Russia's Economy
Russia's Economy

Russia under Catherine the Great (1762-1796) : the Economy

Under Catherine large, fertile but hardly populated stretches of land were acquired in the Ukraine. Catherine had the Cossack host in Zaporozhe dissolved and settlers called in from all over to turn the fertile lands from extensively used pastures into intensively cultivated farmland; the policy was to turn Russia into a major grain exporter, the city of ODESSA becoming the major outlet of Ukrainian grain.
A reform improving the status of the mushik (russian peasant, living under the conditions of serfdom) was contemplated, but not implemented as the PUGACHEVCHINA had caused Russia's Czarina to fear the consequences of such an action. Russia's peasants, after generations of serfdom, could not own land, were disposed of by their owners as property, had been accustomed to follow decisions made by others. So when the newly gained lands in Tauria, the Crimea, the Jedisan were settled, (free) settlers from abroad were called in, expected to produce higher yields than the mushiks.

Catherine's attempts to place Russia's mining industry on a more scientific basis - a SCHOOL OF MINES was established in St. Petersburg, coincided with a decrease in Russia's silver exports (due to a boom in Latin American silver exports from the 1770es onward). Russia continued to be a major iron exporter.
Catherine attempted to promote industrialization by permitting every free man to open a factory (1762), thus challenging the privileges of the guilds hitheto prevailing.
Under Catherine, Russia's first permanent settlement in Alaska was established (1784), intended to tap Alaska's wealth in furs.

DOCUMENTS Coins : Catherine the Great, 1770, 1790, from Coins from Famous People in History, also Russian coin of 1789 from Napoleonic Medals
Manifesto of the Empress Catherine II issued July 22, 1763, from Jake's Home Page
Alexander Radishchev, Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow. 1790, from Documents in Russian History
Assignat issued 1769, over 25 roubles, from Vad Nensberg's Home Page
Coins issued under Catherine the Great, from S. Sekine's Collection
Russian Medals - Catherine the Great, from Medal web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
REFERENCE Simon Dixon, The Modernisation of Russia 1676-1825, Cambridge : UP 1999

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on August 24th 2006

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