Famously a former agent for the KGB, Vladimir Putin grew up in post-Stalin Soviet St Petersburg.
How has Mr Putin's personal background affected his tenure as president? What role has history played?
Mr Putin has publicly backed ally Dmitry Medvedev as his favoured successor.
Who are the other members of his inner circle and what does the future hold for them?
Lucy Ash explores what Russia's future might owe to its history.
Is the country creating a new ideology based on a pre-revolutionary sense of itself - rooted in religion, autocracy and Imperial might?
The first report comes from Moscow.
Listen to history: Moscow report
The Kremlin's official website says the double-headed eagle looks to all sides for stimulus and growth, but for many it has come to symbolise the rift between the nationalists - or Slavophiles - who feel Russia's destiny lies rooted in the east and those who look to the West in the hope of stronger ties with Europe.
Lucy Ash's second report comes from St Petersburg.
Listen to history: St Petersburg report
The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse reports on why the city of St Petersburg - home town to both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev - is key to understanding the connections between the president and his inner circle.
Listen to Gabriel Gatehouse's report on the St Petersburg connection
Allan Little talks to Arkady Dvorkovich, the head of Mr Putin's Economic and Social Advisory committee.
He's western educated, sobre, straight talking, meets the president at least twice a month and - at 35 years old - is one of the architects of Putin's Plan for Russia.
He is typical of the self-confident new band of technocrats that surround executive power in Russia and which have replaced the ageing time serving elites that dominated the Soviet Union.
Listen to an interview with Arkady Dvorkovich
Within Russia itself Mr Putin's approval ratings are in the 70s and 80s for everything from foreign policy to economic achievement.
Sergei Markov is a former liberal who now sits in the Duma for the pro-Putin Party United Russia.
In an interview with Allan Little for The World Today, Markov describes how Putin has united the country and has brought stability, economic growth and new opportunities to Russians where before there had been chaos, crime and disorder.
Listen to an interview with Sergei Markov
Kseniya Sobchak hosts Dom 2, a Russian variant of the TV reality show Big Brother, where contestants build a house and find a partner at the same time.
Her father, Anatoly Sobchak, helped draft the constitution of the new Russian Federation and was a mentor to both President Putin and Dimitry Medvedev.
From a distance, the non-drinking, non-smoking, sobre-minded Vladimir Putin might seem austere, even cold, certainly tough.
But chatting in a local bar, Kseniya describes what it is to know him more closely...
Listen to Kseniya Sobchak on President Vladimir Putin
From BBC News.com
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