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Catherine I of Russia
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    (April 15, 1684-May 17, 1727)
    Born in Ringen, Estonia
    Birth name was Marta Elena Skavronska
    Secretly married Tzar Peter the Great (1707)
    Remarried Peter in a public ceremony (February 9, 1712)
    Empress Consort of Russia (1721-25)
    Crowned as co-ruler with Peter (May 7, 1724)
    Reigned as Empress and Autocrat of All Russians (1725-27)
    She never learned to read or write.
    Her background was deliberately kept obscure by Peter and later rulers.
    One probable reason for the secrecy: According to some traditions, after her town was captured by Russian forces, she became the mistress of the regimental commander, then slept her way up the chain of command until she reached the Tzar.
    During her reign, she was essentially a figurehead for the Supreme Privy Council.
    During the building of St. Petersburg, she and Peter lived in a three-room log cabin.
    When Peter and the Russian army were surrounded by the Turkish army at the Battle of Stanilesti, she donated her jewels to bribe the Ottoman commander into allowing a retreat (July, 1711).
    She was the only person who could calm Peter's outbursts of rage or soothe his epileptic seizures.
    Only two of her and Peter's twelve children lived to adulthood.
    She convinced the Privy Council to cut military expenditures and reduce taxes on the peasants.
    As Russia's first female ruler, she set a precedent for Catherine the Great.

Credit: C. Fishel

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