Andy at Siberian Light commented and cross-posted on yesterday's democracy-themed post. His question "how does Russia get from here (quasi-democracy) to there (democracy)" (the italics are added by me for elucidation.) He obliquely raises a another point; too much commentary on what has been and not enough (intelligent) commentary on where the country will be not just tomorrow but the day after that as well. Or at least beyond the Presidential election (sic).
From my narrow point of view the answer is relatively simple. It is not for us to impose our views on Russia based on what we would like our home countries to be like. Expats are amongst the most critical commentators on their home countries. I fundamentally believe in the fuck-up theory of history as opposed to the conspiracy theory. There are very few examples in political history of honourable people doing the right thing based purely on altruism. My own country, Britain (which begs the question what I think of N. Ireland), has developed its version of democracy as a result of changes forced on the Monarchy and House of Lords and Commons over time. It was not that long ago that Britain has its own rotten boroughs - the implication to the Duma being rotten is not implied, it's explicit. The changes were forced at periods of weakness of the ruling power of the time - from Magna Carta through to female emancipation.
So what does that mean for Russia? Whilst commodity prices remain high and local input prices relatively low I see little change to the Russian polity. I don't put much faith in a growing middle-class forcing changes until the economy is forcing changes without their help. No colourful revolutions here. We may see a little more balance-of-power post-Putin, whenever that may be. If I am being optimistic, a resumption of balance of power may mean an increase use of the courts as means of conflict resolution. I generally find being optimistic, uninformed wishful thinking.
Where I may be proved (hopefully) wrong is the absolute fear that Power evidences of the people. This may result in changes running ahead of popular desire for change. A continuation of the Fifth Directorate Thugs belief that they can manage the people. See comments on optimism above.
Maybe the best prediction I can make is that the country in which we live and comment on will change in ways that we will fail to predict.