The Burning Archive Podcast 73. Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and the Russian Enlightenment

Peter the Great and Catherine the Great dominated Russia’s 18th century. The remarkable transformations of Russian government, society, empire and culture that they led are symbolised in the astonishing statue of the Bronze Horseman in St Petersburg. The statue was a gift from Catherine II to Peter I, and it represents the power, energy and military prowess with which Peter transformed the Russian state. But it also represents the genius with which Catherine the Great presided over the Russian Enlightenment. As part of the continuing series of telling Russian History backwards and debunking the ‘Black Legend of Russian History, Jeff Rich tells the tale of Russia’s 18th century when there was one great Emperor and four remarkable Empresses.

The music at the start and end of the show is from The Story of Tsarevich Fevey, was set to music by Vasily Pashkevich (court composer for Peter III, Catherine the Great’s husband), courtesy of YouTube. Catherine the Great composed the libretti.

I read from Pushkin, “The Bronze Horseman” from The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (2015), and Dominic Lieven, In the Shadow of the Gods: the Emperor in World History (2022). Lieven’s book is highly recommended and can be bought through this Amazon affiliate link

You can explore all of Jeff Rich’s work at

Image: Georg Christoph Grooth (1716-49). Equestrian portrait of Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alekseyevna. via wikimedia commons

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