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Catherine the Great

Catherine II, most known as Catherine the Great, born Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, was Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, the country's longest-ruling female leader. She came to power following a coup d'état that she organised—resulting in her husband, Peter III, being overthrown. Under her reign, Russia was revitalised. In her accession to power and her rule of the empire, Catherine relied on her noble favourites, most notably count Grigory Orlov and Grigory Potemkin. Assisted by successful generals such as Alexander Suvorov and Pyotr Rumyantsev, admirals such as Fyodor Ushakov, she governed at a time when the Russian Empire was expanding by conquest and diplomacy. In the south, the Crimean Khanate was crushed following victories over the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish wars, Russia colonised the territories of Novorossiya along the coasts of the Black and Azov Seas. In the west, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, ruled by Catherine's former lover, King Stanisław August Poniatowski, was partitioned, with the Russian Empire gaining the largest share.

In the east, Russia started establishing Russian America. Catherine reformed the administration of Russian guberniyas, many new cities and towns were founded on her orders. An admirer of Peter the Great, Catherine continued to modernize Russia along Western European lines. However, military conscription and the economy continued to depend on serfdom, the increasing demands of the state and of private landowners intensified the exploitation of serf labor; this was one of the chief reasons behind several rebellions, including the large-scale Pugachev Rebellion of Cossacks and peasants. Catherine decided to have herself inoculated against smallpox by Thomas Dimsdale. While this was considered a controversial method at the time, she succeeded, her son Pavel was inoculated as well. Catherine sought to have inoculations throughout her empire and stated: "My objective was, through my example, to save from death the multitude of my subjects who, not knowing the value of this technique, frightened of it, were left in danger".

By 1800 2 million inoculations were administered in the Russian Empire. The period of Catherine the Great's rule, the Catherinian Era, is considered the Golden Age of Russia; the Manifesto on Freedom of the Nobility, issued during the short reign of Peter III and confirmed by Catherine, freed Russian nobles from compulsory military or state service. Construction of many mansions of the nobility, in the classical style endorsed by the Empress, changed the face of the country, she enthusiastically supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and is regarded as an enlightened despot. As a patron of the arts she presided over the age of the Russian Enlightenment, including the establishment of the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe. Catherine was born in Alt-Stettin, Kingdom of Prussia as Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, her father, Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, belonged to the ruling German family of Anhalt but held the rank of a Prussian general in his capacity as governor of the city of Stettin.

Two of her first cousins became Kings of Sweden: Gustav III and Charles XIII. In accordance with the custom prevailing in the ruling dynasties of Germany, she received her education chiefly from a French governess and from tutors. Catherine was known by the nickname Fike, her childhood was quite uneventful. She once wrote to her correspondent Baron Grimm: "I see nothing of interest in it." Although Catherine was born a princess, her family had little money. Her rise to power was supported by her mother's wealthy relatives, who were both nobles and royal relations; the 300 or so states of the Holy Roman Empire, many of them quite small and powerless, made for a competitive political system as the various princely families fought for advantage over each other via political marriages. For the smaller German princely families, an advantageous marriage was one of the best means of advancing their interests, the young Sophie was groomed throughout her childhood to be the wife of some powerful ruler in order to improve the position of the von Anhalt family.

Besides her native German, Sophie became fluent in French, the lingua franca of European elites in the 18th century. The young Sophie received the standard education for an 18th-century German princess with a concentration upon learning the etiquette expected of a lady and Lutheran theology; the choice of Sophie as wife of her second cousin, the prospective tsar Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, resulted from some amount of diplomatic management in which Count Lestocq, Peter's aunt Elizabeth and Frederick II of Prussia took part. Lestocq and Frederick wanted to strengthen the friendship between Prussia and Russia to weaken Austria's influence and ruin the Russian chancellor Bestuzhev, on whom Empress Elizabeth relied, who acted as a known partisan of Russo-Austrian co-operation. Catherine first met Peter III at the age of 10. Based on her writings, she found, she disliked his fondness for alcohol at such a young age. Peter still played with toy soldiers. Catherine wrote that she stayed at one end of the castle, Peter at the other.

