Enlightened absolutism or enlightened despotism, was where a ruler believed that they should have all the power and no one should have the right to question or challenge what they happen to do whilst in control. (Spielvogel 529) The enlightenment stressed reason, not faith, as the basis for human action. They typically allowed people to practice religion as they chose, have their own land, and have freedom of speech.
(Spielvogel 529) Catherine the Great was an absolute ruler with total control. In her reign, she allowed many freedoms that Russians did not previously have. With experience, intelligence, and urge, Catherine the Great practicality changed the face of a country against overwhelming odds. Catherine was influenced by the enlightenment in many ways.
She was very well acquainted with the French Enlightenment ideas. She even supported many French writers of her time. She hoped to have Enlightenment ideas that rationalized and reformed the Russian Empire. (Spielvogel 535) Catherine formed the first schools for women, as well as, medical insurance for her subjects. She greatened the laws and rules placed on the serfs. Catherine the Great has a long list of not only pros but cons to her rule.
She exempted people from their taxes and brought Russia towards European culture and political life. During her reign, Russia’s borders expanded and her military victories showed everyone that Russia was a mighty power. Catherine really wanted to expand Russia’s educational opportunities by establishing schools across the country. In contrast to all of these pros there was cons. Under her rule, boyars’ hold on peasants increased and conditions for the peasants became worse.
(Spielvogel 537) She was one of the most ruthless absolute monarchs that existed. Even more peasants were forced into serfdom under her rule. Serfs were the majority of the Russia and nothing was done by her to help them. Catherine ruled with oppression but a welcoming mask. People thought of her as an enlightened ruler, but she did not do anything towards the movement.
She actually slowed down the spread of enlightenment by taking away all of the serfs’ freedoms and giving the nobles absolute power in response to the Pugachev rebellion. (Spielvogel 537) She was more interested in having the reputation of being an enlightened ruler than in actually being one.Today Catherine played a role in Enlightenment ideas by coming up with medical insurance for people. She also gave people the idea to educate women in schools. She gave people ideas of having literature become an important thing. In addition to all of this she expanded the territory of Russia through war and greed, therefore becoming a great empress of Russia.
She used many enlightenment ideas to her advantages.