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Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

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Vladimir Putin
Владимир Путин
Image:Vladimir Putin.jpg

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Incumbent
Assumed office 
December 31, 1999
Preceded by Boris Yeltsin
Succeeded by Incumbent

In office
August 8, 1999 – May 7, 2000
Preceded by Sergei Stepashin
Succeeded by Mikhail Kasyanov

Born October 7 1952 (age 64)
Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg)
Political party United Russia (not officially a member)
Spouse Ludmila Putina
Religion Russian Orthodox


Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: ) (born October 7, 1952) became President of Russia on December 31, 1999, succeeding Boris Yeltsin.

Contents

[edit] Life and career

Putin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1952. His biography, От Первого Лица (Romanization: Ot Pervogo Litsa), translated into English under the title First Person<ref>*Putin, Vladimir (May 2000). First Person (Russian title: От Первого Лица). Public Affairs, 208pp. ISBN 1586480189.</ref> and based on interviews conducted with Putin in 2000 was paid for by his election campaign. It speaks of humble beginnings, including early years in a rat-infested tenement in a communal apartment. According to his biography, in his youth he was eager to emulate the intelligence officer characters played on the Soviet screen by actors such as Vyacheslav Tikhonov and Georgiy Zhzhonov.

In the same book, Putin notes that his paternal grandfather, a chef by profession, was brought to the Moscow suburbs to serve as a cook, at one of Stalin's dachas. In "The Court of the Red Tsar" by Simon Sebag Montefiore, a footnote on page 300 cites Putin as saying that while his grandfather did not discuss his work very often, he recalled serving meals to Rasputin as a boy and also prepared food for Lenin. His mother was a factory worker and his father was conscripted into the navy, where he served in the submarine fleet in the early 1930s. His father subsequently served with the land forces during the Second World War. Two older brothers were born in the mid-1930s; one died within a few months of birth; the second succumbed to diphtheria during the siege of Leningrad.

Image:Inauguration12.jpg
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexius II.
Putin graduated from the International Department of the Law Faculty of the Leningrad State University in 1975 and was recruited into the KGB. In First Person, Putin described to journalists his early duties in the KGB, which included suppressing dissident activities in Leningrad.

From 1985 to 1990 the KGB stationed Putin in Dresden, East Germany, in what he regards as a minor position. Following the collapse of the East German regime, Putin was recalled to the Soviet Union and returned to Leningrad, where in June 1990 he assumed a position with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to the Vice-Rector. In June 1991, he was appointed head of the International Committee of the St Petersburg Mayor's office, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments.

Putin formally resigned from the state security services on August 20, 1991, during the KGB-supported abortive putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1994 he became First Deputy Chairman of the city of Saint Petersburg, a position he retained until he was called to Moscow, in August 1996, to serve in a variety of senior positions in Boris Yeltsin's second Administration. He was the first civilian head of the FSB (the successor agency to the KGB) from July 1998 to August 1999, and also served as Secretary of the Security Council from March to August 1999.

During the 1990s, Putin received a graduate level degree in economics from a mining institute in St Petersburg. His dissertation was titled "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations".

[edit] Family and personal life

Putin is married to Lyudmila Putina, a former airline stewardess and teacher of German, who was born in Kaliningrad, (formerly Königsberg). They have two daughters, Maria (born 1985) and Yekaterina (Katya) (born 1986 in Dresden). The daughters attended the German School in Moscow (Deutsche Schule Moskau) until his appointment as prime minister.

Putin is a practicing member of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Patriarch Alexius II. His conversion, which most observers agree was sincere, followed a life-threatening fire at his dacha in the early 1990s. Very unusual for communist Russia, his mother had been a regular church-goer. His father was a communist and atheist (although he seems not to have objected to his wife's beliefs).

Putin speaks German with near-native fluency. His family used to speak German at home as well.

Putin also speaks passable English.

[edit] Prime Minister and first term as President

Putin was appointed Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by President Boris Yeltsin in August 1999, making him Russia's fifth prime minister in less than eighteen months. On his appointment, few expected Putin, a virtual unknown, to last any longer than his predecessors. Yeltsin's main opponents and would-be successors, Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov and former Chairman of the Russian Government Yevgeniy Primakov, were already campaigning to replace the ailing president, and fought hard to prevent Putin's emergence as a potential successor. Putin's law-and-order image and his unrelenting approach to the renewed crisis in Chechnya (see below) soon combined to raise his popularity and allowed him to overtake all rivals. While not formally associated with any party, Putin was supported by the newly formed Edinstvo (unity) faction, which won the largest percentage of the popular vote in the December 1999 Duma elections. Putin was reappointed as Chairman of the Government, and seemed ideally positioned to win the presidency in elections due the following summer.

His rise to Russia's highest office ended up being even more rapid: on December 31, 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the constitution, Putin was appointed as the second (acting) President of the Russian Federation. While his opponents were preparing for an election later that year in the fall, the new acting President moved to have the elections held right away, in March. This put all of his opponents at a disadvantage, giving him the element of surprise and an eventual victory. Presidential elections were held on March 26, 2000; Putin won in the first round. Later Putin granted the former president and his family full immunity from prosecution (via presidential decree). Shortly before, Yeltsin and his family had been under scrutiny for charges related to money-laundering by the Russian and Swiss authorities.

