Catherine The Great: Reforms In Russia

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As enlightened despots of the enlightenment era, who was the most successful in advancing their country with social, legal and educational upgrades, through the eyes of the enlightenment; to truly possess the title of ‘great’. Truly, the despot who deserves the title of ‘great’, over Frederick II of a collapsed country, over Peter I and all the other despots, was Catherine II. Catherine the great best deserves the title of ‘great’ due to, the reforms she made to the education system, government, and her success with land and trade expansion.

As an enlightened monarch, Catherine II expanded on Peter the Great’s work and made many expansions to not only education in Russia, but also women’s education in Europe. Furthermore, in 1782, she started studying other education systems in other countries, and on August 5, 1786, released the Russian Statute of National Education. This statute split the education in two different levels, highschool and primary school; along with the education being free for all, it came with a curriculum, stating what kids must know at their age and how to teach it. In like manner, she stated building institutes, like The university of Moscow, which soon became internationally known. As she was an educated woman herself, without a loving mother or father, Catherine built orphanages and boarding schools for the orphans, and schools for the girls. Additionally, she built the Smolny institute, famous for being the first all women school, in Russia, and the first school in Europe to offer higher education to women, as well as built a school for common daughters. Uniquelly, Catherine not only reformed the education system in Russia to a more free and accessible manner, but also offered education to the rich and poor, boys and girls of the country.

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Even though, Frederick the Great was known for having a very militaristic mindset and being an extraordinary military commander, Russia became the most powerful empire in the south east of Europe, under Catherine’s reign. She first gained recognition as a great leader when she successfully led Russia against the most powerful Muslim empire, in all of history. Moreover, the Russo-Turkish war ended in 1774, and both empires signed the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, in particular, the Russians achieve their first goal of taking control of a lot of Black Sea, and end up with five new territories. Similarly, they took over all of the entire west side of the Black sea in 1792, when the Ottoman’s tried to fight back, but in return they just lost them more of their land. Again, she proved that she was a great leader when she led Russia, Prussia and Austria to win against the Polish- Lithuanian commonwealth, and then divided all the land up, Russia obviously getting the most. To summarize, Catherine may not have been known for being a very militaristic person like Frederick II, but was known for expanding Russia’s trades, land and communications; in fact, Catherine expanded Russia by an extra 518 000 square kilometers.

Catherine set the foundation for the current Russia. Specifically, Catherine created the Statute for the Administration of the Provinces of the Russian Empire and established The Free Economic Society For The Encouragement of Agriculture and Husbandry. The Statute for the Administration of the Provinces of the Russian Empire was imposed in 1755, to add more localized governments, all around Russia. Russia was split into 50 equally populated provinces and 500 districts; all with its own Judicial system, administration and law enforcers. Although, this system collapsed in 1864, it stayed as a foundation for Zemstvo; a local administrative system with provinces and districts; much like Catherine’s, but included elected members of all types of social groups. The Free Economic Society For The Encouragement of Agriculture and Husbandry was a scientific lab to improve agriculture. This scientific research organization was a way for Catherine to expand scientific enlightenment into the government, without it actually being a department in the government. They created research facilities, libraries, and even brought together government officials, scientists and nobles, to study medicine, and technology for better agriculture.  


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