University Archives


Catherine the Great Demands Payment, "make sure that this order is carried out swiftly and precisely"

CATHERINE II, Letter Signed, to Pyotr Rumyantsev, June 10, 1787. 1 p., 7.25? x 8.875?. In Russian; very good.

Complete Translation
Count Pytor Alexandrovich
Attached is the petition presented to us by suppliers of horses for our procession that were supposed to be paid by the City of Kiev under the contract with the local magistrate. We order you to assure that City magistrate and Duma reimburse these contractors immediately and in full. A fast special carrier should deliver the money due at the expense of those who are responsible for this procrastination with payment. Instruct the provincial (“gubernskii”) prosecutor to make sure that this order is carried out swiftly and precisely.
Regardless, we keep you in our good graces
June 10, 1787

Historical Background
From January 2 to July 11, 1787, Empress Catherine the Great made an inspection trip to visit the newly acquired lands of New Russia and Crimea, gained in wars against the Ottoman Empire in 1735-1739 and 1768-1774. Her court and several ambassadors accompanied her, and she met Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II of Austria, traveling incognito, in a meeting arranged by Grigory Potemkin. Shortly after the end of this trip, the Russo-Turkish War (1787-1792) erupted when the Ottoman Empire attempted to regain lands lost to the Russian Empire. When Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II entered the ongoing Russo-Turkish War in February 1788, the Austro-Turkish War (1788-1791) took place simultaneously.

This imperial voyage also led to the persistent myth of “Potemkin villages,” erected according to the rumor on the orders of Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin, one of Catherine the Great’s former lovers and later lifelong friends and advisers. After he became governor of Russia’s new southern provinces in 1774, Potemkin founded several towns, including the Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol, and built an impressive Black Sea Fleet. While he undoubtedly insisted that all areas display their best appearance for the 1787 imperial visit, the accusation that Potemkin had entire fake towns built along the banks of the Dnieper River for show and imported people and animals to produce a sham image of prosperity originated with a hostile German ambassador.

In this brief order, Empress Catherine directed her governor in the Ukraine to ensure that the city of Kiev and its Duma (city authorities) paid for the horses supplied for her procession.

Catherine II / Catherine the Great (1729-1796) was born in the Kingdom of Prussia as Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg and entered a political marriage to Peter of Holstein-Gottorp in Saint Petersburg in 1745. She never liked her husband, and both carried on affairs with a series of lovers. Peter became Emperor Peter III in January 1762; six months later, a coup supported by Catherine arrested Peter, forced him to sign an abdication, and likely assassinated him. Catherine succeeded her husband, just as Catherine I had succeeded her husband Peter the Great in 1725. Empress Catherine II reigned for more than 70 years until her death. During her reign she expanded the borders of the Russian Empire by some 200,000 square miles at the expense of the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. She also modernized Russia along Western European patterns and supported the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Pyotr Alexandrovich Rumyantsev – Zadunaisky (1725-1796) was the only son of Count Alexander Rumyantsev, though rumors suggested that he was Peter the Great’s illegitimate son. He first saw military service under Peter the Great in the war with Sweden in the 1740s, and he carried the resulting peace treaty to Empress Catherine the Great. He became one of the foremost Russian generals of the eighteenth century. From 1764 to 1796, he governed Little Russia in the name of Empress Catherine the Great. Little Russia includes the modern-day nations of Belarus and Ukraine.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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