BECK index

Poland-Lithuania and Russia 1715-88

by Sanderson Beck

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1715-88
Ukraine 1715-88
Russia of Petr 1715-25
Russian Empire 1725-62
Russia under Ekaterina II 1762-70
Russia under Ekaterina II 1770-88

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1715-88

Poland-Lithuania 1648-73
Poland-Lithuania of Jan Sobieski 1674-96
Poland-Lithuania of August II 1697-1715

      Much of the Northern War (1700-21) was fought in Poland-Lithuania, and that Commonwealth during that period lost more than a quarter of the population from mortality and emigration. Saxony’s August II had been confirmed as King of Poland-Lithuania by 1710. Although the reforms proposed in the Sejm (parliament) in 1712 were not passed, August used his army of 25,000 Saxons to subdue the Commonwealth. His Saxon adversaries agreed to a confederation at Tarnogród on November 26, 1715. The Russians offered to mediate the dispute, and in 1716 their army of 30,000 troops came to Warsaw and persuaded August II to remove his Saxon army.
      The Russians dominated the “mute” Sejm that in February 1717 submitted to the treaty made at Warsaw in 1705 that allowed August II only 1,200 Saxon Guards in Poland. The Sandomierz Confederation of 1704 and the Tarnogród Confederation were cancelled, and the right to form future confederations was renounced. The King agreed to avoid offensive wars and not to imprison people arbitrarily. Hetmans and sejmiks (local Sejms) could no longer change taxes. Saxon officials in Poland-Lithuania were limited to six, and no foreigners were to be appointed. Protestants’ rights were restricted, and they were not allowed to restore old churches nor to build new ones; some churches of Swedish enemies were demolished. The state was to have a budget for revenues and expenditures. The army was to be quartered on crown estates. The Sejm decided that Poland needed an army of only 18,000 men with 6,000 in Lithuania because Russia promised to keep troops there to protect the Commonwealth. Russia’s army had 28 times as many men, Austria’s 17 times as many, and Prussia 11 times. Regiments had to provide their own supplies and tended to stay in their own area. Magnates had private armies, and bandits plundered some places. The Sejm also doubled the poll tax on Jews.
      During the reign of August II from 1697 to 1706 and under the Russians from 1709 to 1733 the Sejm had eighteen sessions, but ten had been adjourned abruptly by the liberum veto. The years from 1717 to 1733 are considered a dark period in Poland, and laws were passed that discriminated against non-Catholics. In July 1724 at the town of Torun, where Lutherans governed about the same number of Catholics, a student provoked a mob to demolish a chapel at a Jesuit college. The Lutheran mayor, his deputy, and seven rioters were executed on December 7, though Lutherans continued to govern the town.
      The first Masonic lodge opened at Warsaw in 1728, and scholarly societies were formed in Danzig, Elblag, and Warsaw. Danzig started a literary society in 1720 and one for natural science in 1742. The Polish Courier newspaper was published from 1729 to 1774. In 1732 the Piarst priest, Stanisław Konarski (1700-73), with support from Andrzej Załuski began publishing the Volumina Legum which compiled all the Polish legislation since the 14th century.
      August II confessed that he had a “sinful life” and died of alcoholism on February 1, 1733. Stanisław Leszczyński had reigned in Poland-Lithuania 1704-09, and his daughter Maria married France’s Louis XV on September 5, 1725. Leszczyński came to Warsaw, and in a nearby field 13,000 electors voted for him on September 12, 1733; but on October 5 an army of 20,000 Russians gathered outside Warsaw and compelled one thousand szlachta (nobles) to elect Saxony’s August III. On October 10 France declared war, beginning the War of the Polish Succession, but the French only sent enough soldiers to take and defend the port of Danzig. Grain exports from Danzig (Gdansk) were increasing from 4,800 tons in 1715 to 124,000 tons in 1770.
      August III was crowned at Krakow in January 1734 and converted to Catholicism. On February 22 a growing Russian and Saxon army besieged Stanisław’s smaller force with about 2,000 French allies and 130 Swedish volunteers at Danzig, which surrendered on June 30. The Confederation of Dzikow led by Adam Tarło fought for Stanisław Leszczyński and national independence. They tried to cross the Oder to invade Saxony, but a Russian and Prussian army defeated them in May 1735, though the Russians lost 8,000 men. Stanisław escaped to Königsberg where he published a manifesto for a confederation. He asked the French to invade Saxony with 40,000 soldiers. Count Nicholas Potocki tried to organize guerillas in the Danzig area, but Russian forces dispersed them. The French persuaded Stanisław to renounce his claim to the throne on January 26, 1735, and they rewarded him with the Duchy of Lorraine. The Sejm met in 1736 and confirmed August III as King of Poland-Lithuania.
      August III was obese and lazy and spent most of his time in Saxony drinking and dueling. During his reign of thirty years he spent a total of 24 months in Poland as he let the local princes and magnates govern. The Potocki, Radziwiłł, and other families were influenced by France, Prussia, and Russia. Prince August Aleksander Czartoryski had gained power by marrying in 1731 Zofia Sieniawska, daughter of Krakow’s Hetman and Castellan. Protestants were excluded from the Sejm and from most state offices in 1733 and 1736, and authorities demolished some Protestant churches.
      August III was married to the Austrian Archduchess Maria Josepha, and in December 1740 he allied with Empress Maria Theresa; but after the Austrian defeat at Mollwitz in April 1741 he did not try to stop Prussians from conquering Austrian Silesia. He signed a treaty with Austria in 1742, but he changed sides in 1743 when he was promised a corridor through Silesia. He had secret agreements with Austria and Russia to help them in the Second Silesian War, and at the Poland-Lithuanian Sejm in 1744 he asked for financial and military reforms; but the Czartoryski party closed the session with the liberum veto. In January 1745 Saxony in a treaty at Warsaw allied with Britain, Austria, and the Dutch Republic.
      In the 1740s the Radziwiłłs built up manufacturing in Lithuania. In 1743 Adam Tarło attacked deputies at a crown tribunal in Piotrków, but the next year Kazimierz Poniatowski killed him in a duel. The tribunal broke up in 1749, and Potockis disrupted its parliament in 1750 demanding judicial reform. The historian and lawyer Gottfried Lengnich (1689-1774) published Public Law of the Polish Realm at Danzig in 1742-46. His 9-volume History of Royal Prussia covered from 1526 to 1733. In 1747 Józef Andrzej Załuski and Stanisław Konarski founded the first public library in Europe at Warsaw that grew from 180,000 volumes to 500,000. Załuski died in 1774 and left it to the state, but it would be plundered by the Russian army in 1795. The poet Elżbieta Drużbacka (1695-1765) lived in a cloister and wrote about women’s rights, criticizing arranged marriages. The aristocrats enlarged their estates, and by the 1750s some 120,000 szlachta owned no land. Count Heinrich Brühl (1700-63) held the power in Warsaw.
      The veto blocked August III’s efforts again in 1746 and 1748. That year a Russian army marched across Lithuania and Poland to Germany and back to Russia. In 1749 Stanisław Leszczyński published in Polish and French A Free Voice Ensuring Freedom that influenced reforms. In 1750 the Czartoryski party won the election again. The priest Benedykt Chmielowski published in 1745-46 and 1754-64 the encyclopedia, The New Athens of the Academy of All Science, divided into subjects and classes, for the wise ones to record, for the idiots to learn, for the politicians to practice, for the melancholics to entertain with scientific information that included astrological forecasts. Konarski spent thirty years writing On the effective conduct of Debates and published it in four volumes 1761-63. The first French-German-Polish dictionary was published in 1763-64.
      August III was detained by Prussia’s Friedrich II at Pirna in August 1756 to keep him from going to the Sejm at Warsaw. August III declined to participate in the Seven Years’ War. Russian forces occupied the Commonwealth from the spring of 1757 to the end of the war. In the spring of 1759 Russians invaded Great Poland. August left his wife to govern Saxony and fled to Warsaw. In 1760 Andrzej Zamoyski (1716-92) freed the serfs on his estates and urged others to do the same. In 1762-63 Friedrich II compelled contributions from northern Poland, and he melted down Polish coins and substituted worthless imitations. On February 15 Prussia, Austria, and Saxony agreed on a peace treaty at Hubertusburg. Aristocrats were entertained by frequent balls, opera, and theater. August III died at Dresden on October 5, 1763. During his reign there were 13 sessions of the Sejm, and all but one were ended by the veto.
      By the middle of the 18th century 39% of the Jews lived in villages as innkeepers. Polish Jews suffered poverty, but Izrael ben Eliezer (1700-60) in Podolia was called “Baal Shem Tov” and started the mystical Hasidism movement that was opposed by the orthodox Rabbinate. Hasids believed that God is everywhere and that prayer helps us understand the universe. Jakub Frank (1726-91) claimed to be the reincarnation of the prophet Jacob and the messianic Sabbatai Zevi (1626-76), and he called Poland the “promised land.” He suggested that loose morals could destroy evil, and the Rabbinate used the law to curtail the orgies. After Frank’s arrest in 1757 the Bishop of Lwów organized a public debate on the Talmud to be judged by Jesuits. The Frankists held their own against the Rabbinate, and Frank and his followers became Catholics. Frank was baptized on September 17 and 18, 1759 with August III as his godfather. On February 6, 1760 Frank was arrested in Warsaw and was convicted of heresy and imprisoned in the Częstochowa monastery for thirteen years.
      In 1766 Chancellor Andrzej Zamoyski released his peasants from labor-rents and was followed by other landowners. Scibor Marchocki made his estate a peasant cooperative, and the priest Paweł Brzostowski (1739-1827) started the Peasant Commonwealth of Pawlow in 1769, and it became self-governing with a school, hospital, and militia.
