Vladimir Putin served as president of Russia from 2000 to 2008 and was re-elected to the presidency in 2012. He previously served as Russia's prime minister.

1140 putin russia
Vladimir Putin. Photo: Time Magazine

Who Is Vladimir Putin?

In 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed his prime minister and promoted former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in his place. In December 1999, Yeltsin resigned, appointing Putin president, and he was re-elected in 2004. In April 2005, he made a historic visit to Israel — the first visit there by any Kremlin leader. Putin could not run for the presidency again in 2008, but was appointed prime minister by his successor, Dmitry Medvedev. Putin was re-elected to the presidency in March 2012 and later won a fourth term. In 2014, he was reportedly nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Early life and education

Vladimir Putin was born on October 1, 1952, in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. An only child, his father was a foreman in a metal factory and his mother was a homemaker. Putin lived with his parents in an apartment with two other families. Though religion was not permitted in the Soviet Union, the former country which was made up of Russia and other smaller states, his mother secretly had him baptized as an Orthodox Christian.

Though a small child, Putin could hold his own in fights thanks to martial arts classes. By the age of sixteen, he was a top-ranked expert at sambo, a Russian combination of judo and wrestling. By the time he was a teenager Putin had begun to display the ambition that he later became known for, and he attended a respected high school, School 281, which only accepted students with near-perfect grades. The institution was the only one in Russia to stress chemistry, which was Putin's interest. However, he soon moved toward liberal arts and biology. Putin played handball and worked at the school radio station, where he played music by the Beatles and other Western rock bands. Fascinated with spy movies as a teen, he aspired to work for the KGB, the Russian secret service, according to World Biographies.

Political career

In 1997, Boris Yeltsin appointed him to the position of deputy chief of the Presidential staff. In 1999, with the backing of Yeltsin, he was voted as Prime Minister of Russia. When Yeltsin, unexpectedly resigned a few months later, Putin became the default President of Russia.

During the early years of his Presidency, Putin gained substantial popular backing because of his hard-line on military issues (such as the war in Chechnya) and overseeing a return to economic stability. He cultivated a macho ‘action man’ image of fearless leader and sportsman, helped by his sporting and KGB past. This image was attractive to voters. After a decade of inflation and falling living standards, during the 2000s, Russia embarked on a sustained period of economic growth, falling unemployment and rising living standards. The strong performance of the economy was attributable to the rising price of oil and gas (increasing value of Russia’s exports) and strong macroeconomic management.

Early in his leadership, he came to an arrangement with the new Russian ‘oligarchs’ powerful businessmen who had gained control of formerly state-owned industries. Putin made a deal where they agreed to start paying tax and avoiding politics, in return for leaving them free to pursue their business interests. This helped raise revenue for the government and reduced the political influence of the Oligarchs.

1153 putin quotes
Vladimir Putin's quote. Photo: AZ quotes

In 2008, unable to run for a third term as President, he ran for Prime minister, with his dual political aid Medvedev becoming President. However, it was Putin who remained the most powerful figure.

In 2012, Putin was re-elected for a third term as President, however, for the first time, this led to widespread protests at the lack of democracy in Russia. Increasingly, Putin’s regime has been criticised for being dictatorial and avoiding a true democracy.

For example, former Russian President Gorbachev, who was initially a supporter of Putin said he was disappointed by the increased disrespect for democracy and authoritarian tendencies. In 2007, Gorbachev said Putin had ‘pulled Russia out of chaos’. But, in 2011 criticised Putin for seeking a third term as President. Gorbachev was severely critical of the 2011 elections. “The results do not reflect the will of the people,” Mr Gorbachev said at the time. “Therefore I think they [Russia’s leaders] can only take one decision – annul the results of the election and hold new ones.”

On July 28, 1983, Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva. They have two daughters, Maria Putina (born 1985) and Yekaterina (Katya) Putina (born 1986 in Dresden). Putin himself is a practising member of the Russian Orthodox Church. His religious awakening followed the serious car crash of his wife in 1993 and was deepened by a life-threatening fire that burned down their dacha in August 1996. Right before an official visit to Israel, his mother gave him his baptismal cross telling him to get it blessed “I did as she said and then put the cross around my neck. I have never taken it off since.”

Putin has been hailed by Patriarch Alexius II of the Russian Orthodox Church as instrumental in healing the 80-year schism between it and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia in May 2007. Putin was supportive of the Russian Orthodox church in supporting the imprisonment of members of ‘Pussy Riot’ the pop group who protested about Putin and the Church. However, the decision to imprison members of Pussy Riot was widely condemned across the world for breaching human rights.


In March 2014, in the wake of turmoil in Ukraine, Putin authorised the use of Russian troops to enter the region of Crimea. Shortly after, a referendum was organised where a majority of people voted to leave the Ukraine and rejoin Russia. There was criticism over the legitimacy of the referendum, but Crimea has effectively left Ukraine for Russia. The issue over Ukraine has led to increased tension between Russia and the West.

2016 US election

During the 2016 US election, it was alleged that Russian operators sought to influence the 2016 Presidential election by posting social media items which helped Donald Trump and hindered Hilary Clinton. Similar allegations were made with regard to the UK vote on Brexit. Although Putin denies influencing elections, there is evidence Russian foreign policy is geared towards destabilising Western democracies and weakening the NATO alliance. Under Trump, the NATO alliance has been very much weakened, with Trump being the most pro-Russian president in modern times.

2018 Russian election

In 2018, Putin won a fourth Presidential term, with 76% of the vote. Political opponents argue the system is rigged with opposition candidates placed under arrest or prevented from actively campaigning. Putin has suggested he will not run again in 2024, but his party United Russia have a powerful monopoly on local and national elections, and it is not certain when this will be ended, as reported by Biography online.

Personal Life, Net Worth, and Religion

Vladimir Putin married Lyudmila Shkrebneva on July 28, 1983. From 1985 to 1990, the couple lived in East Germany where they gave birth to their two daughters, Mariya Putina and Yekaterina Putina. On June 6, 2013, Putin announced the end of the marriage. Their divorce became official on April 1, 2014, according to the Kremlin. An avid outdoorsman, Putin publicly promotes sports, including skiing, cycling, fishing, and horseback riding as a healthy way of life for the Russian people.

1412 putin ex wife
Putin with his ex-wife. Photo: Vermont Public Radio

While some say he may be the world’s wealthiest man, Vladimir Putin’s exact net worth is not known. According to the Kremlin, the President of the Russian Federation is paid the U.S. equivalent of about $112,000 per year and is provided with an 800-square foot apartment as an official residence. However, independent Russian and U.S. financial experts have estimated Putin’s combined net worth at from $70 billion to as much as $200 billion. While his spokespersons have repeatedly denied allegations that Putin controls a hidden fortune, critics in Russia and elsewhere remain convinced that he has skillfully used the influence of his nearly 20-years in power to acquire massive wealth.

A member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Putin recalls the time his mother gave him his baptismal cross, telling him to get it blessed by a Bishop and wear it for his safety. “I did as she said and then put the cross around my neck. I have never taken it off since,” he once recalled, ThoughtCo cites.

Notable Quotes

As one of the most powerful, influential, and often-controversial world leaders of the past two decades, Vladimir Putin has uttered many memorable phrases in public. A few of these include:

“There is no such thing as a former KGB man.”

“People are always teaching us democracy but the people who teach us democracy don't want to learn it themselves.”

“Russia doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. It destroys them.”

“In any case, I’d rather not deal with such questions, because anyway it’s like shearing a pig—lots of screams but little wool.”

“I am not a woman, so I don’t have bad days.”