Russians continue to take to the streets to air their grievances against the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. But now, after Putin's election this month to a six-year term as president, the crowds number only in the hundreds — not the tens of thousands that turned out before the vote.
In the words of writer Boris Akunin, a popular speaker at the earlier rallies: "The civic movement has entered a new phase. The first phase, romantic and euphoric, is over."
Now is the time, Akunin says, for power to develop from the bottom up.
Russian tanks drive through Moscow's Red Square during a military parade in May 2011, in commemoration of the end of World War II. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has called for revamping Russia's military for years, but the results have been limited.
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (left), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and World War II veterans watch Victory Day celebrations in Moscow last May. Putin says his proposed military modernization will cost the equivalent of about $770 billion over the next 10 years.
Every May, Russia displays its military might in a parade on Victory Day, commemorating the surrender of the Nazis to the Soviet Union in World War II.
The marching men and rolling tanks put on an impressive show, but Russia's military, and especially its defense industry, has fallen on hard times.
"The industry, much like other parts of the economy, hasn't seen proper investment for over a decade, if not more," says Lilit Gevorgyan, a Russia analyst for the defense industry consultant IHS Jane's.
There were widespread allegations of fraud in Russia's parliamentary polls in December. In advance of Russia's presidential election Sunday, Russian citizens abroad have been allowed to vote early. This woman casts a ballot in Kyrgyzstan on Feb. 26.
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A portrait of Russian prime minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, bearing the slogan "For Putin! And That's It!" hangs on a building in Moscow.
Just three months ago, Russia's parliamentary elections prompted widespread allegations of fraud and drove thousands of protesters into the streets in the days afterward.
The Russian government and government critics both say they are trying to prevent a similar outcome in Sunday's presidential poll.
Valdimir Putin, who has been either the president or the prime minister for the past 12 years, is widely expected to win another six-year term as president. But the credibility of Russian elections is also at stake.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivers a campaign speech during a rally of his supporters in Moscow, Feb. 23. Putin is mounting a vigorous campaign in the face of growing opposition but is expected to win Sunday's presidential elections.
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Russian presidential candidate and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov addresses his supporters while campaigning in Moscow, Feb. 29. He is a three-time loser in the presidential race who is seen as a hidebound traditionalist.
Credit Ivan Sekretarev / AP
Russian billionaire and presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov speaks with Russian voters at the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow, Feb. 25. The 46-year-old commands the support of anti-Putin protesters and is running American-style campaign events around Russia.
When Russians go to the polls Sunday, they will have several choices for president. But none is a serious threat to Vladimir Putin, who has been the most powerful figure in Russia for the past 12 years.
Boris Makarenko, a longtime observer of Russian politics, says the candidates arrayed against Putin are all more or less part of what Kremlin leaders call "the systemic opposition."
In other words, he says, they are "the tolerable opposition ... which can never even hope of replacing them in the Kremlin."
Thousands of Russians form a 10-mile human chain around a Moscow ring road on Monday during an opposition protest against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He is expected to win the March 4 presidential elections but is facing growing opposition.
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Presidential candidate and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks Wednesday at a meeting with his campaign activists in Moscow.
Cars decorated with white ribbons and carnations drove around Moscow's Garden Ring Road in a wet snow this past Sunday, honking cheerfully to the thousands of demonstrators on the sidewalk who formed a human chain around the city.
Elena Korobova was a link in that chain.
"I want to get rid of Putin, because I don't like his policy, I don't like what he's doing for Russia," she says of Vladimir Putin, Russia's current prime minister.
With fewer than two weeks remaining before Russia's presidential elections, supporters and opponents of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are trying to show their strength with rallies and demonstrations.
After being stunned by the size of opposition rallies in December, pro-government forces bounced back with competing events of their own.
Alexei Venediktov, then editor-in-chief of Moscow Echo radio station, talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during an awards ceremony in Moscow, Jan. 13. Venediktov's ouster this month is seen as a sign that the Russian government may be cracking down on the independent media.
Credit Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP
From his office at Moscow Echo radio station, Alexei Venediktov discusses possible government interference in the media, Feb. 14. Soon afterward, he was forced out of his post.
With less than two weeks to go before Russia's presidential elections, the country's independent journalists are in a state of anxiety. Government-run media seem more open than ever to divergent viewpoints — but officials may be cracking down on independent outlets that go too far.
Two incidents last week suggest that the Russian government is prepared to lean on journalists — both domestic and foreign.
Moscow's city center at dawn. Some Russians are upset that President Dmitry Medvedev put the country on daylight saving time year-round, which means it doesn't get light until 9 a.m. or later in winter.