1. I have recently been overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of Russian literature. I’ve always been a Dostoevsky fangirl (I even wrote a research paper on Karamazov last year), and last week I finished reading The Bear and the Nightingale, an absolute brilliant book based on Russian folklore that begged me to revisit the genre. This led me to spend a good five hours ruthlessly hunting and devouring any short stories by Gogol* that I could find for free on the internet, refusing to get off my laptop until I was done with all of them. There’s just something about the Russians that seems inherently timeless and chasmatic, isn’t there? They might be a bunch of stuffy old dudes with a weird accent but they never fail to resonate with you. (I googled this, as I do all random thoughts that enter my head, and found a fascinating article about 19th century Russian literature. You can read it here, if you’re interested.)
2. Speaking of Russians, my favourite one right now is Catherine the Great, the longest-reigning female monarch of Russia. I happened to chance upon her during my above-mentioned Gogol hunting and have not stopped reading about her since. Not only did she stare down dozens of rebellions and dismiss terrible rumours (including being called a horse-fucker), but she also actively promoted art and literature in Russia and was a lifelong friend of Voltaire (yes, the Voltaire). Culture flourished under her rule, giving rise to what is considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. And if that isn’t enough, she was also pretty unabashed about her many lovers and gifted them with hefty titles and land deeds, a tradition more commonly practiced by the male rulers of that time.
I absolutely love reading about powerful women from history, and, although she may have allegedly murdered a few people here and there, Catherine is probably the coolest one I’ve encountered so far.
3. Nothing I’ve read about her so far seems to be enough, so I recently purchased Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. It seems to be the most popular and detailed text about her life, and was also highly recommended by a friend. I’ve haven’t read it yet so I can’t recommend it myself, but if you’re still interested, you can purchase it here.