When I was a graduate student at Columbia University's Russian Institute, there was a great debate: Was the communist Soviet Union an organic Russian development or was it largely a cancer imposed on it?
Those who held the organic view argued that the change from czar to commissar was only one of degree. Both were tyrannies, the latter more tyrannical than the former.
I agreed with the second view, that communism was something radically new, not a logical, let alone inevitable, Russian path. The czars were autocrats, not genocidal totalitarians.
I have to admit that in recent years, I have wondered whether the first view was right after all.
First, Vladimir Putin suppresses -- sometimes violently -- virtually all dissent in Russia; and most Russians are apparently entirely comfortable with it. Not just comfortable -- supportive.
Second, there is widespread nostalgia among Russian citizens for Stalin. One has to wonder if there is any other example of a large body of people pining for a leader who murdered tens of millions of their own people.
Third, there is increasingly little difference between the Russian media and the Soviet media. Both were/are saturated with lies. Anne Applebaum, foreign affairs columnist for the Washington Post, reports that: "Russia's state-controlled mass media ... still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its 'Nazi' government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army's defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide."
Fourth, to the widespread acclaim of the Russian people, Putin annexed part of Ukraine, and is using Russian Ukrainians to violently annex more. All evidence points to these people -- supplied with Russian arms including the Russian SA-11 antiaircraft missile -- as the murderers who shot down a civilian airliner with 298 people on board.
Again, the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum: "This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane.