MOSCOW — The Kremlin announced the resignation on Wednesday of Vladislav Y. Surkov, a longtime domestic policy adviser and architect of Russia’s centralized political system, now under strain from protests.
Surkov, a former advertising executive, had coined the phrase “sovereign democracy” to describe the Russian system under President Vladimir Putin, a system that preserved popular elections but stripped them of meaning by closely manipulating the process.
After protests that began in 2011 by middle-class Muscovites angry about vote rigging, others in the Kremlin elbowed Surkov aside.“Stabilization devours its own children,” he said then. He was reassigned to a low-key position overseeing innovation in the economy.
A Kremlin statement said Putin signed a decree removing Surkov from his position “in accordance with his own wishes,” effective immediately.
The Kremlin offered no explanation for why Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who was Surkov’s direct superior, did not issue the decree.
It was a peculiarity, one sure to reinforce the impression that Medvedev is being sidelined in Russian politics, despite the loyalty he showed to Putin last year by declining to run for a second term as president and endorsing Putin to run instead.
Over his career, Surkov had created an array of political tools — Nashi, a youth movement; the United Russia political party; and total control of state television — that helped Putin consolidate power in his first two terms as president and also orchestrate the Medvedev interlude to allow Putin to get around term limits.
Surkov’s low profile and clout earned him a reputation as a puppet master of Russian politics.