Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a politician and former intelligence officer was born on October 7, 1952, and has been president of Russia since 2012. He previously held the position from 2000 to 2008. He served as Russia’s prime minister twice, from 2008 to 2012 and from 1999 to 2000.

Before leaving his position as a KGB foreign intelligence officer in 1991 to start a political career in Saint Petersburg, Putin worked there for 16 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In order to work in President Boris Yeltsin’s administration, he relocated to Moscow in 1996. Before being chosen as prime minister in August 1999, he held the positions of secretary of the Security Council and director of the Federal Security Service for a short time. Following Yeltsin’s resignation, Putin took over as president in an acting capacity before winning the general election for his first term less than four months later.

In 2004, he won reelection. In order to fulfill his constitutional requirement of serving no more than two consecutive terms as president, Putin again served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012 under Dmitry Medvedev. In a 2012 election marred by protests and accusations of fraud, he won the presidency again, and he was re-elected in 2018. He signed constitutional amendments into law in April 2021 as a result of a referendum, one of which would have allowed him to run for reelection twice more, potentially extending his term as president until 2036.

Following economic reforms and a fivefold increase in the price of oil and gas, the Russian economy expanded by an average of 7% annually during his first term as president. He also commanded Russia during a conflict with Chechen separatists that restored federal rule over the territory. He oversaw military and police reform while serving as prime minister under Medvedev. Russia sponsored war in eastern Ukraine during his third term as president, annexing Crimea, which led to international sanctions and a financial crisis in Russia.

He also commanded a military operation in Syria to suppress jihadist and rebel groups. He oversaw a military buildup on the border of during his fourth term as president. In February 2022, Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of the nation after falsely accusing the Ukrainian government of committing atrocities against its Russian-speaking minority. This action sparked widespread international condemnation, increased sanctions, and demands that Putin be charged with war crimes.

Russia has experienced a decline in democracy and a turn toward authoritarianism under Putin’s rule. The hallmarks of Putin’s rule include pervasive corruption, the imprisonment and repression of political opponents, the intimidation and repression of Russia’s independent media, violations of human rights, and a lack of free and fair elections. Putin’s Russia received low rankings on the Corruption Perceptions Index, the Democracy Index, and the Freedom in the World indexes from Transparency International, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and Freedom House, respectively. After Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko, Putin is the president of Europe with the second-longest tenure.

Early Life

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Putin was the youngest of the three children born to Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911-1999) and Maria Ivanovna Putina (née Shelomova; 1911-1998) on October 7, 1952, in Leningrad, Soviet Union (now Saint Petersburg, Russia). Spiridon Putin, his grandfather, served as Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin’s personal chef. Two brothers died before Putin was born: Viktor, born in 1940, died of diphtheria and starvation in 1942 during the Nazi German forces’ siege of Leningrad, and Albert, born in the 1930s, died in infancy.

Putin’s father served as a conscript in the Soviet Navy’s submarine fleet in the early 1930s, and his mother worked in a factory. His father served in the NKVD’s destruction battalion at the beginning of World War II. He was later transferred to the regular army, where he suffered a serious injury in 1942. In 1941, the German occupiers of the Tver region killed Putin’s maternal grandmother, and during World War II, his maternal uncles vanished on the Eastern Front.

Putin began attending School No. 193 on Baskov Lane, not far from his house, on September 1, 1960. He was one of the few students in the roughly 45-student class who was still an unaffiliated Young Pioneer. He started practicing sambo and judo at the age of 12. He cherished reading the writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Lenin in his spare time. Putin speaks German fluently and has studied the language at Saint Petersburg High School 281.

Education

Putin received a law degree in 1975 from the Andrei Zhdanov State University in Leningrad, which is now Saint Petersburg State University. The Most Favored Nation Trading Principle in International Law was the subject of his thesis. He was compelled to join the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) while there and remained a member until its dissolution in 1991.

Putin was introduced to Anatoly Sobchak, a business law assistant professor who went on to co-author the Russian Constitution and corrupt practices in France. Sobchak would have an impact on Putin’s career in Moscow, and Putin would have an impact on Sobchak’s career in Saint Petersburg.

KGB

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Putin joined the KGB in 1975 and received his training at the 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad. He began his career as a counter-intelligence officer in the Second Chief Directorate before being transferred to the First Chief Directorate, where he monitored foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad. Putin was sent to Moscow in September 1984 for additional training at the Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute. According to multiple reports, Putin was sent by the KGB to New Zealand, where he allegedly worked undercover as a Bata shoe salesman in central Wellington, among other aliases. From 1985 to 1990, he worked as a translator undercover in Dresden, East Germany.

Unlike Putin’s presence in East Germany, his presence in New Zealand has never been confirmed by Russian security services but has been corroborated by eyewitness accounts and government records in New Zealand. Former Waitakere City mayor Bob Harvey and former Prime Minister David Lange both claimed Putin served in both Wellington and Auckland.

