Putin: past and present

ByKausar Fatima

Works in an international audit firm and writes for magazines


August 2, 2022

Kausar Fatima digs out more details about the enigmatic Russian ruler

Putin appears to stay in news as he has become a staple for most newsworthy happenings. He was taken as a lightweight in international affairs for quite long time till he suddenly assumed the role of a heavyweight and is currently hogging the limelight. Interestingly Putin has never achieved more than 59% of approval ratings in his country yet he looms larger-than-life. Efforts have now grown to dig more into his past and figure out what he actually stands for and what he is up to. It is an interesting exercise to find out as many dimensions of Putin as possible and it is certainly a worthwhile effort.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on 7 October, 1952, in St. Petersburg, called Leningrad during the Soviet Union. Young Vladimir was born at the very end of the Stalin years. These were years of repression and terror during which unprecedented socio-political turmoil was order of the day. Putin’s paternal grandfather served as a cook for Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. His father, meanwhile, served in the Navy during World War II while his mother worked in a factory. In this context Putin is rightfully called as a son of the Soviet Union.

Young Putin was an avid fan of martial arts, particularly sambo and judo. He credits these activities from keeping him out of the street as a teenager. This was the refrain adopted by the famous boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Putin also studied German in high school, a language he remains fluent in and that stood him in good stead while serving in East Europe. Vladimir Putin graduated with a law degree in 1975 at Leningrad State University that is nowadays known as St. Petersburg State University. While in university, Putin met assistant professor Anatoly Sobchak, who would later become his political mentor.

The same year Putin graduated from university, he joined the KGB, the chief Soviet security agency. In those days joining KGB was highly sought after due to the vast political apparatus the Soviet Union maintained. There’s still controversy about what exactly were his responsibilities within the government entity and there is no clarity in this matter. What is however known is that Putin lived in Dresden, then part of East Germany, from 1985 until 1990. He served in a junior position but was known to be fanatically loyal to the ideology of the Soviet Union.
He married Lyudmila Shkrebneva in 1983, with whom he had at least two daughters. The couple officially divorced in 2014. During the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Putin saved the files from Dresden’s Soviet Culture Center and the KGB Villa and then burned the KGB files while handing over the rest to German authorities. He was then known to have defied attempts to take over the Soviet legation and was praised for his efforts. Putin has stated that he resigned from the KGB as a Lieutenant Colonel in the middle of the failed coup from Communist hardliners against the government of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Putin returned to St. Petersburg in 1990, where he worked at his alma mater. There, he renewed his friendship with Sobchak. Anatoly Sobchak became the first democratically-elected mayor of St. Petersburg in 1991 and as head of the city government, he appointed Vladimir Putin as one of his deputies. After Sobchak lost the mayoral re-election in 1996, the young Putin, who had been his campaign manager, moved to Moscow to try his luck in federal-level politics. Putin quickly ascended within the inner circle of Boris Yeltsin, occupying different high-ranking positions, including Director of the FSB RF, the successor of the KGB.

The Russian people became acquainted with Putin as a “law-and-order” politician during the Second Chechen War, which allowed him to surpass his political rivals. On 31 December, 1999, Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned. Putin, who Yeltsin had hoped would succeed him as president of the Russian Federation, took over as acting president.Putin asked Sobchak in February 2000 to help him in his presidential campaign but his mentor unexpectedly died not long after meeting him. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was elected President of the Russian Federation on 26 March, 2000. Besides a one-term stint as Prime Minister, from 2008 to 2012, he has remained there ever since and appears determined not to give way to any other in his place. TW


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