      Stanisław August Poniatowski (1732-98) was the son of the noble commander Stanisław Antoni Poniatowski and Princess Konstancja Czartoryska. His education included travel to Berlin, Vienna, Dresden, Holland, and especially England and Paris, and he was fluent in Polish, Latin, German, Italian, French, and English. In 1755 he went to St. Petersburg and until 1758 was the lover of Ekaterina (Catherine) II, who would become Empress of Russia in July 1762. King August III died in October 1763. The Sejm parliament met in May and June, and the Chancellor Andrzej Zamoyski proposed they exercise more power and limit the elite aristocrats by forming a supreme executive council. They could abolish private armies, codify law, stop appeals to the Pope, and reform education, paying for it by leasing crown lands and by increasing taxes and protective tariffs. On September 7, 1764 the Sejm, surrounded by Russian soldiers and Czartoryski’s retainers, elected Poniatowski, and on November 13 he swore to the pacta conventa to become King Stanisław II August. The Sejm abolished the veto by making majority vote the rule. He founded the College of Chivalry to train military officers and administrators in 1765. That year he founded the National Theater and the weekly Monitor that was edited by the playwright Franciszek Bohomolec and would publish until 1785.
      The Russian ambassador Nikolai Repnin challenged the power of the Czartoryskis, and he got the immoral Gabriel Podoski appointed the new archbishop and primate of Gniezno. In 1766 Repnin blocked the reforms. On November 11 the Russians and the Prussians declared that Orthodox Christians and Lutherans have the same rights as Catholics, and they demanded changes in the constitution and supported the army and tax bills. In response King Stanisław August published his Considerations of a Good Citizen appealing for a defense of the nation’s rights. About one million people in Poland-Lithuania were dissenting Christians—half Protestants (Lutherans) and half Orthodox, but the Sejm adjourned on November 19 without addressing the petitions by Russian, Prussian, and British diplomats.
      In March 1767 the Lutherans formed a confederation at Torun, and the Orthodox did so at Slutsk; Russian troops supported both. Seeing no chance for reform, Chancellor Zamoyski resigned. Also in March new Russian forces invaded Poland-Lithuania to form confederations they could control. The Russians backed the Protestant nobles and the Orthodox, and in June the ambassador Repnin encouraged the Catholic leaders to form the Radom Confederation led by Prince Karol Radziwiłł. Hetman Branicki and Hetman Rzewuski, Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk of Kraków, and other magnates joined this confederation. Russian troops were occupying the capital when the Sejm met in October. The Russian ambassador was watching them. The bishops of Krakow and Kiev and the Hetman, who had objected to freeing dissenters, were arrested at home and taken by Russian troops to Russia. Then the Sejm confirmed five conservative principles that included the veto, the nobles’ exclusive right to hold office, and the landowners’ control over their peasants; but they repealed the restrictions against the dissenting Christians. Ekaterina II swore she would protect these laws in Poland and left Stanisław II August on the throne.
      On February 29, 1768 disillusioned nobles led by Jan Michal Pac, Kazimierz Pułaski, and the Potocki, Sapieha, and Krasinski clans formed the Bar Confederation and began a war against the Russians. In the Ukraine peasants led by the Zaporozhian Cossack Maksym Zalizniak revolted against their feudal duties, and 2,000 men joined them and besieged Uman which surrendered. The Haidamak rebels killed about 20,000 nobles, Jews, Catholics, and Uniate clergy. They were joined by Cossacks from Kiev, Bratslav, Podolia, and Volynia palatinates. The rebels slaughtered nearly 200,000 people before they were suppressed by similar brutality. The Polish parliament and sejmiks restricted tavern ownership by Jews, and magnates ended their leases. Many taverns and inns were taken over by Christians. After 1785 Jews began founding clothing and munition factories. Most Jews declined to be farmers, and some became beggars. Poland-Lithuania had more Jews than the rest of the world.
      King Stanisław II August refused to oppose the confederations, and France sent them money and urged Turkey to go to war against Russia which they did in October 1768. In 1769 Austrians invaded Poland and annexed Spisz, and in 1770 they took over Nowy Targ and Nowy Sacz. Magnates Karol Radziwiłł and others, who opposed the King, supported the Confederation of Bar which while exiled in Slovakia on October 22, 1770 proclaimed that Stanisław II August was dethroned. His men with 4,000 Russian troops led by General Suvorov defeated 1,300 Confederates at Lanckorona on May 23, 1771, intervening in a civil war. A guerilla campaign rose up in southeast Poland, and on November 3 Confederates abducted the King Stanisław II from his carriage in Warsaw; but he persuaded them to let him go, and he returned to his palace the next day. A few Confederates held out in the Jasna Gora monastery at Częstochowa but surrendered on August 18, 1772. As rebelling magnates fled, about 5,000 szlachta were captured and sent to Siberia. Since 1716 German immigrants and Russian peasants had greatly increased the population of Poland-Lithuania to 11,420,000 in 1772. Jesuits were educating 20,000 nobles a year in 51 colleges and other schools.
      Meanwhile Prussia’s Friedrich II had been negotiating with Ekaterina II since 1771, and they made an agreement in February 1772. Then they persuaded Austria’s Empress Maria Theresa on August 5 to join them in partitioning Poland-Lithuania. Prussians took 580,000 inhabitants and 36,000 square kilometers in the west from the north portion of Great Poland (Royal Prussia) except for Danzig and Torun. Austria got 2,650,000 people and 83,000 kilometers in the south from Little Poland and Galicia from western Red Ruthenia. Russia gained 1,300,000 persons and 92,000 kilometers in northeast Belarus that included Livonian and White Ruthenian territory north of the Western Dvina River. Before the partition the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with 282,000 square miles had more territory than France or Spain, but in this partition they lost 28% of their territory and 40% of the people. The Russians and Prussians threatened to take more territory, and so the Sejm ratified the first treaty of partition on September 30, 1773 while also agreeing on a trade treaty with Prussia that allowed them to collect duties on Polish grain shipped down the Vistula River. Some estate owners emancipated peasants, and this drew nearly 200,000 German immigrants and more than 300,000 Russians.
      From 1772 to 1778 a Permanent Council with five departments that included Treasury, Justice, Foreign Affairs, War, and the Police governed Poland-Lithuania under the direction of the Russian ambassador Otto Magnus Stackelberg by using corrupt Polish nobles to control King Stanisław II who called Stackelberg a “Roman proconsul.” The army was increased to 30,000 men while Russian, Austrian, and Prussian troops occupied two-thirds of the Commonwealth. The Sejm repealed the law prohibiting the szlachta from engaging in trade in 1773. That year Stanisław II appointed a National Education Commission of enlightened aristocrats with the French physiocrat Dupont de Nemours as the first secretary. Jesuits ran more than two-thirds of the schools in Poland-Lithuania; but when Pope Clement XIV abolished the Jesuit order in 1773, their funds supported the educational work that included reforming the universities of Jagiellon and Wilno (Vilnius), though nearly half the Jesuit schools were closed. On November 4, 1775 the Sejm voted 149-114 to abolish the War Department.
      In 1776 Stackelberg let King Stanisław II summon a Sejm as a confederation to suspend the veto by excluding opponents. The Permanent Council was given control of the army and let the King appoint military leaders. He also made Andrzej Zamoyski head a commission to develop a new legal code which took two years. The code affirmed the power of the King and put officials under the Sejm, but landless szlachta lost their legal immunity and prerogatives. Some szlachta and clergy objected, and reformers in the Sejm held back the new code until 1780. Then clerics and Prussians blocked its passage. In 1780 the universities of Jagiellon and Wilno began directing the lower schools. The population of Warsaw increased from 30,000 people in 1760 to 150,000 in 1792.
      The Wilno Gazette was published 1761-92, and the Warsaw Gazette came out weekly from 1774 to 1791. The poet Franciszek Zabłocki wrote and produced sixty comedies based on Italian and French plays in the 1770s and 1780s. Others imitated plays by Molière, Voltaire, Marivaux, and Sheridan. Ignacy Krasicki (1735-1801) became Prince-Bishop of Warmia in 1767 and was influenced by the Enlightenment. He worked for the National Education Commission for twenty years, and he published the mock epics, The War of the Mice in 1775 and The War of the Monks in 1778, and Fables in 1779. He also produced the first Polish novel, The Adventures of Mikolaj Doswiadczynski, in 1776 and then the conversational 3-volume novel, Sir Chamberlain, in 1778, 1784, and 1803. Polish operas began in 1778 and spread to several cities in the 1780s.
      In 1774 King Stanisław II commissioned Adam Naruszewicz, Bishop of Smolensk, to write The History of the Polish Nation, and its six volumes were printed in 1780-86. The King spent much patronizing the arts and architecture. The French enlightenment had an increasing influence as the number of schools teaching French went from 40 in 1740 to 199 in 1777. The Black Sea Company was organized in 1782 with Antoni Potocki as president, and the Polish government subsidized trade there. The National Education Commission published Hieronim Stroynowski’s The Science of Natural Law, Political Law, Political Economy, and the Law of Nations in 1785. By 1786 King Stanisław II’s income had increased to 6,143,000 gulden, but the national debt had risen to ten million. Stanisław Staszic advocated republican government and an army of 100,000 men in his Observations on the Life of Jan Zamoyski in 1787. Dionizy Kniaznin’s play, The Spartan Mother, was produced before the 1788 elections. When the Sejm met in 1788, they increased the army.

