Vladimir Putin was born on October 1, 1952, in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. He is an only child. His father, a decorated war veteran, was a foreman in a metal factory. Growing up in Leningrad, Putin lived with his parents in a communal apartment with two other families. Though religion was not permitted in the Soviet Union, his mother secretly had him baptized as an Orthodox Christian. He remains a practicing member of the Church to this day.
After earning a law degree in 1975, Putin joined the KGB, the security force of the former Soviet Union. Putin served 15 years with the KGB, including six years in Dresden, East Germany. Putin married the former Lyudmila Shkrebneva in 1983. They have two daughters. In 1990 he retired from active KGB service and returned to Russia to become prorector of Leningrad State University, and by 1994 he had risen to the post of first deputy mayor of the city. In 1996 he moved to Moscow, where he joined the presidential staff as deputy to Pavel Borodin, the Kremlin's chief administrator. In July 1998 President Boris Yeltsin made Putin director of the Federal Security Service.
In 1999 Yeltsin appointed Putin prime minister, and on December 31 of that year Yeltsin stepped down as president in Putin's favour. Three months later Putin won a resounding electoral victory, partly the result of his success in the battle to keep Chechnya from seceding. In his first term he asserted central control over Russia's 89 regions and republics and moved to reduce the power of Russia's unpopular financiers and media tycoons. The period was also marked by frequent terrorist attacks by Chechen separatists. Putin easily won reelection in 2004. He stepped down in 2008 (as required by term limits) and was replaced by his own hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev then installed Putin as prime minister, a move which left Putin, as The New York Times put it, as "the country's dominant politician, with a firm grip...
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