[edit] Second term as President

On March 14, 2004, Putin won re-election to the presidency for a second term, earning 71 percent of the vote. Both the election campaign and the balloting were declared "free and fair" by an international observation mission run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

On September 13, 2004, following the Beslan school hostage crisis, and nearly-concurrent Chechen terrorist attacks in Moscow, Putin launched an initiative to replace the election of regional governors with a system whereby they would be proposed by the President and approved or disapproved by regional legislatures. Opponents of this measure, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, and Colin Powell, criticised it as a step away from democracy in Russia and a return to the centrally run political apparatus of the Soviet era.[1]

One of the most controversial aspects of Putin's second term was the prosecution of Russia's richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, President of Yukos oil company, who stole from the Russian State and Russian people hundreds of millions of dollars. While much of the international press saw this as a reaction against a man who was funding political opponents of the Kremlin, both liberal and Communist, the Russian government has argued that Khodorkovsky was in fact engaged in corrupting a large segment of the Duma to prevent changes in the tax code aimed at taxing windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion vehicles. Certainly, many of the initial privatizations, including that of Yukos, are widely believed to have been fraudulent (Yukos, valued at some $30bn in 2004, had been privatized for $110 million), and like the other oligarchic groups, the Yukos-Menatep name has been frequently tarred with accusations of links to criminal organizations.

A significant amount of Putin's second term has been focused on domestic issues. According to various Russian and western media reports, Putin is extremely concerned about the ongoing demographic problems (death rate being higher than birth rate and immigration rate), cyclical poverty, and housing concerns within the Russian Federation. In his May 2006 annual speech, Putin proposed increasing maternity benefits and prenatal care for women. In 2005, the responsibility for the federal prisons was transferred from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Justice. Putin has also been quite strident about the need to reform the judiciary. He refers to the federal judiciary as being "Sovietesque" and wants a judiciary that interprets and implements the code rather than the current situation, where many of the judges hand down the same verdicts as they would have under the old Soviet judiciary structure.

On November 23, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security service agent, died near London of radiation poisoning. Litvinenko had accused current Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi of having been the "KGB's man in Italy" during the Cold War, and written a book called Blowing Up Russia which claimed that Russian state security had planned the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings as part of a conspiracy to trigger the Second Chechen War. On his deathbed, Litvinenko reportedly accused Russian agents of trying to kill him. [2] Afterwards, Putin was accused by some in the Western media of engaging in foreign political assassinations. [3] Putin denounced the manipulation of Litvinenko's death as a "political provocation".<ref>"Londres demande l'aide de Moscou dans l'enquête sur la mort de Litvinenko", Le Monde, November 25, 2006. Retrieved on November 25, 2006.</ref> Speculation for the death has also centered on Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko allegedly was in the payroll of Boris Berezovsky<ref>Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey. "Litvinenko: The Questions", Pravda Online, November 25, 2006. Retrieved on November 25, 2006.</ref>, an anti-Putin tycoon who lives in the United Kingdom and is on Interpol's Wanted List. <ref>"Interpol Unblocks Warrants", St. Petersburg Times, May 23, 2006. Retrieved on November 26, 2006.</ref> <ref>Vladimir Simonov. "The danger of playing tolerance with exiled frauds", RIA Novosti, June 7, 2006. Retrieved on November 26, 2006.</ref> <ref>Nancy Banks-Smith. "Boris Berezovsky finances revolutions and plots to overthrow Putin - but it's his newspaper antics that are really entertaining", The Guardian, December 9, 2005. Retrieved on November 26, 2006.</ref> Litvinenko publicly accused Putin in a statement, which was released shortly after his death by his friend Alex Goldfarb<ref>In full: Litvinenko statement, BBC News, 24 Novermber 2006</ref>. Critics in Russia doubt that Litvinenko is a true author of the statement released, citing his mental incapacity by the time of alleged writing and lack of video or audio recording of his words as a proof.<ref>Soviet Moonwalker is Guilty for Litvinenko Death? Strange Litvinenko Last Will, Izvestia, 27 November 2006</ref> This view is shared by some Western media as well.<ref>Is Putin being set up?, Townhall.com, 27 November 2006</ref> When asked about Litvinenko statement at a press conference after joint Russia-EU summit, Putin doubted its credibility by raising a question as to why it was not published before his death and saying that there could be no comments on a statement released after death of its author.<ref name="ru-eu-summit-nov-2006-conf">Joint Press Conference after Russia-EU Summit, Helsinki, Finland, 24 november 2006</ref>

[edit] Chechnya

See also: Second Chechen War.

