Vladimir Putin – the Man, the Myth

How the Russian Strong Man Came to Power and Maintains His Grip on It.

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Putin Rides a Bear
Putin Rides a Bear
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This article was updated on 02/24/21.

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He cuts a dashing figure, doesn’t he? But other than the public persona he has crafted for public consumption over the years, who is Vladimir Putin? He was born in 1952 in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad).

He attended Leningrad State University, later beginning his career in the KGB as an intelligence officer in 1975 and rose to rank of Colonel.

Vladimir Putin After the KGB Years

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he left the KGB but Putin proved to have higher ambitions. He rose to the upper ranks of the Russian government, first  joining President Boris Yeltsin’s administration in 1998.

His next rung on the ladder was becoming prime minister in 1999 and later taking over as president. Putin was appointed again to Russian prime minister in 2008. In a volatile and often cutthroat political environment he retained his grasp on power by earning reelection to the presidency in 2012.

His training in the KGB, his ambition, and his wily personality served him well.



Putin Cultivates His Public Image

He holds very high popularity ratings among the Russian people. As of this writing, his approval ratings are consistently over 80 percent, this according to various state and independent polls. So how does he do this when leaders like President Obama never could?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return to Russia, the country had lost some of its its status as a superpower. The citizenry understandably felt this and resented it. They needed a hero; this was not something vodka would solve. This was Putin’s hour.

He would prove to have a keen understanding of self-promotion. He has especially embraced photo-ops for public consumption. His goal? To be shown as a Man-of-Action.

Putin poses as a race car driver
Putin poses as a race car driver

Whether he’s driving a race car, performing martial arts (he is always shown body-slamming someone), scuba-diving, hanging out with a biker gang, or romping through the fields showing off his manly bare chest, he’s projecting that image.

Look at me; I am strong, I am victorious, I am Russia. It’s all very psychological and the population eats it up. It’s all a vicarious relationship-he gives them a sort of national pride and they give him the votes. And it shows in the polls.



Vladimir Putin on the World Stage

The Soviet Union controlled vastly more real estate than the present-day Russia does. Most analysts believe that Putin would like to re-establish much of that territory. In a 2005 speech, Putin famously stated that “the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” His military forays into these territories have been labeled by many as “expansionism.”

Understandably, neighboring countries that used to be part of the Soviet block and nervous about retaining their national soverignty.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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