Russia, like most countries, is struggling to balance public desire for privacy with the government's interest in monitoring potentially criminal activity. But the Kremlin's approach strikes observers as too heavy-handed.
The tiny nation is currently the site of Europe's biggest political scandal, involving secret tapes, mass protests, and threats of ethnic conflict.
In the past, Russia was an empire, then a communist colossus, then a 'defeated' power expected to adopt Western ways. But current tensions with the West are fostering what may be the birth of a distinct Russian nationalism.