It is sometimes thought that with the Soviet experiment being cast into the dustbin of history, we should forget the Soviet period and focus our attention on the problem of transition and on the future. But there is an intrinsic interest in understanding the Soviet experience in retrospect, especially as we can now know so much more about it. Moreover the influence of the past remains strong, and whatever the fate of Russia and its former empire is now to be, it will be strongly influenced by ideas and traditions from the Russian and Soviet past.