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Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great is a Russia-1 TV series about the life of Catherine the Great, a Prussian princess who married the naturalized Russian Grand Duke Pyotr (Peter) Fedorovitch. The series follows Catherine from her arrival in Russia as she meets the reigning Empress Elizaveta (Elizabeth) Petrovna and tries to fall in love with her future husband.

The first season covers Catherine's rise to power: her struggle in a sexless marriage, conflicts with the Empress, and affairs with Grigory Orlov and Sergei Saltykov, ending with the Empress' death and Catherine's subsequent coronation as the new Empress after her coup against Peter III.

The second season is set during Catherine's reign as Empress, from 1768 to 1782. It covers the events of the Russo-Turkish war, her relationship with her lovers Orlov and Potemkin, and her strained relationship with her son and heir Pavel (Paul) Petrovich.

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The third season, subtitled "Imposters" is set from 1774 to 1776. Several imposters claim to be heirs to the throne, most notably Emelyan Pugachev, who led a major Cossack uprising against Catherine while claiming to be her dead husband Peter III.

All 3 seasons are available on Amazon Prime with English subtitles.


This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: King Stanisław August Poniatowski for Catherine in Season 2.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Averted. Catherine misses Count Orlov so much she passionately kisses him and makes out with in front of King of Poland whom she had an audience with at the time.
  • Absolute Cleavage: The majority of Catherine's and Empress Elizaveta's dresses are low cut and boobage is readily visible.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: When Catherine's carriage is knocked over and Prince Saltykov opens the door to check on her, the Princess thinks he is her betrothed Pyotr Fedorovitch and tries her best eyelash batting.
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  • Afraid of Blood: Pyotr Fedorovitch mentions his fear of blood numerous times, including when his wife is in labour and he wants to be dismissed from the birthing chamber.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Pyotr Fedorovitch dies alone, strangled while playing his favorite vintage violin and separated from his beloved Liza.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Catherine has a thing for dark and brooding cavalrymen and Leib guards.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Catherine is a skilled jockey.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Empress tells Catherine she will be gifted dresses because whe behaved well in the court.
  • Appeal to Tradition: Empress Elizaveta chastises Pyotr Fedorovitch for bringing his dogs inside, as 'Russians keep their dogs outside'. He scoffs and says King Friedrich of Prussia would take his dogs wherever he wanted.
  • Arranged Marriage: Catherine's with Pyotr; an unhappy one.
  • Auto Erotica: Carriage Erotica more like.
  • Awesome Momentof Crowning: Catherine gets an opulent, slow scene of being crowned and ascending to the throne of Russia. And then she is seen Breaking the Fourth Wall with a triumphant smile.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Catherine and Liza to Pyotr Fedorovitch - Catherine with her strong, seductive persona being Veronica to the ditzy, clumsy Betty of Liza.
    • Altough Catherine is a stereotypical lady, while Liza likes to cross-dress and play war with Pyotr Fedorovitch, so it may also be subverted.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Catherine speaks mainly German in the first episode, as does her mother Princess Johanna Elisabeth of Anhalt-Zerbst. Justified as they are both Prussian.
    • Despite being a naturalized Russian, Pyotr Fedorovitch also prefers to speak German as he was Duke of Holstein-Gottorp before being named his aunt's heir.
  • Brainy Brunette: Catherine herself.
  • Circumcision Angst: Pyotr Fedorovitch has not consummated his marriage with Catherine for seven years and has never had a physician examine him because he has phimosis. He is seen chased by guards and friends when he refuses to get the issue operated on; almost immediately after the procedure he tries to jump one of Catherine's maids.
  • Catchphrase: Empress ends almost all sentences addressed to Catherine with 'my dear'.
  • Carpet of Virility: Grigory Orlov.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Empress has a lot of people flayed and branded with hot irons to extract confessions of treason.
  • Consummation Counterfeit: Catherine cuts her hand with a fruit knife and smears blood on the sheets when Pyotr Fedorovitch refuses to deflower her.
  • Cool Crown
  • Costume Porn:
    • All female characters of noble background wear elaborate, ornate dresses with loads of embroidered and jeweled details. Truth in Television: Empress Elizaveta Petrovna never wore the same dress twice and often changed dresses several times a day. She demanded that French fabric salesmen sell to her first or be jailed.
    • Men follow suit, though they are much less varied in appearance.
  • Dances and Balls
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Empress Elizaveta is sarcastic to no end.
  • The Ditz:
    • Pyotr Fedorovitch often says thing that make the listener's eyebrows reach their scalp; he threatens to invade Denmark and wipe out the population, because one of his tutors was Danish and Pyotr didn't like him much.
    • He also likes to play with toy soldiers.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Both Empress and Catherine devour young Stanisław August Poniatowski with their eyes during unpleasant diplomacy meeting with ambassador of Prussia. Empress decides then to make him Catherine's lover.
  • Ermine Cape Effect
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry:
    • Catherine is seen wearing big, dangly chandelier earrings in majority of her scenes.
    • Empress Elizaveta Petrovna often wears glittery war medal on her sash.
  • Gem-Encrusted: Russian crown is completely covered with little diamonds and topped with a big-ass ruby.
  • Honor Before Reason: Catherine declines to take part in a coup against the Empress because she doesn't want blood on her hands. Not to mention Elizaveta could have had her killed or imprisoned.
  • I Want Grand Kids: Empress is so determined to get Catherine pregnant and give birth to an heir, that in light of seven years of sexless marriage to Pyotr Fedorovitch and his lack of interest in consummation of the marriage she advises Catherine to get a lover. That she does and births Pavel Petrovich, fathered by Prince Saltykov.
    • Catherine, in turn, does the very same thing on her son, urging and chiding him to provide a heir ASAP in seasons 2 and 3.
