The next Russian Revolution started this month. It will be another two or three or even four decades before the Russian people take to the streets to overthrow their dictator — and the timing will depend more on the price of oil than on anything else — but as of Sept. 24, revolution rather than evolution became Russia’s most likely path in the medium term.

That’s because President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s announcement last weekend that he would step aside next March to allow Vladimir V. Putin to return to the Kremlin was also an announcement that the ruling clique failed to institutionalize its grip over the country.

We have known since 1996 that Russia wasn’t a democracy. We now know that Russia isn’t a dictatorship controlled by one party, one priesthood, or one dynasty. It is a regime ruled by one man.

“The party doesn’t exist,” said one of Russia’s leading independent economists. “The politics is all about one person.”

“There is no such thing as Putinism without Putin,” Nikolas Gvosdev, a professor of national-security studies at the US Naval War College, wrote this week in The National Interest. “Putin must still remain personally involved and at the helm for his system to function.”