Assess Catherine II's achievements as a reformer.
Catherine II's achievements are often seen as simple extensions of the politics and ideas set in place by Peter I, two generations earlier. However, Catherine tried hard to merit the title 'reformer' in her own right.
One of the biggest projects that Catherine II undertook during her reign was the decentralisation of government. This entailed a massive restructuring, namely of administration and legal affairs. Due to Russia's huge land mass, deputies often had to leave their provinces uncontrolled for several weeks while visiting the capital. So the first stage of decentralisation was to increase the number of provinces from 25 to 40, each with a central town with an elected governor where most legal matters could be settled. With more power in the provinces, most legal matters could be dealt with at a local level and in terms of reform Catherine managed to step around the serious inconvenience of distance.
The fact that these provinces existed until 1917 is testimony to the success of this reform.
The small number of nobles personally known to Catherine was insufficient to fill the number of posts now available in the provinces. Furthermore, many of them looked only to increase their rank and held the post for just a few months. Therefore Catherine decided to turn to elected deputies from within the province. Unfortunately, most educated people worthy of these posts were Nobles who preferred the prestige of the army, leaving the provinces with no strong leader. Those nobles who did remain in the provinces often drank, terrorised their communities or took bribes. What the strategy really needed was a strong education system to back it up.
On top of these problems, the local administration system already in place had been shattered by the Pugachev...