Speaking during an interview with the German public broadcasting network ARD, Putin said, "It is obvious we have made a decisive choice for democracy," but compared Russia's political development to that of other countries.
"Do you want us to cover in two decades a path it took other countries, 200, 300, 400 years to cover?" he asked.
Putin has faced accusations of a clampdown on dissent since his return to the presidency in 2012, the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported. He dismissed concerns during the interview over inspections of hundreds of non-governmental organizations in Russia in recent weeks.
Russian rights activists say surprise inspections at the Moscow offices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups are intended to intimidate non-governmental organizations into complying with a controversial law obligating them to register as "foreign agents."
"Organizations financed from abroad are not forbidden to carry out any activities," Putin said. "Should our society not be informed of who gets the money and for what purposes?"