Russia is the largest country on the planet, a multi-ethnic empire, a great power of global significance. For much of its history it has been a 'peasant state', in which peasant society and values interacted critically with those of the ruling elites. In modern times its society has produced artists, writers, musicians, scientists and cosmonauts who have made a unique contribution to world culture. In the twentieth century, Russia has been the scene of the world's greatest social experiment - the most powerful challenge ever mounted to hegemonic Western values. Roger Bartlett traces the history of the country from its beginnings in Kiev Russia, through the Muscovite and Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet periods, to the start of the twenty-first century. While offering a broad perspective on Russia's historical development, Bartlett focuses on the origins of Russian political culture and the place of the majority peasant population in the Russian/Soviet polity. Lucid, balanced and authoritative, it is the ideal introduction for all those with an interest in Russia's past, and its significance for the country's present.