17.11.

1796: Famous Russian Empress Catherine the Great was German by Birth

1796: Famous Russian Empress Catherine the Great was German by Birth
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  • historical event: Her father was a German prince, Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and her mother was also of German origin, being the daughter of the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp. Interestingly, the grandfather of Catherine the Great was a Protestant bishop.

The most famous empress in Russian history – Catherine the Great – died on this day. The period of her reign is considered the “Golden Age” in the history of the Russian Empire. Although her rule was an absolutist one, she introduced many positive reforms in the country, such as better education, so that this type of governance is often called “enlightened absolutism”.

It is interesting that Catherine was actually born a pure German woman and that she had, in all probability, not a drop of Russian blood. Her father was a German prince, Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. The small state Anhalt-Zerbst, over which he ruled, was in located eastern Germany, in the area of Leipzig. Catherine’s mother was also of German origin – the daughter of the Prince of Holstein-Gottorp. It is interesting that Catherine’s grandfather was elected bishop of the city Lübeck. In fact, all the people mentioned above were of the Protestant faith, so that even bishops could marry and have children.

Catherine was baptized under the German name Sophie Friederike Auguste. She received the name Catherine only when she converted from Protestantism to Orthodoxy. That conversion was necessary in order to marry the Russian heir to the throne Peter. The name Catherine is spelled Екатерина (Ekaterina) in Russian Cyrillcs.

Catherine first met her future husband, who was supposed to inherit the Russian imperial throne, when she was only 10 years old. She did not like him because he was supposedly pale and prone to alcoholism (although he was only 11 years old). They married in St. Petersburg, when she was 16 and he 17 years old. He later became the Russian Tsar, after his aunt, the Empress, died childless. Catherine, being his wife, thus became Empress of Russia.

However, Catherine’s husband – Emperor Peter III – died after only six months on the throne. She continued to rule Russia during the next 34 years, until she died on this day at the age of 67. She was the longest-reigning empress in Russian history.

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