Re: The more things change
But samizdat was available - or interesting - only to a tiny part of the Soviet population, and at considerable risk. If you talk to Russians now, the vast majority of them do not get - nor are interested in - any information sources outside of Putin-controlled ones, despite the big great Internet. Part of the reason is language. Another part is that the Russians - just like any other people - deserve their government.
I actually think it will not be very difficult for Putin to insulate the country. A small part of the population will find ways around it - Western radio was received in the USSR despite extensive jamming, too. And the transgressors will suffer for their audacity, just like in the past. Probably even more - it must be easier to trace who tries to reach Western websites than who tries to listen to the radio at home. Internet is a godsend to police states, eh? (We all should remember that.) In any case, the bulk of the population can be insulated quite efficiently.
The old USSR broke down because Gorby made the country a bit less insulated from above, not because the population demanded it - or circumvented the restrictions - from below. I don't know what Putin thinks, but he may well be thinking Gorby made a mistake.
I confess I am a history buff. When I catch news about Russia, which does not happen often, I admit, I occasionally think things look a bit similar to their early 1930ies - after a very brief period of economic "easing" (to borrow a modern term) when it became clear the economy didn't work. The problem with this analogy is that any student of history knows what happened there in the late 30ies...