Ever the loyal protege, Medvedev has pledged to "supplement and develop" Putin's programs. But Russia's new president has shown some signs of trying to move out of his mentor's shadow.
The 42-year-old — the youngest Russian leader in nearly a century — has repeatedly promised to strengthen the rule of law, tame Russia's ferocious bureaucrats and reduce the role of the state in the economy. Most strikingly, he has rejected the notion popular among Kremlin officials that Russia requires a "managed" democracy because of its unique history and culture.
All of these positions could be seen as implicit criticisms of Putin, who has presided over a growing bureaucracy, expanded the role of state enterprises and shackled the country's political opposition.
To change Russia's course, Medvedev would have to battle the entrenched interests of bureaucrats and top government officials, many of them veterans of the Soviet-era KGB and other security agencies. Some have reportedly grown enormously wealthy during Putin's tenure, and will not welcome change.
It is impossible to predict whether the Medvedev era be remembered as one of unexpected triumphs, tragic misadventures or unkept promises.
"I think one thing is dead clear," said Yevgenia Albats, a prominent commentator and radio show host. The double-headed state, she predicted, will inevitably lead to power struggles. "We have entered a period of profound instability in the country."