“The problem you Americans have in dealing with us is that you think you understand us, but you don’t. You look at the Chinese and you think: ‘They’re not like us.’ You look at us Russians, and you think, ‘They’re like us.’ But you’re wrong. We are not like you.” -Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin’s life has been shrouded in mystery. From his humble beginnings as the son of a navy submariner to his time as Russia’s president, he’s always managed to keep the press guessing. Read on to learn about Putin’s rise to power and accomplishments during his rise and now seemingly permanent hold on power in Russia.

Putin’s Rise to Power

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on October 7, 1952. His father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, was a conscript serving on a  submarine in the USSR becoming a communist party member and a mid-level official in the Soviet Union. His mother Maria Ivanovna Shelomova was a factory worker. The family lived in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during Putin’s early years.

He studied law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975, Putin worked as a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, holding the rank of Lieutenant colonel, before he resigned in 91′ to go into local politics in Saint Petersburg. Putin moved to Capital, Moscow, in 1996 to join the administration of President Boris Yeltsin, who hand-picked Putin as his successor.

Putin served as director of the Federal Security Service (FSB formerly the KGB) and secretary of the Security Council, before being appointed as Prime Minister in 1999.

After Yeltsin resigned, Putin became acting President, and shortly after won the Russian Presidential election and began his first term as President, a position he’s held since.

Fun fact: Did you know that today, if you work for the FSB (formerly KGB) you can’t leave Russia, ever! One way to prevent any defectors and information leaks.

The Putin Interviews, created by Oliver Stone.

Putin Facts

  • Vladimir Putin has been in power for the past 18 years—a period that’s seen Russia undergo an incredible transformation as a global power.
  • Putin is a former KGB agent who served for 16 years.
  • Putin studied English and also speaks fluent German.
  • Putin apparently has four daughters and twin sons but it seems his family life is closely guarded.
  • He’s disliked by former World Champion Russian Chess Player, Gary Kasparov.  “Glad that the European Court of Human Rights decided in my favor that my news site http://kasparov.ru was illegally banned in Russia.”-Kasparov
  • Putin is the wealthiest Russian politician and has a net worth believed to be close to seventy billion dollars.. Many of his childhood friends are also Billionaires. His wealth is in stock ownership of Russia’s largest energy-producing companies.
  • He was granted immunity from prosecution and placed above the law after his time in the KGB (now called the FSB).
  • When Putin became president, Russians were told that he would serve for two terms then retire. However, he was re-elected twice after his first term and now looks to be Russia’s President for life. Putin signed an executive order on 3 July 2020 to officially insert amendments into the. Russian Constitution, allowing him to run for two additional six-year terms. These amendments took effect on 4 July 2020.
  • Putin is huge fan of Judo and is a black belt.
  • Putin has an unusual gait when walking, some believe it may conceal an old injury or current ailment.  There could be another reason.  KGB agents are trained never to have their hand more than a few inches away from their pistol at any time, even when walking.
  • Putin is unremarkable in appearance and stands only 5’6″ in height.  Believe it or not, this probably made him more attractive to the KGB as an applicant.  The most successful spies are not cut in the image of James Bond.  The preferred type is someone you would look right past if you saw them on the street.
Putin seems to have very expensive taste in timepieces. This appears to be a Blancpain Grande Date Aqua Lung. This limited edition watch will set you back about $15,000 for a nice used one. Phot0; DMITRY ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty Images

Final Thoughts

Putin has successfully combined the long tenure and absolute power once held by Soviet Premiers like Stalin and the Tsars.

He’s also been able to balance the often competing interests of Russian capitalist elites working in a global economy and the totalitarian impulses of the current Russian government, which views businesses as serving state interests.  He has been ruthless in controlling state media organs while forcing opposition voices to either remain silent or face exile the very real possibility of being assassinated.

The future of both Russia and Putin are hotly debated topics. Most experts I’ve read have vastly different opinions on both.

Does Putin pick a successor and step down? Does he run again for President? When he’s gone how does power get transferred?

In my opinion, stepping down now would be a sign of weakness and Putin has likely created too many enemies, who would seek revenge, to do this. Putin would probably reason that the safest place he can be in the world is in power at the Kremlin until death.

Like his former masters in the old USSR,  Putin is very good a creating a perception of great power around Russia, in spite of the fact that the country is but a remnant of the vast Soviet Union Russia once sat at the center of.

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What comes next for Putin’s Russia (he’s likely thinking about his legacy) and what comes after he’s gone are the questions I’m thinking about. Clearly, Russia would like to be the regional superpower dominating Europe in commerce, energy, and foreign policy.

Does Putin invade and annex Ukraine as he did in Crimea in the quest to rebuild the territorial size and economic output of the former Soviet Union?

Do Russia and China combine in Asia to check American influence and bully Japan, Taiwan, and other countries in Asia?

Does Russia continue to entrench in Syria tied to the beleaguered regime of Bashar al-Assad to keep its only warm water port in the Mediterranean Sea?