Did some interesting reading in russian history yesterday. I'm starting to have more respect, or better, slightly less disrespect for the communists as I see how messed up pre-revolutionary Russia was. If you read Pipes book you get the sense from the first chapter that Russia was not designed by God to be a place for vry many people to live. The soil is just too unfriendly to gow much. The fact that in 1913 Russia had the fifth largest economy in the world is quite a testament to their hard work.
In any event, Russia never developed the common European idea of primogeniture. Hereditary possessions were always divided among all the sons. You can imagine the esult as the centuries roled on. Thousands and thousands of tiny impoverished land holdings. About 90% of the dvoriane, the closest russian equivalent to european nobility, were virtully inditinguishable from the serfs. There were, in the 19th century a group of roughly 1000 dvoriae who were fabulously wealthy (I should quote you one of the descrptions later), but they were primarily interested in finding new ways to spend their money. The group in between, something less than twenty thousand people, was the only russian equivalent to the middle class. That's 20,000 in a country that in size was three times as large as Europe. There were several cases of people making money in various enterprises, but generally whenever someone was successful, the tsar would urn it into a national monopoly so as to be able to take all the profits. Thus a nation with essentially no middle class; and frankly no upper class either.