During the fall of the Berlin Wall, which began on November 9, 1989, according to Putin’s official biography, he saved the files of the Soviet Cultural Center (House of Friendship) and the KGB villa in Dresden for the official authorities of would-be united Germany to prevent demonstrators, including KGB and Stasi agents, from obtaining and destroying them. He then allegedly burned only the KGB files in a few hours but saved the Soviet Cultural Center archives for German authorities. He explained that many documents were left in Germany because the furnace blew up, but many documents from the KGB villa were sent to Moscow.

Political Career

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In May 1990, Putin was appointed as an international affairs advisor to Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Putin stated in a 2017 interview with Oliver Stone that he resigned from the KGB following the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 because he did not agree with what had occurred and did not want to be a part of the intelligence in the new administration. According to Putin’s statements in 2018 and 2021, he may have worked or considered working as a private taxi driver to supplement his income.

On June 28, 1991, he was appointed head of the Mayor’s Office’s Committee for External Relations, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments, as well as registering business ventures. Putin was investigated by the city legislative council, led by Marina Salye, within a year. He was found to have understated prices and allowed the export of metals worth $93 million in exchange for foreign food aid that never arrived. Putin was appointed the first deputy chairman of the Government of Saint Petersburg in March 1994. He founded the Saint Petersburg branch of the pro-government Our Home – Russia political party in May 1995, the liberal power party founded by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He managed that party’s legislative election campaign in 1995, and he was the leader of its Saint Petersburg branch from 1995 to June 1997.

President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin Deputy Chief of the Presidential Staff on March 26, 1997, a position he held until May 1998, and chief of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Property Management Department (until June 1998). His predecessor was Alexei Kudrin, and his successor was Nikolai Patrushev, both of whom went on to become prominent politicians and Putin’s associates. Putin was promoted to 1st class Active State Councillor of the Russian Federation on 3 April 1997, the highest federal state civilian service rank.

Putin was appointed First Deputy Chief of the Presidential Staff for the Regions on May 25, 1998, succeeding Viktoriya Mitina. On July 15, he was appointed head of the commission for the preparation of agreements on the delimitation of regional power and head of the president’s federal center, succeeding Sergey Shakhray. The commission completed no such agreements after Putin’s appointment, despite the fact that 46 such agreements were signed during Shakhray’s tenure as Chairman of the Commission. Putin later canceled all 46 agreements after becoming president.

On July 25, 1998, Yeltsin appointed Putin director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian Federation’s primary intelligence and security organization and the successor to the KGB.

Putin was appointed as one of three first deputy prime ministers on August 9, 1999, and was later appointed acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation by President Yeltsin. Yeltsin also stated that he wanted Putin to be his successor. Later that day, Putin announced his intention to run for president.

On August 16, the State Duma approved his appointment as Prime Minister with 233 votes in favor (vs. 84 against, 17 abstentions), whereas a simple majority of 226 was required, making him Russia’s fifth prime minister in less than eighteen months. Few expected Putin, who was virtually unknown to the general public at the time of his appointment, to last any longer than his predecessors. He was initially regarded as a Yeltsin loyalist; like other Boris Yeltsin prime ministers, Putin did not choose his cabinet; the presidential administration did.

Yeltsin’s main opponents and potential successors were already campaigning for his replacement, and they fought hard to keep Putin from emerging as a potential successor. Following the Russian apartment bombings and the invasion of Dagestan by mujahideen, including former KGB agents based in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Putin’s law-and-order image and unwavering approach to the Second Chechen War quickly combined to boost his popularity and allow him to surpass his rivals.

On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned, and Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation under Russian law. Putin went on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya after taking on this role.

On December 31, 1999, Putin signed his first presidential decree, titled “On guarantees for the former president of the Russian Federation and members of his family.” This guaranteed that “corruption charges against the outgoing President and his relatives” would be dropped. This was particularly directed at the Mabetex bribery case, in which members of Yeltsin’s family were involved. On August 30, 2000, a criminal investigation (number 18/238278-95) was opened in which Putin, as a member of the Saint Petersburg city government, was one of the suspects.

On December 30, 2000, another case against the prosecutor general was dropped “for lack of evidence,” despite Swiss prosecutors having forwarded thousands of documents. Putin signed a similar federal law, which replaced the 1999 decree, on February 12, 2001. Marina Salye brought back a case from 1992 involving Putin’s alleged corruption in metal exports, but she was silenced and forced to leave Saint Petersburg.

While his opponents were preparing for an election in June 2000, Yeltsin’s resignation resulted in presidential elections on March 26, 2000, which Putin won with 53% of the vote in the first round.

The Presidency

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On May 7, 2000, President Putin was inaugurated. Mikhail Kasyanov, the Minister of Finance, was named Prime Minister. Putin’s popularity was tested for the first time in August 2000, when he was chastised for allegedly mishandling the Kursk submarine disaster. This was largely due to the fact that Putin had to return from vacation for several days before visiting the scene.

