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Lecture 4

HIST 245 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Ivan Vi Of Russia, Scientific Method, Montesquieu


Department
History
Course Code
HIST 245
Professor
Ana Siljak
Lecture
4

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Lecture 4: Catherine the Great, Part I
I. The Return of Dynastic Politics
a. Context of how Catherine came to power: way she did, determined the
course she took once she became into power. Way women operated within
court politics that she took into her reign.
b. Tragedy of Peter’s execution of own son, and vacuum that it left in terms
of figuring out successor for Russian. B/c Peter failed to provide clear line,
for next 16 years, series of rulers who followed one another to throne,
could not command full legitimacy and respect.
c. Catherine the First ruled 2 years. Peters second wife, chosen by Peter’s
advisor to take throne right after Peter’s death. She originally born with
different name – Martha, and really illegitimate daughter of Lithuanian
peasant women, taken in by pastor who neglected her. Entirely
uneducated, when Russian armies with Peter conquered northern
territories, pastor decided to join Russian forces and offered services, and
thus offered her services to retinue and became mistress. After while, Peter
decided he wanted her and she bore him 5 children before marriage,
eventually converts to Orthodoxy, becomes Peter’s wife, and two
surviving daughters, Anna and Elizabeth becomes Princess and heir to
throne.
d. She knew she was unqualified to rule and gave all power informally to
Peters advisors who took full control. Went on for a while and died in
1727. Everyone scrambling for power, everyone trying to appoint different
Tsar. 1741 it ends – Peter’s illegitimate daughter Elizabeth decides she’s
ready to take Russian throne and end petty dynastic claims. Technically
illigimate, Peter hoped to solidify status by marrying her off to French but
not interested in illegitimate. Peter turns to German, prince of Holstein,
but dies and then Peter dies. Rest of her life, she remains unmarried.
Doesn’t really become educated, because no expectation that she would be
in position of power. Interesting about Elizabeth: she determined to come
to power. Decides to use womanly traits to get her way, considered
extremely beautiful, charming, and used grace, charm and cleverness to
advantage. By end of reign of Empress Ana, court grown tired to constant
succession of dynastic families and Ana herself (pattern) relatively
unpopular because surrounded herself by German entourage, Baltic
German families, probably did this because if part of Baltic German
cohort, insolated from dynastic politics that occurs within Russian court.
Choose Elizabeth as symbol. Elizabeth comes to power in a particular
way: curries favor with Regiment, old guard and originates in
Preobrazhenskii, intensely located to peters legacy. Combination of lavish
gifts and being Peter’s daughter, made them extremely loyal. Dramatic
event, swear allegiance to her and complete a bloodless palace coup.
Dramatic reign.
i. Known for an absolutely fantastic lifestyle, difficult to comprehend
today. Not out of pace with European royalty. Said she owned

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15000 gowns, usually gold thread or jewel encrusted, used love of
luxury and excess to seduce and dazzle court.
ii. Beauty started rumors that she had 300 lovers, only had 5 though.
Builds opulent palaces – completes Catherine Palace.
iii. Introduced aspects of French culture while still melding with
Russian traditional orthodoxy, insisted on keeping her court in
Moscow (popular at time – Peter had to force courtiers to go to St.
Petersburg), and most important rather than keeping court together:
she realized that Russian succession had to be solidified and she
unmarried, no plans, childless and had to find an heir to throne
before she got ill. So she decided to go to Holstein and chooses
nephew, son of older sister, and duke of Holstein, nephew is also
called Peter. Successor is Peter, raised as a German. Foresight
doesn’t end, Peter has to produce a son, choose Peter’s wife. That’s
where she does something that has significant impact. Girl who
would become Elizabeth’s choice and alter Catherine the Great,
was born Sophia, princess of another German principalitatle –
Anhalt Zerbst (AZ). Lucky that Elizabeth had once been briefly
engaged to uncle, and since uncle died Elizabeth saw him as the
one and only and in memory she decides to invite his niece to court
to see if you would fit in, become suitable candidate of wife of
Tsar. When Sophia receives this, she’s 15 but accepts.
1. No idea what was in store? Awfully early age to be plunged
into an honest nest of Russian dynastic politics. Like all
court life in Europe, superficially brilliant, palaces and
dresses, and to untrained eye, lots of fun, but behind all of
this, ad to be careful, because serious game of politics.
II. The Grand Duchess
A. Court Politics
a. Court filled with opulent, decadent and intrigue. Elizabeth shows up to
meet Catherine in a dress entirely woven of silver, diamonds, etc., at
this time Catherine owned 3 dresses. Stun with image of Elizabeth and
Elizabeth first gift as token of hope that Catherine will become
suitable to become Peter’s wife – diamond encrusted snuffbox. Should
have been signal that life is played different level.
b. No form of pleasure seen as decadence, world win of balls,
masquerades, operas, concerts, hunting, gambling. People thought
nothing of losing so much money at a gaming table and court life,
expected to have affairs.
c. Behind all this is sinister side, intrigue. All of this fun had purpose, and
sometimes dangerous. A newly reconstituted form of dynastic politics
taking place (Peter banished that). Way game of dynastic alliances was
through court pleasure and fun.
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i. In absence of old marriage alliances, had lavish parties to
replace that example: lavish banquet where no wealth spared
was signal to others of wealth and power to court, signaling
desirable family to make a political alliance. Giving expensive
gifts were ways to signaling desire to attach you to other
family. Other people would see who was giving gifts to who –
patronage network – gifts binding people to you. Who on
whose invitation list also involved, balls to whose family
estate, which invited, that is not, signaling exercises. H
1. Having affairs with people: used to marry people to get
up in rank, but now if daughter has affairs with high
powered men, now somehow connected. Can make
mistakes if not aware. Give gifts to someone, someone
else insulted. Get in trouble if did not know how it
worked.
d. Catherine herself fell into one of these intrigues, right from first day.
Her case: found herself in difficult position, caught between Empress
Elizabeth (obviously to stay in Russia, had to impress Elizabeth –
difficult) and had to also impress Peter who didn’t like Elizabeth.
Belonged to two separate factions at court at end of it. Never been seen
to be intriguing against empress but could not alienate future husband.
Peter unsuited to role, chosen as heir to throne because family
connections, no interest in ruling a country, especially to Russia as
from German eyes looked backwards and foreign, immature and lots
of stories of him that he played with toy soldiers at 16, and stories that
he would torture rats. Anti-social often claimed hated living in Russia
and insisted as symbol, on always wearing the regiment of Holstein. At
first Peter and Catherine get along, 15-16, foreigners at court, German,
but hard to know why things change, some say she suffered attack of
small pox as teenager later on that made him very ugly, then became
shy around Catherine, knew that Catherine was future bride, supposed
to expected as husband, no attracted to her, she not attracted to him
physiological mess. So soon at court, had a faction developing around
Peter and his entourage, and them around Elizabeth, and two had to
fight and chose between them. First victory in 1744, suited to be wife,
converted to Russian orthodoxy and named Catherine (Bad association
with Russian name Sophia). 1744 – official married to Peter, no
expense spared, 10-day ceremony. Lavish festivities did not get rid of
tensions, Elizabeth happy, secured heir, but also knew that heir to
throne is home to dangerous conspiracy and did everything she could
to control Catherine (become pregnant) and Peter (turn away from
German associates)
B. Producing an Heir
a. Peter more unpredictable, shunned company of wife – pregnancy not
happening, still wore German garbs, and he got a mistress instead of
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