Famous Russian Women

Catherine I

Birth: 15 Apr 1689
Death: 17 May 1727 Sankt-Peterburg
Interred: St.Peter & St.Paul Cathedral, Sankt-Peterburg

Father: Samuil Skawronski

Spouse: Peter I The Great, EMPEROR OF RUSSIA (b. 9.6.1672)
Married: 8 Nov 1707, Warszawa (publicly 1 Mar 1712)

Catherine I, real name MARTA SKAVRONSKAYA (1682?-1727), empress of Russia (1725-27). Of peasant origin, she was born in Jakobstadt (now Jekabpils, Latvia) but was orphaned early in life and reared by a pastor in Marienburg (now Malbork, Poland).

When the Russians captured Marienburg in 1702, she was taken prisoner by the Russian commander, who sold her to Prince Aleksandr Menshikov, a close adviser of Peter the Great. She soon became Peter's mistress and most influential counselor.

Peter, who had divorced his first wife in 1699, married Catherine in 1712. After his son Alexis died, Peter issued an ukaz ("imperial order") declaring his right to name his own successor; he died in 1725 without doing so. Catherine, however, had been crowned empress-consort in 1724, and on Peter's death she was proclaimed his successor; the claims of Alexis's son (later Peter III) were bypassed.

Shrewd and courageous, Catherine defended Peter's advisers against his rages, and in her own reign she established, and concentrated power in, the supreme privy council. Two of her eight children by Peter survived, Anna (mother of Peter III) and Elizabeth Petrovna (empress 1741-62).