They're not my observations. Politkovskaya suggested it. It's pretty much the thesis of Gessen's book. Their argument - which I find compelling - is that Putin is the tip of a KGB/FSB shaped iceberg that enriches the elite and connected. This system existed under the Tsars, it existed under the Soviets, and it exists now. Russia is hardly unique in that regard; elitists do as elitists do. The overthrow of the Romanovs allowed for a change-up of the "monarchy" but that's hardly unique, either.
If you were God, what would you change about the current Russian system to make it better?
It is my measured opinion that it's hard to be Russian, that it has always been hard to be Russian, and that barring a string of miracles, it will continue to be hard to be Russian. Autocracies thrive where life is hard because the likelier change is to be harmful or fatal, the less a populace will entertain it.
A point the Durants make in every book is that history, as we study it, is only the high and low points. The overwhelming majority of people in any era are just trying to get by, live their lives and not make any waves. They go as far as to say that most of the time, people are happy. I've never been to Russia. The Russians I know, I admire. It would be the height of arrogance to suggest that I have solutions to problems undiscovered or unconsidered by millions of clever people across generations. It would be almost as arrogant to suggest that change is needed.
But if I were God, and I could wave my magic wand, I'd make Russia a more bountiful, more easily protected place.