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Catherine the Great: The story of the impoverished German princess who deposed her husband to become tzarina of the largest empire on earth [Kindle Edition]

Robert K. Massie
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“Enthralling.”—USA Today
“Gripping.”—The New York Times Book Review
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman has it all: jealous mothers, indulgent eccentrics, greedy social climbers, intrigue, infidelity, murder, political coups, sex, war and passion.”—Bookreporter
“Exhaustively researched and dramatically narrated.”—The Boston Globe
“[Robert K. Massie] brings great authority to this sweeping account of Catherine and her times. . . . a compelling read.”—The Washington Post
“Meticulously, dramatically rendered.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Reads like an epic Russian novel.”—San Antonio Express-News
“Will transport history lovers.”—People
“Massie makes Catherine’s story dramatic and immediate.”—The Kansas City Star
“Graceful and engrossing.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A biography as captivating as its subject.”—MacLean’s


The story of one of the truly great female rulers in history by an award winning historian.

The daughter of an impoverished aristocrat, Catherine was married aged 16 to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne of all the Russias, a feckless teenager with a weakness for drink. Catherine was only able to give him an heir by passing off her lover's son as his own.

In 1762, Catherine rode out of St Petersburg at the head of an army to arrest her husband. Three months later she became sole empress of the largest empire on earth. She was 33 years old.

She ruled Russia as a benevolent autocrat for 34 years,fighting the Turks abroad and rebellion at home, and shepherding her people through the upheavals of the French Revolution. She took on many lovers but gave her heart to General Potemkin, the foremost statesman of her time.

She died in 1796 aged 67, revered by her people as 'our mother', praised by Voltaire as a philosopher, reviled by her enemies as the Messalina of the North and remembered in history as Catherine the Great.

From this extraordinary life of great events, fabulous splendour and barbaric cruelty, Robert K. Massie has woven a thrilling narrative based on impeccable scholarship and a cinematic eye for detail.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 6940 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 574 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 1908800011
  • Verlag: Head of Zeus (17. Juli 2012)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B008HRM69Q
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Erweiterte Schriftfunktion: Nicht aktiviert
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.8 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (4 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #65.560 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Elegant Historic Fiction 15. Januar 2012
Von Genießer
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Massies' opus on this great tsarina of humble though noble origins, from a Lutheran family transferred into a Russion Orthodox environment and with no formal education, is a masterwork of historiography, albeit fiction as it is not based on the study of original sources. It easy to read because of its elegant style, it demands from the reader little knowledge of Russian and European history of the 18th century, and does not provide any new aspects on its subject. The empress herself and the personalities around her are described with great empathy where they merit this, Potemkin in particular, a statesman as important to his still backward country as the Marques de Pombal was for devastated Portugal, is recognised justly and not as the creator of sham villages. In some respects, the book may also serve as a tourist guide to the sights around St. Petersburg, Peterhof, Oranienburg and of course, Catherine's Palace at Zarskoie Selo.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen tolles Buch 2. Oktober 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Wie schon bei Peter the Great ist dieses Buch mit vielen historischen Details, Beschreibungen der allgemeinen Politik der Zeit und Hintergründen versehen. Es ist absolut lesenswert. Denn neben diesen Fakten sind auch noch persönliche Details zu lesen. Das Buch ist zudem sehr interessant geschrieben und fesselt mich vom Anfang bis zum Ende. Ich mag es gar nicht mehr weglegen.

Ich bin ein Fan des Autors Robert K. Massie geworden und werde auch alle seine anderen Bücher lesen.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Die Königin 21. Juli 2013
Von Mirian
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
I was pleasantly surprised by the pace of the book. While it goes rather detailed into Catherine's story, it's easy to read. I enjoyed many historical quotes.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Great historical report 19. April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
It filled in lots of gaps in my knowledge of Russia at this time and also its relationship to other nations.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.4 von 5 Sternen  1.063 Rezensionen
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Massie Does It Again! 26. September 2011
Von Kayla Rigney - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I really enjoyed this biography of Catherine the Great. Like Robert K. Massie's other biographies, *Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman* is well-researched and well-written. His deep connection and understanding of the ways of Imperial Russia are strangely effortless. He steps into his subject's world and takes us there, too.

I was immediately struck by the way Massie made Catherine *accessible.* I felt empathy for her -- an empathy I didn't feel before. The story of her hideous marriage to Grand Duke Peter has been portrayed often in film and in print. All sources agree he was a monster who preferred his mistress to his wife, was scarred mentally as well as physically by small pox, and had he lived, would have gutted the Russian Orthodox Church -- and probably brought down an entire empire. *Portrait of a Woman* shows not only how badly Catherine was treated by her so-called "husband" but also how quickly she learned the *game* of the Imperial Court. Catherine was beautiful and intelligent -- and frankly, a better ruler than Peter could ever have been. She was well-read and well-educated in a time when most women couldn't read or write. In order to survive in the court, she spent years honing her skills in diplomacy. When her husband didn't produce an heir, she found a lover who would. I felt compassion for this Catherine, *because* she was resourceful and *because* she took action when it was needed. And some of those actions as Empress were taken with her subjects in mind.

