This study analyzes the evolution of the Russian state from the 9th century to the 1880s, and its unique role in managing Russian society. The development of Russia was different from that of the rest of Europe. The natural poverty of geographical conditions made it extremely difficult to construct an effective regime, and a "patrimonial" state arose in which the country was conceived as the personal property of the tsar. The book describes the evolution of this regime, and analyzes the political behaviour of the principal social groupings, peasantry, nobility, bourgeoisie and clergy, and accounts for their failure to stand up to the increasing absolutism of the tsar. Only the intelligentsia were able to make such a stand, and the book shows how in countering this challenge, Russia developed into a bureaucratic police state.