In 1711, Peter the Great made an unsuccessful Prut campaign against Turkey. The Russian army was surrounded by the enemy's troops, significantly superior in number and strength. According to legend, the wife of the Russian Tsar, Catherine, donated all her jewelry to Batalji Pasha, the commander of the Turkish army. This helped save not only Russian soldiers from captivity, but also Peter himself. In memory of this event, Peter established the Order of St. Catherine, which had another name - the Order of the Liberation.
Skeptics argue that the Russian army was saved not by the tsarina's jewelry, but by huge money that was allocated from the treasury. However, the award was established in 1714 and was awarded until the revolution. The order had two degrees, it was awarded exclusively to women from among the "honest and God-fearing ladies, married and unmarried." On November 24, 1714, Catherine was awarded this order. There were no other awards during the reign of Peter the Great.
Despite the fact that only ladies were supposed to award the Order of St. Catherine, there are no rules without exceptions. In 1727 Menshikov's son Alexander became a knight of the order. Empress Catherine awarded him for his "feminine disposition." There are no other cases of awarding males. However, Menshikov himself did not wear the order for a long time, shortly after the death of Catherine Alekseevna the Menshikovs, by order of Peter II, were deprived of all awards.
The awarding of the Order of St. Catherine also imposed certain responsibilities, the ladies who received such a high award had to redeem one Christian with their own money “from the enslavement of a barbaric” Christian. The statute of the order did not stipulate the specific merits for which it was awarded.
Most often, they were awarded for charity or achievements in education.
But, there are cases when ladies were awarded for military exploits. For example, Martha Ivanovna Crown, the wife of the commander of the brig "Mercury" Roman Vasilyevich Crown, provided assistance to the wounded during the Russian-Turkish war in 1789. Empress Catherine II, delighted with the courage of Martha Ivanovna, presented her with the order.
In 1797, Emperor Paul I ordered to award the Order of St. Catherine to all the daughters of the reigning monarch. And the sons were awarded the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. The Order of Catherine was supposed to be worn on a red ribbon (formerly on a white one), and the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called on a blue one. This is the origin of the tradition of tying newborn girls and boys with ribbons of the appropriate colors.
In 1845, an order temple was established - the Catherine Church at the Catherine Institute. On November 24 (according to the old style) an order holiday was solemnly celebrated, in which the ladies who had this award took part. In just two centuries, the Order of St. Catherine was issued more than 700 times.
The order feast was celebrated on the day of memory of the holy Great Martyr Catherine of Alexandria, who lived at the end of the 3rd - beginning of the 4th centuries. ad. A young girl who received the sacrament of baptism was executed for refusing to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Catherine was beheaded, and, according to legend, milk flowed from the wound instead of blood.
One of the awardees was Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova, who played a huge role in the development of science and education in the Russian Empire. Dashkova received the Order of St. Catherine in 1762, and not for her scientific work, but for her active participation in the palace coup, as a result of which Empress Catherine II ascended the throne.
Since the reign of Emperor Alexander II, the 1st class orders were decorated with diamonds, and the 2nd class award - with diamonds. The order's motto was: "For Love and Fatherland." There were much more people awarded the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called than St. Catherine. This was explained by the fact that no more than 12 ladies could have an order of the 1st degree at the same time. And II degree - 94.
The last awarding of the Order of St. Catherine in tsarist Russia took place on December 21, 1916.
On this day, the order was presented to Countess Ekaterina Petrovna Kleinmichel, who at that time was the head of the Yalta community of the Red Cross sisters. In the letter, among other reasons for the award, it was noted: "in memory of the great services to the homeland of your grandfather." The fact is that Mrs. Kleinmichel was the granddaughter of the famous Russian historian and writer Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin.
The tsarist awards were discontinued in 1917. Naturally, the Order of St. Catherine was also banned. In modern Russia in 2012, a similar award was established - the Order of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine. Over the years, there have been only six awards. The badge of the order is made of gilded silver and adorned with diamonds. As in the old days, the award is worn on a red ribbon.