Reading *Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman,* allowed me to rediscover a strong, intelligent woman who wanted to bring her Imperial Russia *forward.* In 1768, she and her son Paul were inoculated with small pox -- hoping to show her subjects that there was a way to avoid getting a devastating case of the disease. This small act of bravery on her part was completely overshadowed by the epidemic of bubonic plague which decimated the population of Moscow and eventually led to rioting. How could I have forgotten these important pieces of history? And yet, I had. There are no new answers regarding the murder of Grand Duke Peter -- did she or didn't she? And as to Catherine's relationships with other men in her life, it becomes apparent that there was always that underlying, chafing question of balance of power. (But on the whole, she had good relationships with her lovers; and she rewarded their loyalty.) Her own son, Paul, hated her -- believing that she'd murdered his father, when he wasn't Grand Duke Peter's son in the first place. Paul punished her after her death by reinstating the right of male succession only.

Massie reintroduced me to the very human Catherine, who so loved her dogs that she had a special cemetery created for them at Tsarskoe Selo, And this flawed, yet generous Empress once made a gift of an expensive diamond ring to a serf -- in spite of the uproar it caused. And finally, Catherine, who enjoyed books, reading and philosophy, purchased Voltaire's library of books from his niece after he died. I liked seeing this side of Catherine the Great. I needed to be reminded that her passions and loves were varied as my own are varied.

I spent my weekend immersed in *Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.* I was transported into Catherine's life -- and into a rich, harsh, ugly, beautiful, lost past. Massie's latest biography joins *Nicholas & Alexandra,* *Peter the Great: His Life and World,* and *The Romanovs: The Final Chapter* as must-have books about the rulers of Imperial Russia.
222 von 236 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Life Of A Woman And A Nation 26. September 2011
Von John D. Cofield - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Catherine the Great is second only to Peter the Great as a great modernizing ruler of Russia, a country which repeatedly falls behind the rest of the world, then races to catch up, at least on the surface, within a few years' time. Catherine's story is even more remarkable than Peter's, since she was not born in Russia and had not a drop of Russian blood, and her original name wasn't even Catherine.

Sophia Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst was an impecunious little princess in an insignificant prinicipality buried deep in Germany. In her early years she seemed destined to marry someone just as obscure as she and to remain unknown to the larger world. Her ambitious mother, who had the good fortune to be related by marriage to the Swedish and Russian royal families, had other plans. She kept in touch with the Empress Elizabeth of Russia, whose nephew and heir was just the right age for Sophia, for many years until Elizabeth sent word for mother and daughter to come to St. Petersburg for a visit. Shortly after they arrived, Sophia's mother and the Empress had arranged for a marriage between 14 year old Sophia and the 15 year old Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian throne. Sophia converted to Orthodoxy and had her name changed to Catherine, then married the future Emperor.

It sounds like a fairy tale, but it turned into a nightmare. Peter was a snivelling little wretch who hated Russia, his aunt, and Catherine. Covered with smallpox scars, mentally undeveloped and psychologically unbalanced, Peter refused to have anything to do with Catherine and spent night after night playing with toy soldiers. Catherine, tucked into bed beside him but completely ignored, spent her time reading and learning all she could about her new country. She had a quick and agile mind and did an excellent job educating herself through the writings of the French Enlightenment philosophes. However, all this reading and studying was not going to help her achieve her primary purpose, to have children who would continue the Romanov dynasty. After nine years she achieved this goal with the assistance of a Russian nobleman and gave birth to her son Paul.

In 1762 Empress Elizabeth died and Peter III took the throne. Within six months he had so outraged the Russian people that Catherine, with the assistance of her current lover and his brothers and friends, was able to quickly overthrow him and become Empress Catherine II. Her reign of 34 years saw Russia increase in wealth, population, and land area. She fought and won wars with Turkey and Sweden and helped to partition Poland out of existence. Her wide ranging reading had convinced her of the desireability of religious toleration, increased civil liberties, and of representative government, but she was just as convinced that Russia wasn't ready for such Enlightenment principles. When she did try to make reforms she was frightened into limiting or discarding them entirely by serf rebellions and eventually by the French Revolution. She did encourage education and development, assisted by her friendships with Voltaire and Diderot among others, and she was responsible for beginning the magnificent Hermitage art collection and for a number of beautiful palaces and other buildings in and around St. Petersburg.

