PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA
Vladimir Putin was born on October 1, 1952, in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. An only child, his father was a foreman in a metal factory and his mother was a homemaker. Putin lived with his parents in an apartment with two other families. Though religion was not permitted in the Soviet Union, the former country which was made up of Russia and other smaller states, his mother secretly had him baptized as an Orthodox Christian.
Though a small child, Putin could hold his own in fights thanks to martial arts classes. By the age of sixteen he was a top-ranked expert at sambo, a Russian combination of judo and wrestling. By the time he was a teenager Putin had begun to display the ambition that he later became known for, and he attended a respected high school, School 281, which only accepted students with near-perfect grades. The institution was the only one in Russia to stress chemistry, which was Putin's interest.
However, he soon moved toward liberal arts and biology. Putin played handball and worked at the school radio station, where he played music by the Beatles and other Western rock bands. Fascinated with spy movies as a teen, he aspired to work for the KGB, the Russian secret service.
On 28 July 1983 Putin married Kaliningrad-born Lyudmila Shkrebneva, at that time an undergraduate student of the Spanish branch of the Philology Department of the Leningrad State University and a former Aeroflot flight attendant. They have two daughters, Mariya Putina (born 28 April 1985 in St. Petersburg) and Yekaterina Putina (born 31 August 1986 in Dresden). The daughters grew up in East Germany and attended the German School in Moscow until his appointment as Prime Minister. After that they studied international economics at the Finance Academy in Moscow, although it was not officially reported due to security reasons. Putin also owns a black Labrador Retriever named Koni, who has been known to accompany him into staff meetings and greeting world leaders. In 2010 his Bulgarian colleague, Boyko Borisov, gave him a Karakachan Dog who then was named Buffy. Putin speaks fluent German. His family used to speak German at home as well. After becoming President he was reported to be taking English lessons and could be seen conversing directly with Bush and native speakers of English in informal situations, but he continues to use interpreters for formal talks. Putin spoke English in public for the first time during the state dinner in Buckingham Palace in 2003 saying but a few phrases while delivering his condolences to the Queen on the death of her mother. He made a full fluent English speech while addressing delegates at the 119th International Olympic Committee Session in Guatemala City on behalf of the successful bid of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Paralympics. Putin's father was "a model communist, genuinely believing in its ideals while trying to put them into practice in his own life". With this dedication he became secretary of the Party cell in his workshop and then after taking night classes joined the factory’s Party bureau. Though his father was a "militant atheist", Putin's mother "was a devoted Orthodox believer". Though she kept no icons at home, she attended church regularly, despite the government's persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church at that time. She ensured that Putin was secretly christened as a baby and she regularly took him to services. His father knew of this but turned a blind eye. According to Putin's own statements, his religious awakening followed the serious car crash of his wife in 1993, and was deepened by a life-threatening fire that burned down their dacha in August 1996. Right before an official visit to Israel his mother gave him his baptismal cross telling him to get it blessed “I did as she said and...