Vladimir Putin (Владимир Владимирович Путин) was born on Oct. 7, 1952, in Leningrad into a working-class family.
Education: Law, Leningrad State University, 1975. Ph.D., economics. (His Ph.D. thesis has sparked accusations of plagiarism [story].)
Early 1970s: As a student at Leningrad State University, Putin became a member of the Communist Party. (He remained a member until the Party's dissolution in December 1991.) He also met future St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, then a law professor, who would later play a key role in advancing Putin's career.
1975: Entered the KGB's foreign intelligence arm after graduation from university. His duties included monitoring foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad. Putin would serve in the KGB for 15 years.
1990: Became assistant rector of Leningrad State University and later adviser to Leningrad City Soviet Chairman (the equivalent of mayor) Anatoly Sobchak, his former professor. (Sobchak was among the principal authors of the Russian Constitution.)
June 1991: Became chairman of St. Petersburg City Hall's Committee for External Relations. His job was to vet would-be foreign investors. In 1992, he was accused of corruption in connection with a plan to export $122 million in goods to buy food for the city. Mayor Anatoly Sobchak ignored city legislators' recommendation that he be sacked (source).
1994-1996: First deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. After Vladimir Yakovlev defeated Sobchak at the polls in 1996, Putin resigned in support of the mayor and refused an offer to join the Yakovlev administration (source).
August 1996: Deputy head of the Kremlin's household affairs directorate
March 1997: Became head of the Kremlin's general control department and a deputy Kremlin chief of staff
July 1998-August 1999: Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the KGB (story). Then-Prosecutor General and Yeltsin adversary Yury Skuratov accused Putin of orchestrating his downfall (story 1, 2). There were also rumors that Putin used his position to protect Anatoly Sobchak, his former boss, from prosecution on corruption charges (source). Putin's loyalty to Sobchak is said to have impressed President Yeltsin and may have contributed to Yeltsin's choosing Putin as his successor.
March 1999: His duties as FSB chief were expanded to include running the Kremlin Security Council.
August 1999: Named prime minister, Yeltsin's fifth in fewer than 18 months, replacing Sergei Stepashin (story). Putin said the reason for the change was the upcoming elections and escalating tensions in Dagestan, where at least five villages were seized by Islamist militants. Yeltsin said he wanted Putin to succeed him as president (source), and Putin, who was not well known at the time, announced his intention to run for president (source). Putin's premiership was consumed by a renewed military campaign in Chechnya (story), which earned him recognition and high marks at home.
Dec. 31, 1999: In accordance with the Russian Constitution, Putin became acting president upon Boris Yeltsin's resignation (story).
March 26, 2000: Elected president, winning 53 percent of the vote to Communist Gennady Zyuganov's 29 percent.
Major stories from his first term include: Bringing the oligarchs into line (Berezovsky goes into exile, Khodorkovsky jailed); the sinking of the submarine Kursk (story); the resurrection of certain Soviet symbols (including the national anthem); terror attacks, including one at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater in which at least 129 died (story); steady economic growth and rising living standards; a clampdown on the media, notably the seizure of the NTV television station by Kremlin allies in 2000-2001; an increasingly assertive foreign policy that was critical of the West; and increased military spending.
March 14, 2004: Re-elected president in a landslide. He defeated the second-place candidate, Communist Nikolai Kharitonov, 71 percent to 14 percent.
Major stories from his second term include: the Beslan hostage crisis (story), which prompted the abolishment of direct elections for regional governors (story 1, 2); concerns about Russia's low birthrate; the murder of several high-profile journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya (story); the growing domination of Putin's United Russia party; tense relations with the West, particularly NATO and Britain; and continued economic growth buoyed by high raw material prices.
May 8, 2008: Appointed prime minister by presidential decree. Although constitutionally subordinate to his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin is still widely considered to be the most powerful person in Russia.
March 4, 2012: Elected president for a third term amid mass protests in Moscow against his leadership
Putin is a black belt in judo and an active sportsman.
He is married to Lyudmila Putina (story) and has two daughters, Maria (b. 1985) and Katerina (b. 1986).