His followers adore him, for his critics he is a ruthless warmonger: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (69) polarizes. An attempt to explain the President of Russia as a person and as a politician.
Vladimir Putin has determined Russia’s fortunes for 22 years.
During this time he rebuilt many things in the state according to his taste.
According to experts, he is obsessed with the vision of bringing Russia back to its former glory.
Vladimir Putin is scaring the world with his territorial claims in Ukraine. It seems that he is currently showing off the Western rulers – and only doing what suits him. But who is the 69-year-old former secret agent really?
When Russian President Boris Yeltsin resigned from office at the end of 1999, to the surprise of many, the largely unknown Vladimir Putin took over the government until a successor was elected. In March 2000, the former deputy mayor of St. Petersburg was officially elected second president of Russia. Since then, Putin has steered the country’s fortunes uninterruptedly – although he was Prime Minister again from 2008 until his re-election in 2012, he always kept the reins in his hand in the background.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on October 7, 1952, the third child of Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (then 41) and Maria Ivanovna Shelomova, the same age. The father was a strict and convinced communist, the believing mother was more lenient. According to Putin’s autobiography, both were factory workers, the father had fought against the Germans in the World War. Allegedly, Putin’s grandfather was the personal chef of Lenin and later Stalin. The family shared a 20 square meter shared apartment, but since his siblings died young, his parents adored him and gave him a wristwatch and, as a law student, a car at an early age – an exceptional luxury at the time.
From 1983 to 2013, Putin was married to the German teacher Ludmila Schkrebneva, the couple has two daughters. The couple separated in 2012 and the divorce was announced in April 2014. Putin has been in a relationship with the much younger Russian Olympian Alina Kabaeva since 2008 and has several children with her.
Sporty “nature boy” and clever ex-spy
Putin was enthusiastic about martial arts from an early age: in addition to judo, where he holds a black belt, he also practiced boxing and sambo. He still likes to present himself as a fighter, likes to be the winner in ice hockey games on the ice and sometimes likes to show himself as a nature-loving fisherman or bare-chested on horseback. Inspired by patriotic films, Putin wanted to become an agent as a young man, but was advised by KGB headquarters to get a law degree first.
After completing his studies, he joined the KGB’s foreign espionage department and worked in what was then East Germany from 1975 to 1982 – since then he has been fluent in German. From July 1998, Putin was director of the domestic secret service FSB for about a year and from 1999 also director of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. As prime minister, Putin made a name for himself with his tough actions in the second Chechen war and earned a lot of sympathy points from the people. He still enjoys great support from the public.
Putin is considered a shrewd tactician and so “Focus” on SRF, a «master of targeted provocation». As former journalist Nikolai Svanidze told the Tages-Anzeiger, “he uses language to hide his thoughts, not to express them”. His ability is to “mirror his counterpart”: he quickly understands what you want to hear and then fulfills expectations, says his former political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He is good at “wrapping people around his finger”.
The power man Putin
After his election, Vladimir Putin began to dismantle the power of the oligarchs in the country – the most prominent victim was the pro-Western oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent ten years in prison for alleged tax evasion and fraud after a questionable trial. Although he initiated “super-business-friendly and super-democratic” laws at the beginning of his term, as Yeltsin’s former chief of staff Valentin Yumashev told the “Tages-Anzeiger”. He was “a seeker”. In 2001 he said in German before the German Bundestag: “The Cold War is over.”
But the longer Putin was in power, the more he turned into a power politician. His regime of controlled democracy, known as “Putinism”, is considered semi-democratic with strong authoritarian traits. According to observers, one of the main features is the “vertical of power”, a strict chain of command from above to which all state organs have to submit. As Ulrich Schmid, Russia expert at the University of St. Gallen said on SRF, Putin surrounded himself with “yes-men, nods and porters” who don’t contradict.
“He wants to tie in with tsarist Russia”
On foreign policy, Putin sought to reinvigorate Russia’s waning influence in the world. In a speech he once described the fall of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. According to Schmid, Putin would like to expand the Russian Federation outwards and “connect to the imperial ambitions of the tsarist and Soviet eras”.
At the time of the Chechen war he promised his compatriots that “the time of defeats is over”. In 2014, Moscow’s claim to power culminated in the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which belongs to Ukraine. Now Putin has heralded the next chapter in Russia’s expansion.