One of the issues causing -- and prolonging -- Russia's current political instability is the complete breakdown of the Kremlin's power clans.
When Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, he began creating a complex organization comprising many ambitious and powerful people to help him rule the country. Putin understood that he would need a mix of people who could handle Russia's need for tight security and control in the short term but strategize for a more modern and liberal economy in the future -- seemingly conflicting aims, but Putin saw both as necessary to address the problems facing the country.
Though there are countless small groups and loyalties among those in the Kremlin, Putin's system can be divided essentially into two clans -- the siloviki and the civiliki. Two very ambitious (and at times ruthless) men ran these clans: Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who ran the siloviki, and Vladislav Surkov, who ran the civiliki and was recently demoted from first deputy chief of staff. Each man controlled large portions of government bureaucracy, state companies and critical instruments of control throughout Russia. It was an arrangement in which two groups with starkly different backgrounds, ideologies and strategies would be played off each other, and Putin's personal ties to both groups would put him in a position of ultimate power. This allowed him to select which policies to put forward that might not be too appealing to certain elements within the Kremlin. It also kept these ambitious politicians concentrated on each other and not on Putin, who was seen as the great stabilizer.
The siloviki clan primarily consists of security hawks and former operatives with the KGB (now known as the Federal Security Service, or FSB) -- like Putin. The siloviki primarily fall under the control of Sechin, who played a major role in centralizing the Russian economy and ousting foreign influence over the past decade. Political power brokers like National Security Chief Nikolai Patrushev, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov (who has since been removed from his position) and NATO envoy Dmitri Rogozin bolstered Sechin's strength. The siloviki's goal has been to create a tightly controlled, globally strong Russia at the expense of individual rights and democracy. Over the past decade, the siloviki arguably have been the stronger of the two clans, implementing policies of consolidation in Russian business, uniting politically under one party (United Russia) and aggressively pushing Russian influence into Moscow's former Soviet sphere.