  • Ice Queen: Empress Elizaveta Petrovna.
  • The Ingenue: Catherine for the majority of the first season, until the Empress advises her to take a lover.
  • King Bob the Nth: Lampshaded. When Pyotr Fedorovitch wants a more heroic, bold title, it is pointed out that is it better to be Pyotr III than Louis XIV.
  • Kingon His Deathbed: It takes two episodes for the Empress to die from her final illness.
  • Lady in Red: Catherine often wears red dresses after she is crowned Empress.
  • Ladyof War:
    • Empress wages a war on Prussia, big-style.
    • In second season Catherine is a skilled leader, not afraid of any potential conflict, in contrast with her sweet, soft persona of the majority of the first season.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Catherine's children:
    • Pavel Petrovich, officially Pyotr Fedorovitch's son, but fathered by Sergei Saltykov
    • Anna Petrovna, officially Pyotr Fedorovitch's daughter, but fathered by King Stanisław August Poniatowski
    • Averted with Alexei Grigorievich Bobrinsky, who has been named patronymically after his actual father, Grigoryi Orlov, because it didn't matter at the time if the child was legitimate or not.
  • Masquerade Ball: Empress organizes a ball during which men dress in robes, while women wear Leib guard uniforms. High Priest is not pleased.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Catherine was born Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg; before her marriage to Peter Fedorovitch she is renamed Ekaterina Alekseyevna (Catherine, daughter of Aleksey) by Empress. Catherine points out that her father's name is Christian August, which would make her Sofiya Christianovna (Sophie, daughter of Christian), but Empress tells her she is to bear her mother's name and that is that. See patronymics info.
  • Molotov Truck: In season 2, the Russian navy turns one of their ships into a brander (AKA a fire ship) and sends it into the Turkish harbor, where the enemy has fortified. This forces the enemy to scatter and allows the Russian fleet to come in and blast the Turks into splinters.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Catherine gets naked or partially naked multiple times while disrobing, having sex, bathing, and praying.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking:
    • Empress has been trying to get pregnant for years with no success; medicus Karamaldi declares her suitable for bearing children, yet she dies childless.
    • Catherine hints at that while talking to her advisor, and later summons count Orlov to bed her, because she wants to get pregnant again while there is still time.
  • Nice Hat: Pyotr Fedorovitch is seen earing his three-horned hat almost all of the time, except when he is sleeping.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Catherine is seen being laced into one in the show intro and numerious times during the series, always seductively misheveled.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Catherine orders her maid to lace her tight to conceal her pregnant belly from her legitimate husband she cheated on with Count Orlov, resulting in the aforementioned pregnancy.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; there are multiple Grigoriys, Pyotrs, Elizavetas and Alekseys.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Catherine's daughter Anna dies in infancy.
  • Overly Long Title: By the Grace of God, We, Ekaterina Alekseyvna, Empress and Autocratix of All the Russias, Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod; Tsarina of Kazan, Tsarina of Astrakhan, Tsarina of Poland, Tsarina of Siberia, Tsarina of Chersonese Taurian, Tsarina of Georgia; Lady of Pskov and Grand Princess of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, Finland; Princess of Estland, Livland, Courland, Semigalia, Samogitia, Belostok, Karelia, Tver, Yugorsky land, Perm, Vyatka, Bolgar and others; Lady and Grand Princess of Nizhny Nogorod, Chernigov, Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Belozersk, Udorsky land, Obdorsk, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislav, and all of the northern countries Master; and Lady of Iberia, Kartli, and Kabardia lands and Armenian provinces; hereditary Sovereign and ruler of the Circassian and Mountainous Princes and of others; Lady of Turkestan; and others, and others, and others.
  • Pimped-Out Cape
  • Rated M for Manly: Averted with Pyotr Fedorovitch. He tries his best to be super manly, but in reality is a parody of traditional manliness.
  • Renaissance Man: Catherine. She wants to study mathematics and physics, is seen reading Voltaire, and endorses the Academy of Sciences.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia
  • Royal Harem: Turkish padishah has one of those.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something:
    • Empress and Catherine give orders to work the fields and make sure there is enough food for their subjects.
    • Catherine endorses Academy of Sciences and is a well-read patron.
  • Screaming Birth: Thrice.
  • Serial Killer: one of the subplots in season 2 is about Darya Saltykova (aka "Saltychikha")— a noblewoman who was torturing and killing her serfs, mostly women.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: After the deaths of Empress Elizaveta and Pyotr Fedorovitch is when Catherine comes into her full potential. Also she wears a Pimped-Out Dress on the reg now.
  • Sleeping Single: Catherine and Pyotr Fedorovitch never sleep in the same room.
  • Stocking Filler: Catherine is shown putting on baby blue stockings and a bit darker ribbon garter, also an example of True Blue Femininity.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome:
    • Prince Saltykov
    • Grigory Orlov and his brothers
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Empress asks Catherine if she can guess how many dresses she has. Catherine says one thousand, and Elizaveta corrects her; it's actually 32 thousand.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Catherine.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment
  • War Is Glorious: Pyotr Fedorovitch thinks this, based on his tiresome wars won with tin soldiers.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Catherine is banned from returning to her native Prussia with her son Pavel, but then later allowed to leave on her own. She tearfully decides to stay in Russia.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Turkish Sultan kills an adviser who failed him. With the adviser's dead son's own sword, no less.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Pyotr Fedorovitch. Following his accession to the throne as Emperor Peter III, he orders Russia's troops to withdraw from the conflict with Prussia. He is deeply despised for this.
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