He is one of the major players in the world today and yet he retains a part of shadow and mystery that we cannot manage to thin out. This sentence could apply just as well to the oil industry, to the stock market or to Voldemort, but no, we are talking here about Vladimir Putin. We invite you to see some facets of this character which remain quite enigmatic, some which are frightening and others which are rather surprising.
1. When he divorced in 2013 few people knew he was married
Vladimir Putin has been married for 30 years to Lyudmila Putin, and when he announced his divorce many people didn’t even know he was. He always put a veil on his private life and if several photos with his wife were public we had no confirmation of who she was. He has since been credited with a relationship with gymnast Alina Kabaeva but nothing has been validated since he is evasive every time he is asked the question.
2. We don’t even know how many children he has
While we’re pretty sure he had two daughters with his first wife, there are rumors that he may have had twins with Kabaeva. His first two daughters never carried the Putin name and the Kremlin always denied when people thought they had found out their identity (which eventually they did). For all we know he could have a bunch of kids, but he’s keeping that to himself.
3. He was in the KGB for 15 years
If we know that he had a career in the intelligence service of the USSR for several years, we do not really know what he did for 15 years. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel. He was sent to Germany for several years because the KGB only sent married men abroad and that’s why he is bilingual in German. There he was busy bringing German spies back into the Russian ranks. Apart from that, we don’t know a lot of things about his past as a spy.
4. He is the third child of a very poor family.
Vladimir Putin’s parents were workers and had a really difficult life. They first had two children, Victor and Oleg, who died in infancy before having Vladimir. He grew up being a hectic and feisty student until one of his teachers introduced him to art and culture, which he says opened him up to the world. Well we have a little proof today that it was not in all corners of the world.
5. We don’t even know how much his fortune is
Some would argue that he could be among the richest people in the world because he has, according to analysts, huge shares in major oil and energy companies. His fortune is thought to be at least twice that of Bill Gates, which gives you an idea of how big that is. But again, it’s far too opaque for us to be certain.
6. He has a completely unlikely palace
It has a huge palace lost in the middle of the forest in which there are lots of things like a shopping mall, a cinema, an ice rink, a casino, a theater, Turkish baths, a swimming pool, more than ten rooms for the guests and a suite just for him which is more than 250m2. The size of the property being 39 times that of Monaco, there is indeed room to invite people.
7. His grandfather cooked for Stalin and for Lenin
Putin said in an interview that his grandfather worked on Stalin’s staff for several years. During his career he had cooked for Stalin and for Lenin. Like what the family was already established near the high spheres of the country even before his birth.
8. He is a black belt in judo
Putin started judo quite young and was a black belt at the age of 18. He considers the mentality instilled by this sport as one that he extends to his life in general, which is strange because the mentality of judo is mainly modesty and respect for the opponent. Some say he learned judo because he started puberty late and didn’t want to be bothered. After his decision to invade Ukraine the Judo Federation decided to disbar him.
9. He is passionate about reading
He has already said in an interview that he adores American literature, mainly that of Jack London and Ernest Hemingway. He likes adventure and spy novels because he finds it amazing “that one man can do what an army cannot”. In the current context, the sentence makes you want to cry a little.
10. Everything around his life is enigmatic
We don’t know how many children he has, we don’t know the faces of his two daughters, we don’t know exactly what he did during his 15 years in the KGB, we don’t know his inner circle (friends and acquaintances), we do not know some of his motivations… Generally when we hide so many things it is because we have things to blame ourselves for.