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Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova (17 (28) March 1743, according to other sources 1744, St. Petersburg - 4 (16) January 1810, Moscow) - nee Countess Vorontsova, married Princess Dashkova. A friend and associate of Empress Catherine II, a participant in the coup d'état of 1762 (after the coup, Catherine II lost interest in her friend and Princess Dashkova did not play a noticeable role in government affairs). One of the notable personalities of the Russian Enlightenment. Her memoirs contain valuable information about the reign of Peter III and the accession of Catherine II ("Memoirs of Princess Dashkova", published in 1840 in London). Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova became the first woman in the world to run the Academy of Sciences. At her suggestion, the Russian Academy was also opened (October 21, 1783), which had one of the main goals of the study of the Russian language, and Dashkova became its first president.
Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova is a unique phenomenon in the history of Russia. What talents she did not possess! According to the testimony of Catherine the Great, she was a pharmacist, a doctor, a carpenter, a merchant, and a judge. This woman could have stopped a theater production and started teaching the actors how to play roles. Dashkova composed plays, wrote articles, led roads, milked cows on her own. This list goes on and on, since whatever she did, Dashkova did extremely well.
Dashkova thought like a great statesman. It was this ability that made it possible for this woman to leave a significant mark in the history of the times of Catherine the Great. This was the first time in history when a woman who did not belong to the reigning dynasty (she was a countess) could take such an important place among the nobles without any ingratiation.
There was a lot in common between Ekaterina Dashkova and Ekaterina Alekseevna. Their first meeting took place at the end of 1758. The conversation was long. It turned out that they were both very well-read, well acquainted with the ideas of the enlighteners of France. In general, they liked to communicate with each other.
There were many differences between Ekaterina Dashkova and Ekaterina Alekseevna. They showed up over time. For example, if Dashkova always spoke bluntly, then Catherine the Great could easily find a compromise with her interlocutor.
Dashkova was unattractive. For example, Diderot described her small stature, swollen cheeks, a flattened nose, thick lips, and so on. Perhaps it was because of the lack of grace that Ekaterina Romanovna devoted her young years to reading wise books, and not staying in a young society. Nature generously endowed Catherine with intelligence. It was during these years that such a purposeful character was formed in Dashkova.
Dashkova's marriage is fanned by legend. The official version of this event says that Ekaterina Romanovna accidentally met Prince M.I. Dashkov - his future spouse. The modest wedding was celebrated shortly thereafter. The marriage was blessed both by the prince's mother and by the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna herself. But popular rumor judged differently. More romantic. After Prince Dashkov began to kindly talk about Vorontsova (Catherine's maiden name), she was not taken aback and, calling her uncle, announced to him that Dashkova was asking for her hand in marriage. Therefore, the prince (after all, he could not tell the first dignitary of Russia that the words meant something completely different) simply had to take Vorontsov as his wife.
Dashkova was happily married. She loved her husband, and he reciprocated. However, this idyll did not last long - Prince Dashkov, being a captain, was forced to go to serve in St. Petersburg.
The birth of a son was preceded by a small "adventure". Learning about the imminent addition to the family, Dashkov urgently went to Moscow, but on the way he became very ill and, in order not to upset his wife, stopped with his aunt. Catherine, nevertheless, found out about her husband's illness and, overcoming the pain, went to visit Dashkova. Seeing her husband (and he could not even talk), the princess fainted. Then she, of course, was sent home, where a child was born - her son Pavel.
It was beneficial for Ekaterina Alekseevna to tie Dashkova to herself. Why? Yes, very simple. Ekaterina Romanovna absorbed the best ideas of the French enlighteners, she also cherished the dream of the country's prosperity, but most importantly, she was convinced of the inability of the heir to govern the country well. And Dashkova herself was not against maintaining relations with Ekaterina Alekseevna. She was afraid that her idol's husband (Pyotr Fedorovich) would imprison Ekaterina Alekseevna in a monastery.
After the palace coup on June 28, 1762, a quarrel arose between the two Catherines. Its essence consisted in the assessment of roles. The fact is that Dashkova declared that she was the leader of the coup. This statement caused a chill in their relationship. After all, the newly-made empress was not pleased with the disseminated version that she received the crown only thanks to an eighteen-year-old lady.
The first blow to the pride of Ekaterina Romanovna was inflicted precisely after the coup. Opening the award list of individuals who excelled in the coup, he was very surprised. Her surname was not in the first or even in second place, but among the ordinary participants, who, in principle, were not remarkable in anything. The empress used this move in order to make it clear to the young lady that she herself was the leader of the coup that had taken place.
Dashkova did not approve of the violent death of Pyotr Fedorovich. Having learned that Alexey Orlov was directly related to her, she did not want to know him for decades. The empress did not like the words Dashkova said about the untimely death of Pyotr Fedorovich.
Dashkova was among those who were not satisfied with the possible marriage of Catherine the Great with Orlov. Naturally, the empress did not like this very much. Ekaterina Romanovna, nevertheless, in her heart was very fond of Catherine the Great, but she could afford caustic remarks about her and about Orlov. It got to the point that the empress wrote a letter to the princess's husband. This meant the end of the relationship between the two Catherines. The couple reacted very negatively to this note. In addition, they were forced to go to the place where Dashkova's regiment was at that moment - to Riga.
