Apparently Vladimir Vladimirovich is quite popular in Russia. Undoubtedly the glorious leadership he has provided has a lot to do with it - not to mention the price of oil - but I have to say that the Russian media doesn't seem to put a lot of effort into reporting on the negative aspects of his reign.
I read a few articles in Russian papers on the Finno-Ugric festival attended by President Tarja Halonen and they gave very little attention to the human rights angle that was so prominent in Finnish coverage. For example, Moscow Times somewhat optimistically headlined its story as "Putin Wants Minorities to Feel at Home". Since it was an AP story, it at least mentioned human rights issues, although in a pretty mealy-mouthed manner. Kommersant played its story, "King of the Csardas", mostly for laughs, with the only hint that something might be amiss coming when the reporter paraphrased Halonen's comments.
In other news concerning authoritarian Russian leaders, according to a recent survey, Russian youth think Stalin wasn't half bad:
When asked if Stalin was a wise leader, half of the 1,802 respondents, aged from 16 to 19, agreed he was.
"Fifty-four percent agreed that Stalin did more good than bad," [...]
The majority of respondents thought the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy
On the plus side, the results were even worse (PDF) in 2005.
Where could the kids be getting these opinions? The Washington Post reports:
The teaching of history has always been a charged subject in post-Soviet Russia, especially when it touches on the rule of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, whose purges led to the deaths of millions and the notorious gulag system of labor camps.
A textbook that took an unflinching look at Stalin's policies, including his nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939 and the mass deportation of Chechens and other Caucasians during World War II, was pulled by education officials in 2003. [...]
According to the new history manual ["The Newest History of Russia, 1945-2006"], Stalin was brutal but also "the most successful leader of the U.S.S.R."
"As for the methods of coercion used toward the ruling bureaucratic elite, the goal was to mobilize the leadership in order to make it effective in the process of industrialization, as well as in rebuilding the economy in the postwar period," the manual states, while providing few details on the scale and horror of Stalin's totalitarianism. "This task was fulfilled by means of, among other things, political repression, which was used to mobilize not only rank-and-file citizens but also the ruling elite."
I wonder how other countries managed to industrialize without mobilizing citizens to make them more effective. (And when I say "mobilize", I mean "kill".)