The next act of Russian history is about to begin: Putin and Medvedev will pop off-stage into the Moscow green room, switch costumes, and re-emerge to play each other’s roles. Putin as president, again, Medvedev as PM. It’s the apotheosis of what has become known as ‘managed democracy’, and the ultimate triumph of the show’s writer-director, Putin’s chief ideologue and grey cardinal, Vladislav Surkov, the ‘Kremlin demiurge’. Known also as the ‘puppetmaster who privatised the Russian political system’, Surkov is the real genius of the Putin era. Understand him and you understand not only contemporary Russia but a new type of power politics, a breed of authoritarianism far subtler than the 20th-century strains.