Here, Putin admires a tiger he shot with a tranquilizer gun.
Its lyrics include:
I want a man like Putin, who’s full of strength.
I want a man like Putin, who doesn’t drink.
I want a man like Putin, who won’t make me sad.
From Snowden’s asylum to the Sochi 2014 Olympics, and from Pussy Riot’s prison sentences to the anti-LGBT crackdown, Russia is front and center in global news in a way it hasn’t really been since the end of the Cold War.
Putin grew up in post-war Leningrad, a city that survived an 872 day siege by Nazi forces that killed more than 1 million Red Army troops and 1 million Russian civilians. According to his official biography, he grew up in humble circumstances, and from an early age, he studied martial arts and aspired to join the KGB.
Some experts believe that these formative years gave Putin a “survivalist” mentality that is shared by many who grew up in post-war Russia.
He graduated from the law department of Leningrad State in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law.
While in the KGB, Putin was described as “professionally nondescript,” a useful trait in intelligence work.
Initially, he worked for the KGB out of Leningrad. In 2000,The Wilson Quarterly noted that the Leningrad outpost wasn’t known as a desirable station:
According to former KGB spy Oleg Kalugin, who was banished to Leningrad in 1980 by disapproving superiors, the local office was a backwater. As he recalled in his 1994 memoir, “Our 3,000-person KGB office in Leningrad continued to harass dissidents and ordinary citizens, as well as to hunt futilely for spies. But I can truly say that nearly all of what we did was useless. … In the twenty years before my arrival in Leningrad, the local KGB hadn’t caught one spy, despite the expenditure of millions of rubles and tens of thousands of man-hours.” As a low-level cog in this machine of repression and deceit, Putin, as Kalugin has since put it, was a “nobody.”
After about five years in Leningrad, Putin attended Yuri Andropov’s intelligence school in Moscow, where he trained for his next assignment: East Germany.
He was in East Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent collapse of the East German government.
After East Germany fell, Putin returned to Leningrad, where he worked for his alma mater, Leningrad State, and maintained surveillance on the student body.
Perestroika was a restructuring and reformation of the Soviet political system under Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin was a KGB officer stationed in Dresden in East Germany while it was happening.
Putin’s East Germany years are important because they means he watched the liberalization of Russian society and the final days of the Soviet Union from abroad, while at the same time seeing first-hand the disparate economic situations in East and West Germany.
He worked for a time at St. Petersburg State University, then joined the administration of Anatoly Sobchak, mayor of Leningrad.
His first job was promoting international investments in the city, and Putin was eventually appointed deputy head of the city administration.
After Mayor Sobchak lost a re-election bid in 1996, Putin moved from Leningrad to Moscow to work for the Yeltsin administration.
It was during this time he completed his doctoral dissertation, promoting the idea of “national champions” as key to Russia’s economic development. Some experts have accused Putin of plagiarism in his dissertation.
In 1999, Putin rose from First Deputy Prime Minister to Prime Minister in less than a month.
He was the fifth person to hold the post in less than 18 months.
Putin’s rise to power coincided with a flare-up of conflict in the Caucasus, in Chechnya and Dagestan.
Perhaps his most famous quote from this time period was his promise to follow the terrorists and “whack them, even in the outhouse.” It gave Putin an aura of law and order, and strength.
At noon Moscow time, a taped message from President Yeltsin was aired:
“Today, on the last day of the outgoing century, I am retiring. Many times I have heard it said: Yeltsin will try to hold on to power by any means, he won’t hand it over to anyone. That is all lies. That is not the case. …
A new generation is taking my place, the generation of those who can do more and do it better. In accordance with the constitution, as I go into retirement, I have signed a decree entrusting the duties of the president of Russia to Prime Minister Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”
After Yeltsin’s resignation, Russia’s presidential elections were moved up from June to March, and Putin won in the first round with 53 percent of the vote.
The new Russian “oligarchs,” individuals who amassed great wealth in the 1990s, often through questionable means and state corruption, were told to keep earning money but to stay out of politics.
Russia’s richest man at the time, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested for tax evasion and his company forced into bankruptcy and essentially renationalized when he failed to curtail his political activity.
The remaining oligarchs quickly fell into line.
In fact, Colin Powell wrote an op-ed for a Russian newspaper in 2004 saying as much. Full op-ed here.
Putin introducing a system of direct appointment of the governors of Russia’s various regions.
These and other steps are characterized as the construction of a “power vertical,” in which the presidential apparatus increased the scope of its control over political decisions in Russia.
Which some saw as a symbol of things to come during his time in office – a return to the old Soviet era.
First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.
As we will explain here.
Questions persisted over who had the real power in Russia.