Putin's rise to public office in August 1999 coincided with an aggressive resurgence of the near-dormant conflict in the North Caucasus, when Chechen nationalists regrouped and invaded neighbouring Daghestan. Both in Russia and abroad, Putin's public image was forged by his tough handling of this dire challenge <ref>Human Rights Watch Reports, on human rights abuses in Chechnya. Retrieved November 22, 2006</ref> <ref>The Crisis In Chechnya, by Edward W. Walker, Executive Director, Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Study suggests main aim of original 1994 invasion was not to curb terrorists, but because of Russian government's desire to exploit Chechnya's oil and gas resources. Retrieved November 22, 2006</ref> <ref>Chechnya Weekly, a publication of the JamesTown foundation. Contains special coverage of the crisis in the breakaway republic; aiming to inform policymakers, the media, and the public of developments in Chechnya, discuss the origins of the conflict and explore the possibilities for peace. Retrieved November 22, 2006</ref> <ref>Article in the Times UK documenting the sociopolitical climate in Chechnya. Retrieved November 18, 2006</ref> <ref>Putin's March 2003 address to the Inhabitants of the Chechen Republic, concerning the upcoming constitutional referendum and the situation in general.</ref> <ref>Amnesty Iternational's documentation of human rights abuses in Chechnya. Retrieved November 18, 2006</ref> <ref>Interview (March 27, 2003) with Oleg Orlov, one of the leaders of 'Memorial', Russia’s leading human rights organization. Retrieved November 18, 2006</ref> <ref>Views of today Chechnya, published in November 29, 2006.</ref>. During the autumn 1999 campaign for the Duma, Kremlin-controlled or allied media accused Putin's chief rivals of being soft on terrorism. On assuming the role of acting President on December 31, 1999, Putin proceeded on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya; one of the earliest images Russians saw of their new leader was the acting president presenting handing knives to soldiers. Throughout the winter of 2000, Putin's government regularly claimed that victory was at hand. In recent years, with the situation stalemated, Putin has distanced himself from the management of the continuing conflict.

[edit] Foreign policy

While President Putin is criticized as an autocrat by some of his Western counterparts[citation needed], his relationships with US President George W. Bush, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, French President Jacques Chirac, and the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are reported to be friendly. Putin's relationship with Germany's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is expected to be "cooler" and "more business-like" than his partnership with Gerhard Schröder [4].

During his time in office, Putin has attempted to strengthen relations with other members of the CIS. The "near abroad" zone of traditional Russian influence has again become a foreign policy priority under Putin, as the EU and NATO have grown to encompass much of Central Europe and, more recently, the Baltic states. While tacitly accepting the enlargement of NATO into the Baltic states, Putin attempted to increase Russia's influence over Belarus and Ukraine.

Putin surprised many Russian nationalists and even his own defense minister when, in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States, he agreed to the establishment of coalition military bases in Central Asia before and during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Russian nationalists objected to the establishment of any US military presence on the territory of the former Soviet Union, and had expected Putin to keep the US out of the Central Asian republics, or at the very least extract a commitment from Washington to withdraw from these bases as soon as the immediate military purpose had passed.

During the Iraq crisis of 2003, Putin opposed Washington's move to invade Iraq without the benefit of a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the use of military force. After the official end of the war was announced, American president George W. Bush asked the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq. Putin supported lifting of the sanctions in due course, arguing that the UN commission first be given a chance to complete its work on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

During the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, Putin visited Ukraine twice before the election to show his support for Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and congratulated him on his alleged victory before the official election results had been announced. Putin's direct support for pro-Russian Yanukovych was widely criticized as unwarranted interference in the affairs of post-Soviet Ukraine.

In 2005, Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder negotiated the construction of a major oil pipeline over the Baltic exclusively between Russia and Germany. Schröder also attended Putin's 53rd birthday in Saint Petersburg the same year.

[edit] Crime

In the 1990s, the growth of organized crime (see Russian mafia and Russian oligarchs) and the fragmentation of law enforcement agencies in Russia coincided with a sharp rise in violence against business figures, administrative and state officials, and other public figures. <ref>Tanya Frisby, "The Rise of Organised Crime in Russia: Its Roots and Social Significance," Europe-Asia Studies, 50, 1, 1998, p. 35.</ref> Putin inherited these problems when he took office, and during his election campaign in 2000, the new president won popular support by stressing the need to restore law and order and to bring rule of law to Russia as the only way of restoring confidence in the country's economy. [5]

However, criminal gangs currently remain heavily involved the corruption of state and public officials. The Russian homicide rate doubled during the 1990s, and remains high to this day. [6] While the continued prevasiveness of crime in post-Soviet Russia does not appear to diminish Putin's domestic popularity, violence in Russia has taken a toll on Putin's reputation in the West. For example, some notable Russian homicide or attempted homicide victims in the former Soviet Union have been Putin critics such as Viktor Yushchenko (September 2004), Anna Politkovskaya (October 2006), and Alexander Litvinenko (November 2006).

