Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great of Russia 1762-1796:                                                 35 Years of Exemplary Rule by a Woman

Catherine the Great, German born, arrived in Russia at age 14, already mature and ambitious.  Her weak and politically incompetent husband Peter III became tzar in 1762. With the army and nobility on her side, Catherine dethroned her husband shortly after his accession and became empress in her own right.

Historical Backdrop

By 1762 the worldwide patriarchal  revolution was well and truly in full swing and every effort was steadfastly made to relegate women to back seats, giving them only non-important roles.  Women of good birth and breeding sometimes slipped through the net as the only loophole which had not been blocked that allowed women to high office.

To an alpha male, the type who spearheaded the patriarchal revolution, an important role was any role of public authority, or any role which controlled large amounts of resources or money, or which engaged in wars to steal the wealth of other lands.  Having to accept a woman as ruler of a country would have offended the sensibilities of these dominant alpha male types quite considerably under normal circumstances.

Against this backdrop of the deliberate repression of women it is all the more remarkable that Catherine’s ambition to be Empress of Russia was achieved.

Portrait by George Christoph Grooth of the Grand Duchess Catherine. around 1745

Catherine the Great – Achievements

Catherine ruled for 35 years, from 1762 until her death in 1796, and revitalized Russia, making it larger and stronger than ever and gaining its recognition as one of the great powers of Europe.

She reformed Russia’s administration, founding many new cities and towns and modernized Russia along Western European lines.

She favoured the nobility and her era is considered the Golden Age of both Russia and the Russian nobility.  She freed Russian nobles from compulsory military service and encouraged them to build classical style mansions which enhanced the face of the country.

She was a patron of the arts and presided over the Russian Enlightenment, notably establishing the Smolny Institute, the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe.

Feminine Ruling Style

As a female, she was far more flexible and realistic in adapting to concrete situations as they presented themselves.

Not only did she have countless lovers but she used most of them as her advisers and ministers of State never letting herself be dominated by any of them.  Catherine was a true virago.  Though she enjoyed lovemaking, politics and intellectual pursuits were her main passion.

She was profoundly humane; during the Pugachev rebellion she urged her subordinates to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed when crushing the revolt.  She insisted that Pugachev himself not be tortured during his trial.

This rebellion brought to her attention the appalling social conditions of the common man at the time. She never tired of repeating that there would be a revolutionary catastrophe if reforms were not made.

Great as  a Ruler, Great in Herself

Catherine’s determination to rule and rule well, was matched by her determination to have control of herself.

When she wrote her memoirs she related making up her mind to do whatever was necessary, and to profess to believe whatever was required, to become qualified to wear the crown of Russia.

On her arrival as a young girl in Russia she learnt the Russian language so assiduously late into the cold nights that she caught pneumonia and nearly died.

She did all she could to keep favour with the current empress, Empress Elizabeth and the Russian nobility.

Of the period before her accession to the Russian throne, Catherine said, “Happiness and unhappiness are in the heart and spirit of each one of us: If you feel unhappy, then place yourself above that and act so that your happiness does not get to be dependent on anything.”  She was a woman who knew how to control her own weaknesses and thus inspire the confidence of others.

Apart from this she was personable to both nobles and servants alike and much preferred by all to her taciturn husband.

Women Make Better Rulers

Catherine’s personality and rule indicates that women can do every bit as well as men in any governance role, and person for person, considerably better than most men.

The fact that they rarely get the opportunity to try is due to the patriarchal revolution, the effects of which still plague the world after 3,000 years.

Women Have Their Hands Tied

But women still have their hands tied when bringing the feminine mode of governance to the table.  They still have to contend with millenia of alpha male rules which still exist in statute books and in human DNA as blockages to any real progress for the world.

It is indeed a shame that Catherine had to pander to the nobility to stay in power, but this seems to be the only way even until today.  The wealthy class think they should get special privileges and that the working class should be their cheaply, or badly paid servants.  Even, or perhaps, especially,  the Communist party leaders, who espoused freedom for the workers, used them mercilessly when they came to power. An alpha male is an alpha male in democracy, communism or any other ‘ism.  He has to be top dog to assuage his feelings of unimportance.

No, not until woman’s compassion can operate unhindered by alpha male interference in the top governance roles will we see the true rise of the common man and the acceptance that free will is the natural state of man.