Russian palace revolution. Emperor Peter III dethroned, Catherine II ascends

9 July 1762

On June 28 (July 9), 1762 Catherine II supported by Guard regiments seized the political power in the country and became autocratic Empress of Russia.

Catherine II, born Sophie Auguste Friederike von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, Russian Empress (1762-1796) came from a minor North-German prince family. In 1774 she came to Russia accompagnied by her mother on the invitation of Empress Elisabeth Petrovna. Having adopted orthodoxy and received the name of Catherine Alexeevna, she married Great Duke Peter Feodorovich, future Peter III in 1745.

In December of 1761, after the death of Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter III ascended the throne. Within six months of his rule Peter had made a series of deeds which provoked a negative reaction of officers‘ corps: he concluded a treaty with Prussia unfavorable for Russia and returned it the lands taken by Russians during the Seven years war; intended to oppose Dania (Russian ally) in union with Prussia; declared a sequestration of the Russian church property, abolishment of monastery land ownership, etc. Being a worshiper of the Prussian drill, he tried to find support among Golstein guard.

Confused and badly thought-out actions of Peter III at the domestic political arena deprived him of the support among the Russian society; his foreign policy was regarded by many as betrayal of the national interests.

Catherine Alexeevna, on the contrary, was very popular among people; she was a clever and ambitious woman, studied Russian, read a lot, including the works on political history of Western Europe, works of Voltaire, Diderot, d’Alembert. Guards wished her to mount the throne; dignitaries wanted to replace Peter by his son under Catherine regency. Catherine found supporters in the person of chancellor A. P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Field Marshal S. F. Apraksin, Polish diplomat S. Ponyatovsky and other. When the Guards‘ discontent of the Emperor worsened even more, Catherine decided to take part in palace revolution.

Her allies, led by Orlov brothers, Potyomkin and Khitrovo, started to agitate guards’ formations and finally won them over. The beginning of the revolution was urged by rumors about arrest of one of its participants – lieutenant Passek.

On the night of June 28 (July 9) Catherine II accompanied with Aleksey and Grigory Orlov, arrived from Petergof to St. Petersburg, to Ismailovsky regiment’s quarters where she was immediately named autocratic empress. From Ismailovsky regiment she went to the quarters of Semenovsky regiment where the same scene was repeated and where soon arrived the servicemen of Preobrazhensky regiment and cavalry guards. Messengers were sent to three regiments which had already taken field against Denmark, to Kronstadt as well as Livonia and Pomerania where were situated large military formations to the help of which Peter III could resort. In Kazan cathedral the clergy proclaimed Catherine autocratic empress, then in Winter Palace civil and military officials started to swore their allegiance. Realizing the inanity of resistance, the next day Peter III abdicated the throne, was arrested and soon died under obscure conditions.

On July 6 (17), 1762 in Senate was announced the Manifesto signed by Catherine II on her ascension to the throne. On September 22 (October 3), 1762 Empress was ceremonially crowned in Moscow.

Lit.: Брикнер А. Г. История Екатерины Второй. Ч. 1—5. СПб., 1885; Дворцовые перевороты как социальное явление XVIII века [Электронный ресурс] // Historicus. 2007. URL:; Екатерина II. Письма графу Станиславу Августу Понятовскому [Электронный ресурс] // Российский мемуарий. 2003-2008. URL:; Переворот 1762 г. Сочинения и переписка участников и современников. М., 1908; Рахматуллин М. Императрица Екатерина Вторая // Наука и жизнь. 2003. № 2; То же [Электронный ресурс] URL:; Тарле Е. В. Екатерина Вторая и её дипломатия. Ч. 1—2. М., 1945.

From the Presidential library materials:

Catherine II (1729–1796) // House of Romanov. The Zemsky Sobor of 1613: [digital collection]