From Publishers Weekly
Was Catherine the Great, the German princess who became Empress of All the Russias, a murderer and tyrant, or an enlightened shepherd of Russia's expanded role in Europe? Historian Alexander avoids an either/or approach in this workmanlike, evenhanded yet ultimately frustrating biography. Born Sophia Fredericks, Catherine saw herself as a female Peter the Great without his miitarism, yet she subjugated Poland, plunged Russia into war with Turkey and crushed the Pugachev uprising of 1773. During her reign she also abolished state monopolies, codified chaotic laws and encouraged industry in the provinces. Alexander, professor of history at the University of Kansas, paints a sympathetic portrait of a strong-willed woman who had to cope with loneliness, isolation and conspiratorial plots. Arguing that her alleged nymphomania is largely a myth (she had 12 documented lovers over 44 years), he explains her succession of male "favorites" in terms of a need to compartmentalize her life; he also speculates that she may have been secretly married to her adviser Grigorii Potemkin. Illustrations.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"Far outranks the ancient efforts of G.P. Gooch, Zoe Oldenbourg and Gladys Scott Thomson....Good on high-political crises."--History
"A most readable and historically accurate biography of the greatest of the Romanov rulers of Russia."--Frank V. Barchard, East Texas State University
"An extremely well researched, well organized, and judiciously balanced political portrait of Empress Catherine II."--Marc Raeff, Columbia University
"[Alexander] shows his abilities as a storyteller by delving into the psyche of this woman, who lived a life of celebrity, isolation, and loneliness."--The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Alexander's biography is the best there is and likely to remain so....Factually reliable, informative, lively, and frequently provocative."--Times Literary Supplement
"An intelligent history and an imaginative biography."--Newark Star Ledger
"The best English-language biography of Catherine in some time."--The Dallas Morning News
"Informed, provocative, and, above all, fair....A major achievement. It succeeds in its goal of bridging the gap between popular biographies and scholarly studies."--The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Alexander's carefully researched political biography at last gives Catherine her due as 'the overburdened ruler of an immense and turbulent Empire.'"--W. Bruce Lincoln, The Chicago Tribune
"Alexander fathoms his subject completely, and he writes a most compelling narrative."--Booklist