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Catherine the Great

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 23 February 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catherine the Great. In Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery hangs perhaps the most well-known picture of Russia's most well-known ruler. Dimitri Levitsky's 1780 'Portrait of Catherine the Great in the Justice Temple' depicts Catherine in the temple burning poppies at an altar, symbolising her sacrifice of self-interest for Russia. Law books and the scales of justice are at her feet, highlighting her respectful promotion of the rule of law. But menacingly, in the background an eagle crouches, suggesting the means to use brutal power where necessary. For an obscure, small-town German princess Catharine’s ambition was large - the transformation of semi-barbaric Russia into a model of the ideals of the French 18th century Enlightenment. How far was Catherine able to lead her country into full participation in the political and cultural life of Europe? Was she able to liberate the serfs? And should she be remembered as Russia's most civilised ruler or a megalomaniacal despot? With Janet Hartley, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics; Simon Dixon, Professor of Modern History at the University of Leeds; Tony Lentin, Professor of History at the Open University.

  • Further Reading

    Simon Dixon, Catherine the Great (Longman, 2001)

    Simon Dixon, The Modernisation of Russia 1676-1825 (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

    Janet M. Hartley, A Social History of the Russian Empire 1650-1825 (Longman, 1998)

    John T. Alexander, Catherine the Great: Life and Legend (Oxford University Press Inc, 1990)

    Isabel de Madariaga, Catherine the Great: A Short History (Yale, 2002)

    Isabel De Madariaga, Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002)

    Memoirs of Empress Catherine the Great , translated by Hilde Hoogenboom (Random House, 2005)

    Virginia Rounding, Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power (Hutchinson, 2006)

    Antony Lentin, Russia in the Eighteenth Century, from Peter the Great to Catherine the Great (Heinemann, 1973)

    Antony Lentin, Enlightened Absolutism (1760-1790): a documentary sourcebook (Avero, Newcastle, 1985)

Credits

Presenter
Melvyn BRAGG
Producer
Natasha MAY

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