That idea is not foreign to Russia, and the Kremlin’s perspective about Putin’s future is fairly clear. His current term ends next year, and he has said he would likely not run again. The position of chairman of the Central Election Commission and governor of Russia’s Moscow region ended with his second term as premier in 2008, and for much of this decade Putin has served in the role of prime minister.

Putin said during the election campaign in October that he thought he had “made significant contributions to better Russian life” during his two terms as president. He has also placed high value on his sense of nostalgia, noting that he has returned to Russia a “stronger” nation than when he left in 2000.

Regardless of whether Putin intends to leave office, he will not play ball with his foes now. The opposition, led by oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been brought together under the banner of “Opinion” party, which has focused on energizing Putin’s (and the public’s) will to resist.

Opposition leader Ksenia Sobchak, formerly Moscow’s equivalent of Paris Hilton, is known for her fragility. Having worked as a model during high school, her fame grew thanks to “Dying Young” (so-called because it became a well-known parody of “dying young” videos on the web), which had thousands of hits a day. But after going into television and appearing on both “That’s Life” and “Khovanksy Supernova,” Sobchak had a taste of fame that lasted longer than she did.

After Putin’s 2006 election as president, Sobchak said she would never run again for office. To please her followers, she has since taken to positioning herself as Putin’s leading critic. A key moment came in 2010, when she said that “politicians are crooks and thieves,” a comment that came straight from Putin’s mouth a year earlier in a televised phone-in.

Political instability has been high in Russia during Putin’s first two terms as president. Indeed, the current crisis of confidence was built.