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Russia Engages the World, 1453-1825
1453 Through the Reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) The Time of Troubles to the First Romanovs (1598-1682) Peter the Great and His Legacy (1682-1762) The Age of Catherine the Great (1762-1801) The Reign of Emperor Alexander I (1801-1825)


Explore this Section:

The Nakaz, or Instruction, of Catherine II to the Legislative Commission of 1767–68
Pugachev’s "Emancipation Decree," July 31, 1774

Russia's Globalization:
A Key

Events marked Russia Symbol are specific to Muscovy/Russia's internal development.
Those marked World Symbol are important world historical or cultural events.
Engagement Symbol indicates specific points of sociocultural or military engagement between Muscovy/Russia and foreign powers or individuals.




As soon as Catherine won the throne in June of 1762, she promised that one of her goals would be to make Russia a state governed by laws. In 1767, she called for the convocation of an elected legislative assembly to draw up a legal code. She personally drew up a set of guidelines for the delegates.

Chapter I
6. Russia is an European State.
7. This is clearly demonstrated by the following Observations: The Alterations which Peter the Great undertook in Russia succeeded with the greater Ease, because the Manners, which prevailed at that Time, and had been introduced amongst us by a Mixture of different Nations, and the Conquest of foreign Territories, were quite unsuitable to the Climate. Peter the First, by introducing the Manners and Customs of Europe among the European People in his Dominions, found at that Time such Means as even he himself was not sanguine enough to expect.

Chapter II
9. The Sovereign is absolute; for there is no other authority but that which centers in his single Person that can act with a Vigour proportionate to the Extent of such a vast Dominion.
10. The Extent of the Dominion requires an absolute Power to be vested in that Person who rules over it. It is expedient so to be that the quick Dispatch of Affairs, sent from distant Parts, might make ample Amends for the Delay occasioned by the great Distance of the Places.
11. Every other Form of Government whatsoever would not only have been prejudicial to Russia, but would even have proved its entire Ruin.
12. Another Reason is; That it is better to be subject to the Laws under one Master, than to be subservient to many.
13. What is the true End of Monarchy? Not to deprive People of their natural Liberty; but to correct their Actions, in order to attain the supreme Good.

The Grand Instructions to the Commissioners Appointed to Frame a New Code of Laws for the Russian Empire: Composed by Her Imperial Majesty Catherine II…. Translated by Michael Tatischeff. London, 1768. From: Basil Dmytryshyn, ed. Imperial Russia: A Source Book, 1700–1917. Gulf Breeze, Fla.: Academic International Press, 1999.
Reprinted courtesy of Academic International Press