[edit] Press freedom and intimidation

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Putin "has brought much of the once thriving post-Soviet media under indirect government control through the use of punitive tax audits and hostile takeovers. All three major television networks are now in the hands of Kremlin loyalists."[7]. The Committee to Protect Journalists also asserts that Russia has become the third most dangerous place in the world to work as a journalist. [8] [9] A number of Russian reporters who have covered contentious stories on Russia's campaign in Chechnya, organized crime, state and administrative officials, and large businesses have been murdered. On October 7, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who ran a campaign exposing corruption in the Russian army and its conduct in Chechnya, was found shot to death outside her apartment. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, she was the thirteenth journalist to be killed in Russia in 2006. When asked about Politkovskaya murder, Putin said that her murder brings much more harm to the Russian authorities than her publications.<ref>Answers on questions asked during interview to ARD TV channel (Germany), Dresden, 10 October 2006</ref>

Since Putin started his term in office, pressure started mounting on mass media companies owned by oligarchs. Boris Berezovsky was forced to deprive with his majority stock in ORT, a nationwide television network. Ownership of another nationwide television network - NTV - was transferred from Vladimir Gusinsky to «Gazprom» to cover debts. After this, broadcasting of TV-6 (TVC) was terminated - the latter being a TV channel owned by Boris Berezovsky, to which a group of former NTV journalists was transferred. Nationwide TV channels like «First channel» (former ORT), «Russia» and NTV became de-facto state-controlled. News coverage raised discussions on freedom of speech in media. Critics is evoked by Western media,<ref>Russian media set for landmark deals, The Financial Times, 8 January 2002</ref> Western non-governmental organizations,<ref>Helsinki summit: Europe urged to remind Russia of its human rights commitments, Reporters Without Borders, 24 November 2006</ref> as well as by some Russian media mostly financed from abroad.<ref>Freedom of press: Russia has outpaced Ethiopia, Radio Liberty, 24 October 2006</ref> At the same time, according to research conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center - VCIOM - which was published in June 2005, the share of Russians approving censorship on TV has grown during the year prior to research from 63% to 82%.<ref name="vciom-censorship"/> Sociologists believe that Russians are not voting in favour of press freedom suppression, but rather for expulsion of ethically doubtful material from media broadcasts.<ref name="vciom-censorship">82% of Russians Approve TV Censorship, Russian Development Portal, 24 June 2005</ref> According to supporters of «sovereign democracy», a political term that recently gained wide acceptance within Russia itself and unified various political elites around it, policy of the President must above all be supported by the popular majority in Russia itself and not be governed from outside of the country; such popular support constitutes the founding principle of a democratic society.<ref>Sovereignty is a Political Synonym of Competitiveness, Vladislav Surkov, public appear, 7 February 2006</ref> <ref>Our Russian Model of Democracy is Titled «Sovereign Democracy», Vladislav Surkov, briefing, 28 June 2006</ref>

[edit] Popular support for President Putin

Image:Putin-portraits-1614.jpg
Portaits of President Putin on display in a Moscow stationery store.

Although many reforms taken in modern Russia under Putin’s rule were generally criticized by Western media, "neither the Russian nor the American publics are convinced Russia is headed in an anti-democratic direction" and "Russians generally support Putin’s concentration of political power and strongly support the re-nationalization of Russia’s oil and gas industry", as shown in a joint poll by World Public Opinion in the U. S. and the Levada Center in Russia, in June-July 2006. Moreover, Russians generally support reforms initiated by Putin's team.

According to a public opinion survey conducted in July 2006 by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center - VCIOM - Putin enjoyed support of 87% of all Russians in his home country, while 60% of them had full confidence in him by the time of the survey being conducted.<ref>VCIOM: Almost All Russians Trust Putin, 29 august 2006</ref> This is one of the highest job approval ratings among world leaders of his scale as of the year 2006.<ref>President Bush - Overall Job Rating - PollingReport.com, November 9, 2006</ref>

[edit] Quotations

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

[edit] About himself

  • On December 2005, Putin said to a group of FSB officers: "There is no such thing as a former KGB man" [10]
  • After becoming prime minister of Russia, Putin said at a meeting with FSB officers:

"A group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission." (Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2000) [11]

[edit] Terrorism and Chechnya

  • In response to those who called Putin to enter talks with Chechen separatists after the Beslan school hostage crisis, in September, 2004: "Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace? You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers? No one has a moral right to tell us to talk to childkillers."<ref>"Putin rejects "child-killer talks"", BBC News, 2004-09-07. Retrieved on 2006-07-07.</ref>
  • "If you are a Christian, you are in danger. Even if you are an atheist, you are in danger, and if you decide to convert to Islam, this will not save you, either, because traditional Islam is inimical to the conditions and objectives set by the terrorists. If you are prepared to become a most radical Islamist and are prepared to circumcise yourself, I invite you to come to Moscow. I will recommend having the operation done in such a way that nothing will grow for you there anymore." Putin snapping back at a reporter from Le Monde who asked a critical question about the conduct of the war in Chechnya, in November 2002. The quotation was rendered innocuous by his interpreter, but the original was recorded on audio and widely reprinted in Russia.[citation needed]
  • When a reporter asked Putin why his government didn't negotiate with the leaders of Chechen separatists, Putin answered "Russia doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Russia destroys them."[citation needed]
  • When a reporter asked why he invited Hamas to the Kremlin for talks, Putin answered "Burning bridges – especially in politics – is the easiest, but not the most effective thing to do. This is why we don't rush to declare an organization to be terrorist, and try to work with everyone in this explosive region."
  • After the tragedy of Beslan, Putin explained the failure of Russia's Security Services with the sentence "We were weak. And the weak are being beaten."

