It took two more than life-size figures to create the image of Russia:- Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great. The life story of either one holds enough of drama for any novel. The biographer -- whose writings on aspects of Russia, old and new, have informed readers reluctant to approach the more didactic type of analysis- here brings research and scholarship and a sensitive selectivity to the story of an obscure German girl, daughter of a minor princeling, who deliberately trained herself to take over the reins of her adoptive country, to make its growth and power and development her life passion. Here- in proper balance- is the personal story of a magnetic and fascinating woman, cheated of normal human relations and accepting as her due the adulation of a succession of men who served her purpose; and the story of an empress, isolated by her predecessor, Elizabeth, who needed her only to secure the bloodline- who used her isolation to specific ends -- and emerged when time was ripe to seize and hold and build the power she claimed. In her reign- as in Peter the Great's- the roots that are Russia today were put down.