Between 2000 and 2004, Putin set about rebuilding the country’s impoverished state, apparently winning a power struggle with the Russian oligarchs and striking a “grand bargain” with them. In exchange for their explicit support for-and alignment with-government, Putin’s oligarchs were able to keep most of their power.

In 2003, a referendum was held in Chechnya, which resulted in the adoption of a new constitution declaring that the Republic of Chechnya is a part of Russia; however, the region did gain autonomy. With the establishment of Parliamentary elections and a Regional Government, Chechnya has been gradually stabilized. Throughout the Second Chechen War, Russia severely crippled the Chechen rebel movement; however, sporadic rebel attacks continued across the northern Caucasus. Putin was re-elected president for a second term on March 14, 2004, with 71% of the vote.

Asia

In 2012, Putin wrote an article in the Indian newspaper The Hindu, saying: “The Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia signed in October 2000 became a truly historic step.” India remains the largest customer of Russian military equipment, and the two countries share a historically strong strategic and diplomatic relationship.

Under Putin, Russia has maintained positive relations with the SCO and BRICS Asian states, which include China, India, Pakistan, and post-Soviet Central Asian states. Sino-Russian relations have significantly strengthened bilaterally and economically in the twenty-first century, with the Treaty of Friendship, as well as the construction of the ESPO oil pipeline and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline, forming a “special relationship” between the two great powers.

Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe frequently met to discuss Japan-Russia territorial disputes. Putin also expressed his willingness to build a rail bridge connecting the two countries. Despite numerous meetings, no agreement was reached prior to Abe’s resignation in 2020.

Putin has paid three visits to Mongolia and maintains cordial relations with its neighbor. In September 2019, Putin and his Mongolian counterpart signed a permanent treaty of friendship between the two countries, enhancing trade and cultural exchanges. In 2007, Putin became the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit Indonesia in more than a half-century, resulting in the signing of an arms deal. During another visit, Putin emphasized Russia and Indonesia’s long-standing friendship. Russia also strengthened ties with Vietnam after 2011 and with Afghanistan in the 2010s, providing military and economic assistance.

Family

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Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva on July 28, 1983, and the couple lived in East Germany from 1985 to 1990. Mariya Putina, born on April 28, 1985, in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), and Yekaterina Putina, born on August 31, 1986, in Dresden, East Germany, are their two daughters (now Germany). According to a Proekt investigation published in November 2020, Putin has another daughter, Elizaveta, also known as Luiza Rozova (born in March 2003), with Svetlana Krivonogikh.

Putin divorced Lyudmila and was engaged to Olympic gold medalist Alina Kabaeva, a former rhythmic gymnast and Russian politician, according to the Moskovsky Korrespondent in April 2008. The story was denied, and the newspaper was soon shut down.

Putin and Lyudmila continued to appear publicly as spouses, while the status of Putin’s relationship with Kabaeva became a source of speculation. Putin and Lyudmila announced their divorce on June 6, 2013; on April 1, 2014, the Kremlin confirmed the divorce was finalized. Putin allegedly gave Kabaeva a daughter in 2015, but this was denied. Putin reportedly gave birth to twin sons in Kabaeva in 2019. However, in 2022, Swiss media reported, citing the couple’s Swiss gynecologist, that Kabaeva gave birth to a boy on both occasions.

Putin has two grandchildren, born in 2012 and 2017. He is also said to have a granddaughter, Katerina, who was born in 2017. Igor Putin, his cousin, was a director at Moscow-based Master Bank and was implicated in several money-laundering scandals.

Putin has received five dogs from different world leaders: Konni, Buffy, Yume, Verni, and Pasha. Konni passed away in 2014. Putin’s family had two poodles, Tosya and Rodeo when he first became president. They allegedly stayed with his ex-wife Lyudmila following their divorce.

Religion

Putin is a Russian Orthodox Christian. His mother was a devout Christian who worshipped at the Russian Orthodox Church, whereas his father was an atheist. Despite the fact that his mother did not keep any icons at home, she attended church on a regular basis, despite government persecution of her religion at the time. His mother secretly baptized him as a baby and took him to church services on a regular basis.

Putin claims that his religious awakening began after a serious car accident in 1993 involving his wife and a life-threatening fire that burned down their dacha in August 1996. Putin’s mother gave him his baptismal cross shortly before an official visit to Israel, instructing him to have it blessed.

When asked if he believes in God in 2007, he said, “There are things I believe that, in my position, should not be shared with the public at large for everyone’s consumption because that would look like self-advertising or a political striptease.” Tikhon Shevkunov, a Russian Orthodox bishop, is rumored to be Putin’s confessor. Sergei Pugachev, his former advisor, has questioned the sincerity of his Christianity.

 

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