonds in her hair - she is basically
saying is Don’t even think about it, I got the power and don’t know who you are,
I rule here in a very spectacle way
-Decadence: no form of pleasure was prohibited at court (balls, hunting, theatre,
partying to all hours of the night) Women were completely emancipated —>
could do whatever they wanted, married women were basically encouraged to
have affairs with men in court
-Intrigue: this is the sinister part of court, Dynastic politics was reintroducing
itself in a very particular way —> there wasn’t anymore genealogical tables or get
preference for some hereditary status, what would occur, if you were an old
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