Ukraine 1715-88

      From 1709 to 1722 Ukrainians supported ten Russian regiments in their territory, and starting in 1719 they could only export grain to the west by shipping it to the Russian ports of Riga and Archangel. In 1722 the Little Russian Collegium with six Russian officers was allowed to share power with the Hetman in Ukraine. Col. Pavlo Polubotok was appointed acting Hetman and served for two years in conflict with the Collegium. He reformed the courts and appointed inspectors to implement them. After he sent an agent to organize a Ukrainian petition campaign for self-government, Tsar Petr imprisoned him and those who had signed the petition in 1724; but Petr’s death in 1725 prevented their being sent to Siberia. In 1724 Collegium chairman Veliaminov reported that they had increased taxes by 600%, and he insisted that Russians on the Left Bank also pay that tax. In 1727 Prince Menshikov persuaded the imperial council to dissolve the Little Russian Collegium, and in October the 70-year-old Col. Danylo Apostol was elected Hetman of the left-bank Ukraine. However, a Russian was to be in charge of all foreign relations, and a Russian field marshal controlled the military. Danylo Apostol worked on social, economic, and judicial reforms. A survey helped restore lost land by 1731. He reduced the Russians and foreigners in his government and brought Kiev into his jurisdiction.
      Apostol died in January 1734 and was replaced by three Russians and three Ukrainians in the Governing Council of the Hetman’s Office under the Russian president Prince Shakhovskoi who was secretly instructed to criticize previous hetmans for the taxes and problems. Later in 1734 he was replaced by Prince Bariatinsky who arrested Kiev’s city council and confiscated their charters. The imperial senate refused to confirm a Ukrainian as mayor of Kiev twice. In Russia’s war against Turkey 1735-39 about 35,000 Ukrainians died out of a population of 1,200,000. A commission worked for sixteen years to codify Ukrainian law, and the new laws went into effect in 1744.
      Kyrylo Rozumovsky was only 22 when he was elected Hetman in 1750. He organized the judiciary into twenty districts by 1763. Judges were elected, usually from among the landowners. In 1763 a council met at Hlukhiv, and they sent delegates to petition Empress Ekaterina (Catherine) II asking for more autonomy. She summoned Rozumovsky, and he resigned in November 1764. Although she was German, Ekaterina worked to “Russify” her empire. The Hetmanate was dissolved, and she appointed Petr Rumiantsev governor-general of the Left Bank. At her Legislative Commission conference in Moscow the Ukrainian delegates led by Hryhorii Poletyka asked for their traditional Ukrainian rights. During the Russian war against the Ottoman Empire 1768-75 Rumiantsev ordered Russian troops to attack the Cossacks’ Zaporizhian Sich, and they destroyed it in 1775.
      In 1781 the ten regimental districts of the Left Bank were replaced by the three provinces of Kiev, Chernihiv, and Novhorod-Siversk. Then in 1783 the traditional Cossacks were supplanted by dragoon regiments which included peasants and non-Ukrainians. Also that year Ukrainian peasants lost their right to leave their landlords, making them serfs. These changes benefited Ukrainian aristocrats. In 1785 they gained complete control over the peasants, and they were exempted from government and military service, making them equal to Russian nobles.
      Hryhorii Skovoroda (1722-94) was the son of a Cossack and was educated at the Kiev Mohyla Academy and by traveling in Europe. He learned Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Polish, German, and Old Church Slavonic. From 1751 to 1769 he taught ethics and poetry at colleges in Pereiaslav and Kharkiv. His unorthodox ideas and methods of teaching led him to wander as a philosopher in the Left Bank and Sloboda Ukraine, and he was called the “Ukrainian Socrates.” He emphasized self-knowledge and personal independence with little concern for money or honors. He criticized the starshyna (military officers) and clerics for exploiting peasants.

Russia of Petr 1715-25

Russia of Tsar Aleksei 1648-76
Russia of Fyodor III and Sophia 1676-89
Russia and Tsar Petr 1689-1700
Russia and Tsar Petr at War 1700-15

