The author points out the one crucial difference which seems to make his rule palatable to ordinary Russians. I think he is absolutely correct. It's a thought I've had floating around in my head for a while.
People are often more tolerant of Government interference in big things than in little ones.
The new czar saw that most human beings don't care who governs them, as long as the government minds its own business. And if the ruler can revive the illusion of national power, so much the better.
In my way of thinking, this is a symptom of all forms of socialism, and part of what make socialism attractive to so many. Wants are supplied, and all that's required politically is to do nothing.
The author characterizes the unspoken bargain Putin has struck with the Russian people as:
"I get the political power, you get material progress and social freedoms. Behave in the streets, and I'll stay out of your sheets."
Do what you want on your own time in your own home, and the government will leave you alone, but the "commanding heights" of the political and economic life of the nation are off limits. Wear what you want, say what you want to your friends, buy the nice products we import for you, and be content. Protesting, public criticism, political opposition - these are signs of ingratitude and threaten the status quo.
Shamelessly cynical, Putin goes through the stage-managed forms of democracy. He even permits scripted media criticism of the state (though not of himself).
But there are limits to the new totalitarianism's tolerance. You can call Putin a baboon-butt monkey-boy over the vodka bottle at your kitchen table - but don't do it in public.
Cross that line and you are, literally, dead. A deal's a deal.