Catherine's Russia

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Creating the "Greek Project"

There is a common—and limited—body of evidence which historians repeatedly use to argue that Catherine espoused a desire to reestablish the Greek empire in Turkey.  Her summer palace at Tsarskoe Selo included a Turkish pavilion and a church inspired by the architecture of the Hagia Sophia.  Her second grandson, Constantine, learned to speak Greek before he learned Russian, and Catherine commemorated his birth with a medal depicting the Hagia Sophia.  One of Catherine’s operas, The Beginning of Oleg’s Reign, has been said to represent the empress’ plans to take Constantinople.[1]  However, these can also be explained as relics of cultural ideals, handed down from Peter the Great.  It was reported that Peter I’s dying wish was “to conquer Constantinople, to chase the infidel Turks and Tatars out of Europe, and thus to reestablish the Greek monarchy.”[2]  One might try to argue that Catherine sought to establish her greatness by finishing the dream Peter the Great could not realize but Catherine’s overall regime reflected a more rational approach to ruling.

[1] Dixon, Catherine the Great, 166.

[2] Ragsdale, “Traditions of Russian Aggression,” 93.

Creating the "Greek Project"