For many observers, almost everything concerning the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia (December 2011 and March 2012) is predictable. Some thus prefer to look beyond 2012 and prophesize about 2014, 2017, or 2018. Others point at the power struggle “under the carpet” between influential groups within the ruling elite. Others forecast mass unrest.
There is, however, at least one important dimension of the current political situation in Russia that is somewhat tangible and should be analyzed. It is the competition between symbolic politics and a real policy agenda. This struggle reflects the way the state positions itself vis-à-vis society and holds unique significance for the future of Russia. [...]