The Priorities of Peter I and Catherine II for the Russian Government

From our reading on Monday we discussed Peter I’s Twelve Colleges; Peter’s new way to form the Russian government, among other things. From which, we decided that his priorities centered around: law, religion, economics, war, and international relations. In reading Catherine the Great: A Short History, it quickly becomes apparent that she is focused on a different set of priorities for Russia. As such, her considerations are delt with in The Instruction, a document she wrote about how the government and other areas of Russia will function under her rule. Isabel de Madariaga, the author of the book, states, “The Instruction thus deals with political, judicial, social, and economic issues” (28). While some matters are similar, a decent difference comes with the additive of social issues and the negation of the issue of war. As Peter I seemed to ignore social issues altogether, besides maybe the priority of religion. As both monarchs are staunchly absolutist in thought, it seems that they would prioritize in a similar way; especially within the context of two very important factors that very well shape nations. Why do you think Catherine’s The Instruction and considerations are more so focused on social issues as opposed to the issue of war? Do you feel that Catherine’s priorities were “better” than Peter’s, or were they both correct in context for which they respectively ruled? Why?

2 Replies to “The Priorities of Peter I and Catherine II for the Russian Government”

  1. This is a great comparison that you raise regarding the priorities of Peter I and Catherine the Great. While comparing the political, social, economic, military, and legal interests of Peter I and Catherine II creates a stark contrast between the two rulers, I took Catherine the Great’s rule more as an extension of what Peter started. Peter was focused on the idea of “dynastic aggrandizement” — getting as much territory as possible to increase the status of Russia. With this new territory, in which he acquired from war, Peter I further focused on the economy to economically build his “new Russia.” While Peter started to build the state, Catherine focused on building the nation of Russia with its people (the society). A great example of this would be the bathhouses. Madariaga states, “Catherine’s concern with hygiene was reflected in the specific repeal of the tax on bathhouses introduced by Peter I” (66). Catherine expanded on Peter’s revolution by instituting a social revolution regarding happiness and social order. While their focuses may contrast each other, I believe that the differences compliment and build off of each other to revolutionize Russia.

  2. I agree with both Erik and Blake in the sense that Peter I and Catherine II had very different priorities through their leadership of Russia and that they complimented each other well. Both Peter I and Catherine II sought and valued the opinions of Westerners. For Peter I this was for the art of war and for Catherine II this was for societal changes. Both Peter I and Catherine II were trying to do the same thing, show Russia as a European power opposed to an Asiatic power, the just went about it through different ways. They both needed to convince the West that they were modernizing. Peter II went about showing this through military growth and international relations and according to Madariaga, Catherine II was trying to “dazzle them (the West) with the political progress of backward Russia” (34). In this we can see that while the methods used by Peter I and Catherine II differ, they were both trying to accomplish the same thing make Russia a better place and gain the attention and respect of Western powers.

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