January 01, 2019

The Tsarina's Pen

Catherine the Great (ruled 1762-1796) was a prolific letter writer and her missives offer a uniquely intimate view of her personal life and political development (to say nothing of her humor and her passion). Oxford University Press has released a new translation of letters spanning the full length of her reign. These three are from later in her life, as she was fighting wars on two fronts, with Sweden and Turkey.

Catherine exuberantly recounts her activities as an enlightened ruler, a role that she viewed as intimately linked to her cultivated aesthetic tastes. After the secularization of Church estates in 1764 (much to Voltaire’s delight), Catherine continued Peter the Great’s policy of close state control over Church affairs, and in April 1784 she approved a new census and reform of the clergy. But her joy was brutally interrupted by the sudden death of her beloved favorite Alexander Lanskoy on 25 June 1784.

at Tsarskoe Selo, this 7 June 1784

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