This week's cover story profiles Vladimir Putin and his lust for power. Putin has stifled dissent throughout his political life, says Oliver Bullough. But as he prepares for another presidential term, Russia's disaffected middle class are no longer willing to stay silent. Also in the mix is Evgeny Lebedev, who writes this week's Diary, on Russia, the Guardian's struggles, and why he loves Blackpool. Elsewhere, Sophie Elmhirst interviews the Russian property magnate Sergei Polonsky.
The magazine also contains a profile of Rachel Cusk, whose new book Aftermath: on Marriage and Separation has caused a stir with its exposition of personal pain. In the Critics section, the book is reviewed by Jane Shilling. We pose the question: is it ever okay to write about your divorce? Meanwhile, Rob Brown discusses Scotland's Irish question. During the years of the Troubles, Catholics looked up to Labour as their protector. But all that has now changed, to the advantage of the SNP.
Elsewhere, Rafael Behr says that Ed Miliband needs to show us what he believes, Mehdi Hasan argues against western intervention, and Norman Lamont explains why the west's policy on Iran has failed. In the Critics lead, Michael Rosen asks why children's authors are rarely asked for their opinion on how to get children reading -- a serious oversight, since they know far more than politicians.