Elizabeth wished to secure the throne for the lineage of her sister Anne of Holstein' and she invited her nephew Peter, educated in the Lutheran religion and in the ideas of Prussian drill, to come to St. Petersburg, to learn Orthodoxy and Russian habits. He came and was married (1744) to princess Sophia of Anhalt Zerbst—the future Catherine II. He was no mate for her. As fast as he lost Russian sympathy by his open aversion to everything Russian, Catherine ingratiated herself by exactly 'The following is a genealogical table of the descendants of Peter the Great: opposite behaviour. After half a year of the reign of Peter III., Catherine was raised by the guards officers to the throne. The brother of her favourite Grigori Orlov, Alexis, assassinated Peter as soon as he was banished to Ropsha by Catherine.
The long reign of Catherine II. (1762-1796) was a turning point in Russian history. She received the fruit of half a century's evolution since Peter the Great's reforms. A prolific writer her self, in regular correspondence with the foremost men of her age, with Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert, Grimm, etc., not to speak of fellow potentates, such as Frederick II., Maria-Theresa, Joseph II., she wished to make her reign brilliant and herself an ideal enlightened monarch. She began her reforms by compiling from Montesquieu and Beccaria an "instruction" (Nakaz) on the basis of which a new code of laws was to be composed. In order to discuss it she gathered an elective assembly of 564 deputies chosen from all classes except the clergy and the serfs, and from all parts of the empire. However, she met with opposition on the part of the gentry to her schemes to fix within definite limits their power over the serfs. Far from engaging in a struggle with the ruling class she yielded to their desires ; their power was increased and a number of crown estates were distributed among the ranks of her favourites, thus turning their peasant population into serfs.
from Poland the western provinces with an Orthodox White Russian and Little-Russian population and (2) to take pos session of the Black sea shore, drive out the Turks from Europe and found in their place a series of new states in Moldavia and Walachia, in the Balkans and in Greece. She wished to take Con stantinople and to place there her second grandson Constantine as the emperor of a new Greek empire. His very name was chosen to symbolize this project. Catherine was favoured in accomplish ing at least a part of these designs by discords between two Ger man states, Prussia (under Frederick II. and Frederick William II.) and Austria (under Joseph II., Leopold and Francis II.). In her first Turkish war (1768-1774) she had Prussia on her side and Austria against her; after Rumiantsev's victories she con cluded a peace at Kuchuk-Kainardji, the beginning of the "eastern question" (q.v.), as by it Russia received the right to protect Turkish Christians. At the same time (1772) she took part in the first partition of Poland, proposed by Frederick in order to consolidate his territory and to compensate Russia for her war expenditure. In the second Turkish war (1787-1791) Catherine had Austria on her side and Prussia against her. She had to con tent herself, after the victories of Suvarov and Repnin, with the acquisition of Ochakov and the steppe between the Dniester and the Bug. But she consoled herself with new annexations from Poland (the second partition 1793 and the third partition 1795; see POLAND), while Prussia and Austria were busy fighting against the French Revolution. Catherine also annexed Courland (1795). Her numerous lovers flattered her imperial ambitions: the bold Gregory Orlov in her early years (1762-1775), the ingenious Potemkin in the midst of her reign (1776-1791) and the young Platon Zubov, handsome but insignificant, in her declining years (1791-1796).