THE READER of the preceding articles must be aware of the fact that whatever an author’s conclusions with respect to Catherine II and her rule, he could not escape being impressed by the Empress’ forceful personality. Not only did Catherine succeed in capturing and holding the throne for over thirty years, but also she put her own preferences, prejudices, attitudes, hopes, and accomplishments at the center of both the domestic and European stage. There can be no question that Catherine had a powerful influence in shaping events in her own lifetime; and in so doing she bequeathed to succeeding rulers a framework they had to take into account, whether they rejected it (as did her son Paul I)or used it for their own designs (as did her grandsons Alexander I and Nicholas I). And so it is that our authors have to take a stand on Catherine II, whether they admire (Bil’bassov) or condemn her (Kizevetter). Even those scholars who deny a historically creative role to the single individual and firmly believe in the iron laws of “vast impersonal forces” cannot avoid ascertaining the nature and limits of Catherine–s part in shaping Russian reality.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Russian Culture Russian Intelligentsia Soviet Scholar Diplomatic History
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