Catherine the Great

Topics: Russian Empire, Catherine II of Russia, Russian serfdom Pages: 5 (1755 words) Published: October 7, 2013
What were the consequences of Catherine the Great's reforms for the Russian gentry? Catherine II (Catherine the Great) ascended the throne in 1762, and therefore Russia also begun a great time in its history in regards to reforms that the empress put into place during her reign. Catherine created reforms- internal and external- such as political, religious, cultural, economic, foreign and governmental that impacted the Russian gentry greatly. These created an immense impact and consequences towards the gentry through the use of laws put into place, advantage of foreign interest, loss of economic gain and political downsides and some Russian gentry revolted against some of these reforms through the negative consequences thrust upon them. Internal reforms such as Catherine II’s political reforms from 1762-1796 caused consequences for the Russian gentry in terms of changes throughout Russian law. This meant that the gentry lost forms of power throughout the government arm of Russia. The Russian nobility had always felt as though they had some form of power with governing Russia in regards to ruling alongside the monarch/emperor. This caused Catherine to realise that there was heavy layers of ignorance in the Senate cause by the previous year’s rulers and laws.1 Catherine wanted to create and apply the modernization and westernization of Russia and therefore introduced a liberal document called the ‘Nakaz’ but had no desire for a grand scale constitution. She paradoxically believed that autocracy was the only way to hold enormous Russia together. This was her first major reform in the political sense. Changing the Code of Laws, created in 1649, to a document called the ‘Nakaz’ which provided a set of ‘instructions’ for the Russian legal system.2 Catherine wanted this document to provide a high level of government administration, of justice, and of tolerance within her empire. She felt as though the earlier legal document of Russia meant the government departments were highly disorganised and that the administration throughout was corrupt and did not deal with problems efficiently and let them develop into further problems.3 Due to this older document, the landowners took greater power throughout Russia at the expense of the peasants. The new system that Catherine introduced proposed equality for all persons in Russia and prevented the issue of torture and harsh punishment for criminal acts committed and states that “all punishments by which the human body might be maimed are barbarism.”4 Throughout its life, the ‘Nakaz’ document altered the section about serfdom many times through Catherine’s indecision on the matter. The document discussed the way in which Russia was governed and how it contained many weaknesses and sought to improve this, therefore Catherine felt as though Russia should be a moderate autocracy. Another political reform Catherine initiated was the election to select a Commission that would provide information and advice to the Empress, however still leaving the final decisions to the Empress.5 Catherine had great expectations for this political reform, but the Russian gentry, after previously showing interest, consequently focused on exposing their own grievances rather than the job at hand. This meant that the Commission made no progress and was suspended in 1768. The ‘Instruction’ failed to circulate the rest of Russia, other than St. Petersburg and Moscow due to the lack of the outline of laws and support of the gentry. These political reforms in Russia at the time of Catherine’s reign showed promise to change Russia’s political ineptitudes but without the support of the Russian gentry, as they felt as though these reforms were unimportant compared to the grievances in their own lives. Catherine’s political reforms were unsuccessful and caused little impact on the Russian gentry due to the lack of interest and circulation shown. Another internal source of Catherine II’s reforms is culturally throughout...
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