I generally don’t use the term “the masses”, and when I do, it’s to note how dehumanizing a term it really is.
Regarding Putin’s methods in ascent: one might credit Berezovsky and perhaps the Moscow Apartment Bombings.
On the chess pieces:
Of course, the citizens of every state needs must care about their own lives first — biological, familial and otherwise social, financial, emotional, spiritual. Security and stability in those aspects of life are generally part of everyone’s quality of living.
That Putin has been able to sustain and transform many aspects of the defunct Soviet Union tells a story about the kind of political power exercised in relation to malignant narcissism. In effect, he has got Russia revolving around himself, and for the discomforts he has caused, the Russians have channels today for faith and patriotism. The “Communists” are gone but the essence of the old nomenklatura has been transformed into an ultra-nationalist and neo-imperial enterprise.
The public that has wished to take an interest in foreign affairs has plenty of information — responsible, valid, and reliable — for working, but large constituencies may only attend to so much in aggregate. I would not think of such as “ignorant masses” but rather people with families and jobs and struggles and worries of their own. They may find what they need to know WHEN it matters to them, when the dots circle back to their own interests, and they perceive that.
The stimulus for the response made note of the people voting Putin into power.
Perhaps “Russia’s state-controlled press” should have been added to the “chess pieces” –Russian Orthodox Church, KGB Revival, Oligarch Aristocracy — section of the above response: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/vladimir-putin-russia-news-media_us_56215944e4b0bce34700b1df . I sometimes indulge in minor revision, but not this time.