Mom warning: There are very few, as in I couldn’t find any, videos on Catherine II that were not tawdry. I recommend watching all videos first or simply staying with the written description here. The tour of the Hermitage Museum is gorgeous, however. The Peacock Clock alone is worth watching.
For our Little Ones: Catherine II or The Great of Russia ruled for 34 years (I was incorrect in stating 40 in the video). She provided structure for the Russian government and expanded it through wars. She was a fan of the Enlightenment philosophies and built large museums and commissioned beautiful works of art. Tour her museum.
Catherine II of Russia, sometimes called Catherine the Great, started out as a minor German princess. Her birth name was Sophie Friederike Auguste, and she grew up in Stettin in a small principality called Anhalt-Zebst. Her father, Christian August, was a prince of this tiny dominion, but he gained more fame for his military career. He served as a general for Frederick William I of Prussia. Princess Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, Catherine II’s mother, had little interest in her daughter. Instead, Johanna spent much of her time and energy on Catherine’s younger brother Wilhelm Christian, but the boy died at the age of 12. Catherine on the other hand was nurtured by her governess Babette. Biography.com
At the time of Catherine’s accession, Russia was viewed as backward and provincial by many in Europe. She sought to change this negative opinion through expanding educational opportunities and the arts. Catherine had a boarding school established for girls from noble families in St. Petersburg, and later called for free schools to be created in towns across Russia.
Catherine was devoted to the arts, and sponsored many cultural projects. In St. Petersburg, she had a theater built for opera and ballet performances—and even wrote a few librettos herself. She also became a prominent art collector, and many of these were displayed in the Hermitage in a royal residence in St. Petersburg.
An avid reader, Catherine was especially fond of the philosophers and writers of the Enlightenment. She exchanged letters with the French writer Voltaire, and writer Denis Diderot came to Russia to visit with her. In fact, Diderot was the one who gave Cathering her nickname, “Catherine the Great.” With literary aspirations of her own, Catherine also wrote about her life in a collection of memoirs. Biography.com
Voltaire and Peter III