Dmitrov: Tale of Two City Projects

Exhibit Author: EW

Catherine the Great struggled to create an image of herself as a rational ruler of the Enlightenment. In her memoirs, she emphasizes the regularity of her days and attempts to prove that reasoned deliberation drove all of her actions. This image was not entirely constructed—many of the policies Catherine enacted as Empress can be interpreted as a striving toward this rationality. She distilled this vision of a rational Russia into the Nakaz to the Legislative Commission of 1767 in which she imagined a nation without torture or capital punishment, with fair trials and ordered territories. As a document alone the Nakaz represented a progressive step for a Russian ruler: it was not a list of mandated laws, but rather a set of provocative statements designed to engage citizens in political debate.[1] Although the Nakaz and its corresponding Commission represented an attempt to include the populace in political activity, a look at city planning in the Catherinian period suggests that the empress held a less sympathetic attitude toward community and collaboration than she espoused. The tale of two city projects in the town of Dmitrov reveals the disparity between Catherine’s public advocacy for participatory politics and the reality of her political decisions.

[1] Gareth W. Jones, “The Spirit of the ‘Nakaz’: Catherine II’s Literary Debt to Montesquieu,” The Slavonic and East European Review 76, no. 4 (October 1, 1998): 666.