Catherine the Great's "Greek Project"

Exhibit Author: CW

According to Hugh Ragsdale, European powers have regarded Russia with suspicion ever since Russia’s Westernization and establishment as a major political power; they interpreted every political move as an attempt to expand.[1] During the reign of Catherine the Great, the annexation of the Crimea was seen as evidence that Catherine was executing her “Greek Project.”  The Greek Project, a plan drafted by her secretary Bezborodko in a letter to Joseph II of Austria, outlined an ambitious proposal to restore the Greek Orthodox Empire.[2]  According to the terms of this grandiose vision, Austria and Russia would take split Turkey.  Catherine’s grandson, Constantine, would become the Emperor of Greece while a trusted person—presumably Potemkin—would rule the kingdom of Dacia.  O. P. Markova and Edgar Hosch believed that this was never intended to be a concrete plan but Ragsdale asserted that even if Catherine never expected to execute the project, it represented an ideal that informed Catherine’s foreign policy.  However, one could also argue that the idea of the Greek Project was an extreme approach publicized by Catherine so that she had room to “compromise” and gain only the lands she felt Russia truly needed.

[1] Hugh Ragsdale, “Evaluating the Traditions of Russian Aggression: Catherine II and the Greek Project,” The Slavonic and East European Review 66 (1988): 92.

[2] Simon Dixon, Catherine the Great (London: Pearson Education Limited, 2001), 166.  The Greek Empire referred to in the Greek Project was the Eastern half of the former Roman Empire, ruled from Byzantium (Constantinople).