While no revolutionary, Medvedev early on rejected the Putin-era claim that the Russian definition of democracy is different from the Western version, and affirmed that human values are universal. As president he has strongly advocated a program of intensive "modernization" including political and cultural reforms that would draw Russia closer to Europe.
"Medvedev is trying to do something, but he faces a sea of problems that drowns his efforts," says Lyudmilla Alexeyeva, of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia's oldest human rights organization. "There is tough resistance from officialdom and the siloviki [security chiefs]. So, yes, we see small changes, but against this background of massive problems it would be presumptuous to say the situation is improving."
The legacy of Mr. Putin's eight years in the Kremlin includes a largely muzzled and state-guided mass media, tough legal restrictions, frequent official harassment of politically active nongovernmental organizations, and a string of unresolved murders of independent journalists and human rights workers.
Two years ago, Medvedev reached out to independent media by granting his first-ever print interview to the opposition weekly Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper that saw four of its reporters killed in the line of work during the Putin era.