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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

von Robert K. Massie

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Reihen: The Romanovs (2)

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2,2721284,934 (4.11)253
Presents a reconstruction of the eighteenth-century empress's life that covers her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage, and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs.
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Catherine the Great is indisputably one of the greatest women Europe has ever produced. She ruled Russia as an enlightened monarch and spread the philosophy of its prior pro-European monarch Peter the Great. She created an intellectual culture in Russia that blossomed with talent like Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, and Tchaikovsky.

Ironically, she was not born a Russian but a German. Her marriage to a future king was a failure, but not due to her lack of trying. She spent years subjugated to another Russian monarch – Queen Elizabeth. Instead of being frustrated, Catherine spent her time reading books during the European Enlightenment from figures like Voltaire and Diderot. When time and chance converged and offered her a chance to rule, she seized the opportunity.

Despite these beneficial qualities, Catherine’s character presents itself not as an ideal figure but as a pragmatist. Although she was aware of their suffering (more than many monarchs could say), she did not free Russia’s serfs. She saw that serfs needed more than the Russian state could offer them at the time, in terms of education and economic opportunity. She also weathered the craziness of the French Revolution and held onto power like any good autocrat does. She joined in partitioning Poland in two and thus made a nation disappear. Nonetheless, she provided a culture for the arts and a movement towards integration with European intellectual and political life.

This cultural renewal is Catherine’s legacy. Massie, as a good biographer, gets out of the way and lets Catherine’s personality shine – even in her turbulent personal relationships. He provides much detail from personal letters of those around Catherine. He also does a good job of integrating her personal narrative in with world events. Overall, this is a nice portrait of a great lady. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
I knew near to nothing about Empress Catherine and decided to pick this up to learn something. Overall a good book, very informative especially if you are as naive as I am on the subject. I only downgrade it a bit because the author has a tendency to repeat large parts of the story from section to section, almost assuming that you hadn't read the previous sections. Maybe this is by design, as he possibly assumes that a history reader would only read the sections of interest at the time? Don't know. Catherine's period of enlightenment interesting enough was happening as Thomas Jefferson was writing the American Constitution. Interesting enough both Jefferson and Catherine had to deal with Slavery (Catherine's was serfdom) and in the end chose to do nothing about it, though it seemed both hated it. ( )
  rayski | Jan 13, 2020 |
I love history and historical characters but when I read about how bad some of the rich and entitled political figure had it. It makes me happy that I am poor and unnoticed.
  Joe73 | Oct 23, 2019 |
I enjoy reading Robert Massie's biographies. His style makes it very easy to absorb all the information packed into a book like this.
Catherine the Great was an amazing, strong woman. It was a pleasure to read more about her. What drama she lived through-and sometimes was responsible for. I'd recommend this book to anyone, especially those not used to reading "dry" history. ( )
1 abstimmen a1stitcher | Jun 22, 2019 |
I don't usually read non-fiction and a book of this length is particularly daunting, but this was my book club selection for April. I have to admit I found it rather fascinating and read more thoroughly (and skimmed less) than I expected. I certainly learned a lot about Catherine the Great and a period in Russian history that I knew little about. ( )
1 abstimmen Thebrownbookloft | Jun 29, 2018 |
Imperial biographer Robert K. Massie paints a satisfying portrait of Catherine the woman and Catherine the ruler, and her attempts to modernize and westernize Russia.
hinzugefügt von MikeBriggs | bearbeitenLos Angeles Times, Wendy Smith (Nov 27, 2011)
 

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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Robert K. MassieHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Deakins, MarkErzählerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt

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"the best description of her is that she is a women as well as an empress." - The Earl of Buckinghamshire, British ambassador to Russia, 1762-65
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For Deborah.

And for Bob Loomis. Twenty-four years, four books. Thank you.
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Prince Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst was hardly distinguishable in the swarm of obscure, penurious noblemen who cluttered the landscape and society of politically fragmented eighteenth-century German.
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Your Majesty may create me a field marshal, but I defy you or anyone to make even a tolerable captain out of me. - Alexis Razumovsky
You know who's daughter I am. Follow me! - Elizabeth to the Preobrazhensky Guardsmen
He allowed himself to be dethroned like a child being sent to bed. - Frederick the Great of Peter III
The bullet is a fool, the bayonet a brave lad. - Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov
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Presents a reconstruction of the eighteenth-century empress's life that covers her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage, and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs.

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