Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great, by Isabel de Madariaga. New Haven: Yale University Press. 698 pp. $14.95.
The general reader with a curiosity about Russia's history should not be intimidated by this scholarly book's comprehensive and minutely detailed discussions, for it's well worth reading. In the 34 years of her reign, from 1762 to 1796, Catherine proved herself an energetic, innovative ruler.In her efforts to reform Russia's central political institutions, she compiled her famous political treatise on the ''general principles on which society should be based.'' She also had definite views on the relation of other spheres of activity to social and political progress. At the same time, she was extremely interested in education, and believed that it could remodel human -- nature.