“The elections will be organized strictly in accordance with the law and better than in most countries of Western Europe.” – Vladimir Churov, Head of the Central Electoral Commission. This statement points to an awkward disconnect between the new nomenklatura and recent polling data gathered by the Yuri Levada Center. Growing trends of dissatisfaction with United Russia, a fissure between United Russia and Vladimir Putin, and a desire for significant or complete turnover in the Duma emerge from over 1,600 surveys. There has been a 20 percent increase of the population believing that the Duma elections will be “dirty” in some form. More than 60 percent reported that they desired genuine opposition parties and competition in the Duma, at least. Skepticism abounds regarding Putin’s newest creation, the People’s Front. In an August survey by another renowned Russian polling center, over 54 percent expressed dissatisfaction with the government, while up to 70 percent want a return to direct gubernatorial elections. But one pairing of data, the complex nature of Russian elite politics can be seen: more than 50 percent polled by the Levada Center did not want Putin’s return to the Presidency, but more than 40 percent expect Putin to be President. Beyond the polling numbers, the somewhat unsurprising revelation that Putin would seek the presidency in 2012 has been met with a mix of resignation and alarm. Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition leader in Russia and part of the Solidarity movement, likes to talk about Mubarak’s waning days of power and the manipulation of elections. The Putinist system might have stopped the Colored Revolutions from reaching Moscow, but Kara-Murza insinuates that there is a genuine opposition that could lead to an Arab Spring-like movement in the regions and spread toward Moscow. In a recent editorial in the International Herald Tribune, Victor Erofeyev writes that “Putin is more liberal in his views than 80 percent of the Russian population…He is a shield against negative feelings in what is basically a very poor country.” He acknowledges that a second stretch of presidential Putin might not bring Russia closer into the West, but hopes that Putin can keep the old, pre-Soviet marriage of Orthodoxy and politics at bay. Domestically, Putin’s return to the Presidency could have a multitude of effects. The return toward “managed democracy” might serve as the galvanizing force that brings the disparate opposition parties together and tightens organization and ideology. The “thaw” under Medvedev allowed some liberal agendas to spread and the drive toward “modernization” often felt like a genuine path to reform. To reverse this policy might require a crack-down that could be costly even to the power-elite in the Kremlin. For this “thaw” to continue, however, genuine opposition would have to contest the Duma. Vladimir Kara-Murza of the un-represented Solidarity Movement, has labeled the current opposition, “toothless shadowboxers” and “managed puppets.” It seems unlikely that in a move to consolidate political power further, the Kremlin would relax the constraints on opposition parties seek to compete in the upcoming elections. Internationally, Putin’s return to the presidency could be an unexpected positive for US policy makers. A semblance of Cold War equilibrium, long gone since the turbulent Yeltsin era and the difficult relationship between the White House and the Kremlin during the George W Bush presidency. Regardless of who sits in the White House, Moscow’s positions on certain international issues might be more of a known quantity. But outside of the White House and the Kremlin, in Kiev, Tbilisi and any number of post-Soviet capital cities, the return of Vladimir Vladimirovich is likely to create heightened anxiety. Regardless of these announcements, there still could be the chance that Putin does not secure the presidency. The numbers given by the Levada Center do speak to some hope that popular mobilization could deepen democracy, and that United Russia’s hold on the Duma is far from certain. But after this weekend’s announcement, fewer and fewer hold their breath to see democratization and modernization reach the Kremlin. – Wilder Bullard, staff contributor Note: regarding the title, "Castlin" is a move of the king and either rook of the same color along the player’s first rank, counting as a single move of the king and executed as follows: the king is transferred from its original square two squares towards the rook on its original square, then that rook is transferred to the square the king has just crossed (World Chess Federation, 2008).