US-Russian Relations

Who Is Vladimir Putin?

Born in 1952, Vladimir Putin graduated from Leningrad State University's law department. Fulfilling ambitions held since he was young, Putin joined the KGB's Foreign Intelligence Service in 1975, where he would spend the next 15 years. Little is known about his career as a Soviet spy, but it is evident he did his job well. In 1985 he was assigned to the KGB's second biggest intelligence office, located in what was then East Germany.

With the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin retired at the rank of KGB colonel to start his political career. In the early 1990s he began working in St. Petersburg's local government and rose to the level of vice mayor in 1994. Two years later President Boris Yeltsin brought him to Moscow and named him deputy chief Kremlin administrator.

Putin's meteoric rise as a political leader continued in 1998 when he was appointed head of Russia's Federal Security Service. Then in 1999 he served as secretary of Russia's security council and prime minister. He was named acting president when Yeltsin abruptly resigned on December 31, 1999. Putin was elected president the following March with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote.

Though he was a little-known figure when appointed by Yeltsin in 1999, Putin quickly became one of the most popular Russian leaders in recent history. As president, Putin continues the Gorbachev-era policy of glasnost, or the kind of openness associated with a democracy. During recent visits with US President George W. Bush, the soft-spoken Putin expressed interest in making his country more Western. He was among the first world leaders to voice solidarity with the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Putin speaks fluent German and some English. He has long practiced the martial arts of Judo and Sambo. He and his wife, Lydumila Alexandrovna Putina, have two teenage daughters, Maria and Catherina.

To learn more about Putin, visit these Web sites:

The Moscow Times