This article examines why, in spite of vast forest resources, Russia has been unable to attract foreign investors into its forest industry. A survey of 32 influential Western European forest companies indicates that purely economic factors, such as labour or raw material costs, are not the main reasons these companies refrain from investing. Instead, the companies identify a number of institutional factors: ambiguous legal systems; difficulties in negotiating with local authorities; unfair tax enforcement; and general political instability as the main impediments to FDI in the sector. These factors have led many companies to abandon previously considered investments in Russia, and also to terminate existing business relationships with Russian partners. The survey results also indicate that, while many investors in forestry were attracted by the potential for a growing Russian market in the early days of the transition period, they have become more and more aware of the many institutional obstacles challenging growth in the sector. The article concludes, therefore, that FDI in the Russian forestry sector is likely to remain low until a fundamental change takes place in the legal and political systems.