Sophia, Regent of Russia

Catherine the Great wrote of Sophia Alekseevna, the first woman to effectively rule Russia, '... we cannot but own, that she was very capable of governing.'An article by Lindsey A.J. Hughes

Muscovite court registers record that on September 17th, 1657 'to the Sovereign Tsar and Great Prince Aleksei Mikhailovich of All the Great and Little and White Russians was born a daughter, the Sovereign Lady Tsarevna and Great Princess Sophia Alekseevna.' On October 1st the birth of this fourth daughter to Tsar Aleksei and his wife Maria Miloslavskaya was celebrated with a court banquet and on October 4th Sophia was baptised in the Kremlin Cathedral of the Dormition by Patriarch Nikon. Under normal circumstances these solemnities would have marked the virtual end of all public reference to Sophia, with the exception of annual dinners to mark her birthday (conducted in her absence) and obsequies for her death. Sophia, however, was to defy the conventions governing royal females in seventeenth-century Russia and become the first woman effectively to rule her country. Unfortunately for her future reputation, her regency, which lasted from May 1682 to September 1689, was overshadowed by the reign of her famous half-brother Peter I (1682-1725) and for many years Sophia was either forgotten or vilified as an unscrupulous plotter. Yet Boris Kurakin, a Russian noble writing in the 1720s, claimed: 'Never was there such a wise government in the Russian state, and during the seven years of her regency the whole state flourished in great wealth.' Allowing for exaggeration, Sophia evidently deserves the attention of posterity.

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