Who Is Russia's Vladimir Putin?

Feb 22, 2017 By Matt B, Young Editor
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Lately, we have been hearing a lot about Russia in the news. The world’s largest country has hit the headlines hard in the past few years.

Russia has seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea, flown fighter jets over Sweden, and has been accused of influencing the United States election by hacking the Democratic Party’s e-mail servers.

Most recently, Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor, stepped down after it was revealed he had withheld some vital information from the Trump administration concerning Russia. Russia influences our world daily. Who is behind all of this? Meet the man, Vladimir Putin, who has controlled Russia since 1999.

Who Is Putin?

Vladimir Putin was born in the Soviet Union in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) in 1952. He attended university in the same city until he graduated and moved on to a career in the KGB. The KGB were an elite secret police who spied on both other countries but also made sure local citizens followed the laws. 

In 1991, Putin left the KGB to enter politics in his home city of St. Petersburg. He quickly rose through the ranks and eventually was promoted to First Deputy Prime Minister under President Yeltsin.

On December 31, 1999, President Boris Yeltsin handed power over to Vladimir Putin. Putin quickly began a campaign of political repression and power grabbing. He established himself as a man of the people and his ratings soared. He was re-elected in 2004 and eventually gave the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev in 2008. However, Putin did not really give up power. He became Prime Minister in 2008 and continued to guide Russia through the new President Medvedev. Finally, Putin gained the presidency again in 2012 and has continued to rule Russia since.

Life in Russia

What is life like in Putin’s Russia? Well, not great. Political freedom is highly repressed in Russia. While Russia is no longer a Communist state, the government is still powerful and intrudes in every aspect of Russian life. Many Russian news stations, such as Russia Today, are owned by the state. Therefore, what the press wishes to report on and their positions on issues are pre-approved by the Russian government. Independent news sources and reporters constantly struggle to get the uncensored truth to the public.

Repression of political opponents is also common. Many of Putin’s enemies, including oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and journalist Anna Politkovskaya have been either exiled or assassinated. Protests against Putin are quickly shut down by the police. Freedom of speech doesn’t truly exist in modern Russia.

However, Putin still enjoys the support of his country's citizens. After the breakup of Soviet Union, Russia has struggled with democracy and the country's economy has been in decline. Many Russians believe their country was stronger under communism and Putin will make Russia powerful again.