Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - Early Life
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on 07 October 1952, in St. Petersburg, then called Leningrad, into a working-class family. His father served in a submarine before the Great Patriotic War, and was severely disabled and disfigured by injuries sustained in a battle not far from Leningrad. His wounds left him limping for the rest of his life. Putin's mother Maria was 41 at the time of his birth and apparently in extremely fragile health. She had given birth twenty years earlier to Putin's two brothers, one who died at birth and the other dead of diphtheria at five, while he and Putin's mother lived in a children's shelter.
“My parents said that in 1941, authorities took kids away from [their] families, they also took a child [away] from my mother to save him,” Putin said at a January 2012 meeting with World War II veterans who survived the Siege of Leningrad. His brother was infected with diphtheria and died, the prime minister added. “They told us that he died, but did not specify where he was buried. It’s quite possible that he was buried here [at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetry]."
Putin refers to his mother in his self portrait, First Person, saying she was often hungry, in fact she once fainted during the Siege of Leningrad and was placed on a pile of dead bodies taken for starved, but fortunately she moaned and made people aware that she was still alive and was separated from the dead bodies. But the blockade took a life of their son. Vladimir Putin was the only surviving child out of their three children.
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.”
Post-siege Leningrad was a mean, hungry, impoverished place that bred mean, hungry, ferocious children. The family lived in a communal apartment along with several other families. His father worked at a train car factory and his mother took a series of backbreaking jobs: night watchman, cleaning woman, truck loader.
The family lived in a small communal apartment when 8-year old Vladimir started school number 193, just across the street from his home. Putin’s first teachers remember him as a rowdy pupil. By 5th grade he was the only one in his class not to be a member of the Pioneers movement (a popular youth movement of the Soviet era) – largely because young Putin often misbehaved. All this changed, however, when he reached 6th grade and began practicing sports – namely martial arts like judo. In his autobiography, “Ot Pervogo Litsa” (“In the First Person”), Vladimir Putin wrote that back then his main motivation for taking up martial arts was a wish to emulate the intelligence officers portrayed on Soviet screens by actors like Vyacheslav Tikhonov.
As a child, he studied the martial arts with a concentration on sambo, a combination of judo and wrestling. He was chosen to study at Leningrad School 281, which prepared its students for college. In 1970, Vladimir graduated from preparatory school and enrolled in the Leningrad University. There, he majored in studies of civil law, while also continuing his practice of martial arts.
In 1974, he was the city's judo champion and graduated in 1975 with honors. Vladimir Putin studied Law at Leningrad State University, and in 1975 was awarded a Ph.D. in economics (his Ph.D. thesis has sparked accusations of plagiarism).
In the early 1970s, as a student at Leningrad State University, Putin became a member of the Communist Party. He remained a member until the Party's dissolution in December 1991. He also met future St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, then a law professor, who would later play a key role in advancing Putin's career.
From an early age, Putin was intent on joining the KGB, perhaps influenced by the books and TV shows of the time that romanticized the nation’s spy agency. The Soviet regime in the 1960s tried to make the KGB an attractive career option. Beyond the effort to emphasize persuasion over naked coercion, Moscow copied the West by glamorizing espionage work in films, television, and novels. The vision of glory and adventure no doubt appealed to a young man growing up poor in postwar Leningrad. Putin was a street tough — a young man who never walked away from a fight or allowed himself to show any weakness — which must have increased the KGB’s allure. Fighting the enemies of the socialist state provided an acceptable outlet for what Putin liked to do best.
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,” Putin notes. 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.”
On January 25, 2016 Putin said he sincerely believed in the communist ideology while serving in the KGB, the armed wing of the party. “In contrast to many functionaries I did not throw my membership card away or burn it in public. I still keep it at home,” he said. He acknowledged, however, “the embodiment of these wonderful ideas in our country was very far from what the Utopian socialists had proclaimed."
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