Assess Catherine Ii's Achievements As A Reformer.

1535 words - 6 pages

Assess Catherine II's achievements as a reformer.Catherine II's achievements are often seen as simple extensions of the politics and ideas set in place by Peter I, two generations earlier. However, Catherine tried hard to merit the title 'reformer' in her own right.One of the biggest projects that Catherine II undertook during her reign was the decentralisation of government. This entailed a massive restructuring, namely of administration and legal affairs. Due to Russia's huge land mass, deputies often had to leave their provinces uncontrolled for several weeks while visiting the capital. So the first stage of decentralisation was to increase the number of provinces from 25 to 40, each with a central town with an elected governor where most legal matters could be settled. With more power in the provinces, most legal matters could be dealt with at a local level and in terms of reform Catherine managed to step around the serious inconvenience of distance. The fact that these provinces existed until 1917 is testimony to the success of this reform.The small number of nobles personally known to Catherine was insufficient to fill the number of posts now available in the provinces. Furthermore, many of them looked only to increase their rank and held the post for just a few months. Therefore Catherine decided to turn to elected deputies from within the province. Unfortunately, most educated people worthy of these posts were Nobles who preferred the prestige of the army, leaving the provinces with no strong leader. Those nobles who did remain in the provinces often drank, terrorised their communities or took bribes. What the strategy really needed was a strong education system to back it up.On top of these problems, the local administration system already in place had been shattered by the Pugachev revolt. The intricate network of Administration, Finance and Welfare boards, Civil and Criminal courts with many levels of officials had to be practically started from scratch. This restructuring gave different roles to different sections of the administration, rendering it more efficient and adding law, order and therefore rights to individuals in Russia. More importantly, it laid the foundations upon which future rulers could expand.The way in which Russian people thought was crucial for any change in society and Catherine was sure to embrace this issue. Amongst other changes, corporal punishment was frowned upon and correction houses encouraged in order to create a more sensitive society. Her 'enlightened' approach supported the idea of 'using national resources for the good of the public'. A police board was soon established (similar to the present day police force), which undertook the task of generally protecting the public. Sadly, this approach failed to foresee public opinion and many laws, such as 'trial by one's peers' and 'the right to bail' became useless when many simply did not understand them. Although one can again state a lack of education as...

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