Character and Legacy
Catherine increased the power and prestige of Russia by skillful diplomacy and by extending Russia's western boundary into the heart of central Europe. An enthusiastic patron of literature, art, and education, Catherine wrote memoirs, comedies, and stories, and corresponded with the French Encyclopedists, including Voltaire, Diderot, and d'Alembert (who were largely responsible for her glorious contemporary reputation). She encouraged some criticism and discussion of social and political problems until the French Revolution made her an outspoken conservative and turned her against all who dared criticize her regime. Although she had many lovers, only Orlov, Potemkin, and P. L. Zubov (1767–1822) were influential in government affairs. She was succeeded by her son Paul I.