Unless you are a student of Russian history, you probably only know Catherine the Great as the empress who amassed a remarkable collection of royal treasures and had a scandalous number of lovers. But there's a reason she was called "the Great." She was masterful at taking an opportunity when it presented. Catherine had no royal blood, but married the future tsar Peter II, then arranged to replace him during a military coup.
If Catherine had considered the magnitude of the task that confronted her that morning, she may have headed straight back to bed rather than boldly accept the army’s invitation to become their tsarina. Russia in the mid-18th century was a vast, unruly and, in many ways, backwards country, blighted by poverty and massive inequality. Thanks to her riotous love life, her passion for high art and her fabulously expensive tastes, Catherine would carve out a reputation as one of the most colourful rulers in European history, arguably becoming in the process the most powerful woman in history. But it was her achievement in turning Russia from basket case into a bona fide world superpower that earned her that most prized of epithets, ‘the Great’.
Read about the tsarina who ruled so completely that her own son made it illegal for a woman to ever rule Russia again, at History Extra. -via Damn Interesting