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In this extraordinary rich and subtle work, Arcadius Kahan analyzes a massive collection of documents which revise traditional interpretations of eighteenth-century Russian economic history. Kahan stresses economic rationality in the context of social constraints, offering the fullest and most convincing explanation yet of the economic foundations of Russia's power. He shows that what have been taken as major failings in the Russian economy were in fact resourceful and even ingenious methods of circumventing deeply rooted structural obstacles to change. Kahan also escapes two extremes that have bedeviled Russian historians since the nineteenth century: he avoids depicting the state as an autonomous structure that acted with impunity upon a passive society, and he refutes the notion of the state as a mere instrument for advancing selfish class interests.