      Russia had made a treaty with Prussia in June 1714, and the Russians came to terms with Hanover in October 1715. That year a Naval Academy opened in St. Petersburg. In the spring of 1716 Tsar Petr went to Mecklenburg and planned to invade Sweden, but delays by the Danish and British allies caused him to cancel it in September. Petr visited the Netherlands and bought the collection of the Dutch anatomy professor Frederik Ruysch for 30,000 guilders. He went to the Austrian Netherlands. At Paris he tried to make an alliance with France but could only get agreement on neutrality. Yet that summer Russia made a treaty of friendship with France and Prussia and withdrew their troops from Mecklenburg.
      A Military Manual had been published in 1716. In 1718 the 35 government offices were replaced by the nine colleges of Foreign Affairs, Revenue Collection, Justice, Expenditure, Financial Control, Commerce, Mining and Manufacturing, War with Tsar Petr’s friend A. D. Menshikov as president, and Admiralty under F. M. Apraksin. The Foreign Affairs College had interpreters who used Russian, Latin, Polish, High Dutch, Low Dutch, English, Danish, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Tatar, Kamuck, and Mongolian.
      Tsar Petr summoned his son Alexei to Moscow and removed him from the succession in February 1718, replacing him with two-year-old Petr Petrovich. Confessions were extorted by torture from Alexei who was condemned to death and after severe whipping died on June 26, 1718 (OS) two days before he was to be executed. Petr Petrovich died in April 1719, leaving Tsar Petr without a male heir.
      In the spring of 1718 Russians began negotiating with Sweden on the Åland islands. In May 1719 about 50,000 Russian troops assembled in St. Petersburg. Off the Åland islands in July 1720 the Russian navy defeated a smaller Swedish fleet. For the next five weeks Apraksin’s warships ravaged the east coast of Sweden. Russians and Swedes resumed peace negotiations at Nystad in Finland in the winter, and they agreed to end the Great Northern War on August 30, 1721 (OS). In the treaty Sweden recognized the transfer of Estonia, Livonia, Ingria, and southeast Finland taken by the Russians in the war, but most of Finland was returned to Sweden. Russia agreed to pay Sweden about 1.5 million roubles (two million silver thaler), and Sweden would be allowed to buy a fixed amount of grain annually from its former Baltic provinces duty free. Russians promised to respect the rights and privileges of those provinces. In gratitude Petr pardoned all those in prison except murderers, and he cancelled all debts to the government since the war began in 1700. This treaty was successful enough that the two nations made a defensive treaty in 1724. In October 1721 Petr was proclaimed Emperor of Russia and was called “Petr the Great.”
       In February 1716 a decree doubled the tax paid by Old Ritualists (Believers) who had left the Russian Orthodox Church in 1666. Russia had 557 monasteries and convents with 14,000 monks and 10,000 nuns. The 151 monasteries around Moscow owned 242,198 male serfs. In 1721 Petr decreed the Ecclesiastical Regulation to root out superstition and ignorance by increasing learning. In 1722 he ordered a search of ancient monasteries for old manuscripts which were sent to Moscow, and after his death they were given to the Academy of Science which was founded in January 1724 and granted 25,000 roubles a year.
      In 1717 Petr had translated The Honourable Mirror of Youth from German that described the proper behavior for nobles and peasants. A monopoly on silk manufacturing was given to Baron Shafirov, Count Petr Tolstoi, and Count Apraksin. They invested 81,300 roubles, and the government contributed 36,700 roubles. In 1719 a census in Russia counted 7,570,376 male taxpayers plus 218,551 men in the army and navy who paid no tax. That year a decree threatened to confiscate the estates of cruel landlords, but this was difficult to enforce.
      In 1720 Russia’s Senate was given rules that included no shouting during meetings. Tsar Petr decreed that immigrant officers were to return to their countries. To improve local government a college of Municipal Affairs was established in 1721. That year the Church Statute created a Church college called the Synod under a chief procurator who was a lay person. Peasants were more than 95% of the people who paid the poll tax, and half of them belonged to noble landlords. Most of the peasants were in the outer provinces of Siberia, Kazan, Astrakhan, Kiev, Azov, Archangel, and Nizhny Novgorod. To implement his ideas Tsar Petr appointed Pavel Iaguzhinsky to be the first Procurator-General of the Senate in 1722. In February of that year the Table of Ranks was devised. Petr placed the military on top with 126 ranks followed by the civil service with 94 and the court with 42. Iaguzhinsky admitted that all officials steal but on different scales. Petr tried to control corruption by occasionally punishing the most egregious thieves. Already under investigation by 1715 were Prince Menshikov, Admiral Apraksin, Prince Matthew Gagarin, General Bruce, two senators, and others. Gagarin was hanged at St. Petersburg in September 1718. That year merchants leaving Russia were searched and had any gold, silver, or copper coins confiscated. In 1723 the death penalty was enacted for exporting silver. In 1724 Menshikov was accused of concealing 30,000 serfs who had escaped from military service or landlords.
      Work on a canal from the Neva to the Volkhov was begun in 1718 and was finished in 1732. In January 1721 factory and mine owners were allowed to have factory serfs. In 1722 Petr decreed that the Tsar could name his successor and that all peasants could not leave a landowner’s estate without his permission. Then in 1724 he decreed that to leave their villages they had to have a passport. Also tariffs were imposed on imported goods between 25% and 75%. In 1725 the Russian government spent 10.14 million roubles with 6.54 million of it on the army and navy, but the revenues mostly from direct taxes were only 8.5 million.
      Prince Alexander Bekovich Cherkassky had been born a Muslim prince, and in 1716 he led an expedition from Astrakhan with 4,000 soldiers to the Khan of Khiva; but in the spring of 1717 he agreed to divide his forces, and they were all slaughtered or sold into slavery. In 1722 Tsar Petr visited Kazan and assembled an army of 61,000 men. He sailed down the west coast of the Caspian Sea and visited Tarku. They encountered difficult weather and made it to Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga in October. Petr suffered from illness but sent more expeditions to the region of the Caspian Sea, and for the ten years thousands of Russian soldiers died there of disease until Tsarina Anna recalled them to Persia.
      In 1715 Artemy Volynsky was sent to Persia and made a commercial treaty with the Shah to trade for raw silk. Petr rewarded him by making him the Governor of Astrakhan. After Afghans overthrew the Shah and replaced him with their leader at Isfahan in 1722, in the spring Tsar Petr sent a force of 22,000 men down the Volga that defeated Dagastanis and occupied Derwent. At Astrakhan horses from hay and men by eating rye were infected by ergotism, causing insanity and many deaths. The Russians made an agreement with the son of the previous Shah in September 1723. Turkey had declared war on Persia in the spring, but French diplomacy helped mediate a peace between the two empires in 1724. Petr had more than twenty ambassadors and consuls in almost every European nation. By the end of his reign the Russian army had about 130,000 men plus 70,000 garrison troops, a home guard of 6,000, and more than 100,000 in Cossack regiments in the provinces. Petr sent emissaries to Emperor Kangxi of China, but he replied that they do not trade. Also in 1724 Ivan Possochkov published his Book on Poverty and Wealth advocating mercantilism and the exploitation of natural resources. In 1725 about 3% of Russians were merchants.
      Just before his death Emperor Petr sent Danish explorer Vitus Bering to discover whether the continent of Asia was connected to North America. By August 1728 Bering was convinced that Asia and America were separated by the strait that was given his name. Petr founded the Russian Academy of Sciences before dying on January 28, 1725.
      On May 7, 1724 Emperor Petr had crowned his wife Ekaterina, and the celebration lasted several days. She was from a peasant family in Lithuania and was baptized as a Catholic named Marta Helena Skowrońska in April 1684. When she married a Swedish dragoon in 1702, she became a Lutheran. She may have been the mistress of Field Marshal Sheremetev before living with Prince Menshikov. There she met Tsar Petr and became his mistress, bearing his sons Petr and Pavel who both died in infancy by 1705, the year she took the name Ekaterina Alexeyevna and converted to the Orthodox Church. She married Petr secretly in 1707 and bore him ten more children; but only Anna and Elizaveta lived past 1725. Anna married Karl Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp in February 1715.

