I am interested in how Catherine articulates her relationship to Peter the Great in her legislative document. As a ruler, and especially as a “reformer,” historical narrative is vital to pushing through political reforms.
At first, she casts Peter as the first to recognize Russia as a distinctly European state in point 7 of Chapter I of her Nakaz:
“The Alternations 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.
Catherine diagnoses Peter the Great’s Russia as lacking the “manners” for a proper European political state, but having the “climate” for such a state. What does Catherine have in mind when she uses the word “Climate”? Perhaps she means that Russia did not have the “manners” for a European political state, but had the means by which to achieve it. Does she simply mean that Peter saw the opportunity for reforming the state and establishing an Absolute Monarchy? Does she view herself as having taken this torch of reform from Peter’s hand? If so, how can she reconcile this view with the point she makes in chapter XVI 511:
A Monarchy is destroyed when the Sovereign imagines that he displays his Power more by changing the Order of Things, than by adhering to it, and when he is more found of his own Imaginations than of his Will, from which the Laws proceed, and have proceeded….
Perhaps this conservative view of the Monarch’s role is suggestive of what Madriaga views as her political shift from reformer to reactionary.