The Russian social security system : legacies from the past, and current changes. The purpose of this article is to examine, in the light of history, the constant and variable elements in the development of the Russian social security system, by looking at the way in which past institutional forms influence the implementation of objectives related to welfare and social security, during this transitional period. In this study of the Russian social security system, the first part is concerned with the idea of the system's institutional heritage. After an analysis of these (strictly defined) welfare institutions and their development (bodies, funds, ministries), the conclusion is reached that there is a need to broaden the scope of this concept. The Russian social security system operates from at least three focal points : the afore-mentioned bodies, enterprises and local communities. By institutional heritage is meant inherited interaction among these three centres and their modified forms. Thus, in a second part, the aim will be to emphasize and to analyse the social function of the enterprise, a structural albeit evolutionary caracteristic of the Russian social security system. However, there are signs of the beginning of a shift away from the social role of the enterprise towards local communities. For this reason, in the final part of the analysis, a long-term appraisal will take account of the present trend towards devolution of social responsibilities of enterprises, and above all of the Centre, on the local authorities, by suggesting heuristic analogies with the decentralization of social programmes at the time of "zemstva", at the close of the XlXth century.