Vladimir Putin (1952- ) is a former KGB officer and security chief who became prime minister and president of Russia after the Cold War.
Putin was born in Leningrad, the son of a wounded war veteran and housewife mother. The young Putin was raised in a Leningrad slum, where he entertained himself by chasing rats. He proved an excellent student and was accepted into a prestigious state-run school while studying judo in his spare time.
As a teenager, Putin set his sights on becoming a KGB agent. Between 1970 and 1975 he completed a law degree at Leningrad State University, joining the Communist Party during his studies.
After graduating, Putin was recruited by the KGB, trained and deployed to East Germany. He spent 15 years in the KGB, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel before resigning in 1991.
Putin returned to his home city of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and worked for the municipal government there. In 1994, he became the city’s deputy mayor and was tasked with attracting foreign investment and trade.
In 1996 Putin took a position in Boris Yeltsin‘s presidential administration. Within two years he had become director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the agency that replaced the KGB.
In August 1999, Yeltsin appointed Putin as acting prime minister of Russia. He became acting president when Yeltsin resigned in December 1999. Since then, Putin has served several terms as president (2000-2008, 2012-current) and prime minister (2008-2012).
A clever and charismatic leader, Putin has been praised for restoring political stability and economic prosperity to post-Cold War Russia. Others have criticised the country’s human rights record under his leadership.