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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?478531">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

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After an unlikely beginning as Sophie Friederike Auguste, daughter of a minor prince of Anhalt-Zerbst (Prussia), she married the future Russian Emperor Peter III and then seized power from him in 1762. Thereafter, she reigned alone as Empress Catherine II until her death. She expanded the Russian Empire and helped modernize it, furthering the efforts of Peter the Great. An interesting note: Her son the Emperor Paul I hated his mother so much that he enacted a rule that no woman could ever again inherit the Russian throne.
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