THE REIGN of Catherine II represents a time of tremendous development in areas other than political history. What Peter the Great had begun under the influence of German Protestant ways of thought developed fully under Catherine. Western culture and ideas now streamed into Russia almost unobstructed. They became popular also in the circles of wealthy burghers. In contrast to Peter’s time, Western culture, which was now mainly taken from France, became familiar also to the native Russian people. There were not yet very many from among the rich gentry or bourgeoisie who assimilated such ways of thought on their own; for Russia’s ties with the West were not yet close enough. “Western” views still had to be imposed on them from above. But the Empress, who was quite enthusiastic about them, saw to it that they found expression in legislation. Absolutism, that is the government’s imperious concern for the people—and this also relates to questions of Weltanschauung—is a characteristic trait of Catherine’s reign. This does not yet mean, however, that Catherine achieved her goal everywhere and in everything. Nonetheless, it was the enlightened rationalism to which Catherine paid homage, and nothing else that determined the deeds and regulations of the authorities everywhere. Therefore, if one does not want to consider this ratiocination, which was after all very shallow, as a phenomenon of Church history, one can separate … the political and cultural history of the country from its Church history. This is true without exception for the ethnically Russian lands.
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- A. M. Ammann, S. J. Abrisse der ostslawischen Kirchengeschichte (Wien: Thomas Morus Presse im Verlag Herder, 1950), pp. 403–413. Translated by Brigitte McConnell.Google Scholar