Amazing paradox arose in the eighteenth century Russia – in a country mostly dominated by patriarchal norms and outright despotism, most of the century women, largely perceived as a "vessel of sin" or "not a full-fledged human being", were in power. These Empresses had been ruling for three quarters of a century - "three widows and a girl" - Catherine I, Anna Ioannovna, Catherine II and Elizaveta Petrovna.
It is commonplace for those times to think of a woman as incapable of doing serious business that require special intellectual and managerial efforts and skills. In such traditional gender discrimination, women did not fit into the state power system and if they happened to be in power, this episode would be considered as a temporary or forced and suboptimal solution.
As far as women were thought as creatures that belong to the private and not public sphere, a very particular institution occurred – favoritism. The latter had predominantly sexual connotations and the manifestation of it was hidden and masked by the whole array of symbolic actions.
Evgeny Anisimov – Professor and Senior Researcher of the St. Petersburg Institute of History, Russian Academy of Sciences, author of popular historical TV programs "The Palace of Mysteries" and "The Study Room of History" – were our guide to the XVIII century Russian courtly history.