She explored the ideas of the Enlightenment, imported several French philosophers for visits, and established commissions to discuss new law codes and other Western-style measures.
The arts and literature were encouraged by Catherine.
Catherine's policies weren't always consistent with her image.
The trade-off between the nobility and their serfs had been developing over the previous two centuries in Russia.
The office was staffed by bureaucrats and officers, and it had Catherine the Great in it.
They were a service to the Roman goddess of wisdom, war, and the arts.
Newly ennobled officials were also accepted into their ranks.
Most of the administration over local peasants, except for those on government-run estates, was wielded by the noble landlords.
Catherine increased the punishments nobles could give their serfs.
Catherine encouraged leading nobles to tour the West and send their children to be educated there.
She tried to avoid political influ ence from the West.
Catherine was quick to close Russia's doors to liberalism after the French Revolution.
A small group of Russian intellectuals who advocated reforms along Western lines were silenced.
One of the first Western-inspired radicals, a noble named Radishev, who sought abolition of serfdom and more liberal political rule, was vigorously harassed by Catherine's police, and his writings were banned.
Catherine followed the tradition of Russian expansion with energy and success.
She began campaigns against the Ottoman empire again, winning new territories in central Asia.
The Russian-Ottoman contest was a major diplomatic issue for both powers.
Catherine encouraged further exploration of Russia's holdings in Siberia and claimed the territory of Alaska in Russia's name.
Russian explorers moved down the Pacific coast of North America into what is now northern California, where tens of thousands of pioneers spread over Siberia.
Catherine pressed Russia's interests in Europe, playing power politics with Prussia and Austria.
Russian interference in Polish affairs was increased by her.
Poland was eliminated as an independent state in 1772, 1793, and 1795, and Russia held the lion's independent state.
The basis for further Russian involvement in European affairs had been of Russian influence in eastern created, and this would show in Russia's ultimate role in putting down the French armies of Napoleon Europe.
From one decade to the next, expansion brought Russia into encounters with Europe, the ottoman empire, and East Asia.
The Russian nobility sparked recurrent social protest because of its great estates, local political power, and service to the state.
In Russia and eastern Europe, landed nobles were divided into two groups, one of which was made up of a minority of great magnates who lived in major cities and provided key cultural patronage, and the other of which was made up of smaller landowners who had a less opulent lifestyle.
The power of the nobility over the serfs increased during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Russian peasants had a legal position that was superior to that of their medieval Western counterparts.
After the expulsion of the Tatars, many Russian peasants fell into debt and had to give up their status as peasants in order to repay their debts.
They didn't own much of the land.
From the 16th century onward, the Russian government encouraged this process.
Serfdom gave the government a way to regulate peasants when the government didn't have the means to do so.
When new territories were added to the empire, the system of serfdom was extended.
The serfs' hereditary status was fixed by an act of 1649.
The serfs were tied to the land during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Serfs on eastern Europe's estates were taxed and even sold by their land lords.
Peter the Great encouraged the sale of whole villages as manufacturing labor in Russia.
Peasants were not slaves.
They used village governments to regulate many aspects of their lives, relying more heavily on community ties than their counterparts in the western countryside.
Most peasants were poor and uneducated.
They paid high taxes or obligations in kind, and they owed extensive labor service to landlords or the government, a source not only of agricultural production but also of mining and manufacturing.
The labor obligation increased steadily.
The legal situation of the peasantry deteriorated.
The government of the serfs was turned over to the landlords by Catherine the Great, even though she sponsored a few model villages to show her enlightenment to Western-minded friends.
Any serfs convicted of major crimes or rebellion were allowed to be punished harshly by landlords.
Half of Russia's peasantry was enserfed to the landlords by 1800, and the other half owed similar obligations to the state.
Russia was setting up a system of serfdom that was very close to slavery in that serfs could be bought and sold, gambled away, and punished by their masters.
Rural conditions in other parts of eastern Europe were the same.
Estate agriculture was maintained in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere by Nobles.