The greatest leader since Catherine the Great or the worst scoundrel of all time?
Russia has never been short of profoundly exceptional or you could say incredibly notorious leaders.
There was Ivan the terrible, whose expansionist world view saw him extending the borders of his country to include the likes of Estonia and Latvia and his imperial adventures did set the tone for what his successors did.
And one of such was a real-life Lady Macbeth, who was born in modern day Poland and on marrying a Russian aristocrat gave up her birth name — -Sophie Friederike Auguste — to become Catherine the Great.
Our heroine would become Russia’s first empress when she overthrew and killed her spouse — Peter III.
It is no exaggeration to state that it was on her watch that Russia’s expansionism reached its zenith with the Ukraine, Lithuania and the surrounding areas falling under her control.
The territory also known as Alaska, in the United States of America was also within her purview too.
While she ruled with an iron fist, she was also a polymath and a polyglot; she took more than a passing interest in philosophy, literature and the arts and she spoke French, German and Russian.
Anyone who has read the magisterial war and peace could imagine Catherine the Great conversing as the terrifyingly bright characters in the Tolstoy’s magnum opus.
Her successors from the Paul I to the very final monarch from the House of Romanov — Nicholas II didn’t make the sort of mark which their forebears had on the global stage, and all that was to change with one of the defining events of the 20th century —the Russian revolution.
Vladimir Illich Ulyanov, whose brother was hanged by the penultimate Tsar for his role in the monarch’s assassination attempt, became the figure head in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of the Russian royals in 1917 and the end of the civil war years later.
Lenin, as he was known, was able to combine the sheer force of personality with an extraordinary intellect to create what become known as the United Soviet Socialist Republic.