The author uses historical events to support his thesis that Russia is different from Western countries due to a hidden culture that is elusive to foreigners and that makes the transition today to a liberal democracy very difficult despite the overthrow of Communism, adaptation of Capitalist institutions like a securities market and freer access to information like the Internet.
The author’s credentials are superb—he speaks fluent Russian, has a Russian mother and a father who reported on and lived in Russia. But in his desire to prove his thesis he reaches back into history to the Middle Ages thru the Czars and Communism to purport that the Russian people are used to and expect tyrannical leaders in order to bring order to the country. He carries forth this logic to the present-day Vladimir Putin, against whom he has a particular dislike. More convincingly he might have compared the leaders of Russia within the framework of their own time and stage of development to more liberal societies.
The future may show that Russia has a second-way to govern that is just as effective and leaves the governed as satisfied as the Western model, flawed as it is, but I think it is too early to judge right after the overthrow of Communism and the end of the Cold War.