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The protests that rippled across Russia ahead of Vladimir Putin's fourth inauguration as president followed a familiar script.The rallying cry "Down with the Czar!" was brought out of obscurity and onto the streets of Moscow almost 100 years after Russia's last czar, Nicholas II, was riddled with Bolshevik bullets in a Yekaterinburg cellar.Though Putin is a product of the Soviet Union, where "czar" really was a derogatory word, he shows considerable fondness for the autocrats of old.Whereas the Bolshevik leaders tore down monuments to the czars, Putin has built massive monuments to Vladimir the Great in Moscow and others of Alexander III in Crimea.The odds are stacked in Putin's favor. Navalny has a YouTube channel; Putin controls the entire state apparatus, a mechanism of suppression vaster than any of the Russian czars ever had – and one that decades of totalitarianism have made virtually bulletproof. Beyond the amped-up military and the powerful security services, there is now the National Guard of the Russian Federation, or Rosgvardiya, a contingent of some 340,000 personnel created by Putin in 2016 that answers directly to him.Pining for a crown, Putin forgets that Russian monarchy, for all its splendor, was always a minefield, because an autocrat's contempt for law leaves him vulnerable to mob justice.As he reaches for Monomakh's Cap, the ruby-studded relic of Russia's czars, Putin risks paving the way for yet another round of violence.
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