The deeper meaning of those well chosen words might be “The beginning of the end of autocracy.” As always in Russia, there is a third side of the coin. Putin may purport to be an exception, and it certainly seems that way, but if one takes a historical perspective of things Russian, Putin is a very strong symbol of that triad of forces that Nicholas I promoted as the formula for controlling Russia; “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality.” In so vividly exercising that autocracy, it is now coming to an end.
When one stands back and surveys the thousand years of Russian history, even the seventy-four years of the Soviet Union was but a repressive last chapter out of the story from autocracy to democracy. In my 20+ years of Russian business, I have never hired and worked with such bright, intelligent, loyal young men and women. They today are that growing middle class that is leading the change into a real and productive democracy.
A wise man had this to say about change: It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system [change.] For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones. The Prince, Machiavelli, 1513. It will take time, no doubt about it. But it is happening and we, the West, should let it happen at its own will and speed, cooperating as appropriate.
And if you want to learn more about Russia, including some jokes, see “Walking on Ice, An American Businessman is Russia.”