If you are interested in the current state of affairs in Putin's Russia, you need to take time to read David Remnick's portrait of Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player of all time who now leads the organized opposition to the Putin "tsardom." It is a remarkable article on many counts--it's a life-and-times article, giving you a great idea of what has made Putin so popular there, and it also makes several very good points, e.g. how much mileage Putin has gotten worldwide out of portraying himself as morally superior to George W. Bush and the United States. This demonstrates remarkable chutzpah, coming from a former KGB-torture-central man, but it's harder to refute him now in view of Guantanamo and the "unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country," a.k.a. the Iraq war.
For those who don't know Remnick, he also authored the best book about the Gorbachev era and the end of the Soviet Union: "Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire." Both the current article and the book are REQUIRED reading for people who want to be au courant, in the know, sparkling at cocktail parties, etc., so go get both of them. You have the link to the article above. And this is the CORRECT link, rather than the one to which i originally directed you earlier today.