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Putin's Background


Putin rose from a relatively obscure position as a Soviet intelligence officer during the cold war. He was born in 1952 to a working-class family in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). An overachiever, Putin excelled in his studies, particularly German, wrestling, and the humanities.  

Vladimir Putin and Anatoly Sobchak

After graduating from the law faculty of Leningrad State University in 1975, he began a fifteen-year career with the KGBs foreign intelligence arm, stationed in Leningrad and East Germany. In the late 1980s, with the Soviet Union facing collapse, Putin retired from the KGB with the rank of colonel and quickly began to build a respectable career in reformist politics.

In the early 1990s, Putin joined St. Petersburgs local government, first as an aide and then as deputy mayor to Anatoly Sobchak, St. Petersburgs first post-Soviet elected mayor. Putins relationship with Sobchak, an influential leader in the first wave of democratic reformers of the Gorbachev years, was important, allowing him to burrow deeper into the reform movement.

An efficient executive, Putin quickly became a key player in the St. Petersburg administration. Sobchak relied heavily on him for day-to-day management of the citys affairs, especially in the area of international investments. Putin was involved in attracting companies such as Coca-Cola and the BNP-Dresdner Bank to St. Petersburg, in setting up the citys first hard currency exchange, and in privatizing state assets, such as hotels. In short, he quickly became the man to see if one wanted to do business in St. Petersburg.

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