The unprecedented 2011-2012 civil protests in post-Soviet Russia seemed to portend a change. The trading of places between Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev, with the latter having announced that the decision had been made a long time in advance, was largely accepted as a disregard for the Russian public.
However, few in Moscow believe in the protest movement today. The middle class, who constitute the driving force behind the opposition, do not possess a political mechanism to convey their requests to the government. Yearning for respect and fairness, they lack the political leadership. In order to understand the current protest dynamics and whether they could succeed, it is important to recall that the corruption and lawlessness that they are protesting against were not spawned by Mr Putin. He inherited them.
Relations between the state and public in Russia were historically governed by a tacit pact of non-interference in state affairs on behalf of society. Until 1917, the Russian Empire was a European superpower which was ruled by Tsarist autocrats. There were no parliamentary institutions or elections. The Tsar could not run the vast state on his own so he had a number of ministers who were appointed by and responsible only to him. Paid by the Tsarist state, the bureaucrats were very loyal.