Vladimir Putin is to step down as president, but will maintain his influence.

Authority in Russia, for hundreds of years, has come from the top, whether it was the czar, the Communist Party general secretary or, now, the Russian president.

In the 1990s, after the fall of communism, Russia was a weak, democratic state that submitted to Western Europe and the United States. In 2000, after years of post-Cold War decline, Vladimir Putin became president of Russia. In the past eight years, Putin has stabilized Russia largely from utilizing the country’s vast oil wealth. But many of the Russian people believe it was Putin – and Putin alone – that restored the economic strength and international status of the country.

“The Russian people,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “believe so fervently in an all-powerful czar that this ideal is bound to influence the whole future course of our history.” Many in Russia want the return of a czar, of a solitary leader – Putin is this person.

But Putin, constrained by the country’s constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, will step down later this spring as Russia’s president. Dmitry Medvedev, the successor Putin named, was recently elected overwhelmingly in a government-manipulated election and has promised to put Putin in place to become Russia’s prime minister.

Russia, led by Putin, is now a powerful, nationalist state. The authoritarian capitalist model of government he has established will continue to be guided, even in a secondary position as prime minister, by Putin.

Putin’s administration heavily influences the Russian media and education system – political opposition to Putin, consequently, is regulated by the government. As Putin controls information, he has created himself as the father of Russia to many in the country through government propaganda.

The bulwark of Putin’s most devoted support comes from Nashi, a government-affiliated youth group. They number in the tens of thousands, are extremely nationalistic and call themselves the Putin generation – they are the Putin youth.

Though Putin has revived Russia, he stands on the threshold of becoming a dictator. The world should be wary of a man so believed in.