“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.