The man, the myth
Even old St. Petersburg was once Leningrad
Son of the Soviet Union
Martial arts master
Sprichst du Deutsch?
University years
Mentor
Secret agent man
Stationed in East Germany
Happily married
The fall
Leaving the KGB
Learning the ropes
Rising star
The big leagues
The inner circle
Law and order
Acting president
Unexpected demise
An end that is a beginning
Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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The man, the myth

Regardless of your opinion about him, one can’t deny that Vladimir Putin is one of the most important figures in the world right now. The story of the president of the Russian Federation, who according to Bloomberg never has had an approval rating below 59%, mirrors closely the story of Russia itself.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Even old St. Petersburg was once Leningrad

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on October 7, 1952, in St. Petersburg, called Leningrad during the Soviet Union. Young Vladimir was born at the very end of the Stalin years.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Son of the Soviet Union

Putin’s paternal grandfather served as a cook for Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. His father, meanwhile, served in the Navy during World War 2 while his mother worked in a factory. Truly, young Vladimir was a son of the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Martial arts master

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.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Sprichst du Deutsch?

He also studied German in high school, a language he remains fluent in. Here a young Putin can be seen in a class photo (top row, fourth from the left) in 1966.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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University years

Vladimir Putin graduated with a law in 1975 at Leningrad State University (nowadays St. Petersburg State University).

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Mentor

While in university, Putin met assistant professor Anatoly Sobchak, who would later become his political mentor.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Secret agent man

The same year Putin graduated from university, he joined the KGB, the chief Soviet security agency. There’s still controversy about what exactly were his responsibilities within the government entity.

Pictured: Former headquarters of the KGB, which currently serves as the offices of the FSB RF.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Stationed in East Germany

What is known is that Putin lived in Dresden, then part of East Germany, from 1985 until 1990.

Pictured: Putin and his parents in 1985, just before moving to East Germany.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Happily married

He married Lyudmila Shkrebneva in 1983, with whom he had at least two daughters. The couple officially divorced in 2014.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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The fall

According to Time Magazine, during the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, he 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.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Leaving the KGB

According to Putin, 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.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Learning the ropes

Putin returned to St. Petersburg in 1990, where he worked at his alma mater. There, he renewed his friendship with Sobchak.

In this 1993 photo, Putin can be spotted behind Sobchak and Austrian politician Alois Mock during an official visit to the University of St. Petersburg library.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Rising star

Anatoly Sobchak became the first democratically-elected mayor of St. Petersburg in 1991. As head of the city government, he appoints Vladimir Putin as one of his deputies.

Here, Putin can be seen with Prince Charles during an official visit of The Prince of Wales to St. Petersburg in 1994.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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The big leagues

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.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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The inner circle

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.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Law and order

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.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Acting president

On December 31, 1999, Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned. Putin, who Yeltsin had hoped would succeed him as president of the Russian Federation, took over as acting president.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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Unexpected demise

Putin asked Sobchak in February 2000 to help him in his presidential campaign, but his mentor unexpectedly died not long after meeting him.

Pictured: Putin in 2006, giving a speech at the opening of a monument in memory of Sobchak in St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: from KGB agent to leader of Russia
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An end that is a beginning

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was elected President of the Russian Federation on March 26, 2000. Besides a one-term stint as Prime Minister, from 2008 to 2012, he has remained there ever since.

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