How Russian President Vladimir Putin rose to power from the ashes of the Soviet Union.
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Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on October 7, 1952 in Leningrad, Soviet Union, the city now known as Saint Petersburg. Growing up poor, he chased rats around the stairwells of his shabby apartment building. His father - also called Vladimir - served on Soviet submarines and, during WWII, was severely wounded while fighting on the front lines against the Nazis. Putin's mother, Maria, was a factory worker. She had given birth to Vladimir's two older brothers, but they both died before he was born. Vladimir's grandfather was apparently a talented chef who cooked for Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.
As a young man, Putin spent a lot of time in the streets of Leningrad, which was in bad shape after losing 800,000 people at the hands of a relentless Nazi siege. He became a hooligan and jumped at any chance to brawl. In sixth grade, he found an outlet for that aggression in Sambo, a Soviet martial art combining judo, karate and wrestling. Eventually he took up Judo too, and currently holds a 6th degree black belt in the sport. Influenced by movies and books, a young Vladimir also developed a desire to become a spy. At the suggestion of a KGB recruiter, Putin went to university. Soon after finishing, Putin entered the KGB, the main security agency of the Soviet Union. Around this time he married his now ex-wife Ludmila after a strange proposal in which Ludmila actually thought Vladimir was breaking up with her.
In 1984 Putin got the break he had been waiting for, and was sent to spy school in Moscow, but was disappointed when he was assigned to work in Dresden, Germany to gain information about the west, mostly by just collecting press clippings to add to the growing mountain of unimportant information produced by the KGB. Putin's biggest success while in Dresden was in contacting an American Sergeant, who sold him an unclassified army manual for 800 marks. Putin was depressed. He stopped working out, turned to the bottle, and put 20 pounds on his narrow frame.
While Putin was toiling in Germany the Berlin wall fell, uniting East Germany with the West, bringing everything Putin had been working for down with it. Forced to return his young family to Leningrad, the now 37-year-old Putin resolved to do everything in his power to keep the Soviet Union he knew and loved alive.
But as the Soviet Union collapsed, Putin seized an opportunity to become involved in politics. He started working for the mayor of Saint Petersburg, who was one of his former college professors. While heading the Saint Petersburg Committee for External Relations, Putin was investigated by the city council for corrupt practices and it was recommended that Putin be fired. But, because he was the mayor's right-hand man, Putin stayed in the St. Petersburg government until 1996.
Putin was then called to Moscow where he held a variety of governmental posts under President Boris Yeltsin, rapidly charming his superiors to climb the ladders of power, while building an inner circle of influential allies. Yeltsin, often drunk, in poor health, and paranoid, made Putin the head of a powerful successor agency to the KGB, the FSB. Putin was credited for modernising the security apparatus to take on new threats like organised crime, corruption and terrorism. As Yeltsin's own approval ratings plummeted, he wanted to give the Russian people a successor with little baggage, so he made Putin Prime Minister. And after Yeltsin's surprise resignation, Putin became President of Russia, rising from utter obscurity to become the most powerful man in the country less than three years after his arrival in the capital.
Президент Владимир Путин