First published in 1970, Professor Gerschenkron's theme is the contribution which the study of Russian economic history can make to the problems which have preoccupied Western historians. He first considers the way in which the case of the old Believers in Russia, who refused to support the official church but played an important entrepreneurial role in nineteenth-century economic development, bears upon Max Weber's celebrated thesis on the relations between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. In the course of his discussion, Professor Gerschenkron provides important information on the doctrinal beliefs of this group, their social status and the extent to which they were persecuted and discriminated against by the State. His conclusion is that the persecution certainly afforded sufficient impulse to engage in profitable activities and to develop the traits Weber considered as specific features of the 'capitalist' spirit.
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