Outrage and despair over the killing could go in one of two directions: "This could spark a campaign to take a tough stand against rampant corruption and criminality in politics," says Quinn-Judge. "But it could also amplify calls for a strongman to take charge." That, after all, is an unhappy Russian tradition.
The future of Russian democracy may be in the hands of the detectives investigating the slaying of Galina Starovoitova. The nonchalant professional assassination of the country's leading liberal legislator has sparked a torrent of anger at Moscow's political class, which turned out in force for Starovoitova's funeral Tuesday. "People are saying the root cause of a murder like this is the complete power vacuum in Moscow, which gives the killers confidence that they can get away with it," says TIME Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge. "Unless this case is cracked quickly, it's going to further erode confidence in government."