Catherine The Great

Catherine The Great Assumes Power In Russia

Date: 1992

Document: Catherine The Great Assumes Power In Russia

Catherine became empress in 1762 in a coup which overthrew her estranged
husband, Peter III. This selection is from her own written account of the

The Hetman [Razumovsky,] Volkonsky and Panin were in the secret.
I was sleeping calmly at Peterhof at 6 o'clock in the morning of the
28th [July Old Style] The day had been a very disturbing one for me
as I knew all that was going on. [Suddenly] Alexius Orlov enters my
room and says quite gently: "It is time to get up; all is ready for
your proclamation ...." I dressed myself quickly without making my
toilet and got into the carriage which he had brought with him ....

Five versts from the town I met the elder Orlov with the younger
Prince Bariatinsky. Orlov gave up his carriage to me, for my horses
were done up, and we got out at the barracks of the Ismailovsky
Regiment. [At the gates] were only twelve men, and a drummer, who began
sounding an alarm, when the soldiers came running out, kissing me,
embracing my hands and feet and clothes, and calling me their deliverer.
Then they began swearing allegiance to me. When this had been done, they
begged me to get into the carriage, and the priest, cross in hand,
walked on in front. We went [first] to the [barracks of the] Semenovsky
Regiment, but the regiment came marching out to meet us, crying, Vivat!
Then we went to the church of Kazan, where I got out. Then the
Preobrazhensky Regiment arrived, crying, Vivat! "We beg your pardon,"
they said to me, "for being the last. Our officers stopped us, but here
are four of them whom we have arrested to shew you our zeal. We want
what our brothers want." Then the horse-guards arrived frantic with
joy, I never saw anything like it, weeping and crying at the deliverance
of their country .... I went to the new Winter Palace where the Synod
and the Senate were assembled. A manifesto and a form of oath were
hastily drawn up. Then I went down and received the troops on foot.
There were more than 14,000 men, guards and country regiments. As soon
as they saw me they uttered cries of joy which were taken up by an
innumerable crowd. I went on to the old Winter Palace to take [my]
measures and finish [the business,] there we took counsel together, and
it was resolved to go to Peterhof, where Peter III was to have dined
with me, at their head. All the great roads had been occupied and
rumours came in every moment ....

Peter III abdicated, at Oranienbaum, in full liberty, surrounded by
5000 Holsteiners, and came with Elizabeth Vorontsov, Gudovich and
Ismailov to Perterhof, where, to protect his person, I gave him five
officers and some soldiers .... Thereupon I sent the deposed Emperor
to a remote and very agreeable place called Ropsha, 25 versts from
Peterhof, under the command of Alexius Orlov, with four officers and
a detachment of picked, good-natured men, whilst decent and convenient
rooms were being prepared for him at Schlusselburg. But God disposed
otherwise. Fear had given him a diarrhoea which lasted three days and
passed away on the fourth; in this [fourth] day he drank excessively,
for he had all he wanted except liberty. Nevertheless, the only things
he asked me for were his mistress, his dog, his Negro and his violin;
but for fear of scandal [sic] and increasing the agitation of the
persons who guarded him, I only sent him the last three things ....

Source: Warren B. Walsh, comp. and ed., Readings in Russian History
(Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1948), pp. 185-187.

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