Before the emergence of the field of development economics in the mid-1940s, the mainstream of Western economists had very little to say about the world outside western Europe. However, perhaps due to Russia’s ambivalent location as a nation considered not fully European (nor completely Asiatic) and to her status as a major player in the international arena despite the fact of her modest economic achievements, from the eighteenth century onwards the “Russian case” called the attention of some of the most prominent Western minds, including the first economists. By discussing Russia’s economy, they came to notions and concepts regarding development and backwardness that, to a great extent. informed the twentieth-century debate. The aim of this article is to explore the way in which Russia as a case study affected the evolution of ideas on economic growth or development. The evidence of things Russian, it will be argued, raised doubts about common economic views, thus enabling new thinking that pointed either to criticism of liberal orthodoxy, or to expansion and refinement of its arguments.