In the year 1760, the Comte de
Saint Germain was discovered as a international spy by French
authorities. He fled France for England, where he stayed
for nearly two years in search of the LeMarchand box named Cage of Desire - "The
Dream Weave Cube."
LeMarchand scholars believe that this particular configuration was
considered by the Comte to be the key that would unlock not only his
future, but the future of Czarist (Caesar's) Russia.
Immediately after aquiring the Cage
of Desire from a collecter, the
Comte de Saint Germain traveled to St. Petersburg. He
important part in the revolution which placed Catherine the Great upon
the throne of Russia. Catherine deposed her incompetent husband, Peter III,
just six months into her rule. He was murdered less than two
later by the brother of her then current lover, Grigory Orlov.
Catherine was known
to have taken many lovers, but none were as close
to her as Gregory Potemkin. He had contrived to make
Catherine's acquaintance during the coup
that brought her to power.
Potemkin's name was a byword for gluttony, and he rarely woke before
noon. This was in sharp contrast to Catherine who rose at three
in the morning to hunt and horseback ride, all the while "for 24 hours, eating nothing
and drinking only cold water."
Potemkin wooed the empress with what he called "The Key to Catherine's
Glory." He claimed to have won the box from the Comte de
Saint Germain during a night of gambling. Potemkin and Catherine
became lovers in 1774. The couple's romantic
relationship lasted less than three years, but they remained close the
rest of their lives.
He did not allow Catherine to touch the
bronze inlaid box during these early years of their relationship.
only teased her with the sight
of it, following their intimate moments together, all the while
dreamingly of their
In 1783 Catherine annexed the Crimea after a war with Turkey, well
aware that her new province was little more than "a desert
The Crimea must be transformed,
she decided, and carefully considered
those of her courtiers who might be able to carry out her wishes
without much delay. Automatically she thought of Gregory
who she had appointed to Assistant War Minister, and soon afterward
Potemkin rose in rank to become War Minister. The promotion
changed him from a
gambling drunkard to Governor of the new Russian province.
apparently inspired by Catherine's plans and so embarked on a whirlwind
transformation of the Crimea. He noted all her plans, added many
of his own, and started work without delay.
He began building
the harbor at Sevastopol and ordered
large fleets of battleships and merchantmen. From China, he
obtained silkworms and started a new industry. Forests and
vineyards sprang up in what had been virgin land. Most impressive
of all, he produced plans for a grand new city on the River Dnieper
which he named Ekaterinoslav - "Catherine's Glory".
In fact, those wonders existed only in
imagination. But whenever he returned to St. Petersburg, he
reported plans that had not yet been started - nor ever would be - as
if they had been completed. Catherine, completely besotted in her
love for Potemkin and his mysterious box, believed every word.
So, in 1787, Catherine announced that she would
visit the Crimea to
inspect the transformation. Most men would have been
horror-struck on realizing that their deception was soon to be
exposed. But not Gregory Potemkin.
He went ahead to make
sure that bands of happy peasants, prosperous villages and thriving
factories were there for the empress to see as she progressed down the
The fact that virtually none of the wonders he
had described so vividly
existed, and that Catherine was already on her way to the Crimea, did
not worry Potemkin (the dreamer) in the least.
Over part of the route,
Catherine traveled with a retinue of 40,000
friends, officials and servants. Her sleigh was like a miniature
house on runners and was drawn by eight horses. At each stopping
place Potemkin had 500 horses stationed. Bonfires blazed at
points and every village through which Catherine passed had been
painted. To the empress everything was perfection - neat houses,
happy villagers and a general air of contentment.
In fact, the houses had only had their fronts
painted. Trees had been hurriedly planted to hide unsightly
spots. Roofs had been re-tiled with pieces of cardboard.
Everyone was compelled to wear their best clothes, and all the aged and
infirm were kept out of sight until the royal procession had passed.
