Smolny Institute: Smolny Institute

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Smolny Institute: Institute

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The Smolny Institute (Russian: Смольный институт, Smol'niy institut) is a Palladian edifice in St Petersburg that has played a major part in the history of Russia.

The building was commissioned from Giacomo Quarenghi by the Society for Education of Noble Maidens and constructed in 1806-08 to house the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, established at the urging of Ivan Betskoy and in accordance with a decree of Catherine II (the Great) in 1764, borrowing its name from the nearby Smolny Convent. The Smolny was Russia's first educational establishment for women and continued to function under the personal patronage of the Russian Empress until just before the 1917 revolution. A nice garden and iron-work grille around the institute date from the early 19th century.

I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University (MSMU),
  State Educational Institution of Higher Professional Training
of the Ministry of Health Care and Social Development

History of the University
The I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University is the oldest medical school in Russia. Founded in 1758 as the faculty of medicine of the Imperial Moscow University, MSMU is its direct legal successor. After a reform of higher medical education in 1930 the faculty...

 Catherine the Great and Reform

Catherine the Great is remembered as one of the greatest reformers of Russia. During her reign, Catherine continued the reforms begun by Peter the Great that ultimately led to the emergence of Russia onto the worldwide stage of politics.

Catherine was a German princess whose original name was Sophie Augusta Fredericka. She was born on April 21, 1729 at Settin, Pomerania to Johanna Elizabeth and the Prince Christian Augustus. On August 21, 1744 Catherine married Peter III, the Grand Duke of Holstein and heir apparent to the Russian throne, in the biggest ceremony ever performed in Europe. Peter III was crowned ruler of Russia in 1761. Peter proved to be a very unpopular and inept sovereign and was murdered in June of 1762 in a coup staged by the Imperial Guards. Catherine was named empress and ruled for more than thirty years.

Catherine proceeded to "Westernize" Russia. However, unlike Peter the Great, Catherine scorned force and instead focused on pursuing individualistic endeavors. Her reforms went even farther after a failed peasant revolt in 1773 led by Yemelian Pugachev threatened Eastern Russia. As a result, Catherine the Great instituted several drastic reforms within the Russian society. First, she established the Free Economic Society (1765) to encourage the modernization of agriculture and industry. Second, she encouraged foreign investment in economically underdeveloped areas. Third, Catherine relaxed the censorship law and encouraged education for the nobles and middle class.

During Catherine's reign, Russia also achieved great military success and gained large tracts of land. Following two successful wars against the Ottoman Empire, Russia annexed Crimea, which gave it access to the Black Sea. In addition, Russia's control over Poland and Luxembourg allowed it to annex three separate tracts of land.

By the time of her death on Nov. 17, 1796, Catherine the Great had pushed Russia into the modern era. Moreover, Russia entered the modern era as a dominant player in the world.

Empress Catherine II "The Great" of Russia

(b. 1729, r. 1762-d.1796)

Perhaps one of the most important leaders of the Russian Empire, Catherine the Second, or "The Great," helped set the foundations for the Russian “Westernization” in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Known for her intelligence and ambitions to rule the Russian Empire, Catherine not only challenged the social norms of the time but also set the precedent for women in powerful positions.  Catherine ruled through corruption, scandal, political reforms, and land expansion.  She consolidated power from the serfs and feudal lords by continuing the political reforms started by Peter the Great.  Land expansion dramatically increased during the Polish civil war in the late 1760's and again in 1768 when a Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire resulted in new territory stretching to the banks of the Black Sea .  In addition to this, Catherine imported many great works in literature, art, and print from the Western European nations.  St. Petersburg blossomed sculptures, palaces, and educational systems.  Education and law codes further developed under her reign.  At the end of her thirty-four year reign from 1762 to 1796, Catherine had catapulted Russia into the world scene as a major world empire.     

Born on May 2, 1729, in the German city of  Stettin (Szczecin, Poland today), into the family of Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst, Catherine was christened Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst a daughter of a minor German prince in Prussian service. Immediately following her birth Sophie faced many challenges in a society which legally subjugating its woman population. Although she had society stacked against her, she was recognized by her father for her great ability to learn and remember concepts and ideas. Only after she had proven her abilities did she receive formal education. In 1744, she married Grand Duke Peter of Holstein , heir to the Russian throne. Although Sophie was a German, she like her mother strove to be as Russian as her mother in-law Elizabeth the I. Sophie not only studied the Russian language but also took the name Catherine II in honor of her mother Catherine the II. In addition to this Catherine converted the Russian Orthodox Church in order to be married into the imperial line.

Using her sexuality to obtain legitimacy for her position, Catherine was encouraged to produce an heir to the line. In 1754, during an affair with Sergey Saltykov, Catherine bore a child named Paul. It is not altogether clear whether Paul is the legitimate son of her husband Peter, or the son of Saltykov. Emperior Peter III and Catherine II came to power in 1761 after Empress Elizabeth died. The marriage to Peter was further put into jeopardy because Peter was ill equipped to handle ruling Russia Empire. Lacking common sense and alienating the Russian Court , Peter further compounded his mistakes by withdrawing from war with Prussia in 1762. This event coupled with the seizure of Church lands and disinheriting his son Paul resulted in Catherine’s coup on June 28, 1762. Peter III was sent to prison where he died at the hands of his captures.

In its own right the reign of Catherine the Great was impressive, but it was made all the more important because she was a women. She continued Peter the Great's reforms of the Russian state, further increasing central control over the provinces. Her goal was to rationalize and reform the administration of the Russian Empire. One of the most prosperous periods for Russia , Catherine undertook a wide range of internal political reforms, and waged two successful wars against the Ottoman Empire and extend the borders of Russia . Her achievements played a key role in the development of Russia as a modern state not only in a political sense but also in a cultural sense. Under her rule many she directed the building of the Hermitage Museum . Commissioning building all over Russia , Catherine founded academies, journals, libraries, and corresponded with French Encyclopedists, including Voltaire, Diderot, and d'Alembert. Also, Catherine is notorious for her love affairs, which included Gregory Orlov and Gregor Potemkin. Upon her death in 1796 she was succeeded by her son Paul I. Her achievements would live on a help propel Russia to become a major world power after her death.
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