This year might go down in history as one that saw the greatest groundswell of people, across a wide span of geography, refusing to be browbeaten into unacceptable forms of living. In that list of people and countries, Russia is the latest entrant. What began with elections being held to the Duma (Russia's lower house) on December 4 quickly led to an online storm alleging electoral fraud. The final outcome, allegedly after some last-minute tinkering, showed that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia had 49% of the votes, a clear winner but down from the 64% that it had won four years earlier. Thousands were out in Moscow and other cities across Russia, for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The sudden deflation of Mr Putin, whose rippling muscles seem as much designed to impress as his ruthless rout of any opp-osition, might constitute a comic act in itself. Mr Putin might have got a taste of what was to come when he was booed in November while attending a martial arts contest, part of a growing trend where elite figures in Russia are subjected to public catcalls. If that wasn't enough, Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger descr-ibed United Russia as a 'party of crooks and thieves', forcing voters cutting across ideological lines to vote against Mr Putin. Not being one whose nerves of steel were to be rattled by such insignificant hurdles, Mr Putin struck back: in some regions reportedly, he managed a 140% turnout, no doubt a sign that even those yet unborn or beyond the grave could not resist his charisma.
Much like the proverbial wet blanket, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (who is to make way for Mr Putin in the nest presidential elections) has ordered a probe into the alleged election irregularities. Russian winters are severe and unforgiving, and have subdued the most intrepid of mischief-makers from Napoleon to the Nazis. In that winter of desolation, a whiff of spring may be hard for Mr Putin to stomach. What his next move would be is worth waiting for.