Russian Empire 1725-62

      After Petr’s death on January 28, 1725 Ekaterina became Empress of Russia. While the Senate was debating, Prince Menshikov paid back salary to the Guards to win them over to her. In 1726 she formed the Supreme Privy Council led by Menshikov with Apraksin, Chancellor Golovkin, Andrei Ostermann, Count Petr Tolstoi, and Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Golitsyn helping him govern. The colleges of Foreign Affairs, the Admiralty, and War became independent of the Senate. The colleges of State Revenues and Expenditures were combined into one college and the new college for Accounting and Tax Collection was put under the Council. Russia formed an alliance with Austria against the Ottoman Empire in August 1726. Ostermann was put in charge of the new Commission on Commerce in 1727. That year Sava Vladislavich led a mission to Beijing, and in August the Kyakhta treaty set the border between Russia and China.
      Empress Ekaterina died in May 1727 and was succeeded by 11-year-old Petr II Alekseyevich, grandson of Petr the Great’s first wife Eudoxia. Menshikov became Generalissimo and Regent, and he wanted his daughter Maria to marry Petr II. By then Menshikov had acquired estates in forty districts with more than 300,000 serfs in about 3,000 villages and seven towns that he owned. The Golitsyns and Dolgorukys managed to gain power, and in September they persuaded Petr II to arrest Menshikov, deprive him of his titles and positions, and banish him and his family to Beryozovo in Siberia. Russia used bribes to pacify Swedish ambitions to regain territory. In 1727-28 collection of the poll tax was transferred from the army to the landlords. Ekaterina’s daughter Anna died in January 1728. Petr II abolished the hated Preobrazhensky Office with torture chambers. He was planning to wed Ekaterina Dolgorukova, but he died of smallpox on the wedding day, January 19, 1730 (OS).
      Anna Ivanovna was born on January 28, 1693 (OS), the daughter of Tsar Ivan V (half-brother of Petr the Great). She had married Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Courland, but he died in 1711. The eight Supreme Privy Councilors led by Prince Dmitri Golitzyn and Vasily Lukich Dolgoruky persuaded her to agree secretly not to remarry nor designate an heir and to let the Councilors make all the important decisions such as use of the military, taxation, promotion, appointments, rewards, and the royal succession. These conditions became known in February 1730, and the Councilors were unable to arrest their opponents Archbishop (of Novgorod) Feofan Prokopovich, historian Vasily Tatishchev, and the Moldavian poet Antiokh Kantemir (1708-44) who preferred autocracy to oligarchy. They persuaded Anna to tear up the agreement. Count Reinhold Löwenwolde was one of the delegates who warned Anna not to accept the conditions. She appointed his brother, Count Karl Gustav, colonel of the Semnovsky Guards Regiments, and he named the Scottish visitor, James Keith, Lt. Col. of the Guards regiment. Anna and the new men sent the Dolgorukys and the Golitsyns into exile, and she was crowned Empress of Russia on April 17, 1730.
      A year later the Chancellery for Secret Investigatory Affairs that Ekaterina had closed was revived under Major-General Andrew Ushakov, who had been in Petr’s Secret Chancellery. Anna moved to St. Petersburg where she dissolved the Supreme Privy Council and started a school for cadets who could become officers without serving in the ranks. The Cabinet of Her Imperial Majesty advising her included Prince Aleksai Cherkassky, Chancellor Gavriil Golovkin, Andrei Ostermann, Senate Procurator-General Pavel Iaguzhinsky, and Petr Bestuzhev-Riumin. She let them govern while she enjoyed lavish entertainment that tripled the court expenditures of Petr the Great. They spent twice as much on the imperial stables as the national government did on education. By 1733 there was a budget deficit that became chronic. In 1734 total spending was 7,792,785 roubles of which 6,505,154 was for military expenses. Anna’s court expenses, including 48,000 for the pensions of her German relatives, were 408,000 roubles.
      Anna did not trust the Russian nobles and favored Germans in her court where German was spoken. Andrey Ostermann led the Cabinet, and Burkhard Christoph Münnich commanded the army. They formed a fourth regiment of Guards called Izmailovsky staffed by Germans. The most despised German was her corrupt High Chamberlain Ernst Johann von Bühren whom she made Duke of Courland in 1737. He liked French culture so much that he changed his name to Biron. His police terror was castigated as “Bironovshchina.” Anna and he liked to hunt, and they became lovers. She showed that she had an open mind by taking male and female lovers, and she liked to read novels in bed. Her favoring Germans and other foreigners was not popular. Criticism of the regime was not tolerated, and tens of thousands, mostly peasants, were deported to Siberia. Kantemir wrote satires and served as ambassador to London 1731-36 and then at Paris until his death in 1744.
      In 1733 Russia and Austria wanted Frederik August to succeed his father August II in Poland, but Stanisław Leszczyński was crowned in September. The Russian army commanded by the Irish general Peter Lacy and Keith invaded Poland. While Lacy’s forces besieged Danzig (Gdansk), other Russian forces persuaded the Polish and Lithuanian nobles to elect August III. In 1734 Russia made a commercial treaty that gave the British access to the Persian silk trade. Danzig capitulated in June 1734 as Leszczyński fled to France and later abdicated. When the French invaded Austria in 1735, Russia sent an army of 20,000 men to assist the Habsburgs and fight the French on the Rhine. After a treaty confirmed August III in the summer 1736, Russian and Saxon troops withdrew from Poland. That year the obligatory service of nobles was limited to 25 years. Some landlords began enrolling their sons as early as the age of eight. A decree required serfs to get their masters’ permission before leaving for temporary employment.
      From 1733 to 1743 Vitus Bering led another expedition that explored the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, and soon adventurers were killing otters and seals to sell their skins until supplies were exhausted by the 1750s. Russians also struggled with Kazakh tribes in Central Asia to get furs. They built the fortress of Orenburg in 1735. Eastern Siberia was explored, and Okhotsk became a Pacific port in 1737. They could not conquer the Bashkirs until 1738. Orenburg became a Russian province in 1744. A census that year estimated that the population of the Russian Empire had increased to 18,250,000.
      Meanwhile conflicts with Tatars provoked Russia into declaring war on the Turks in the spring of 1736. Lacy led a Russian army toward the Crimea. They sacked the Tatar capital Bakhchisarai in June and took Azov. After heavy losses from fighting and typhus both sides withdrew by the end of the year. In 1737 the Russians captured the strategic Turkish fortress at Ochakov where the Dnieper runs into the Black Sea. In 1739 Münnich led an army across the Dnieper and took Khotin and Jassy, and Moldavian nobles decided to join the Russian Empire. After their allied Austrians pulled out of the war, Russia made a treaty at Niš on October 3 and retained the port of Azov but still had no access to the Black Sea. Russians had lost 100,000 men and much money while gaining little. In a dozen years since the death of Petr in 1725 the peasant population of Russia declined by about two million. Many were sent to Siberia, and others fled. A series of laws had restricted their rights. In 1730 they lost the right to own land. A law in 1732 prevented them from moving without giving notice. In 1736 nobles were given the right to punish fugitive serfs in any way. In 1747 a serf could be sold to the army.
      In 1739 Artemy Volynsky, became involved in a “Project for the Correction of State Affairs,” and the next summer he was tortured and executed for trying to make Petr the Great’s daughter Elizaveta the empress.
      Anna died childless on October 17, 1740 (OS) and had named as her successor Tsar Ivan VI, the two-month-old son of Duke Anton-Ulrich of Brunswick. Ernst Biron was named Regent, but after 25 days Münnich had him arrested. He was condemned to death in April 1741 but was banished to Siberia. Ostermann then had Münnich condemned and sent to Siberia. Anna’s niece, Princess Anna Leopoldovia, was Ivan’s mother, and in November 1740 she became Regent. In the next year 185 legislative acts were recorded. She appointed her husband, Prince Anton-Ulrich, the commander of Russia’s army, and she mollified General Münnich by making him her prime minister and Baron Ostermann by appointing him Grand Admiral to handle foreign affairs. She hired some Russians but with less rewards. Sweden had declared war on Russia, and on August 23, 1741 a Russian army of 10,500 men defeated 4,000 Swedes at Villmanstrand in Finland, capturing a thousand men.
      Supported by bribed Imperial Guards and France’s and Sweden’s ambassadors, Petr I’s 32-year-old daughter Elizaveta claimed the throne and began her reign on November 26, 1741. She was crowned Empress Elizaveta on April 25, 1742. She declined to pay the French and dismissed their ambassador, though French would become the language of her court. She refused to return Baltic conquests to Sweden and continued the war. She sent Ostermann and other Germans to Siberia. Elizaveta liked Russians including peasants and gypsies, and she took lovers and secretly married a Ukrainian Cossack. Her top ministers were Chancellor Alexey Bestuzhev-Ryumin (1744-58) and Petr Shuvalov who headed the Konferents. His cousin Ivan Shuvalov corresponded with Voltaire and became her favorite. Petr’s brother Alexander Shuvalov was put in charge of the Secret Chancery. Anna’s German ministers were given show trials and were banished. Petr Shuvalov used the economy and industry monopolies to benefit himself and his supporters. Elizaveta swore she would not sign a death warrant, and in 1744 she abolished capital punishment. Yet efforts were made to revise the criminal code, and in the 1750s several offenses became capital crimes. In 1742 Elizaveta had designated as her heir her 14-year-old nephew Duke Petr of Holstein-Gottorp, but he became an alcoholic and defied the Church. In 1742 she expelled all Jews from the Russian Empire, and she wanted Armenian churches and Muslim mosques demolished. From 1740 to 1744 in Kazan province 418 of the 536 mosques were destroyed. She delighted in others being converted to the Orthodox faith, and she ordered Old Ritualists persecuted.
      Russia agreed to a defensive alliance with Prussia in 1743 but then also allied with the British who were with France against the Prussians. Russia and Sweden ended their war with the treaty signed at Åbo in August 1743. Sweden ceded the province of Kymmenegard, and Russia began governing Viborg in 1744. That year a fire destroyed 4,000 of Elizaveta’s dresses, but by the time she died she had 15,000 gowns. She loved theater, opera, banquets, and balls especially masquerades. She decreed that men should attend these in female attire and women dressed as men, and this annoyed many people. When Prussia’s Friedrich II invaded Saxony in 1745, Bestuzhev mobilized troops in Courland and persuaded Friedrich to withdraw. Then in 1746 Russia renewed the alliance with Austria for 25 years and promised to send troops to help the British against Prussia in exchange for annual subsidies.
      Peace came in 1748, and a decree ordered the Academy of Sciences to translate and print books in Russian. In 1745 an accurate Atlas of the Russian Empire had been published. Vasily Tatishchev (1686-1750) wrote his Russian History which was published in five volumes after his death. A P. Bolotov gathered love songs that became popular. A. P. Sumarokov wrote Russia’s first tragedy, Khorev, and his tragedy Aritistona also had songs. He wrote the libretto for the first opera in Russian, Cephalus and Prokris, that was performed at St. Petersburg in February 1755.
      Mikhail Lomonosov was educated at Moscow, Kiev, and at the University of Marburg. He returned to Russia in 1741 and worked as the adjutant in physics at the Academy of Science and conducted chemical experiments. He was also a grammarian, poet, and historian. Lomonosov helped plan Moscow University in 1755 and published his Russian Grammar. The University of Moscow published the Moscow News twice a week. The Academy of Sciences contributed the St. Petersburg News. The historian G. F. Müller edited the Monthly Selections. In 1759 Sumarokov’s Busy Bee became Russia’s first literary journal.
      Empress Elizaveta ruled Russia for twenty years. She attended the Senate fifteen times in the first three years but only three more times after that. During her reign the Senate made 80% of the decrees. Since the time of Petr the number of officials in the central and local administrations had doubled by the 1750s to about 12,000. In 1754 customs duties within the Russian Empire were abolished, and tripling tariffs on foreign imports helped Russian industries. Shuvalov raised the excise tax on salt and alcohol which impacted the peasants. By 1760 the budget deficit had become eight million roubles. Advances in metallurgies enabled Russia to triple their foundries from 1725 to 1762 with iron production increasing by two and half times. In 1750 the Urals surpassed the British and Swedes in producing iron.
      In 1754 the new criminal code defined serfs as “property of the gentry.” That year Petr Shuvalov founded the state Bank of the Nobility in St. Petersburg with a branch in Moscow so that landlords could borrow at only 6% interest, and they could pay it back with land and serfs, resulting in many estates being mortgaged to the government. He also transferred state enterprises to private investors in metallurgy, textiles, and alcohol. Elizaveta suffered her first stroke in June 1756. That year Sumarokov and the Imperial troupe of Petersburg established a Russian national theater. In 1758 only nobles were allowed to own serfs, and others were required to sell theirs. In the next two years the opportunity to obtain gentry status through state service was ended.
      In 1755 Russia renewed the alliance with Britain. The Russians moved closer to Austria, but by the end of 1756 Russia was allied with France as well as Austria. Russia had the largest army in Europe during the Seven Years’ War with 162,430 men in field regiments, 74,548 in garrisons, 27,758 in militias, 12,937 with engineering and artillery, and 44,000 irregulars. In the summer of 1757 Russia sent an army of 75,000 men to Eastern Prussia and defeated a smaller Prussian army at Gross-Jägersdorf on August 30. Commander Apraksin withdrew the army to Poland. He was arrested and put on trial; but he died before the case was resolved. Empress Elizaveta suffered another stroke. After she recovered, she arrested Bestuzhev in February 1758 for not exploiting the victory and banished him to his estate.
      In 1758 the Russian army swept across East Prussia and Poland to invade Pomerania and Brandenburg. On August 25 their slightly larger army commanded by Count William Fermor fought a major battle at Zorndorf against Prussia led by Friedrich II that killed a total of more than 30,000 men with greater Russian losses. Yet neither side gained any advantage. In 1759 P. S. Saltykov replaced the cautious Fermor, and after merging with an Austrian army led by General Laudon they defeated Friedrich’s Prussians at Kunersdorf east of Frankfurt in August. In October 1760 Russian and Austrian forces entered Berlin, but they stayed only four days. While Prussia and Austria were considering peace, the Russians on the third siege finally captured the Kolberg fortress in December 1761. Empress Elizaveta’s health had been deteriorating, and she died on Christmas Day.
      Her nephew succeeded as Petr III. His mother was Petr the Great’s daughter Anna, but his father was Duke Karl Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp. Empress Elizaveta had arranged Petr’s marriage to his second cousin, Sophia Augusta Frederica, which had taken place in August 1745. On January 29 he abolished the Konferents. In February 1762 Petr III secularized all church properties, and his Manifesto concerning the Freedom of the Nobility relieved them of the legal obligation to serve in the military. He also abolished the secret police, removed restrictions on grain exports, and decreed religious toleration. On May 18 Petr formed a council of his untitled friends from Holstein. He did not like Russians much but admired Prussia’s Friedrich II. Petr was criticized for abandoning the Austrian allies and ending the war against Prussia that Russia was winning. In June he made Russia an ally of Prussia, and Russian troops left Berlin to attack Austria. This enabled the Prussians to regain southern Silesia in October. Meanwhile Petr was planning a war against Denmark in order to restore part of Schleswig for his duchy of Holstein-Gottorp. Worried Danes threatened to attack Hamburg to get a loan, and Petr used this as a reason to go to war. About 40,000 Russian troops were in Pomerania and prepared to attack the Danes, but Petr’s wife Sophia overthrew him on June 28 and became Empress Ekaterina II. Petr III abdicated that day and died on July 6.

