Valentina Matviyenko, an ally of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and former governor of St. Petersburg, just became the most powerful woman in Russia since the rule of Catherine the Great.

Valentina Matviyenko. (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)

The no-nonsense Kremlin loyalist said her goal as speaker was to reform the upper house of parliament and get rid of its image as a “(legislative) rubber stamp.”

But at 62, Matviyenko is not trying to cause a “revolution,” she said.

“I do not believe in populism. I am not a supporter of radical decisions. Practice has shown that usually these are harmful.”

Matviyenko said instead that she hopes to strengthen the Federation Council’s role in guaranteeing public stability.

Catherine the Great, during her 34-year reign, was known for her work in reforming the administration of the country and brought Russia into its golden age. But she also was said to have voracious appetites. While historians say Catherine died of a stroke, a persistent story is that after attempting to have sexual intercourse with a stallion, she was crushed to death when the harness holding the horse above her broke.