Catherine the Great of Russia In Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery hangs perhaps the most well-known picture of Russia's most well-known ruler. Dimitri Levitsky's 1780 'Portrait of Catherine the Great in the Justice Temple' depicts Catherine in the temple burning poppies at an altar, symbolising her sacrifice of self-interest for Russia. Law books and the scales of justice are at her feet, highlighting her respectful promotion of the rule of law. But menacingly, in the background an eagle crouches, suggesting the means to use brutal power where necessary. This was one of many images that Catherine commissioned that demonstrated her skill at manipulation and reinvention.
For an obscure, small town, German princess her ambition was large - the transformation of a semi-barbaric country into a model of the ideals of the French 18th century Enlightenment. How far was Catherine able to lead her country into full participation in the political and cultural life of Europe? Was she able to liberate the serfs? And should she be remembered as Russia's most civilised ruler or a megalomaniacal despot?
Janet Hartley , Professor of International History at the London School of Economics
Simon Dixon , Professor of Modern History at the University of Leeds
Tony Lentin , Professor of History at the Open University