January 24 in Russian history

1776: Well, this is not Russian history, but who cares :). Today is the birthday of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, a brilliant German writer, who in a purely German manner reconciled romanticism and poetry with satire and humour. Der goldene Topf, Nußknacker und Mausekönig, Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober, Meister Floh -- these are some of his books I highly recommend you to read. He is one of my favourite writers and I hope you will pardon me this little digression...

1783: Duchess Ekaterina Dashkova is appointed the president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ekaterina Vorontsova was born in 1743 and received a very good education at home: she spoke four languages, studied music, painting, mathematics, natural sciences, etc. In 1759 she made acquaintance with the grand princess Catherine, who became her best friend for years. In the same year, she marries duke Mikhail Dashkov. After the coup d'etat of 1762, when Peter III was dethroned, Catherine became the empress and she rewarded Dashkova for participation in the coup. Dashkova hoped to build a new, better Russia together with Catherine, but the place was already taken by Catherine's favorite Grigory Orlov. In 1764 Mikhail Dashkov died and Ekaterina Dashkova tries to find consolation in family and children. In 1769, she takes a trip to Europe, where she visits universities and academies, theatres and museums. In 1772, she returns to Russia, but in 1775 leaves to Europe again, because her 13-year old son enters the Edinburgh university and she spends 5 years with him in Britain, where she meets with Hume and Adam Smith. They travel all along Europe and meet Diderot, Voltaire, D'Alambert and other famous scientists and philosophers. In 1782, they come back to Russia and Catherine gives her a hearty welcome. Unexpectedly, Catherine offers her to become the president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, founded on her suggestion. On 24 January, 1783, she officially becomes the first woman in Europe to head an academy. On 30 January, Leonard Euler, the patriarch of the Russian science, introduced her to the academy. In September 1783, she becomes also the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. During the next eleven years, Dashkova created a fruitful atmosphere in the academy, organized a number of scientific expeditions, created new laboratories, modernized the typography, restored the Botany Garden, built a new building of the Academy. In amazingly short time of five years, the first dictionary of Russian language was prepared (1789-1794). In 1794, a literary magazine published by Dashkova, publishes a tragedy "Vadim of Novgorod" by Khyazhnin. The empress is angered by this antimonarchist play and Dashkova has to retire from all her posts. She died in 1810 in her estate near Moscow.

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