From Putin's Address to the Inhabitants of the Chechen Republic on March 17, 2003, considering a referendum which was held soon:

"Yes, life in Chechnya so far looks more like a life after a natural disaster."
"People in Chechnya — just as throughout Russia — must have the possibility to live normally, to have rest and leisure and medical treatment and to raise and educate their children."
"I must say that the children of Chechnya are our special anguish. For, trials by no means childish fell to their lot. {...} But the Chechen children, just as the children of all Russia, are our future. And we can — and we shall do that — we shall give them a good education, a good knowledge, we shall set them on their feet."

In 2006 Putin said in his Annual Address to the Federal Assembly:

"When the need arose to counter a large-scale attack by international terrorists in the North Caucasus in 1999, the problems in the armed forces became painfully evident. {...} Our armed forces came to a total of 1,400,000 men but there wasn’t enough men to fight. This is how kids who had never seen combat before were sent in to fight. I will not forget this ever."
"The terrorist threat remains very real. Local conflicts remain a fertile breeding ground for terrorists, a source of their arms and a field upon which they can test their strength in practice. These conflicts often arise on ethnic grounds, often with inter-religious conflict thrown in, which is artificially fomented and manipulated by extremists of all shades. I know that there are those out there who would like to see Russia become so mired in these problems that it will not be able to resolve its own problems and achieve full development."

[edit] Democracy

After meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on October 10, 2006, Putin said that the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya "inflicts much greater damage to the government than any of her writing." "This journalist was a sharp critic of the government in Russia but the level of her influence on political life in Russia was very minor," he said. [12]

In response to criticism from US journalist Mike Wallace that his plan to end the direct election of governors and appoint them ran counter to the spirit of democracy, Putin replied:

"The principle of appointing regional leaders is not a sign of a lack of democracy. For instance, India is called the largest world democracy. But their governors have always been appointed by the central government and nobody disputes that India is a democracy." [13]

Answering the question of Dutch TV station "Nederland 1" and Dutch newspaper "NRC Handelsblad", "Can you imagine a situation in which you would decide to remain in office for a third term?", Putin said: [14]

"I realise that 2008 will be an important test for Russia, and not an easy one.
At the same time, the Constitution of the Russian Federation states that the President, the head of state, is elected for four years through direct secret ballot and cannot stay in office for more than two consecutive terms.
I am not indifferent of course to the question of who will take in their hands the destiny of the country I have devoted my life to serving. But if each successive head of state were to change the Constitution to suit them, we would soon find ourselves without a state at all. I think that Russia’s different political forces are sufficiently mature to realise their responsibility to the people of the Russian Federation. In any case, the person who receives the votes of the majority of Russian citizens will become the President of the country."

At the joint press conferess with President George Bush in 2005, Slovakia, Putin said:

"Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy. Fourteen years ago, independently, without any pressure from outside, it made that decision in the interests of itself and interests of its people — of its citizens. This is our final choice, and we have no way back. There can be no return to what we used to have before. And the guarantee for this is the choice of the Russian people, themselves. No, guarantees from outside cannot be provided.
{...} First, we are not going to make up — to invent any kind of special Russian democracy; we are going to remain committed to the fundamental principles of democracy that have been established in the world. But, of course, all the modern institutions of democracy — the principles of democracy should be adequate to the current status of the development of Russia, to our history and our traditions. There is nothing unusual here, either. In every country, these overall principles are embodied in this or that way. "

And, after discussing media freedom,

"We are paying close attention to all the comments of the press or opposing forces, but our responsibility is to, in spite of all these problems of which there are plenty, our responsibility is to positively develop the Russian-American relationship."

From interview with TF-1 Television Channel (France), taken on July 12, 2006:

"I see that not everyone in the West has understood that the Soviet Union has disappeared from the political map of the world and that a new country has emerged with new humanist and ideological principles at the foundation of its existence."
"We need our state and society to be organised in such a way that the regional authorities feel intimately bound to the country’s common national interests, while at the same time having sufficient powers to resolve their local problems and objectives. There are, however, some basic principles that we must certainly adhere to and that we are ensuring. First, we are working hard now on creating a genuine multiparty system. {...} Second, we are redistributing powers between the federal, regional and municipal authorities."
"[I]f we go back 100 years and look through the newspapers, we see what arguments the colonial powers of that time advanced to justify their expansion into Africa and Asia. They cited arguments such as playing a civilising role, the particular role of the white man, the need to civilise ‘primitive peoples’. We all know what consequences this had. If we replace the term ‘civilising role’ with ‘democratisation’, then we can transpose practically word for word what the newspapers were writing 100 years ago to today’s world and the arguments we hear from some of our colleagues on issues such as democratisation and the need to ensure democratic freedoms."
"So let’s get away from the stereotyped thinking of the Cold War era, stop putting labels on each other and simply cooperate instead, help each other develop and improve our political systems."

