Catherine II and Stalin
Catherine II (the Great) and Joseph Stalin were both leaders of Russia that demonstrated an awareness of the West. They tried to emulate some of the elements of the West while purposely neglecting others. For this reason they were partial westernizers. Catherine the Great was very in tune with the Enlightenment and she had vast knowledge over the culture of Western
. Due to this she decided that her country was backward and would need to change in order for it to remain being a world power. In 1767 she assembled a Legislative Commission to help her amend the laws and government of Russia. Before this body convened, Catherine published a set of Instructions based on many of the political works of the philosophes. Other examples of her westernization exist in her plans for economic growth. She tried to halt interior barriers in trade. Also, under her reign, the exports of grain, flax, fur, and naval stores increased and she encouraged the growth of the urban middle class, which is so essential for trade. On the other hand, although it seemed as if Catherine was taking steps toward a more western future, her proposition to reform law did not occur until fifty years later. Also, she strongly supported to rights of the nobility and granted them local power over the medieval custom of serfs. Catherine never had any intention from departing from absolutism and her close rapport with the philosophes was a strategic move. She wanted them to spread the word of a progressive and modern Russia. She wanted to resemble the West but she did not want to actually be like it. Joseph Stalin was much less modern in his thought than Catherine the Great. One of the few examples of westernization under his regime was the remarkably successful Five-Year Plans. This was his vehicle for industrialization by setting goals for economic production and meeting them. Also, Stalin made peace with the Russian Orthodox Church. Although, this was more likely an attempt to gain more support during World War II than because of the kindness of his heart. However, most of Stalin's actions reflected a cruel backward mentality. Stalin's collectivization proposal made the kulaks very wealthy and also was opposed by many farmers and peasants from all social classes. First, Stalin eliminated the kulaks as a class. Then he proceeded to assassinate al dissidents and this ended up in warfare. This was by no means a modern approach to dealing with the country's problems. Then instead of admitting the failure of this program, Stalin proclaimed it was delayed because of "dizziness from success." In the last years of his reign, he had begun a second purge that was targeted toward the Jews. Stalin and Catherine are mixtures of the antique Russia and the expanding modern western society. Catherine did demonstrate a more prevalent attitude than Stalin, who proceeded to be blinded by a history behind in its time. However, both did not achieve many of the goals that they proclaimed.