A wave of anti-government protests in Russia in late 2011 has rocked its political establishment. United in anger at President Dmitry Medvedev's decision to cede his post to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as well as at evidence of electoral fraud in recent legislative elections, up to 100,000 Russians gathered on 24 December to take part in some of the country's largest protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet those who expect Russia to follow the path of Arab revolutions are likely to be disappointed.
The protests may herald a period of greater instability, but they are unlikely to prevent Putin’s return to the presidency in March 2012 or to substantially transform Russia’s political regime, which is democratic in form but authoritarian in essence. The most that the protesters could realistically achieve is to impose greater accountability on Russia’s political elite, who have reaped huge economic and political rewards from the past decade of growth.