This account offers a valuable examination of the company's industrial strategy as it moved from rail and locomotive production into the manufacture of armaments and warships. Grant's bold thesis that the Pulitov enterprise's strategy resembled that of the leading European arms producers—Vickers, Creusot, Skoda, and Krupp—adds a new and welcome dimension to the lively debate over the nature of Russian capitalism under autocracy.
Jonathan A. Grant has written a highly original study of the Putilov works—the most famous industrial conglomerate in the Russian Empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the emergence of a capitalist system in the Russian federation in the 1990s, scholarly debate over the nature of Russian capitalism has been revived, and with this study, Grant issues a major challenge to the conventional wisdom on the nature of the Russian economy in the years before the Bolshevik revolution. Grant argues that the Putilov Company, which manufactured arms for the Russian state and a wide range of heavy industrial equipment for civilian use, adopted business practices that resembled the experiences of large machinery and armaments manufacturers in Britain, France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Germany. This interpretation runs directly counter to the traditional and widely held view that Russian capitalism was shaped by the tsarist state's orders and subsidies and that the tsarist system was incompatible with the development of modern capitalism. Grant makes direct comparisons between Putilov and the famous western firm of Krupp and Vickers, illustrating similar business decisions made by both companies in terms of diversification of the product line and a penchant for private (as opposed to state) markets for primary income.
Grant has gone beyond Soviet works on the Putilov plant, examining archival documents of the company and offering critical comments on both Soviet and Western scholarship on Russian economic and social history from the perspective of this important industrial enterprise. Grant not only repeatedly demonstrates that the Putilov firm responded effectively to the changing market for its wide range of industrial products but also shows that the tsarist regime provided far more of the “systemic regularity” needed for capitalist development than generally believed. Grant's work is a significant contribution to this ongoing debate, offering a much-needed case study of Russian business history and a comparative study that extends across national boundaries. Big Business in Russia is essential reading for graduate students in Russian and European history and will also appeal to American and European business leaders eager to understand the historical background of the current economic challenges facing Russia.
From a judicious analysis of bank records, contracts, correspondence, and annual account books located in Russia's archives and libraries emerges Jonathan A. Grant's fresh interpretation of the Putilov Company's business history, one that challenges the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurial activity in late Imperial Russia was "deviant" . . . Grant's work constitutes a provocative beginning and useful model for future studies of Russia's business history.
Grant's case study tests and challenges accepted ideas about Russian capitalism at the end of the Old Regime. The Russian company described here had much in common with West European giants such as Krupp and Vickers, and Grant's book should be read by anyone interested in the question of Russian uniqueness.
Grant has done a fine job in crafting a history of [the Putilov Company], and in the process he makes a major contribution to the young field of Russian business history. . . . this tightly focused study deserves to have a broad impact on Russian economic and business history.
There are so few studies of business organisation and practice in tsarist Russia that any contribution to the field ought to be welcomed. Jonathan Grant provides us with a case study of one of the most famous names in imperial Russian business, the Putilov Company. . . . He has written a bried and lucid account of the emergence of this firm, its role within the industrial economy of late imperial Russia.
Grant's work is vitally important. He has outlined clearly what Russian economic history must do: it must in every case test its clims for uniqueness against, at least, other European cases. The result of such an approach, as Grant shows, will not be the end to claims for Russian uniqueness, of which he uncovers several important cases But we will have a much better grasp of what is unique and what is not.
The appraoch is refreshing and the questions are valid. Grant shows that the Russian business stategy of the Putilov company was not different or exceptional in comparision to equivalent Western firms. This is an acheivement in itself and quite enough.
... there can be no doubt that Grant has produced a very worthwhile book.
One of the strengths of the book is the diversity of the author's references, including Nietzsche, T.S. Eliot and Simone de Beauvoir, who she weaves into her text with grace and simplicity.
Jonathan A. Grant is assistant professor of modern Russian history at Florida State University, Tallahassee, and is the author of numerous articles, most recently “Banks, Boards, and the Question of Bank Dominance in Late Imperial Russia: The Case of the Putilov Company, 1907-1914” published in Essays in Economic and Business History, and seven articles about the relationship between tsarist Russia and Eastern Europe in Encyclopedia of Modern East Europe, 1815-1989.