Only a few
years before, Catherine had traveled along the same road and shed tears
over the obvious poverty and misery she had seen. Now, it seemed
to her, Potemkin had achieved miracles.
At Kiev, everyone in her retinue was provided
with a beautifully furnished house. After every meal, the table
linen was given to the poor. All the time, Catherine chattered
enthusiastically about the prosperity of the region.
As soon as the ice on the river had melted,
Catherine and her company embarked in boats. Seven of them were
floating palaces and the 80 vessels that followed, carrying 3000
people, were scarcely less magnificent.
personal barge was lined with costly brocade. Servants wore
splendid uniforms and served meals on golden plates. Every day
the empress reclined under a silken awning admiring the triumphal
arches, the fields filled with grazing cattle and smartly dressed
soldiers drilling. Each night from the river she saw peasants
dancing happily. Everything represented peace and prosperity, yet
a vastly different scene was being enacted a few miles away at places
she had already seen.
There, the villages had in some cases
vanished. They had been mere facades. At others the
camouflage had been stripped away. Fields were empty of sheep and
cattle and the splendid arches were already being speeded south, past
the royal party, to be quickly re-erected further downstream.
stayed overnight, her barge rocked gently in a small
harbor giving views of a distant palace, waterfalls and trees.
Tangled forests had been transformed into beautiful, formal gardens
with tropical trees. These had been planted only a few hours
before and would wither away a few days later when the empress had
gone. The backdrop scenery would decay in wind and rain, but they
had served their purpose. Catherine believed that they were real.
"Catherine traveled through apparently thriving villages of
well-dressed peasants and pretty houses, unaware that what she saw
belied the people's poverty."
In what was to be Ekaterinoslav the empress
laid the foundation stone of a cathedral grand enough to make St.
Peter's in Rome look like a village chapel. It was never built,
but Catherine was certain that it would soon dominate her new city and
on she went. Everywhere she saw
new factories, people
building houses and roads. What she remembered as tiny hamlets
were now bustling towns, and she had no idea that serfs from dozens of
towns had been dragooned into the masquerade.
There was no limit to the wonders that Potemkin
provided for her. A whole army paraded befoe her at Poltava,
re-enacting a battle won by Peter the Great on that very spot.
At Kherson a new fortress towered over a harbor
crammed with men-o'-war, their guns powerful and menacing. Then
Catherine turned for home, completely satisfied with what she had seen
with her own eyes.
A day later rain fell in Kherson and the
fortress, built of sand, just melted away. The guns she had seen
had no ammunition. The magnificent warships were made of the
Over a route of many hundreds of miles Potemkin
had perpetrated the most expensive and grandiose hoax in history.
It had cost seven million roubles and countless man hours. Poor
people had been driven from their homes to play their part in the
magnificent masquerade. Not a vestige of the grand buildings,
towns or villages that Catherine had seen stood for more than a few
The only result of it all was that the empress
had enjoyed the spectacle, and Potemkin was held in yet higher esteem
the woman he had so brazenly decieved.
The real secret, however, was that Catherine
had seen what she wanted to see and believed what she wanted to
believe. As much as anything, the empress had deceived
herself. Potemkin had given her a beautifully wrapped package
before her tour of the Crimea.
The gift proved to be quite a distraction.
Comte de Saint Germain left Russia in the
uniform of a Russian General, with full credentials to which the
Imperial seal of Russia was affixed. Shortly afterward he
appeared in Tunis and Leghorn while the Russian fleet was there, again
in uniform, and known under the name Graf Saltikoff. Catherine
allegedly placed the Masonic lodges in Russia under her personal
protection in gratitude for the Comte's help in her rise to power.
In 1794, Catherine learned of an Illuminist
to overthrow the Hapsburgs. She had been horrified by the
outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. When she was told of
the execution of the French King, she became physically ill and was
ordered to bed by her physicans.
In November 1796 the empress Catherine died of
a heart attack.
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