"The disposition for tyranny is cultivated here more than in any other part of the inhabited globe. It is inculcated from the earliest age by the cruel treatment which the children see their parents inflict upon their servants, or there is no house that does not have iron collars, chains, whips or other instruments with which to torture, for the least offence, those whom nature has placed in that unhappy class, which cannot break its chains without committing a crime"

Sophia “Figchen” Augusta Fredericka,
later known as Catherine Alexeyvna,
whom history would come to know best as
Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.

Born in Pomerania, Germany in 1729, she was given away to the then-Empress of Russia, Elizabeth I, to marry the empress' nephew Peter Ulrich. Peter was next in line to the Russian throne but the young couple had to first endure the excesses of Elizabeth’s reign. Elizabeth had come to the throne through a coup d’etat.

Catherine, then a young girl, wrote the words set out above in her secret diaries in about 1746, as she herself suffered the nonsense of Elizabeth’s rule.

Examples abound of this monarch’s insanity but one was the day in 1747 when she ordered all her ladies of the royal court to shave their heads and wear wigs, only because she herself had had to shave her head to rid herself of a stubborn hair dye. Elizabeth had 15,000 dresses (she never wore the same dress twice) and 5,000 pairs of shoes.

And yet she did nothing but create greater distress upon the 95% of the then 20-million population of Russia.

The people lived in misery, thus, as the young princess Catherine so perceptively, sewing the seeds of a revolution that would, still, be a long time coming, and then at the beck and command of a young lawyer named Vladimir Lenin in 1917.

But Catherine, especially as she bided her time as princess, soon to be Empress herself, she was shocked at the condition of the Russian peasants. She was right, of course, that the commission of crime – death, murder, riot, insurrection, treason – would be the only way to rid the nations of Europe of the yokes of government by Monarchy. During her reign, from 1762 until her death in 1796, she implemented a number of well-intentioned but some ill-fate reforms, such as creating six formal classes of citizens. She did, though, convene Russia's first ever parliamentary assembly in 1766.

REFERENCES:

  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Law & Justice Quotations
  • Portrait: Georg Christoph Grooth, "Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alexeevna" circa 1745, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Troyat, Henri, Catherine the Great, transl. Joan Pinkham (New York: Berkely Books, 1980), page 65.