Of all the burdens Russians have had to bear, heaviest and most relentless of all has been the weight of her past,"" namely, the ""awesome sway of an omnipotent State exercising unlimited control over the persons, the property and the thoughts of its subjects."" On this familiar notion Szamuely bases his view that modernizing social forces in Russia, beginning with Peter the Great, relied on autocratic repression or later on terrorism and elitist conspiracies to achieve their ends. The book covers the range of 19th century thinkers, liberal, populist, nihilist and socialist. Szamuely treats them like tiresome chess pieces as he reiterates his fundamental approach. The idea, beloved of graduate students and anti-Bolsheviks, that the Jacobin Tkachev was a major influence on Lenin is included, and the book ends with the young Vladimir Ilyich setting up law practice in Petersburg. The dynamic currents of Western Marxism developed in Russia and Russian Poland by Luxemburg, Trotsky, Bukharin and Preobrazhensky are wholly ignored; to include these theorists of mass organizing and mass education would have cast a long shadow of doubt on the book's thesis. A more sympathetic treatment of the post-Decembrist Russian revolutionaries can be found in the work of E.H. Carr. Wooden.