Owen Matthews

The Dark Truth Behind Medvedev's Reform Campaign

It says a lot about the kind of place Russia has become that just two minutes of mild mockery of the Kremlin could cause a political shock wave. But sure enough: when the state-controlled Channel One showed a short cartoon in January depicting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and PresidentDmitry Medvedev dancing together in Red Square, singing a comic duet about the big news stories of 2009, liberals rejoiced.

Russia's Auto Wreck

Two years ago, Russia was one of the ­fastest-­growing auto markets in the world--but few Western carmakers were willing to risk a partnership there. Then, in 2007, Renault purchased a 25 percent stake in AvtoVaz, whose Lada brand was famous for the wrong reasons: its plants were fitted with ­Soviet-era production equipment and its 100,000 employees produced just 130,000 cars annually.