Catherine II and Enlightenment Reforms

In Catherine’s Statute on Provincial Administration, she hoped to strengthen provincial governments and create a more efficient system than seen before. In the statute, there is a clear desire for a separation and distinction of powers between upper land courts and district courts, followed by a concern for those who are struggling, as evident in the Noble Wardship, which must house noble widows and children.  The Bureaus of Public Welfare’s concern for the establishment of public schools reflects the Enlightenment support of secular education as well.There is also evidence of gentry political participation as the town mayors and officials are elected by ballot every three years. The Charter to the Nobility most obviously reflects Catherine’s hope for gentry participation local administration. After outlining the specific rights and privileges of the elites, the nobility are both permitted and encouraged to assemble and articulate their needs and interests to the Governor. However, the nobility’s most important obligation is always to the state, to whom they may “spare neither labor nor even life itself in service”. In rising the position of the gentry, Catherine also extended and strengthened serfdom. This unfortunate side-effect perhaps reflects the rationalism of the Enlightenment, or more specifically the concept that the end justifies the means.

One thought on “Catherine II and Enlightenment Reforms

  1. I think it’s really interesting how Catherine decided to, in a way, decentralize the power, yet she still had total control over the entire nation. I think that this is mostly out of necessity than anything else, as Russia was expanding on a massive scale. Catherine simply could not oversee everything that was occurring in her empire, thus she had to appoint individuals to make sure people were serving the state to her liking.

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