HIST245 Lecture 5: Lecture 5 outline
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HISTORY 2 45-2
Lecture 5: Catherine the Great, Part II
I. Enlightened Despotism?
a. Was Catherine an enlightened ruler, or despotic? Or both?
b. 1762, 20th of June, after her coup, Catherine consolidates power and ensure no one
would challenge her legitimacy – she is not a descendent of Romanov line, an
obscure German princess and has come to power of women, and effectively
murdered her husband the legitimate Tzar. Not a stable situation.
c. How do you display your legitimacy or convince people at least? Plan a splendid
coronation that demonstrates all wealth, might, and power of you as empress. She
chose Moscow, old capital, as place of coronation and augment the smaller
ceremony that already took place in St. Petersburg.
i. Care to ensure spectacle pleasing to all, dancing, fireworks, and public play
meant to be educational and entertaining. Titled “The Pre-Occupation of
Narrow Minds” 4000 actors and musicians and each vinet performed scenes
with titles like “Drunkenness” “Ignorance” “deceit”, and showing
enlightened view to ills.
d. Mindful to buy people, distributed 120 barrels of silver coins to crowd, 600k
rubles. In coronation, symbolic every empress since Elizabeth, taking of crown and
placing on one owns head (traditionally bishop would place crown of symbol that
god chosen monarch, Catherine put crown on own heard, self coronation).
e. Great for providing foundations for legitimacy but issue, coronation couldn’t paper
over problems of reign.
i. Factional politics, come to power, display and try to gain legitimacy, but in
end, factional politics at court still there. Two major factions:
1. Panin party surrounding Nikita Panin (court tutor to Catherine’s son,
but also a man that even prior to her power, consulted with her and
became most trusted advisor)
2. Orlov brothers – Catherine used them to take power. 5 of them and
they also demanded compensation as factions do in terms of
appointee, also enemies of each other (Dashcova’s memoirs, and
accused of being Panin’s lover). This sort of rumor started by Orlov
brothers, typical. Daschova seen as part of faction, why see her
distaste for Orlov brothers.
ii. Also Russian treasury been depleted by Elizabeth. Russia administration in
disorder because Elizabeth not spent much time worrying, concerned with
keeping own power and reign intact.
iii. Catherine skillful in contenting factions, first thing she does is to reward
people who brought her to power. Distributed gifts totally about a million
rubles to factions, including brothers, and to Daschova got 24k. Appointed
all Orlovs to count, gave Panin most important positions at court and quick
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to use spies against factions to prevent traitors. Use police to get rid of
enemies and conspiracies among population. Ferociously put down revolts
against her, especially towards end of reign. Arrest or exile people if critical
of reign. More despots than enlightened.
iv. But how she tried to attack all of these problems, tackle them with ideas
inherited from west, enlightenment ideas.
f. To bring order into administration, thought to transform Russian legal system from
scratch and use trusted guide Montesquieu to guide aspects of laws. Introduced
economic reforms to raise level of Russian society, rivals Peter because she
interested in plight of common people. Advocates development of local self
government, advocates religious toleration, favors abolition of capital punishment
in theory. Interested in spread of literacy and education throughout population,
supports scientific and scholarly research, intro to medical advances to countryside
and she goes through countryside to learn from them and ask them to write
grievances. In this case, argue a classical enlightened aspect – King Fredrick II,
Austria, etc. Using power and prestige of position of monarchs to enforce
enlightened reforms on a population usually backwards. Idea to use enlighten,
educate and raise level of common people, enlightenment also endorsed.
II. Enlightenment at Home
A. Great Instruction and Legislative Commission
o“5. For those Laws have the greatest Conformity with Nature, whose particular
Regulations are best adapted to the Situation and Circumstances of the People for
whom they are instituted. This natural Situation is described in the three following
Chapters.” - from Montesquieu
“6. Russia is an European State.
7. This is clearly demonstrated by the following Observations: The Alterations which
Peter the Great undertook in Russia succeeded with the greater Ease, because the
Manners, which prevailed at that Time, and had been introduced amongst us by a Mixture
of different Nations, and the Conquest of foreign Territories, were quite unsuitable to the
Climate. Peter the First, by introducing the Manners and Customs of Europe among the
European People in his Dominions, found at that Time such Means as even he himself was
not sanguine enough to expect.
•8. The Possessions of the Russian Empire extend upon the terrestrial Globe to 32 Degrees
of Latitude, and to 165 of Longitude.
•9. The Sovereign is absolute; for there is no other authority but that which centers in his
single Person that can act with a Vigour proportionate to the Extent of such a vast
•10. The Extent of the Dominion requires an absolute Power to be vested in that Person
who rules over it. It is expedient so to be that the quick Dispatch of Affairs, sent from
distant Parts, might make ample Amends for the Delay occasioned by the great Distance of
•13. What is the true End of Monarchy? Not to deprive People of their natural Liberty; but
to correct their Actions, in order to attain the supreme Good.
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•14. The Form of Government, therefore, which best attains this End, and at the same Time
sets less Bounds than others to natural Liberty, is that which coincides with the Views and
Purposes of rational Creatures, and answers the End, upon which we ought to fix a
steadfast Eye in the Regulations of civil Polity.
•15. The Intention and the End of Monarchy is the Glory of the Citizens, of the State, and
of the Sovereign.
•16. But, from this Glory, a Sense of Liberty arises in a People governed by a Monarch;
which may produce in these States as much Energy in transacting the most important
Affairs, and may contribute as much to the Happiness of the Subjects, as even Liberty
a. Panin, trusted advisor, thought that Catherine didn’t want to bother about ruling
anymore, thought she could make a council, composed of about 6-8 elite
people, preferably from Panin party and those people take over and she could
be left to do whatever. Be appointed for life and serve as real government of
Russian. She was a person with boundless energy and restless and she wanted
to micro manage every aspect of her ruler ship. She had no interest in any
advisory council, determined to control every aspect of state using advisors for
consultation. Rejects Panin proposal and basically exiles him to run foreign
affairs so he will not interfere in domestic policy again.
b. Rather than appointing, she would surround herself with a bureaucracy and
informed council to guide her, took old institution of the Senate and revived it
(Senate fallen into disuse and increased number of Senators and divided up
tasks, diminishing any power of any one senator). She wrote them nasty letters
telling specifically what they did and did not do properly and officials has
reason to fear her wrath. Year: fired head of senate, prosecuted for bribery and
exiled him as an example.
c. To true to Spirit of the Laws (Montesquieu), she called the book “Her prayer
book”, respected him as an insightful analyst. Under inspiration of him, takes
upon a massive project under legacy of Peter – Complication, Analysis,
Reorganized and Revision of all of Russia’s laws. Like prikazy under peter,
Russia’s legal system compilation of laws passed by Tsar’s through centuries,
codified once in 1691, and Peter left the legal system untouched. Before she
begins she decides to write a massive work, tribute to Montesquieu, a guide to
codification of Russia’s law known as Great Instruction. In final version,
contained 22 chapters on legal principles, half of which were directly copied
from Montesquieu book. First wrote it in French and then translated into
Russian, German and Latin editions followed. Why: she sees it as a great
enlightenment work, contribution to enlightened political philosophy. Declares
among other things that all citizens of Russia equal before law, punishments for
violations for law should fit crime, people were innocent until proven guilty,
torture and capital punishment should be abolished except circumstances,
religious tolerance, law clear and understanding to people and citizens of
Russian should become familiar with the laws that rule over them.
i. Rules against lying, deception, bribery etc.
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