"The West, which still sees Russia in post-Soviet terms, sometimes ranks him as his country's most powerful leader since Stalin. Russians are increasingly looking to an earlier period of history. Both liberal reformers and conservative traditionalists in Moscow are talking about Mr Putin as a 21st-century tsar."
How he got here: "Putin has earned that title by lifting his country out of what many Russians see as the chaos in the 1990s and by making it count again in the world. Yet as the centenary of the October revolution draws near, the uncomfortable thought has surfaced that Mr Putin shares the tsars' weaknesses, too."
The fear is growing "that, as with other Russian rulers, Tsar Vladimir will leave turbulence and upheaval in his wake."
Why it matters: "Putin is hardly the world's only autocrat. Personalised authoritarian rule has spread across the world over the past 15 years — often ... built on the fragile base of a manipulated, winner-takes-all democracy. It is a rebuke to the liberal triumphalism which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union."