Vladimir Putin was born on October 7, 1952 in Leningrad. “I come from an ordinary family, and this is how I lived for a long time, nearly my whole life. I lived as an average, normal person and I have always maintained that connection,” Mr Putin recalls.
“We lived simply - cabbage soup, cutlets, pancakes, but on Sundays and holidays my Mom would bake very delicious stuffed buns [pirozhki] with cabbage, meat and rice, and curd tarts [vatrushki],” Mr Putin says.
His mother did not approve of his decision to do judo. “Every time I went to a practice session, she would grumble, ‘He’s off to his fights again.’” Things changed after Vladimir Putin’s coach visited his home and told his parents about what he did and what he achieved; the family’s attitude toward this sport changed.
His father, Vladimir Putin, participated in the war. In the 1950s, he worked as a security guard and later as a foreman at the carriage works.
“My father was born in St Petersburg in 1911. When World War I began, life in St Petersburg became hard, people were starving, so the entire family moved to Pominovo, a village in the Tver Region my grandmother came from. Incidentally, my relatives still vacation in the house where my grandparents lived. It was in Pominovo that my father met my mother, and they got married at the age of 17.”
After the war, the Putin family moved into a room in a communal apartment [kommunalka], in a typical St Petersburg dwelling house on Baskov Lane. Vladimir Putin recalls, “It was a building with a well-like yard. Fifth floor. No elevator. Before the war [World War II], my parents occupied half of the house in Peterhof and were very proud of the living standards they had achieved then. It wasn’t really much, but it seemed like an ultimate dream to them.”
A troublemaker, not a Pioneer
Even before he finished school, Vladimir Putin wanted to work in intelligence. He went to a public reception office of the KGB Directorate to find out how to become an intelligence officer. There, he was told that first, he would have to either serve in the army or complete college, preferably with a degree in law.
“And from that moment, I began preparing myself to enter the law department at Leningrad State University,” Mr Putin notes.
In 1970, Vladimir Putin was admitted to law department at Leningrad State University. “We had a class of 100 people, and only 10 of them entered immediately after high school, the rest had already completed military service. So for us, the high-school graduates, only one out of 40 was admitted. I got four out of five for the essay, but top marks for everything else, so I passed.”
“When I began studying at the university, new goals and new values emerged. I mainly focused on studies, and began seeing sports as secondary. But, of course, I trained on a regular basis and participated in nation-wide competitions, almost out of habit.”
After graduating from Leningrad State University, Putin was assigned to work in the state security agencies. “My perception of the KGB was based on the idealistic stories I heard about intelligence.”
He was first appointed to the Directorate secretariat, then the counterintelligence division, where he worked for about five months. Half a year later, he was sent to operations personnel retraining courses.
Mr Putin spent another six months working in the counterintelligence division.
That was when he drew attention from foreign intelligence officers. “Fairly quickly, I left for special training in Moscow, where I spent a year. Then I returned again to Leningrad, worked there in the First Main Directorate – the intelligence service. That directorate had branches in major cities of the Soviet Union, including Leningrad. I worked there for about four and a half years.”
Then Mr Putin returned again to Moscow to study at the Andropov Red Banner Institute, where he was trained for his trip to Germany.
In 1960-1968, Vladimir Putin attended Primary School No. 193 in Leningrad. After the eighth grade, he entered High School No. 281, a chemistry-focused magnet school under the aegis of a technology institute, completing his studies there in 1970.
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