Of course, what most people think of when they think of Catherine the Great is her colorful personal life. Catherine had a number of lovers throughout her life, but the popular image of a sex crazed hoyden isn't accurate. She seems to have valued her men friends for their intellectual as well as their physical abilities, and to have craved attention and affection above all. She was faithful to each of her favorites (more than they were to her) and when one retired or was replaced he was given money and land and remembered fondly. As she aged she grew in dignity and influence, and by the time of her death in 1796 Russia was a much larger and more powerful nation which, while still backwards in many ways, had made a surprising amount of progress.

Robert K. Massie's newest work is a fitting companion to Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great, and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. It also compares well to his excellent studies of Anglo-German rivalry before and during World War I: Dreadnought and Castles of Steel. As always, he writes clearly with a good eye for an entertaining anecdote which helps Catherine's life fit into the larger Russian and European context during the tumultuous eighteenth century. Massie introduced me to Russian history when I first read Nicholas and Alexandra at the age of 14 and confirmed me in my love of the subject with his other books. His Catherine the Great is just as remarkable and appealing, and I cannot recommend it too highly.
119 von 135 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The definitive Catherine 25. September 2011
Von P. B. Sharp - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Portrait of a WOMAN, not an empress, not an autocrat. In his own highly talented way, Pulitzer Prize winner Massie is going to tell us what made Catherine tick underneath the ermine. Massie feels a huge kinship to the House of Romanov, because his son, Robert K. Massie IV, has hemophilia, the disease that devastated many royal families, the most famous sufferer being Alexei, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II. If you've read "Nicholas and Alexandra" "Peter the Great" and other Massie biographies you know how beautifully he writes about Russian royalty and the reader feels that part of Massie's heart is in Russia. He understands and appreciates the handsome and captivating Catherine well as he brings her to life in this splendid biography.

We are going to see a fourteen year old unknown German princess, Sophia of Anhalt, the future Catherine, morph herself into a ship of state with enormous powers. If it is possible for a royal personage to pull herself up by her own bootstraps, Sophia did.

Sophia was ignored by her own mother, Johanna, who wanted a boy, until Johanna realized Sophia was marketable as a bride and peddled her around Germany and later Russia. Massie points out that Sophia-Catherine, denied love as a girl, had a psyche that was seriously wounded, and as an adult and empress she would demand both love and admiration perhaps to an excessive degree. Nevertheless, at fourteen years old Sophia was astonishingly mature and participated with relish in the search for a husband.

That husband would be Peter, nephew of the Empress Elizabeth. The Empress was the daughter of Peter the Great. Massie deals sympathetically with Peter, but a less prepossessing child would have been hard to find with his thin, straggling blonde hair, his protuberant eyes, his weak chin, his lack of being good at anything. A fearsome attack of small pox left his face horribly scarred. A less attractive bridegroom could hardly be imagined but Sophia, who had learned Russian and converted to Orthodox, determined to do her best and the new Catherine was born. The new Catherine with a mind like a steel trap and ambition to match.

Empress Elizabeth wanted an heir and she was obsessed. After their wedding neither Peter nor Catherine seemed to know what they were supposed to do. At night they lay side by side like two logs for days, for weeks... for nine years. Massie discusses the physical problem Peter may have had that prevented him from sexual performance, marveling that France's Louis XVI may have had exactly the same problem. Simple surgery corrected the abnormality in Louis' case and very likely in Peter's, too. At any rate, after nine barren years Catherine gave birth to a boy. Empress Elizabeth as Massie says "kidnapped" the baby, installed him in her own apartments and brought him up as her own.

More or less off the hook as a baby-producer, although she had other children by her lovers. Catherine embarked on the first of the twelve affairs she would have in her life. She also began reading everything penned by Enlightenment philosophers. She corresponded with the famous thinkers of her time, including Voltaire, Frederick the Great, Marie Antoinette and would you believe John Paul Jones?

Catherine, when still very young, learned to keep her head in the treacherous atmosphere of the Romanov court. Back-biting, spite, jealousy, greed, all mingled together in a horrible stew in which a person could be on the top of the pot one day, on the bottom the next and very likely dead, too.

When Empress Elizabeth died on Christmas Day in 1761 Peter was crowned as Peter III and nobody was happy about this except perhaps one of his mistresses. Peter was a total disaster with few if any redeeming points. In a complicated but bloodless coup Peter was overthrown and imprisoned and a few days later strangled. Whether Catherine had any complexity in her husband's murder is argued to this day, but it is quite possible she was innocent.

"She sat on the throne of Peter the Great, and ruled an empire, the largest on earth. Her signature...was law, and if she chose could mean life or death for any one of her twenty million subjects."