[edit] Life in Russia

Putin about emigration of talented people from Russia, on June 6, 2003: "If brains are draining, then they exist. It's already good. It means, they are of high quality, otherwise nobody would need them."

From Putin's Annual Address to the Federal Assembly, 2005:

"I will recall once more Russia’s most recent history.
Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.
Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country's integrity. Oligarchic groups — possessing absolute control over information channels — served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere.
Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.
But they were mistaken.
That was precisely the period when the significant developments took place in Russia. Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life." Read more...

From Putin's Annual Address to the Federal Assembly on May 10, 2006:

"Our efforts today focus precisely on the areas that directly determine the quality of life for our citizens. We are carrying out national projects in the areas of healthcare, education, agriculture and housing construction. As you know, the problems in these areas have accumulated not just over a period of years but over entire decades."
"In the working out of a great national program which seeks the primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on. But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or to gain position or riches or both by some short cut which is harmful to the greater good. These are fine words and it is a pity that it was not I who thought them up. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, in 1934."
"We have spoken on many occasions of the need to achieve high economic growth as an absolute priority for our country. The annual address for 2003 set for the first time the goal of doubling gross domestic product within a decade."
"We have already begun taking concrete steps to change the structure of our economy and, as we have discussed a great deal, to give it a more innovative quality."
"Russia must realise its full potential in high-tech sectors such as modern energy technology, transport and communications, space and aircraft building."
"You know that our country’s population is declining by an average of almost 700,000 people a year. We have raised this issue on many occasions but have for the most part done very little to address it." (Putin proposed a vast programme to encourage childbirth, including 250,000 roubles pay<ref>Above 9000 USD.</ref> for giving birth to a second child.<ref> A second baby? Russia's mothers aren't persuaded., Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2006</ref> )
"Regarding migration policy, our priority remains to attract our compatriots from abroad."
"We need armed forces that guarantee Russia’s security and territorial integrity no matter what the scenario."
"By 2008, professional servicemen should account for two thirds of the armed forces. All of this will enable us to reduce compulsory military service to one year."

[edit] Foreign policy

After saying the US shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the first place: "But if the U.S. were to leave and abandon Iraq without establishing the grounds for a united and sovereign country, that would definitely be a second mistake." [15]

"Russia’s modern foreign policy is based on the principles of pragmatism, predictability and the supremacy of international law."
"I stress that we unambiguously support strengthening the non-proliferation regime, without any exceptions, on the basis of international law." [16]

From Meeting with the Leaders of the News Agencies of G8 Member Countries:

[About role of UN] "The fact that today issues are discussed openly within the UN and that the UN remains a platform for settling international problems rather than serving the foreign policy interests of any one state makes it not only more universal but absolutely necessary for developing acceptable decisions in today’s international arena. We do not have any other such universal international organization."
[About problem of Iran] "First of all we must develop common approaches with our partners, approaches that would be acceptable to our Iranian partners and that would not restrict their possibilities for using modern technology. At the same time these approaches must completely assuage the international community’s concerns about the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear technologies that could prove dangerous for international peace. {...} Our main position is well known. We are against the use force in any circumstances. That is clear.
[About separatism] "Russia never raised the issue about joining any territories beyond its borders to the Russian state. And we have no plans to do so.
I consider that we must develop uniform rules, norms and approaches to punctual events in different regions of the world. Otherwise there will be chaos. {...}
I am very worried about this. And I would like Russia’s concern to be transmitted and shared by all. We must understand that this is not a sports competition in which someone wins something back from someone else."

[edit] The Comrade Wolf

On comparing Russia's defense spending as a share of GDP to that of France and Britain, Putin mentioned the United States:

"Their [US] defense budget in absolute figures is almost 25 times bigger than Russia's. This is what in defense is referred to as 'their home — their fortress'. And good on them, I say. Well done!
But this means that we also need to build our home and make it strong and well protected. We see, after all, what is going on in the world. The Comrade Wolf knows who to eat, as the saying goes. It knows who to eat and is not about to listen to anyone, it seems." [17]

The last two highlighted phrases in Russian are "Товарищ Волк знает кого кушать. Кушает и никого не слушает." (Romanization: "Tovarish volk znaet kogo kushat'. Kushaet i nikogo ne slushaet."). The explanation follows. Putin used the verb "кушать", which is translated as "to eat", but is used for children. Only little children can "кушать". The word "товарищ" has many meanings, not only the Communist Party official conversion (which will be regarded as an invalid translation), but also "comrade", "friend" and "companion". It is very difficult to find the right translation, because in that phrase, all possible meanings are used. The phrase sounds like simple poetry (in rhyme) for little children. The wording makes it sound like a piece of a fairy-tale like «Little Red Riding Hood» by Charles Perrault which is widely known in Russia under the name «Красная Шапочка» («Krasnaya Shapochka»). Arguably every Soviet-era kid also knows the melody of the song "Нам не страшен серый волк" ("We are not afraid of Gray Wolf") from another fairy tale, «The Three Little Pigs». Use of the word "товарищ" ("comrade") in combination with "волк" ("wolf") in the context of the whole phrase makes it sound very relaxing and humorous for adult ears.