Russia under Ekaterina II 1762-70

      Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg was born on April 21, 1729 (OS) in Stettin. Her father was a Prussian general, and her mother was a princess of Holstein-Gottorp. She had a French governess and tutors. She was brought up as a Lutheran, but before marrying Petr of Holstein-Gottorp in August 1745 at St. Petersburg she learned Russian and joined the Russian Orthodox Church, taking the name Ekaterina Alekseyevna. She read books by Voltaire, and after becoming Empress corresponded with him, Diderot, and d’Alembert. She also read and was influenced by Plato, Plutarch, Tacitus, Machiavelli, Corneille, Racine, Molière, Locke, Bayle, Montesquieu, the Encyclopedists, Périfix’s Life of Henri IV, and Barre’s History of Germany. She wrote in her copy of Fénelon’s Télémaque,

Study mankind, learn to use men
without surrendering to them unreservedly.
Search for true merit, be it at the other end of the world,
for usually it is modest and retiring.
Do not allow yourself to become the prey of flatterers;
make them understand that you care
neither for praise nor for obsequiousness.
Have confidence in those who have the courage
to contradict you … and who place more value on your favor.
Be polite, humane, accessible, compassionate,
and liberal-minded.
Do not let your grandeur prevent you
from condescending with kindness toward the small,
and putting yourself in their place.
See that this kindness, however,
does not weaken your authority nor diminish their respect.1

