When Catherine the Great was born in 1729, Russia was not one of the most important countries in Europe. But, when she died in 1796 after thirty-five years at the head of her government, it was one of the strongest and also a centre for art and ideas. Catherine started schools, opened the world-famous Hermitage museum, and tried to make life easier for the poor at the same time as she made Russia larger and more powerful. But Catherine was born an unimportant princess of a poor, small German land. Who was this surprising woman? (1,330 words)
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