How, the author asks, did Russia manage to withstand the stresses of the early 1990s that many thought would lead to disintegration? It was not because Russia's ethnic or cultural homogeneity guaranteed ultimate loyalty to the nation, nor because political institutions were too sturdy to be shaken by local separatism, nor because the economic gains to be had from unity self-evidently overrode those of independence. Whatever role these factors played, they would not have been enough without the particular fiscal strategy followed by Yeltsin's government: taking from Peter (the unrebellious regions), the center transferred resources to Paul (the separatist regions). When local leaders put these funds to work, they undercut their own ability to mobilize the public against Moscow. Thus the center prevented a few defections from igniting many and thereby destroying the nation-state, as happened to the Soviet Union. A valuable insight derived from a very tidy argument -- although perhaps a little too tidy.