President Vladimir Putin
Former KGB intellegence officer
Vladimir Putin - named prime minister of Russia in August 1999
and chosen by President Boris Yeltsin as his preferred successor
- is not well know either in Russia or abroad.
official biography released by the Kremlin gave just four lines
of chronological information and included a gap of 21 years,
from 1975 to 1996.
Yet, prior to his appointment, Putin was one of the most
powerful men in the Kremlin - in a quiet, behind-the-scenes
He was simultaneously head of the KGBs main successor
service, the Federal Security Service, and secretary of the
presidential Security Council, the powerful advisory body that
coordinates the activities of Russias armed forces, security
agencies and police.
rose from a relatively obscure position as a Soviet agent during
the Cold War.
After graduating from law school in 1975, he began a
15-year career with the KGBs foreign intelligence arm,
stationed in Leningrad and East Germany. With the Soviet Union
facing collapse, Putin retired from the KGB at the rank of colonel
and began his political career.
His rise during the 1990s was fast, he has more political
experience than might be expected of a prime minister. In one
of his rare public comments, Putin acknowledged he is not
In the early 1990s, Putin began working in St. Petersburgs
local government, rising to the post of vice mayor by 1994.
In 1996, Yeltsins inner circle brought him to Moscow and
named him deputy chief Kremlin administrator.
Putin was named the Kremins official in charge
of relations with the Russias diverse regions, then, in
1998, head of the Federal Security Service and in March secretary
of the presidential Security Council.
Some speculate Yeltsins decision to tap the relatively
unknown Putin reflects the Yeltsins preference for keeping
his subordinates from becoming too powerful. Putin has a reputation
for being extremely loyal to Yeltsin.
Yet, in the days after being named as acting prime minister,
the 47-year-old former KGB officer - who in a television interview
called martial arts his favorite sport - indicated he was no
softy and in a good physical condition.
He expressed a willingness to quickly quash Islamic rebels
battling Russian forces in the Caucasus, and also said he favors
rebuilding Russias security services, which were greatly
weakened with the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Putin said his main task as prime minister would be improving
the life of the people, the populations standard of living.
Putin was born on October 7th, 1952 in St.
"I was educated on the street,"
Putin says "To live and be
educated on the street is just like living in the jungles. I
was disobedient and didn't follow school rules."
Putin's school friends and teachers described him as
a skinny temperamental boy who never hesitated to challenge
stronger kids. "He was never afraid
of anyone," said
Viktor Borisenko, a close friend during their school years.
Recalling the preschool fight in which he was beaten
for the first time, Putin said he had picked it because his
rival looked weaker. The defeat taught him a valuable lesson
on restraint and respect for others. But, he added, "I
also understood I must be strong enough to fight back in any
case, whether I'm right or not."
V. Putin with his wife, September
joining the KGB, Putin said his bosses taught him a similar
fighting philosophy. "There
is no need to meddle into anything without extreme necessity,
but as it happens, you must proceed from the assumption that
there is no way back and you must fight until the end,"
Putin said. "They taught
me this rule in the KGB, but I learned it much earlier in
fights during my childhood."
Putin said he was influenced to join the KGB from patriotic
movies and books describing the feats of Soviet clandestine
agents. He described knocking on the door of KGB headquarters
to apply for a future job when he still was in high school.
A KGB duty officer told Putin he should first graduate from
University first and so he did.
Putin co-authored a book on judo, which he has been
practicing since the age 13.
V. Putin with his wife, May, 2002.
being a tough kid, Putin said he always had a soft spot for
his parents. "I had a big advantage
over many of my peers: I felt the constant care and attention
of my parents," he
said. "The family was a solid,
reliable foundation for me."
Putin is married with two daughters.
The First Lady, Ludmila Putina, was born on Jan 6, 1958.
She graduated from St. Petersburg State university, where she
was teaching German from 1990 to 1994. She is fluent in German,
Spanish and French languages. She and Vladimir Putin got maried
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