1754 was a very difficult year for Dashkova. In September, during the campaign to the Rzeczpospolita, Mikhail Ivanovich died as a result of an illness. On the shoulders of Ekaterina Romanovna took care of the children (daughter and son) and the household. The following year, she moved to one of the villages near Moscow. Here she takes up the farm very energetically and quickly achieves success - within five years she pays off all the debts that passed to her after the death of her husband.
Ekaterina Romanovna was still able to break her pride. This is evidenced by two of her actions at once. Firstly, while living abroad, she flatly refused to host Ruhlier, the author who described the events of the 1762 coup. The point is not in the coup itself, but in how he portrayed Catherine the Great on his pages - and he did it in far from the best way. Secondly, when meeting with the French educator Diderot Dashkova, she praised the Empress of Russia with all her might. She was not wrong. Soon, Diderot wrote of her devotion to Catherine II herself.
While traveling outside Russia, Ekaterina Romanovna wasted no time. She expanded her horizons a lot. A visit to each city was accompanied, firstly, by acquaintance with its sights, secondly, by visiting various art galleries, museums, theaters, and thirdly, by acquaintance and communication with the most famous cultural figures. Among the latter were Voltaire, Diderot, Gibner and others.
When Dashkova returned to Russia (1771), she received great respect. The Empress's anger was replaced by mercy. Catherine II even granted her an amount of sixty thousand rubles. The years spent outside the country were not in vain. Dashkova herself linked such a striking change in attitude towards her also with the loss of such a strong influence on the empress from the Orlovs. When Dashkova returned to her homeland from abroad for the third time, she was again gifted by Ekaterina Alekseevna. The subject of the gift was a house in St. Petersburg (its value was estimated by the standards of those times at thirty thousand rubles), as well as two and a half thousand serfs.
Ekaterina Dashkova did not immediately agree to be the director of the Academy of Sciences and Arts. She was very surprised by the proposal of Catherine the Great (which she told her at the ball). Something made Dashkova write in a letter to the Empress that she was not able to run the Academy. What exactly is not clear. Either Ekaterina Romanovna wanted to show her importance in this way, or the truth considered herself unworthy. But if we consider that the director of the Academy was Elizabeth Petrovna's favorite K.G. Razumovsky, who certainly did not have the ability to manage, the choice of Catherine II was quite justified - Dashkova's knowledge could not be denied. Already in 1786, Ekaterina Romanovna brought Catherine the Great a detailed report on her activities as director over the past three years. And the results of this activity were significant! New books appeared in the library, new fonts in the printing house, debts were closed, and the prices of books published at the academy dropped significantly. In addition, many loafers lost their jobs at the Academy, and only those who really had the ability to study sciences were left as high school students.
Ekaterina Dashkova was the initiator of the creation of the Russian Academy. It was founded in 1783. The main and significant difference between the Russian Academy and the Academy of Sciences and Arts was its reliance on the development of the so-called humanitarian cycle (the Academy of Sciences relied more on exact sciences). An interesting fact is that Ekaterina Romanovna again became the head of the new Academy, however, again against her will. Thus, whether Dashkova wanted it or not, she became the head of two important scientific institutions of Russia at once.
Dashkova published the magazine "Interlocutor of lovers of the Russian word." Its content was somewhat reminiscent of the content of the magazine "Anything and everything" published in the sixties by Ekaterina Alekseevna. That is, the "Interlocutor" condemned such vices as deception, contempt, double-mindedness and the like. This journal was published first at the Academy of Sciences and Arts, then at the Russian Academy.
Dashkova got along well with children. Rather the opposite. Her relationship with her son and daughter was poor. The princess herself is to blame for this. After all, even in her adult years, she despotically supervised them: she literally controlled every step of her children. Dashkova's daughter, Anastasia, turned out to be an immoral person. She became famous for her indescribable extravagance and coquetry. Dashkova's son, Pavel, also did not please his mother. Serving Potemkin, he led a very riotous life. Having married without the mother's blessing, he did not even tell her about it. Ekaterina Romanovna found out about the marriage of her son only two months later, and even then from strangers.
In 1795, there was a new cooling in relations between Dashkova and Catherine II. This was due to the publication by Ekaterina Romanovna of the tragedy "Vadim Novgorodsky" (by Knyazhnin). It was reported to Catherine the Great that the content of this tragedy would not harmfully affect the authority of the supreme power. And since Catherine II by this time had retreated from the path of liberalism, she remained very unhappy with Dashkova.
"I wish you a happy journey," said Empress Dashkova at their last meeting. Ekaterina Romanovna herself came to the Empress's reception to ask to be relieved of her duties. By this time, Catherine the Great was so negatively disposed towards Dashkova that instead of any gratitude for the work done in the old years, she threw after her: "I wish you a happy journey."
Dashkova's life after the death of Catherine the Great cannot be called happy. The fact that Ekaterina Romanovna took the most active part in the coup of 1762 was the reason for the persecution of the princess by Paul I. He took revenge on her father. Firstly, he dismissed Dashkova from all posts, and secondly, he ordered her to move to the Novgorod province. The hut in which she settled was deprived of almost all the amenities. True, after several petitions, Dashkova was allowed to move to her Kaluga estate. Summing up, it should be noted that although Dashkova faced many difficulties in her life, she did not bend under them.