Putin has created what he calls a "vertical of power," something unlike any we see in other great nations. As the Russian chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov -- himself a harsh critic of Putin -- has noted, the entire structure of Russian political power rests on one man. When the czar died, you knew the structure that would endure and the process by which his successor, his son, would be elevated. When the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party died, the Standing Committee and the Politburo would select his successor. But when Putin dies, what will happen? No one knows.