Catherine's friends, enemies, lovers, family, generals parade across the Russian panorama and author Massie integrates them into Catherine's life with great skill. Catherine brought Russia out of the dark ages in a massive plan of "Westernization". The government, foreign policy, cultural affairs, the squashing of a huge rebellion by an illiterate peasant imposter who claimed to be Peter III, the massive problem of serfdom were all in her dainty hands.

But governing for Catherine wasn't enough. She thirsted for love and her twelve lovers, all Guards officers are described in detail. These relationships were rocky, filled with accusations on both sides. Catherine's husband, Peter III had not touched her for nine years, her own mother used her as a pawn to advance herself. As Catherine aged, the men became younger and younger as Catherine tried to find love and retain her youth.

The most famous of her lovers was Gregory Potemkin who was the most important person in her life for seventeen years and was it was possible that they married secretly. He was in everything but name co-ruler. When the couple's ardor waned, Gregory found young handsome Guards to fill the void in Catherine's life while remaining on friendly terms with Catherine There were a lot of ménage a trois.

One of the last dramas of Catherine's life concerned her son Paul, who had been taken from her at birth. There was some doubt that Paul was Peter III's son. He was an odd-looking boy with features rather like a pug dog. Paul and his mother hardly knew one another and there was no love lost between them. But Paul gave Catherine many grandchildren, and she doted on them and named the first two boys herself, Alexander and Constantine.

Catherine had assembled the greatest art gallery in Europe, the Hermitage and she commissioned the statue of Peter the Great, "The Bronze Horseman" who still rides his rearing horse near the Winter Palace. She established schools and orphanages and hospitals. She had herself inoculated with the new vaccine for smallpox as an example, which took courage. Massie believes that Catherine as a female ruler had only one equal: England's Elizabeth the first. She died November 6, 1796 and she passed into history beside Peter the Great as Russia's two greatest rulers.
213 von 254 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen A merely good book on a great subject 8. November 2011
Von Sam A. Mawn-Mahlau - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Tackling Catherine the Great is not, and never has been, for the faint of heart. There is a heavy shelf filled with works by the eminent and the colorful, by Oldenberg, Troyat, and others, and there is fascinating original material available as well. But it is no good to praise someone for their Alpine skill when they climb the Himalayas - they have chosen the tougher climb, and it will measure them.

Massie brings capable writerly craftsmenship, a deep knowledge of Russian history, and a reader-friendly commercial sheen to bear, applying each tool with care, and writes a highly readable and engaging biography. But, in the end, I'm left unsatisfied. It was a fun read and the hours were well-spent. The work is worthy of, and will get, some attention; the subject is worthy, however, of more and better. Massie's opening chapters draw so heavily from Catherine's own memoirs that I wish I would have read them instead. The book adds a bit of harmless gloss to the memoirs, but gives us a redacted and bloodless summary in place of the real thing. Massie's later chapters promise a deeper analytical framework yet skate through with less detail or analysis than, say, the great Riasanovsky surveys. Massie offers little here that is terribly new and interesting. There was no Eureka moment, no insightful rebellion, just a recital from the Orthodox liturgy.

If you have a bias toward reading contemporary works instead of dusty classics, you may prefer Massie's Catherine over those other books on the shelf. But, in the end, I wish Massie had applied his tools to some interesting but inadequately explored character he could have brought to life rather than writing what is really just another capable book on an already heavy shelf, adding a pound or two but not much more to what is already there. He gets a solid three stars, but no more.
13 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Adequate, hardly stellar 22. Februar 2012
Von Doug - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I've often heard that Robert Massie is an excellent history writer. This book provides little evidence of that greatness. The first third of the book is about an unknown princess plucked from obscurity by an empress to be the wife of her nephew, the future Czar Peter III of Russia. Her early life was full of parties, balls, and family politics.

The book gets better, though that's not an endorsement. The remaining two thirds are a bit jumbled. Massie organizes much of the book by topic, not chronologically. After the chapter documenting the death of her former favorite, and probably only husband, Grigory Potemkin, in 1791, we get a chapter on her interest in collecting art, beginning in 1771. There are several such bounces and they were disorienting. Perhaps the disorientation was magnified by the fact that I was listening to the book on my daily commute, not reading it with a chance to check my progress or look things up in the index.

Finally, there are several very long, and possibly tangential, asides on several topics. For example, I now know quite a bit more than before about the French Revolution and the advantages (and experiments to test those advantages) of the guillotine as a method of execution. I expected stories of blinking heads in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, but not here I'm not sure why I needed to know so much about these events or this device to understand how this lead to Catherine's imposition of censorship in Russia.

I will give Mr. Massie another chance, having already purchased Dreadnought but if it's on the same level as this one, I won't make it to the end.
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