There is also a very popular Russian animated film "Nu, pogodi!" for children. The main hero in the film is Wolf, who hunts Hare (another character). Wolf acts like a hooligan or capricious child, and tries to catch Hare - but always fails. In pursuit, Wolf breaks things which belong to others. The whole film is quite similar to the American Tom and Jerry series. After every failure, he threatens Hare with what he would do to him, when he is eventually caught. The suggestion here is that Putin compared the US to the animated Wolf, and not with actual animal.

Yet another reference to Wolf that is widely and immediately recognized by the Russian general public, and arguably most suited to the context of Putin's phrase, would be Wolf from Ivan Krylov's fable, «Волк и Ягнёнок» («Wolf and Lamb»). The fable starts with a preamble "У сильного всегда бессильный виноват: Тому в Истории мы тьму примеров слышим" ("The one who is stronger always makes the weaker guilty: We hear a lot of examples of this from History"). It then proceeds to describe how the Lamb comes to drink water to the watering place. He then encounters the Wolf who is hungry. The Wolf wants to make an affair look legal. So he tries to find various reasons to assign a guilt to the Lamb. All these attempts fail. Finally the Lamb asks "Ах, я чем виноват?" ("Oh in which way I am guilty?") and the Wolf replies "Ты виноват лишь тем, что хочется мне кушать." ("Your guilt consists in this -- I want to eat you up!") The final words of the fable are these: "Сказал и в тёмный лес ягнёнка поволок." ("[Having said this, he] took the Lamb to the dark forest.")

The words "Кушает и никого не слушает" ("He eats and he is not listening to anyone") sound like a rhymed reference to another well-known Russian saying "А Васька слушает да ест" ("And Vas'ka is listening but he is eating at the same time") from another Krylov's fable «Кот и повар» («Cat and Cock») where the Cock reproaches the Cat Vas'ka for stealing the stuff from the kitchen. The Cat is listening to what the Cock is saying as he continues to eat a chicken that he has just stolen. By the end of the fable the Cat has eaten the chicken completely as the Cock continued his speech with no signs of it coming to an end. The end of the fable advices to use authoritative power instead of talking in vain in those cases when the talk has no effect.

A point to note is that Putin's phrases can have many meanings (being in their native Russian) and direct translations can sometimes be wrong.

[edit] See also

[edit] Putin trivia and humour

[edit] Judo

Image:Vladimir Putin martial arts.jpg
President Vladimir Putin throwing a sparring partner at a training session in Novo-Ogaryovo, 16 June 2002

Putin works out regularly, spending much of his free time exercising.[citation needed] One of Putin's favorite sports is the martial art of judo. Putin began sambo (Soviet martial art developed for Red Army and NKVD) at the age of 14, before switching to judo, which he continues to study today.<ref>Vladimir Putin: the NPR interview U.S. radio station National Public Radio New York (November 15, 2001)</ref> Putin won competitions in his hometown of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), including the senior championship of Leningrad. He is President of the Yawara Dojo, the same St. Petersburg dojo he studied at as a youth. Putin co-authored a book on his favorite sport, published in English under the title Judo: History, Theory, Practice.<ref>Putin, Vladimir V., Vasilii Shestakov, Alexey Levitsky, Aleksei Levitskii (July 2004). Judo: History, Theory, Practice. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 1-55643-445-6.</ref>

Though he is not the first world leader to practice judo, Putin is the first leader to move forward in the advanced levels. Currently, Putin is a black belt (6th dan) and is best known for his Harai goshi, a sweeping hip throw.<ref name="judo">Template:Cite web</ref>

After a state visit to Japan, Putin was invited to the Kodokan Institute and showed the students and Japanese officials different judo techniques.<ref name="judo" />

Vladimir Putin is Master of Sports (Soviet and Russian sport title) in Judo and Sambo .

Vladimir Putin is also a fan of Thoroughbred horse racing and often attends races at racecourses throughout Russia.

[edit] Decorations

In September 2006, France's president Jacques Chirac awarded Vladimir Putin the dignity of the Grand Cross of the Legion d'Honneur, the French highest decoration, to celebrate his contribution to the friendship between the two countries. This decoration is usually awarded to the heads of state considered as very close to France.

[edit] Accusation of plagiarism

Vladimir Putin has been accused by fellows Clifford Gaddy and Igor Danchenko at the Brookings Institution of plagiarism. As alleged in the article by The Washington Post, "[l]arge chunks of Putin's economics dissertation on planning in the natural resources sector were lifted straight out of a management text published by two University of Pittsburgh academics nearly 20 years earlier."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Anecdotes

