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Vladimir Putin, Russian President.Russian 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.

Putin's Official Visit to France, October 30th, 2000.An 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 way.
He was simultaneously head of the KGB’s main successor service, the Federal Security Service, and secretary of the presidential Security Council, the powerful advisory body that coordinates the activities of Russia’s armed forces, security agencies and police.

Putin's official visit to White House, November 13, 2001.Putin 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 KGB’s 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 a politician.”

In the early 1990s, Putin began working in St. Petersburg’s local government, rising to the post of vice mayor by 1994. In 1996, Yeltsin’s inner circle brought him to Moscow and named him deputy chief Kremlin administrator.

Putin was named the Kremin’s official in charge of relations with the Russia’s diverse regions, then, in 1998, head of the Federal Security Service and in March secretary of the presidential Security Council.

Some speculate Yeltsin’s decision to tap the relatively unknown Putin reflects the Yeltsin’s 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 Russia’s 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 population’s standard of living.”

Putin practicing martial arts, June 16, 2002. V
ladimir Putin was born on October 7th, 1952 in St. Petersburg.

"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 2, 2002.
V. Putin with his wife, September 2, 2002.

Russian President Vladimir PutinAfter 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 co-authored a book on judo, which he has been practicing since the age 13.

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.

V. Putin with his wife, May, 2002.
V. Putin with his wife, May, 2002.

First Lady, Ludmila Putina.Despite 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 in 1983.


To read more about Putin click here. Putin on (English).

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to see Putin's official website. (Russian only) If you wish, you can send a letter to President Putin at his official email address
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