Thanks to the primary ruler during the enlightenment period, Catherine the great, Russia was able to continue the territorial expansion it had developed during Peter the great's reign. Russia expanded south by defeating the Turks and captured half of Poland's land in its conquests
CATHERINE THE GREAT:
Catherine was imperative to the revitalization of Russia. She made new expansion that is considered to be what made Russia the great super power it is today. Although Catherine was an extremely intelligent woman, she was skeptical of change. Specifically and change that would upset the Russian nobles as she knew they were imperative to her power. She invited Diderot to speak to her about possible governmental reforms, but she was reluctant to embrace his ideas as they contradicted the nobles. Catherine would end up freeing Russian nobles from paying tax so she could continue her expansion of Russia. Catherine was responsible for getting russia through many uprisings, the most serious of which in 1773. Catherine wrote numerous books and her most beneficial changes were to Russia's education system.
The Austrian Empire had become one of the great European states during the Enlightenment period. The empire included the lands Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, and parts of Italy and the Netherlands.
Empress Maria Theresa
Maria Theresa made administrative reforms that centralized the Austrian Empire. Maria Theresa made these reforms to strengthen the power of the Habsburg state. An example of this was her enlargement and modernization of armed forces. Maria Theresa was also an empress of the Holy Roman Empire because of her marriage to Francis I. Reforms Empress Theresa brought to the Austrian Empire along with the enlarged central administration were a reorganized treasury and the advancement of universities. Maria Theresa helped initiate financial and educational reforms. For example, the creation of textbooks. Empress Theresa in her later Ages did not agree with some of her son, Joseph, ideas. She did not like his Enlightenment philosophies. Maria Theresa brought unity to the Habsburg dynasty and is regarded as one of the most capable rulers during the Enlightenment period.
Son of Maria Theresa. Joseph II was a big advocate and believed that he needed to sweep away anything in his path of reason. Joseph II’s famous quote summarizes some of his reforms “I have made Philosophy the lawmaker of my empire; her logical applications are going to transform Austria.” A lot of Joseph’s beliefs were difficult to obtain. He abolished serfdom, abrogated the death penalty, and established the principle of equality of all before the law. Joseph was frequently at odds with his mother Maria Theresa because of Joseph’s bad decisions Maria came out of retirement and co-ruled with Joseph. The two were constantly fighting over decisions and power.
Joseph II’s Reforms and Religious Reforms
Joseph carried out drastic religious reforms. This included complete religious toleration. Joseph’s reform programs proved overwhelming for Austria. A main reason of his overwhelming program was that he alienated nobility and the church by freeing the serfs and attacking the churches monasteries. Joseph urged his mother to pursue more enlightened policies. Some of these reforms and ideas were establishing secular schools in Austria and eliminating heresy as a crime. After Maria Theresa died, Joseph made many domestic reforms and granted religious tolerance. Joseph also wanted to free serfs and required all parents to send their kids to secular schools. The problem with Joseph’s reforms were Joseph's vision far outran the experience of his people. In attempting to please everyone, he succeeded in alienating most.
Frederick II’s Achievements:
Frederick II was the ruler of Prussia during the Enlightenment period, and was widely regarded as an enlightened monarch for his freedom of the press, and having the great philosopher Voltaire and Composer Bach in his court during his lifetime. He is known for his effort to strive to make Prussia a stronger nation by improving the army, bureaucracy, and learning structures of Prussia such as the Berlin Academy. He also oversaw the construction of his new palace which was the Sanssouci Palace. All of these achievements helped him to establish Prussia as a major power in Europe. This also led to his nickname, Frederick the Great.
Frederick II’s Religious Tolerance:
Frederick the Great was an advocate of religious tolerance and was known for allowing Jews and Catholics to worship their faith in his kingdom in exchange for bringing business and trade to Prussia. He did what was best for his country. When the Jesuits were suppressed by Pope Clement XIV, he welcomed them to teach in his kingdom. He also promoted the immigration of Protestants from several countries such as France, Bohemia, and Spain. He saw these Protestants as a way to boost economic development so he put their skills to use in Prussia.
The enlightenment deeply influenced Frederick II and the way he ruled Prussia. He established the Berlin academy, which was mentioned previously, and it led the world in Mathematics and had great philosophers that lectured there such as Immanuel Kant, Jean D’Alembert, and Pierre-Louis Maupertuis. His personal friend and great philosopher, Voltaire, was put at his court as well as the great Composer Johann Sebastian Bach, which was also one of his many achievements. Frederick was a big fan of rococo style. He had constructed the Royal Library, Berlin Stae Opera, St.Hedwig’s Cathedral, and most importantly his Sanssouci Palace in rococo style.
Although Frederick was for the Enlightenment, he never moved to free the serfs, but did make their daily life better. He gave colonists newland in the new areas ready for farming and by reevaluating the Thaler, he was able to make products cost friendly for the serfs. The Junkers were given more land, and the serfs remained where they were in society since the Junkers were forbidden to sell their land thus it was impossible for a serf to join the middle class or aristocracy. The Junkers swore absolute service to the king in exchange for control over their serfs which was in place in 1807 when serfdom was abolished.
Frederick the Great wanted to reform his nation’s economy as well, so much that he even created programs to drain out the swamps of Prussia for agricultural needs. His conquest of Silesia bulked Prussian industry with raw materials which he protected with new tariffs. He then revalued the Thaler, the currency of Prussia with the Mint Edict of 1763 which lowered prices for the peasants.