  • On June 28, 2005, Putin made headlines in an unusual incident involving a New England Patriots Super Bowl XXXIX championship ring. Three days earlier Putin had met with U.S. business executives, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Near the end of the meeting Kraft showed Putin the ring, which features 124 diamonds, and the president was clearly impressed. At this point Kraft handed the ring to Putin who tried it on for a moment, then slipped it into his pocket and promptly left. The event caused a brief stir as the New York Sun [18] and other news outlets suggested that Kraft had not intended to give away the very valuable ring. Kraft, who has Russian ancestors, later told the Associated Press that he gave the ring to Putin as a gift and token of respect. [19]
  • On October 19, 2006, Putin reportedly made disturbing remarks to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel about Moshe Katsav. Putin was quoted as saying, "Say hello to your president. He really surprised us...turned out to be quite a mighty man. He raped 10 women. I never expected it from him. He surprised all of us. We all envy him."[20] Other news agencies (AP, AFP) reported a milder version of Putin's words: «Say hello to your president - he surprised us all. We could not even imagine that he can make it [or cope] with 10 women». <ref>What Putin Really Said, 19 October 2006.</ref> It was later confirmed that he actually said "had ten women" [21] In a call-in television programme Putin did not deny making the comment but rather criticised the press's 'eavesdropping' on his conversation with Olmert as 'unseemly'.[22]
Image:Putinkiss.jpg
Putin kisses a little boy on the stomach in a Kremlin courtyard, June 28, 2006.
  • On June 28, 2006 Putin, while walking by a small crowd of tourists in a Kremlin courtyard, gave a "belly kiss" to a young boy of five or six years old. As he talked with the boy for a few seconds, he tugged at the boy's shirt before finally lifting it up and kissing him on his bare stomach. This raised a few eyebrows around the world. In response to the controversy, the Russian president said, "He was very sweet. I'll be honest, I felt an urge to cuddle him like a kitten and that led to the gesture that I made. There was nothing behind it really."
  • In a transcript published July 12th, 2006, Putin is reported to have responded to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's political criticism by saying, "I think the statements of your Vice-President of this sort are the same as an unsuccessful hunting shot."[23] U.S. President George W. Bush later remarked that the comment was "pretty clever, actually, quite humorous." [24]
  • During the 32nd G8 summit in July of 2006, Putin was quoted as saying, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly." in response to Bush's accusations of the decline of democracy in modern Russia.
  • Also during the 32nd G8 summit, following journalists' criticisms of the Russian government's record on Human rights, Putin was quoted as remarking that, "There are also other questions, questions let's say about the fight against corruption. We'd be interested in hearing your experience, including how it applies to Lord Levy." Lord Levy, a member of the British House of Lords, had been arrested (and bailed) the previous week in relation to the "Cash for Peerages" police inquiry into the soliciting of financial donations to British political parties in return for honours. [25]

[edit] Putin in humour and fiction

  • The weekly TV show Kukly used puppets representing the most recognizable and powerful Russian politicians, including a puppet-president, to satirize current events. The show was aired on NTV channel from 1994 to 2002. The success of Kukly was to a great extent due to its scriptwriter Victor Shenderovich.
  • Short humorous stories about Vladimir Vladimirovich's everyday life and work Vladimir Vladimirovich™ are regularly published by journalist Maxim Kononenko, popularly known under the sobriquet "Mr. Parker". In these essays, often alluding to contemporary events, Parliament is depicted as consisting of androids, a Deputy Chief of Staff being both their constructor and programmer; Vladimir Vladimirovich is fond of collecting things concerned with key historical events or people, etc. A collection of these stories, thoroughly commented, was published as a book in August 2005. German and English versions of these anecdotes are available as well. Kononenko wrote that some of these stories were brought to Putin.
    • Screen versions of the Vladimir Vladimirovich™ series are shown in a weekly analytical programme "Realnaya politika" with Gleb Pavlovsky, aired on NTV channel (although the androids are not shown).
  • Andrey Dorofeev's vision of Putin compares Putin (a former KGB agent) to Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB.
  • In the South Park episode Free Willzyx, Putin is shown as a president that badly needs money for the Russian economy. He is shown to be extremely excited when he is asked to fly a whale to the moon for 20 million dollars as this money will save Russia.
  • Several comedic sources have commented on the fact that Putin bears a resemblance to Dobby from the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  • On his show, The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert announced his support for Putin in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

[edit] See also

[edit] References and notes

<references/>

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Nikolai Dmitrievich Kovalev
Director of FSB
1998-1999
Succeeded by:
Nikolay Patrushev
Preceded by:
Sergei Stepashin
Prime Minister of Russia
August 8, 1999May 7, 2000
Succeeded by:
Mikhail Kasyanov
Preceded by:
Boris Yeltsin
President of Russia
December 31, 1999 – present
Incumbent
Preceded by:
Tony Blair
Chair of the G8
2006
Succeeded by:
(Angela Merkel is expected to succeed)


G8 Leaders
Stephen Harper Image:Flag of Canada.svg | Jacques Chirac Image:Flag of France.svg | Angela Merkel Image:Flag of Germany.svg | Romano Prodi Image:Flag of Italy.svg | Shinzo Abe Image:Flag of Japan (bordered).svg | Vladimir Putin Image:Flag of Russia (bordered).svg | Tony Blair Image:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg | George W. Bush Image:Flag of the United States.svg


cu:Владимиръ Пѹтинъ

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Vladimir Putin

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