This introductory chapter argues that the story of the Russian investment boom and bust of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is based on, among other things, financial and economic data, as well as the correspondence, reports, and other documents in government and private banking archives in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Paris, London, and New York. The 1918 Bolshevik repudiation of debts contracted by the Tsarist and Provisional governments—the largest default in history—punctuated the end of an era during which Russia had become the leading net international debtor in the world. It is relevant to an extensive academic literature that stretches across the disciplines of history, economics, and political science. The secondary literature cited in these sources relates to the Russian Revolution, banking and business history, the historical sociology of revolutions, and international capital flows. Given the crucial importance of the last of these, the story is international, touching on aspects of the histories of nations such as Russia, France, Germany, Britain, the United States, China, and Japan.
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