      Ekaterina lived at the Russian court for fifteen years under Anna and Elizaveta before she became Empress. Starting with Sergei Saltykov in 1752 Ekaterina had a series of twelve lovers throughout the rest of her life with the longest affair being the third with Grigory Orlov from 1761 to 1772.
      In 1762 the Russian Empire had about twenty million peasants including about ten million serfs out of a population of 23,250,000. Half the land was owned by about 100,000 nobles with most of the rest owned by the state or the Orthodox church. Ekaterina granted favors to nobles and would not listen to complaints of serfs, whose numbers doubled to about twenty million by the end of her reign.
      Tsar Petr III’s alliance with Prussia and intention to invade Denmark prompted his wife Ekaterina to take his place. When Captain Passek was arrested on June 27, 1762, they feared their plot was discovered. The next day Count Alexei Orlov arranged for Petr to be arrested and kept him in his custody, and that day he was compelled to abdicate. Ekaterina went to the Winter Palace where the Synod and Senate had assembled. She issued a manifesto justifying her action and took an oath. Then she was received by more than 14,000 troops, and she sent Admiral Talisin to Kronstadt. Two days later she ordered Prince Nikita Trubetskoi to plan her coronation using 50,000 roubles for the ceremony. Petr III was taken to Ropsha where he was killed on July 6, probably in a drunken brawl or by strangulation. The next day Ekaterina announced her coronation in Moscow. She had paid 226,000 roubles for six months’ salary for the Petersburg guard, and she sent silver coins worth 600,000 roubles to Moscow to be thrown to people lining the route of her procession. She arrived there triumphantly on September 13, and nine days later she was crowned Ekaterina (Catherine) II.
      Ekaterina II on August 8, 1762 had decreed that owners of factories and mines purchasing serfs for labor would have to buy the land on which they were bound. This provoked serfs in the Urals and by the Volga to go on strike. She ordered General Vyazemsky to punish the guilty. He used cannons, had the leaders beaten, and sentenced them to hard labor. She also began her reign by withdrawing the troops mobilized against Denmark. Although she considered Prussia’s Friedrich II an enemy, she confirmed the treaty that Petr III had made with him.
      Her husband Petr III had ruled Russia for six months and instituted 220 new laws. Ekaterina II accepted his secularization of Church property which included about a million serfs whom she upgraded to state peasants. She wanted to abolish serfdom but considered it impractical, though she did arrange for the state peasants to elect 80 of the 672 representatives. She showed her protection of the Orthodox Church by revoking Petr’s decree of toleration. In February 1764 she gave the College of the Economy jurisdiction over the monasteries and church estates with their serfs. The state increased its dominance by closing down most of the monasteries so that there remained open only 161 of 572 monasteries and 67 of 217 convents. After the ecclesiastical serfs caused disturbances, she revived religious tolerance. Since those serfs had become state property, she began giving them to favorites and politicians. She bestowed 16,000 serfs on her supporters on one day in 1762, and during her 44-year reign she gave more than half the 800,000 serfs to nobles. The rents they paid went into the Treasury. When the Bishop of Rostov protested, he was excommunicated and imprisoned for life. The Old Ritualists no longer had to pay twice the regular tax. In 1764 she ordered the Office for the Affairs of New Converts closed to moderate the actions of militant Orthodox missionaries.
      In 1763 Ekaterina II appointed Ivan Betskoi director of the Cadet Corps and president of the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, and a year later he helped her write the General Statute on the Education of Youth of Both Sexes. In 1764 there were only 26 diocesan schools with 6,000 students, and this would increase to only 11,329 by 1783. Next to the Academy of Fine Arts they opened the Society for Two Hundred Well-Born Young Women. Ekaterina and Betskoi wrote the book On the Duties of Man and Citizen. Citizens were to be taught to understand their duties to God, oneself, and society and to learn the skills needed in daily life. Ekaterina also formulated five principles of her administration as civilizing the nation, maintaining order by enforcing the laws, instituting good and effective regulations, promoting a prosperous economy, and making sure other nations respected the Russian state. Also in 1763 she founded Russia’s first College of Medicine. She prohibited the torture of suspects.
      After a bad fire in the town of Tver in 1763 Ekaterina ordered the Commission on Building under Betskoi to rebuild and to use the plan for other towns. The plan included two large squares for administrative buildings and for shops with streets 75 feet wide to reduce the risk of fire. Tver was given 100,000 roubles and a loan of 200,000, and in the next eight years sixteen more burned towns would be rebuilt on the same model. She was especially proud that from 1775 to 1785 she created 216 new towns.
      From 1762 to 1773 there were forty peasant revolts in the Russian Empire. Discussion or writing about politics was banned, and spies monitored suspected men. Ekaterina revived the Secret Chancery calling it the “Secret Expedition,” and they investigated the causes of disruptions. In the years 1764-69 serfs killed some thirty landowners in the Moscow guberniya (province).
      Nikita Panin (1718-83) advised Ekaterina and tutored her son Pavel (Paul). Panin became jealous of her other lover, Grigory Orlov (1734-83) and his brothers, and he proposed that she be Regent until Pavel could rule as Emperor; but Ekaterina rejected that. Panin also suggested an administrative cabinet, and on December 15, 1763 she reformed the Senate and created six departments with Procurator-General Alexander Vyazemsky over economics and administration. She also tried to improve provincial government by increasing the pay of officials and regulating their duties, and she revised the Table of Ranks in 1764. In the fall the last Ukrainian Hetman, Count Kirill Razumovsky, resigned, and he was made a Field Marshal in the Russian army. Also in 1764 she confirmed Russia’s alliance with Prussia; but Panin’s idea to form a northern alliance with Prussia, Poland, Sweden, and the British had influence but never really worked.
      Ivan VI, who was born in 1740, had been imprisoned for twenty years, and Ekaterina’s Guards warned him that if he tried to escape, he would be killed. On July 5, 1764 Vasily Mirovich and others in the garrison demanded Ivan’s release. The jailers quickly killed Ivan, and Mirovich and his accomplices were executed.
      Ekaterina II supported the election of her former lover, Stanisław II August Poniatowski, as the King of Poland-Lithuania in September 1764. That year she instructed her governors to rule rationally, take a census, map their territories, and report on their customs, agriculture, and trade. She doubled the number of provincial civil servants. She founded the Free Economic Society in 1765 to promote improvements in agriculture and estate management, but another law allowed nobles to sentence serfs to unlimited hard labor. She purchased Diderot’s library for 15,000 livres and let him be its librarian for 1,000 livres a year. Voltaire praised her for this and other actions. By transforming a budget deficit of 7 million roubles into a surplus of 5.5 million by 1765 she repaid three-quarters of the national debt she had inherited. Also in 1765 Russia made a defensive treaty with Denmark and then in 1766 a commercial agreement with Britain. While traveling down the Volga River in the spring of 1767, peasants gave her six hundred petitions, and in August she decreed that peasants could not submit petitions against landlords to the Empress.
      In July 1767 Ekaterina to improve the laws set up the Commission for the Composition of a Plan of a New Code of Laws, and she published her Instruction for the Commission (Nakaz) which she had worked on for two years. The great Russian historian Klyuchevsky called this her attempt to achieve “personal-constitutional absolutism.” Yet most of the ideas for government came from Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, and those for criminal justice she took from Beccaria’s Crime and Punishment. The Nakaz was banned in France, though Voltaire praised it as the finest document of the era. She only circulated it to the higher officials in the civil service. The Commission was dominated by the nobles, and the serfs were not represented. After holding many meetings she prorogued the Commission in December 1768 because of the war with Turkey, and they never met again. In 1769 she would form a council of advisors without executive power. She founded the satirical journal, “A Little Bit of Everything,” that was edited by state secretary G. V. Kozitsky. She published articles to explain why the Legislative Commission had failed. On October 12, 1768 Ekaterina set an example for combating smallpox by having herself inoculated. That month Russians improved trade with China by revising their treaty at Kyakhta.
      In February 1768 a treaty had recognized Russian protection of Poland with a constitution that extended rights to non-Catholics. This provoked the formation of the armed Confederation of the Bar led by Pułaski in southern Ukraine near the Turkish border. The Russian army led by Suvorov backed the royal forces sent to restore order in the civil war.
      During the summer these skirmishes encroached on Turkish villages by the border. Russia refused to withdraw from the region or from Poland, and Turks arrested the Russian ambassador and declared war in the fall. The Russian army took Azov and Taganrog by early April 1769, and later that year another army led by Rumiantsev drove the Turkish forces across the Danube; but the Russians could not capture Istanbul. The Russian Navy led by Alexei Orlov destroyed the Turks’ fleet at Çeşme Bay in June, killing more than 8,000 men while their army fought a larger Ottoman force by the Larga River and captured 33 Turkish cannons. On July 21 at Kagul a Russian army of about 40,000 men overcame a force of about 90,000 Tatars and 75,000 Ottomans who lost nearly twenty times as many men as the Russians. To pay for the war Ekaterina borrowed money from Amsterdam and Genoa, increasing the national debt. The Russian government printed its first paper money in 1769. Noble and commercial banks were opened, and in 1770 they began accepting deposited money and making loans to merchants. In 1772 they began providing short-term credit.
      Denis Fonvizin, Nikolay Novikov, and Ippolit Bogdanovich attended Moscow University and then worked for ethical reforms. Fonvizin translated Holberg’s Moral Fables in 1761, and he also wrote the popular comedies, The Brigadier (1766) and The Minor (1782). Novikov has been called Russia’s first journalist. In 1769 Ekaterina II started the journal, Anything and Everything, to respond to his articles. They had supported her for ten years but opposed the Turkish War and by then had become disillusioned with her. In the next five years Novikov edited the weekly Drone, a response to Sumarokov’s Busy Bee of 1759, in which he criticized nobles for scorning merchants and for exploiting and abusing serfs. Next Novikov edited the monthly Babbler, followed by the weekly Painter, and then the weekly Purse. He described Russian society with help from Fonvizin and Bogdanovich.

