Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born 7 October 1952 in Leningrad, USSR; now Saint Petersburg, Russia) was the second President of Russia and is the current Prime Minister of Russia as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when president Boris Yeltsin resigned in a surprising move, and then Putin won the 2000 presidential election. In 2004, he was re-elected for a second term lasting until 7 May 2008.
Due to constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive Presidential term. After the victory of his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the 2008 presidential elections, he was then nominated by the latter to be Russia's Prime Minister; Putin took the post on 8 May 2008.
Putin was born on 7 October 1952 in Leningrad, to parents Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911 – 1999) and Maria Ivanovna Shelomova (1911 – 1998). His mother was a factory worker, and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, where he served in the submarine fleet in the early 1930s, subsequently serving with the NKVD in a sabotage group during World War II. Two elder brothers were born in the mid – 1930s; one died within a few months of birth; the second succumbed to diphtheria during the siege of Leningrad. His paternal grandfather, Spiridon Putin (1879 – 1965), is claimed to have been Vladimir Lenin's and Joseph Stalin's cook.
His autobiography, Ot Pervogo Litsa, (English: In the First Person) which is based on Putin's interviews, speaks of humble beginnings, including early years in a communal apartment in Leningrad. On 1 September 1960 he started at School No. 193 at Baskov Lane, just across from his house. By fifth grade he was one of a few in a class of more than 45 pupils who was not yet a member of the Pioneers, largely because of his rowdy behavior. In sixth grade he started taking sport seriously in the form of sambo and then judo. In his youth, Putin was eager to emulate the intelligence officer characters played on the Soviet screen by actors such as Vyacheslav Tikhonov and Georgiy Zhzhonov.
Putin graduated from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law. Whilst at university he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and remained a member until the party was dissolved in December 1991. Also at the University he met Anatoly Sobchak, who later played important role in Putin's career.
Early political career
In May 1990, Putin was appointed Mayor Sobchak's advisor on international affairs. On 28 June 1991, he was appointed head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments. In March 1994 he became first deputy head of the administration of the city of Saint Petersburg. In 1995 (through June 1997) Putin led the Saint Petersburg branch of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia political party. During this same period from 1995 through June 1997 he was also the head of the Advisory Board of the JSC Newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti.
In June 1996 Putin assumed position of a Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department headed by Pavel Borodin. He occupied this position until March 1997. On 26 March 1997 President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin deputy chief of Presidential Staff, which he remained until May 1998, and chief of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Property Management Department (until June 1998).
On 25 May 1998, Putin was appointed First Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff for regions, and, on 15 July, the Head of the Commission for the preparation of agreements on the delimitation of power of regions and the federal center attached to the President. On 25 July 1998 Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin head of the FSB (one of the successor agencies to the KGB), the position Putin occupied until August 1999. He became a permanent member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on 1 October 1998 and its Secretary on 29 March 1999.
Prime Ministry (1999)
On 9 August 1999, Vladimir Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, which enabled him later on that day to be appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by President Boris Yeltsin.Yeltsin also announced that he wanted to see Putin as his successor. Later, that same day, Putin agreed to run for the presidency.
Putin's rise to public office in August 1999 coincided with an aggressive resurgence of the near-dormant conflict in the North Caucasus, when a number of Chechens invaded a neighboring region starting the War in Dagestan. Both in Russia and abroad, Putin's public image was forged by his tough handling of the war. On assuming the role of acting President on 31 December 1999, Putin went on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya. In 2003, a controversial referendum was held in Chechnya adopting a new constitution which declares the Republic as a part of Russia. Chechnya has been gradually stabilized with the parliamentary elections and the establishment of a regional government.
First term (2000 – 2004)
President Boris Yeltsin handing over the “presidential” copy of the Russian constitution to Vladimir Putin on 31 December 1999. His rise to Russia's highest office ended up being even more rapid: on 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the constitution, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation.
While his opponents had been preparing for an election in June 2000, Yeltsin's resignation resulted in the elections being held within three months, in March. Presidential elections were held on 26 March 2000; Putin won in the first round.
Vladimir Putin was inaugurated president on 7 May 2000. He appointed Financial minister Mikhail Kasyanov as his Prime minister. Having announced his intention to consolidate power in the country into a strict vertical, in May 2000 he issued a decree dividing 89 federal subjects of Russia between 7 federal districts overseen by representatives of him in order to facilitate federal administration. In July 2000, according to a law proposed by him and approved by the Russian parliament, Putin also gained the right to dismiss heads of the federal subjects.
The first major challenge to Putin's popularity came in August 2000, when he was criticised for his alleged mishandling of the Kursk submarine disaster.
Second term (2004 – 2008)
On 14 March 2004, Putin was re-elected to the presidency for a second term, receiving 71% of the vote.
Following the Beslan school hostage crisis, in September 2004 Putin suggested the creation of the Public Chamber of Russia and launched an initiative to replace the direct election of the Governors and Presidents of the Federal subjects of Russia with a system whereby they would be proposed by the President and approved or disapproved by regional legislatures.
According to various Russian and western media reports, one of the major domestic issue concerns for President Putin were the problems arising from the ongoing demographic and social trends in Russia, such as the death rate being higher than the birth rate, cyclical poverty, and housing concerns. In 2005, National Priority Projects were launched in the fields of health care, education, housing and agriculture. In his May 2006 annual speech, Putin proposed increasing maternity benefits and prenatal care for women.
Although Russia's state intervention in the economy had been usually heavily critized in the West, a study by Bank of Finland’s Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT) in 2008 showed that state intervention had had a positive impact to corporate governance of many companies in Russia: the formal indications of the quality of corporate governance in Russia were higher in companies with state control or with a stake held by the government.
In December 2007, United Russia won 64.24% of the popular vote in their run for State Duma according to election preliminary results.Their closest competitor, the Communist Party of Russia, won approximately 12% of votes. United Russia's victory in December 2007 elections was seen by many as an indication of strong popular support of the then Russian leadership and its policies.
Family and personal life
Vladimir Putin addressing the International Olympic Committee in Guatemala City in 2007.On 28 July 1983 Putin married Kaliningrad-born Lyudmila Shkrebneva, at that time an undergraduate student of the Spanish branch of the Philology Department of the Leningrad State University and a former Aeroflot flight attendant. They have two daughters, Maria Putina (born 1985 in St. Petersburg) and Yekaterina Putina (born 1986 in Dresden). The daughters grew up in East Germany and attended the German School in Moscow until his appointment as Prime Minister. Putin also owns a black Labrador Retriever named Koni, who has been known to accompany him into staff meetings and greeting world leaders.
Putin's father was "a model communist, genuinely believing in its ideals while trying to put them into practice in his own life." With this dedication he became secretary of the Party cell in his workshop and then after taking night classes joined the factory’s Party bureau. Though his father was a "militant atheist",Putin's mother "was a devoted Orthodox believer". Though she kept no icons at home, she attended church regularly, despite the government's persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church at that time. She ensured that Putin was secretly christened as a baby and she regularly took him to services. His father knew of this but turned a blind eye.
Putin speaks German with near-native fluency. His family used to speak German at home as well. After becoming President he was reported to be taking English lessons and could be seen conversing directly with Bush and other native speakers of English in informal situations, but he continues to use interpreters for formal talks.