Vladimir Putin has been in the public eye as the president of Russia since 2012. The former Russian intelligence officer has arguably held power in Russia ever since he was appointed acting president in 1999 to the present, serving as either its president or prime minister.
Though he has always been in the spotlight, there may still be some facts about the Russian president you might not know about. Here are 30 facts about Vladimir Putin:
1. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born to Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin and Maria Ivanovna Putina. His parents were both 17 when they married.
2. His paternal grandfather worked as a cook for Stalin.
During World War I, his skills landed him a job offer in The Hills district on the outskirts of Moscow. He was also appointed to work in one of Joseph Stalin’s dachas.
3. He grew up in a communal fifth-floor apartment shared by three families. There was no elevator, no hot water, no bathtub – and plenty of rats.
4. Putin studied law at Leningrad State University (now known as St. Petersburg State University).
5. He served as a foreign intelligence officer for the KGB for 15 years, six of which he spent in Dresden, East Germany.
6. Vladimir Putin’s political start was in modern-day St. Petersburg, his hometown.
He worked as the advisor on international affairs to mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was also one of his mentors at law school.
7. He moved to Moscow in 1996, joining the presidential staff as deputy to Kremlin’s chief administrator Pavel Borodin.
8. In 1997, he was appointed deputy chief administrator of the Kremlin under President Boris Yeltsin.
One year later, Yeltsin appointed him as director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) before he became the secretary to the Security Council.
9. On Dec. 31, 1999, Yeltsin surprised everyone with his resignation. He announced Putin as the acting president.
10. Putin was married to former flight attendant Lyudmila Shkrebneva Putina for nearly three decades.
In a joint interview, the couple announced their divorce was a joint decision. “We almost don’t see each other. We have different lives,” Putin said in 2013 on Russia 24.
11. Vladimir and Lyudmila have two adult daughters, Maria and Katerina, both named after their grandmothers and kept away from the spotlight as they were growing up.
12. The family moved to Moscow in 1996, where Maria and Katerina attended a German-language school.
When Putin became acting president, his daughters were taken out of school, and teachers educated them at home.
13. Maria and Katerina both attended university using false identities.
Maria studied biology in college and continued to medical school in Moscow. Katerina focused on Asian Studies.
14. Lyudmila said Putin is the more lenient parent while she disciplined their daughters.
“Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is,” Lyudmila said. “And he has always spoiled them, while I was the one who had to discipline them.”
15. Putin’s biographer, Natalya Gevorkyan, who interviewed Putin and his family in 1999, told the BBC that his ex-wife was “not a happy woman.”
16. In 2017, Putin let slip that he is a grandfather.
Addressing why he does not talk about his family, he said, “Please understand, I don’t want them to grow up like some kind of royal princes. I want them to grow up like normal people.”
17. Katerina, an accomplished acrobatic dancer, holds a senior position at Moscow State University. She heads a $1.7 billion startup incubator.
18. Katerina was married to Russian billionaire Kirill Shamalov from 2013 to 2018. Their divorce case revealed their net worth was $2 billion.
19. Vladimir Putin’s net worth is estimated conservatively at $70 billion.
However, according to the 2016 “Panama Papers” report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Putin’s assets were hidden behind complex financial schemes organized by his confidantes.
20. In a 2018 official income declaration, Putin was said to own an 800-square-foot apartment in St. Petersburg, two Soviet-era cars and an off-road truck.
21. According to one of his fierce critics, his wealth is closer to $200 billion.
Bill Browder, an investor in Russia, testified in front of the U.S. Senate in 2017 that he estimated the Russian leader’s wealth at around $200 billion in assets.
22. He co-wrote a book called “Judo: History, Theory, Practice.”
Putin enjoys martial arts, including taekwondo and judo. He also practiced sambo, a Russian wrestling technique.
23. Putin has been stripped of his honorary 9th dan black belt by World Taekwondo.
The International Judo Federation also suspended Putin’s status as its honorary president and ambassador last February.
24. In 2002, Putin and then-U.S. President George W. Bush signed the Moscow Treaty, or the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).
This treaty required each country to reduce its stockpiles of strategic nuclear warheads in ten years.
25. In December 2007, Time magazine named Putin Person of the Year.
According to Reuters, the Person of the Year is “the person the editors believe had the greatest impact on events, for better or worse.”
“He’s not a good guy, but he’s done extraordinary things,” said Time managing editor Richard Stengel.
26. He has so far served as Russian president for four terms totaling almost 19 years. He was also the prime minister from 2008 to 2012.
27. In 2021, he signed into law a constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek two more terms after his presidency ends in 2024.
28. He sang “Blueberry Hill” at a children’s charity benefit in 2010.
He was accompanied by a jazz orchestra. He also played a Russian song, “Where the Motherland Begins,” on the piano, for which he received cheers from a crowd of Hollywood stars.
29. He saved a television crew from a Siberian tiger attack.
He admitted in 2012 that this 2008 encounter was staged, along with a video of him frolicking with a snow leopard and a few other wildlife stunts, to highlight some endangered species.
“Yes, I know, they were caught before, but the most important thing is to draw public attention to the problem,” he said.
30. Putin was featured in an online comic series called “Superputin,” which followed the life of a superhero who fought terror and public protest.