||"Catherine the Great's letters present a vivid picture of Russia in a momentous age. They also offer a unique account of her personal development and intimate life, her strategic acumen as a diplomat and military commander, and her political skills at the Russian court and in handling foreign monarchs. Born a German princess, Catherine married into the Russian royal family and came to the throne after a coup. As absolute ruler for 34 years she presided over the expansion of the Russian empire, legislated actively to reform the country in keeping with the principles of the Enlightenment, actively promoted the arts and sciences, and in her correspondence engaged with the most renowned minds in Europe, among them Diderot and Voltaire. Her letters are her literary masterpiece, written to a wide circle of associates and friends, not least her most celebrated lover and ally, Potemkin. Combining her wit, charm, and quick eye for detail, they entertain and tell the gripping story of a self-made woman and legendary ruler. This edition of the letters offers a taste of Catherine's entire writing career, with biographies of Catherine's addressees, a thorough overview of her reign and an analysis of Catherine's literary skill as a letter-writer. Organized chronologically and thematically into six periods, each section also features an introduction to the domestic, personal, and foreign policy contexts out of which her letters emerge"--Provided by publisher.