The Forces that Shaped Putin

Becca Bossow

April 8, 2022

Vladimir Putin is known to much of the world as a bully, an out of touch leader with a bone to pick. Some look to his past as a KGB agent, while others view his isolation these past few years as the culprit. However, it is also important to look beyond his political life and into certain aspects of his personal life. Many believe that his life may have shaped him into the man and the political leader he is today.

Born in Leningrad, Russia, in the days of the Soviet Union, the Putin family had ties to the notorious Russian leaders, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin, with his grandfather serving as a personal chef to both of them. He was born on October 7, 1952 into a family filled with loss and tragedy. His two older brothers had passed before his birth, his grandmother had been killed during a conflict with the Germans and his father was severely injured during his time in the Soviet army. His family was also devastatingly poor, forced to share a rat-infested apartment with two other families and live without running hot water. During his childhood, His parents were rarely around and he often went without food.

As a child, Putin was unnaturally small and decided to learn judo in order to defend himself against bullies and public humiliation, saying later “if a fight is inevitable, you have to throw the first punch”. He fought dirty and won at all costs.

Later in life, after establishing a successful career at the KGB, Putin got married to Lyudmila Orcheretnaya, a flight attendant at the time. His manner of proposing was so cold that his wife thought he was breaking up with her. When reflecting on their relationship, he managed to make marriage sound like a chore: “I understood that if I didn’t marry for another two or three years, I would never marry.” It is easy to understand why their 30 year marriage was far from happy; after a rumored two affairs, they divorced in 2014.

Their relationship resulted in two children, whom he has never publicly acknowledged. There is also much speculation about possible other love-children. His first daughter, Maria Faassan, became a doctor. His second, Katerina, a dancer turned scientist, ditched the last name Putina and instead chose that of her maternal grandmother.

Although Putin is a secretive man when it comes to his private life, some information has slipped through the cracks. It paints a picture of a poverty-stricken childhood filled with negligence, of him being a cold, unfeeling husband, and the raising of a daughter who no longer uses his surname. While none of this excuses his behavior, it certainly puts it into context. After all, what better way to make up for one’s shortcomings than trying to acquire another country?