Living in Russia for a year and a half, I got a whole earful of ordinary Russians' world views. I learned who really won World War II (spoiler alert: not the Americans), and why things were better and more stable under Soviet rule. It opened my eyes when one girl told of growing up in the post-Soviet era 90's, awakening one day to find that prices in the stores had doubled overnight while her family's wages stayed the same. It helped me understand why people viewed the (relative) stability that Putin brought as a good thing. True, their lives weren't great, but ordinary was better than chaos.
Returning from my mission, I took a Russian culture class (which should be required BEFORE going on missions, but that's another story). In learning more about Russian culture and history, I learned about the leaders who had managed to unite the diverse and huge geography that makes up Russia. It is not easy to rule such a country, and Russians have typically favored strong leaders. They don't have much positive experience with democracy.