The diplomatic intrigu

Dream City Film Club

Dream City Film Club were a North London rock band founded in July 1995. Their sound was difficult to categorize in that it encompassed tortured lovelorn balladry, avant-garde flourishes, Tin Pan Alley, straightforward rock and gospel yearnings in both lyrics and subject matter. Dream City Film Club failed to find enough of an audience to sustain them. Vocalist Michael J. Sheehy had been working as a solo singer/songwriter for several years when he met Alex Vald and Laurence Ash, who began writing songs with Sheehy. Upon the demise of another local group, bassist Andrew Park joined; the band's name came from a news story Sheehy had seen about an arsonist who had burned down a members-only porno theatre. They played their first gig as Dream City Film Club on 31 July 1995, they released a single, "Crawl" for the underground fanzine, the Organ in early 1996. Soon after, they were contacted by Beggar's Banquet and recorded their eponymous debut album in late 1996 releasing it on 26 May 1997. According to Sheehy, the English press reaction to the first single, "Perfect Piece of Trash", was unanimous in its derision.

After parting with Vald, DCFC continued on as a three piece, recording its second and final album, In the Cold Light of Morning featuring a more expansive sound best realized on the epic "God Will Punish the Pervert Preacher". The group disbanded in 1999. Michael J. Sheehy subsequently recorded three solo albums for Beggar's Banquet and two for Glitterhouse, has fronted Saint Silas Intercession with his brother Patrick. During the early 2000s, Alex Vald worked as half of experimental pop band Datapuddle. In 2015, Sheehy and Vald reunited as the pop-noir duo United Sound of Joy. Michael J. Sheehy - vocals, keyboards Andrew Park - bass guitar, guitars Laurence Ash - Drums, percussion Alex Vald - guitar Patrick McCarthy - guitar Dream City Film Club 1997 In the Cold Light of Morning 1999 Stranger Blues EP 1999 Michael J. Sheehy solo albums: Sweet Blue Gene 2000 Ill Gotten Gains 2001 No Longer My Concern 2002 Ghost On The Motorway 2007 With These Hands: The Rise and Fall of Francis Delaney 2009 Dream City Film Club fan page Retrospective by Michael J. Sheehy, on the Beggar's Banquet official website

76 mm divisional gun M1902/30

76 mm divisional gun M1902/30 was a Soviet modernized version of the Russian World War I 76 mm divisional gun M1902, employed in the early stages of the German-Soviet War. The M1902 gun was the mainstay of Russian Empire artillery, it was adopted by some other countries. By 1928, the M1902 formed the bulk of the Red Army's 2,500 artillery pieces; the M1902 had some reserves for enhancing its firepower. In 1927-1930 more than 20 modernized pieces were tried out. In the end it was decided to adopt the a gun developed at the Perm Plant, by a team headed by E. N. Sidorenko; the result of this modernization was a semi-new gun with drastically improved performance. This modernization included lengthening the barrel from 30 to 40 calibers, making a hole in the single trail carriage to allow a larger elevation angle, installing a balancing mechanism and adding a new panoramic sight; as a result of such enhancements the muzzle velocity reached 662 m/s, the elevation angle was increased from 17 to 37 degrees and the maximal range was increased from 8,500 to 13,290 m.

From 1931 only new L40 barrels were produced. In the mid-1930s a new 6.3 kg armour-piercing round was introduced, giving the M1930 gun the ability to penetrate 56 mm armour at 500 m under 30 degrees meet angle from normal direction and 49 mm armour at a distance of 1,000 m under the same conditions. Direct fire distance was 820 m at 2 m target height; the modernized M1930 gun could dispatch any tank of the 1930s, including the new French vehicles Somua S35 and B1 bis. However the modernization did not address the low mobility and small traverse angle of the gun due to its remaining single trail carriage without suspension. Maximal, horse-drawn, transport speed was only 6–7 km/h; this limited the anti-tank effectiveness of the M1902/30 and rendered the gun obsolete in swift and maneuver warfare, so it was phased out of production in 1937 when the new divisional gun, the F-22, was adopted. By 1 June 1941 the RKKA possessed 2,066 2,411 M1902/30 guns. In the beginning of the German-Soviet War these guns were replaced by more advanced F-22, F-22USV and ZiS-3 76 mm divisional guns.

Guns withdrawn from front-line service were transferred to the artillery regiments of riflemen divisions in rear military districts of the Soviet Union until they were replaced by ZiS-3. Ivanov A. - Artillery of the USSR in Second World War - SPb Neva, 2003 Shunkov V. N. - The Weapons of the Red Army, Mn. Harvest, 1999 ISBN 985-433-469-4