To get a grip on reality I also read many of the pieces about Russia and Putin. Few pieces actually stand out. First there is this interview (in Dutch) in Knack with Russia analyst Tatjana Stanovaja, from France.
Putin thinks in systems. Russia as a system is pretty much finished, a job well done. The state functions, with pensions being paid, entrepreneurs can start and do their business, the economy is strong, financially way more stable than in the nineties. Some minor problems, but overall he achieved big successes for which all the Russians should be thankful and celebrate him as a leader.
Europe is geopolitically irrelevant and just an agent of the US. It is annoying that European countries take the side of the US. They have become irrational, weak and inpredictable. If only Europe was sovereign it would inevitably cooperate with Russia and not the US.
After Putin it will get worse rather than better. He is more moderated than the political mainstream. The fall of the Sovjet Union is still a major geopolitical trauma in Russia. Russians are convinced that the West is out to destroy Russia, the victim of history. The West neglected Russia the past three decades and did not act on such signals. Russia might very well become more aggressive.
Putin thinks in terms of intentions of other actors, not what actually happened. Which is after all only a version of reality. The west potentially could have been financing Navalny, potentially Ukraine could join NATO, all that is what matters.
There is a lot more good stuff in the interview.
Then about the Russians. Why are they so passive, how can they let all this pass? The Dutch writer Emma Bruns digs into her personal memories about her dealings with Russians. Some hilarious stuff (also in Dutch), which is probably also what makes others fascinated about Russia, like the founder of the Moscow Times Derk Sauer who becomes homesick for Moscow after four months in exile in the Netherlands, melancholy, ‘toska‘.
Along the way in her reflections Bruns mentions satirical writer Zinovjev and his fake autobiography Homo Sovieticus. Which got an entry in Wikipedia. In that entry there is a summarising quote from a certain Maria Domańska:
The “Soviet man” is characterised by his tendency to follow the authority of the state in its assessment of reality, to adopt an attitude of mistrust and anxiety towards anything foreign and unknown, and is convinced of his own powerlessness and inability to affect the surrounding reality; from here, it is only a step towards lacking any sense of responsibility for that reality. His suppressed aggression, birthed by his chronic dissatisfaction with life, his intense sense of injustice and his inability to achieve self-realisation, and his great envy, all erupt into a fascination with force and violence, as well as a tendency towards “negative identification” – in opposition to “the enemy” or “the foreigner”. Such a personality suits a quasi-tribal approach to standards of morality and law (the things “our people” have a right to do are condemned in the “foreigner”).
When you read this, a report in The Guardian how “the Muscovites put the war aside and enjoy summer” does not come as a suprise at all.
These sources together are internally coherent and are externally coherent with what we know from history and the news. All this together validates this version of reality as something we can use well to understand it.