Sophia Augusta Fredericka (renamed Yekaterina Alekseyevna after Orthodox baptizing ceremony) was born in Germany and became the Empress of Russia after dethroning her husband Peter III, who was her second cousin.
The years of her ruling (1762—1796) were really recognized the Golden Age of Yekaterina. During that period the entire internal structure of the Russian Empire was transformed, and the power of the Russian army and navy grew up under Catherine’s favourite commanders — Potyomkin, Rumyantsev, Suvorov, Kuruzov, Ushakov, and Orlov. As a result of successful wars Russia annexed the Black Sea Coast, Crimea, East Georgia, and a half of Poland with Belarus and the Western Ukraine.
The reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) is sometimes characterized as the Enlightened absolutism, referring to the empress’ interest in the ideas of Voltaire and Diderot. Under her rule Russian culture, education and science blossomed; new educational institutions, academies, libraries and printing houses were opened.
Catherine herself wrote dozens of plays, articles, and books on various issues of Russian history and economy, education and philosophy. She kept correspondence with Voltaire and Encyclopaedists, and left extremely interesting "Notes" about the first period of her reign.
It was during her reign that Russia became a great power taken into consideration by the whole world.
Once Catherine II wrote an epitaph which she wanted to be inscribed on her gravestone: “Having come to the Russian throne, she wished well and tried to bring her citizens happiness, freedom and property, she easily forgave and had no hatred to anybody. Forgiving, affable, cheerful by nature, with a republican soul and a kind heart, she had friends. Work came natural to her, she loved arts and being in public”.
Catherine II died on November, 6th, 1796 in Tsarskoye Selo.