The first Empress of all Russia was the second wife of Peter the Great. Before converting to the Orthodox faith, she was called Marta Skavronskaya, and was the daughter of a Lithuanian peasant named Samuil. Employed as a servant by the minister Gluck of Marienburg at 17, she married a Swedish dragoon. When Marienburg fell to Russian forces, Marta was captured by Count B.P. Sheremetev and put to work in the regimental laundry. From Sheremetev, she was passed on to Prince A.D. Menshikov, a favorite of Peter the Great. In 1703, Peter saw Marta at Menshikov's home and took her as his mistress. In 1705, she converted to the Orthodox faith, and on February 19, 1712, married Peter.

After the death of Peter, Catherine was placed on the throne by the guards regiments. Real power, however, remained in the hands of Menshikov and the Supreme Privy Council.

She died on May 6, 1727, and was buried in the Cathedral of the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

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Text compiled by Alexei K. Levykin
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