Russia under Ekaterina II 1770-88

      Negotiations had begun in early 1770, but France was supporting the Turkish war effort. In 1771 a Russian army commanded by Prince Vasily Dolgoruky invaded the Crimea. Soldiers from the war brought the bubonic plague to Moscow in 1770, and the epidemic spread rapidly in the spring of 1771. Government offices, shops, and factories were closed. People wandered in the streets spreading the contagion as hundreds died each day. Many believed that an icon on St. Barbara’s Gate would cure them, but kissing it spread the disease. So Moscow’s Archbishop Amvrosii removed the icon. A riot ensued for three days, and a mob looted monasteries. When they found Amvrosii, they killed him on September 16. The army dispersed the crowds, and three hundred people were put on trial. Officials estimated that 56,672 people, a quarter of the population, had died of the plague. Also in 1771 Sumarokov’s tragedy Dimitry the Pretender showed how a monarch and nobles could suppress a rebellion. French philosophers were influential in the 1760s and 1770s, and the Encyclopédie was translated into Russian.
      In the first partition of Poland in 1772 Russia took over 36,000 square miles with 1,300,000 inhabitants from Polish Livonia, Polotsk, Vitebsk, and Mstislavl in Lithuania (Belarus), and on May 28 Zakhar Chernyshyov was appointed to govern the territory. After a few months the war against the Turks was revived in early 1773, and the Turks accepted a treaty at Küçük Kaynarca in July 1774 that left the Crimea independent. Russians restored Wallachia and Moldavia to the Ottoman Empire, but they were given the right to protect Christians there. The Russian Empire had been expanded south to the Black Sea. Russians gained free navigation in the Black Sea and through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean, and the Turks paid them four million roubles.
      The Cossack Emelian Pugachev, a landowner in the Don region, led an insurrection that started by the Yaik River in September 1773. He claimed to be Petr III in command of Cossacks, Kalmyks, and Tatars, and by October he had three thousand troops besieging Orenburg. The Archbishop of Kazan excommunicated Pugachev who promised religious freedom, and many Old Ritualists joined him. In early 1774 the rebels took control of territory between the Volga River and the Ural mountains. On March 22 a Russian army defeated the rebels at Fort Tatishchev. Pugachev moved to the Urals and gathered several thousand men. In May they captured several forts, but they were defeated on the 21st at Troitsk. Pugachev’s forces captured Osa on June 21. In July about 25,000 rebels sacked Kazan, but they could not take the citadel and were driven off by a Russian force led by Panin’s brother. Pugachev’s army of 15,000 men was defeated at Arsk Field, and he fled with only 500 men. On July 31 he offered serfs the freedom of Cossacks without taxes and with religious freedom. In August the rebels lost 10,000 killed and captured near Tsaritsy, and on the 25th his diminishing forces were defeated at the Salnikov metal factory. On September 14 Cossacks turned in Pugachev, and General Suvorov sent him in a cage to Moscow where he was executed on January 10, 1775.
      In 1772 Novikov published his Historical Dictionary of Russian Writers. He promoted Rosicrucian philosophy and became a Freemason in 1775, publishing its moral journal, Morning Light, in 1777. Novikov also wrote the political biography, History of the Unjust Imprisonment of the Confidant, Boiar Artemon Sergeevich Matveev, in 1776. In 1779 he moved to Moscow and used the university’s press to publish more books in three years than they had in their first two dozen years. Fonvizin’s Life of Count Nikita Ivanovich Panin was printed in 1784. In 1787 Bogdanovich wrote the play, Slavs, about Alexander the Great and his affair with a Slavic woman whom he held hostage. Ekaterina II would have Novikov imprisoned in 1792, and he was not released until after her death in 1796.
      Diderot had come to Russia in 1773. When he left in March 1774, Ekaterina II gave him 3,000 roubles. By then Grigory Potemkin had become her favorite lover. On November 7, 1775 she proclaimed the Institution of the Administration of the Provinces of the Russian Empire indicating her intention to expand the empire and reorganizing it into 42 provincial governments with about 800,000 people in each with districts of about 60,000 inhabitants. She provided 15,000 roubles for a Board of Public Welfare and a hospital in each province. Yet the promises to establish a court of equity and a physician in each district were not all fulfilled. She increased the amount of money required for guild registration, decreasing registered merchants from 215,053 in 1772 to 24,562 in 1775. She also added an elite rank for businessmen who had more than 50,000 roubles in capital.
      Ekaterina II initiated mediation between Prussia and Austria and sent Prince Nikolai Repnin to preside over the negotiations in March 1779 that led to the treaty of Teschen ending the War of the Bavarian Succession on May 13, and for this she became a protector of the Holy Roman Empire’s constitution. Also in March 1779 the Russians and Turks agreed in the Aynalıkavak palace in Istanbul not to use military force in the Crimea. On February 28, 1780 Ekaterina issued her Declaration of Armed Neutrality that asserted the right of neutral nations to trade goods but not weapons or military supplies with citizens of belligerent countries. She wanted to stop the British from searching their ships on the high seas and sent squadrons to the North Sea, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. Sweden, Denmark, the Dutch, and others joined the neutrality pact. Panin’s northern alliance had fallen apart, and in May 1781 he was dismissed. In April 1782 a new Police Code was enacted with 174 articles that included moral principles and detailed regulations. The Police Board was to be “the mirror of justice in regard to the mutual obligations of citizens among themselves.”2 The police were urged to use common sense, goodwill, humanity, loyalty, honesty, and should not accept any bribes that “blind the eyes, pervert the mind and heart, and bridle the tongue.”3
      Ekaterina II’s elementary-school primer was published 1781-83 and included the following counsel:

He that does not study in youth will be bored in old age.
Laziness is a poor teacher.
The wise man is never idle.
The good law directs the citizen’s activity to good.
Freedom is the right to do all the law allows.
To err is genuinely human.
There is no shame in admitting one’s mistakes.4

In 1782 she appointed as her advisor, Teodor Janković-Mirijevski, a disciple of Felbiger and a former school director in the Austrian province of Banat, and his primer issued that year was more traditional.

He who fears God and acts with honor has nothing to fear.
Revere your Lord, and keep His commandments.
Think before you speak.
Do not go where you should not go;
something unpleasant may happen to you.
We must learn to endure little injuries,
when we seek to live a totally peaceful life,
for usually unhappiness is increased by revenge.5

In 1783 she founded a Teachers’ Training School based on Austrian methods, and she ordered Austrian textbooks translated with appropriate changes. She founded a hospital in St. Petersburg for venereal diseases, and those applying for admission were not to be asked their names. A Foundling Home was built in Moscow for orphans that took in 2,000 infants a year, and smaller homes were established in St. Petersburg, Tula, Kaluga, Yaroslav, and Kazan.
      In May 1780 Ekaterina secretly met with Emperor Joseph II, and in 1782 they agreed to partition the Balkans. After a revolt favoring Russian rule was fomented in the Crimea, Russian troops were sent. In April 1783 Russia with Austrian support formally annexed “the Crimean Peninsula, the Island of Taman, and the Entire Kuban Side into the Russian State.” Russia on July 24 provided a protectorate over Georgia in the treaty of Georgievsk. On August 1 Suvorov’s army defeated the Nogay Tatars at the mouth of the Laba River.
      In May 1783 a decree had prohibited peasants from moving permanently. In 1784 Muslim princes and murzas were made nobles, but they could not own Christian serfs. On April 21, 1785 Ekaterina issued her Charter of the Rights, Freedoms and Privileges of the Noble Russian Gentry which renewed their advantages, made their assemblies permanent, ordered a genealogical register in each province, and defined the proofs of nobility. In 1786 the State Loan Bank was founded with eleven million roubles. On December 5 Ekaterina issued her Statute for Schools in Russia calling for a school with two teachers in every district and one with six teachers in each provincial town. The schools were free, and attendance was not compulsory. Count Nikolai Sheremetev owned 210,000 serfs, and from 1784 to 1788 he financed forty productions of operas, comedies, and ballets.
      In 1787 Ekaterina went on a grand tour of her empire with Potemkin who according to rumors set up façades of villages to impress her. The British and Prussians accused Russia of violating the Küçük Kaynarca treaty to provoke Turks. A Russian ambassador presented an ultimatum at Istanbul, and Russia declared war on September 7. The Turks attacked the Russians in the fall, and early in 1788 Austria came to the aid of its Russian ally. The Russians besieged Ochakov in Ukraine. In December the Turks failed to break the siege as they had 20,000 men slain and 4,000 captured while only 956 Russians were killed. Swedish and Russian ships fought an even naval battle off the island of Hogland on July 6.
      Conservative Mikhail Shcherbatov (1733-90) published his History of Russia from the Earliest Times in seven volumes from 1771 to 1791. In the late 1780s he wrote On the Corruption of Morals in Russia, criticizing the corruption of government and servility, but it was not published until 1797.
      Under Ekaterina II the Russian Empire was expanding in many ways. Population went from 23,250,000 in 1762 to 28,500,000 in 1782 and to 37,500,000 in 1795. The number of officials increased from 16,500 in 1763 to 18,000 in 1775. Exports were worth 12,750,000 roubles in 1762 and 43,250,000 in 1793 while imports rose from 8,250,000 roubles in 1762 to 27,750,000 in 1793. The government spent 23,500,000 roubles in 1767 and 79 million in 1795 while revenues increased from 24 million in 1769 to 56 million in 1795. During her reign the number of factories increased from 984 to 3,161. Ekaterina provided no schooling for serfs, and only 0.2% of the children went to a secondary school. Russia had only 550 educational institutions while France had 8,000 elementary schools. In the second half of the 18th century more than 8,500 books were published in Russian, nine times as many as in the first half of the century.
      At the age of 60 Ekaterina II suggested the following epitaph for herself:

In the year 1744 she came to Russia to marry Petr III.
At the age of fourteen she made the threefold resolution
to please her husband, Elizaveta, and the nation.
She neglected nothing in order to accomplish this.
Eighteen years of utter boredom and loneliness
led her to read many books.
When she ascended the throne of Russia, she endeavored
to bring happiness, freedom, and prosperity to her subjects.
She forgave easily and hated no one.
She was considerate, easy-going, of a cheerful disposition, genuine republican sentiments, and a kind heart.
She had many friends.
Work was a pleasure to her.
She loved sociability and the arts.6


1. Memoirs by Catherine the Great, 365, quoted in Rousseau and Revolution by Will and Ariel Durant, p. 450.
2. Quoted in Catherine the Great: Life and Legend by John T. Alexander, p. 192.
3. Ibid, p. 193.
4. Quoted in Imperial Russian History I 1700-1861 ed. Gary M. Hamburg, p. 122.
5. Ibid.
6. Quoted in Catherine: The Portrait of an Empress by Gina Kaus, tr. June Head, p. 356.

Copyright © 2017 by Sanderson Beck

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