The President of The United States of America is widely considered the most powerful man on earth, but Vladimir Putin would definitely have a thing or two to say about that assertion. For four years running, Forbes has consistently ranked the Russian leader as the most powerful man alive. You might not need to look too far to find out why.
Vladimir was born in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg), Russia, on October 7, 1952. His mom Maria was a factory worker while his father was a wounded World War II veteran who worked as a laborer. Putin’s two older brothers Albert and Viktor died as children. Growing up, Putin wasn’t particularly excited about academics; he was more interested in physical activities and combative sports.
At age 12 he became actively involved in boxing, judo, karate and sambo, (a Soviet martial art). With his involvement in combat, Vladimir became interested in espionage and spy activities and soon realized he needed to further his studies to stand any chance of getting into the KGB. He enrolled to study Law at the Saint Petersburg State University in 1970 and graduated in 1975 upon which he joined the KGB. Putin served 15 years as a foreign intelligence officer for the KGB, he was posted to Dresden in the then German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1985 and spent five years undercover. While in active spy service, he was lauded as an expert at reading and manipulating people and was seen as someone unfazed by violence.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Putin’s undercover days were over, he resigned at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and returned to St. Petersburg State University where he worked closely with his former Professor and soon-to-be Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. His first political appointment was as an advisor on international affairs to Mayor Sobchak. On 28 June 1991, Putin was made the head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor’s Office.
After Sobchak’s defeat in 1996, Putin headed for Moscow where he was appointed Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department. Over a span of four years, he rose rapidly holding sensitive posts including deputy chief of Presidential Staff, Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and First Deputy Prime Minister to President Boris Yeltsin.
In August 1999, President Boris Yeltsin fired Sergey Stapashin his prime minister along with his entire cabinet and appointed Putin as Prime Minister. In December of the same year, an ailing Yeltsin resigned as president, appointing Putin acting president until official elections were held (in early 2000). Putin was re-elected President in 2004.
Due to constitutional provisions that prohibited three successive terms as President, Putin couldn’t run for President in 2008. However, he ensured his protégé Dmitry Medvedev succeeded him as president in March 2008. Medvedev immediately appointed Putin as Russia’s prime minister, affording him political power until the next polls. On the 4th of March, 2012, Vladimir Putin was re-elected to his third term as president.
Vladimir Putin’s Wife
Vladimir Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva in 1983 after she was introduced to him by his best friend Sergei Pavlovich Roldugin. After 31 years together, On 6 June 2013, Lyudmila Putina and her husband publicly announced they were getting a divorce, the union was terminated amicably. Lyudmila’s reason being that there was no place for family relations in the working schedule of the Russian leader, he barely made time for anything other than his official engagements.
Putin has two daughters from his marriage with Lyudmila. Maria, born in 1985, and Katerina, who was born in 1986. Putin has always guarded his family life in secrecy, especially the identity of his kids. They reportedly do not even bear the famous surname.
Katerina who uses the surname Tikhonova (derived from the name of her grandmother, Yekaterina Tikhonovna Shkrebneva) is married to Kirill Shamalov, son of Nikolai Shamalov, a longtime friend of the president. Shamalov senior is a shareholder in Bank Rossiya.
Vladimir Putin’ older daughter Maria studied biology at St. Petersburg University and medicine at Moscow State University. She is reportedly married to a Dutch businessman and she now bears the Surname Fassen.
Vladimir Putin’s Girlfriend
The Russian leader has been rumored be in a romantic relationship with one of the countries most decorated sports women Alina Kabaeva. She has won 2 Olympic medals, 14 World Championship medals, and 25 European Championship medals.
Alina who also unsurprisingly lives a private life gave birth to a daughter in Switzerland; the paternity of the child remains undisclosed. There have been claims that the child could be Putin’s. If that is the case, it will be a classic Putin move to ensure the matter is kept out of the public discourse.
For a man whose persona and leadership style hinges on toughness and strength, Putin is quite pint-sized. He is 5 ft 7 inches tall.
Lesser Known Facts About Vladimir Putin
- At the age of 18, Putin was already a black belt holder in Judo
- Putin loves Dogs. He once attended a diplomatic meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in company of his scary looking black Labrador knowing the German leader is terrified of dogs
- His granddad Spiridon Ivanovich Putin was a cook. He cooked for Former Soviet leaders Stalin and Lenin
- He is an opponent of same-sex marriage, Putin likens it to Satan-worship