Vladimir Putin, since the end of 1999, has ruled Russia – the country we’ve known as an enemy of the United States, sparking fear in Americans since prior to the Cold War. His rise to power is quite impressive, but the man himself is ruthless and calculating. He of course is responsible for the war on Ukraine, at present, which we have all been watching in horror on television.
The World’s Richest Man – Incognito
It is widely believed that Putin is the world’s richest man – incognito. On paper, the man makes only a mere $140,000 (in the U.S.) a year, lives in an 800 ft² apartment, owns a trailer, and three used cars. However, most experts agree that is by design, and estimate his true net worth to be at least $200 billion, and probably more – making him “secretly” the world’s richest man. But what is Putin really like? That’s what I aim to find out…
There is not a lot recorded about his childhood, although one source says he grew up in an ordinary family and lived as an average, normal person who has maintained that connection. He was born on October 7th, 1952 in what was called Leningrad, now called St. Petersburg, in Russia, then called the Soviet Union. He was the youngest of three children, but his two brothers, Viktor and Albert, who were both born in the 1930s, had died long before his birth. Viktor died of Diptheria during WWII and Germany’s Siege of Leningrad, and Albert died in infancy.
Putin’s father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, meaning basically he was drafted. He served time on a submarine fleet in the 1930s and during WWII was severely injured in 1942. He also lost his maternal grandmother who was killed by the Germans, and his two maternal uncles, who disappeared on the Eastern front during the war with the Germans. Interestingly, Putin speaks German as his second language. Putin’s mother was a factory worker.
Putin, somewhere along the line in his early life, learned to form tight alliances and strong bonds with certain influential people that remained throughout his career. Those bonds have been important, both in his own political strategies and position, as well as in the bolstering of the careers and wealth of his allies.
Who Is Vladimir Putin?
One thing I found out quickly, is that there is a lot of information I’d like to include, but simply not enough word space within an article to do so. After all, Vladimir Putin is the most powerful man in Russia and has been for well over two decades.
I want everyone to get a clear picture here of what kind of man he is, and see irrefutably how he is indeed someone you can freely love to hate. So since it’s easy for anyone to look up the facts on Wikipedia about how he’s risen through the ranks, right now I want to focus on his personality. A couple of quick facts important to know, first; he graduated college in 1975, the same year he joined the KGB – Russia’s equivalent of our CIA, also known as the “intelligence community” (think: spies). He served the KGB for 15 years before resigning amidst questions concerning his loyalty, as Lieutenant Colonel. He was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from about 1975 until it was outlawed in 1991.
To get an idea of who he is, a story in Business Insider reports that Putin quoted a line from a song done by a punk band from the Soviet era, after his speech at a press conference he held with French President Emmanuel Macron who was trying to prevent an invasion of Ukraine.
After the meeting, Putin announced that Ukraine had refused to implement parts of a 2014 cease-fire agreement, during which Russian experts noted he “appeared to be quoting from “Sleeping Beauty in a Coffin” by the punk rock group Red Mold. The English translation of the lyrics are: “Sleeping beauty in a coffin, I crept up and f_ed her. Like it, or dislike it, sleep my beauty,” which was said after criticizing Ukraine President Zelensky, as a message to him. What Putin actually said was, “Whether you like it, or dislike it, bear with it, my beauty.” A Kremlin representative, when asked, denied the quote is from the song and instead attributed it to being “rather, from folklore.” Either way, the message was scathing.
And then there’s the pesky problem of opposition – especially from Russian oligarchs. But Putin has an agreement with these Russian billionaires – support him, his ideals, and his government, and they get to keep most of their wealth and power. If they fall out of favor, however, Putin simply puts them in prison for the next 10 years or so, as witnessed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, President of Yukos oil and gas company and Russia’s richest man, at that time.
What did Mikhail Khodorkovsky do? According to the state, tax evasion and fraud – but it is widely accepted internationally to be a retaliation for Khodorkovsky’s donations to both liberal and communist opponents of the Kremlin and the fact that Khodorkovsky criticized Putin over corruption during a meeting.
Khodorkovsky was arrested, his business was bankrupted and company assets were sold off at below market value at an auction. The state held the auction and guess who won the lion’s share? The state-owned company Rosneft. Then he made sure Khodorkovsky was sentenced to 9 years, then changed it to 14 years, and finally pardoned the man. This was Putin’s revenge. This is also believed by many to be how he demonstrated to other oligarchs what would happen if they bucked him, as well as demanding some of their wealth. We may never know the truth of Putin’s net worth or how he amassed it.
Putin has been in power for over two decades, alternating power in title only with his friend Dmitry Medvedev, who he appointed in the first place, only when constitutional provisions prevented him from being elected for a third term. But in April 2021, after another 2 terms as President once again, Putin simply changed the constitution – to where he can now be elected for a third and fourth term, potentially until 2036.
These stories barely scratch the surface. The facts are, Putin is a cold, calculating, manipulating, powerful man. His reign is known for corruption and unfair elections, and now he is known as a war criminal and treated as a pariah, internationally. He is deceitful and clever, and quite frankly, he strikes me as a sociopath with his frightening lack of emotion or compassion. So let’s end this by telling you all about the “palace” he denies is his, but everyone knows it is.
The Black Sea Mansion
“Putin’s Country Cottage” as it’s known, is where Putin calls home – allegedly. Though Putin denies it, it’s well known to be his pride and joy, and besides – we all know there’s nowhere else in all of Russia, where a “no-fly zone” would be issued above a residence and is protected by the FSB – no matter who lived there! Unless, of course, you’re talking about Vladimir Putin. Now, folks, I’ve been covering real estate for a long time, and I’ve never seen a luxury home like this. The main estate boasts 190,000 ft², and costs $1.4 billion dollars to construct. The kind of extreme wealth and opulence he likes to surround himself with will shock you and says a lot about the man. There even is a leaked Google drive out there with photos of the palace by the allies of the imprisoned Russian activist Alexei Navalny who say the inside is the President’s palace.
It sits on top of a cliff overlooking the black sea and features things like a marble swimming pool lined with Greek gods, a helipad, a music parlor, a state-of-the-art ice hockey rink, a Vegas-style casino, an amphitheater, a nightclub with stripper poles, a bar room with over $100,000 worth of wine and spirits showcased, underground tasting room overlooking the water, dressing rooms for his entire staff and a 27,000 ft² guest house.
It really gets crazy with decòr, including $500,000 dining room furniture, a $54,000 bar table. $850 dollar Italian toilet brushes and $1,250 dollar toilet paper holders. It takes 40 people to maintain the landscaping alone, at a cost of $2 million dollars a year. According to the Fortune magazine article, Putin also owns 19 other houses, 700 cars, a collection of 58 aircraft including a $716 million dollar plane called “The Flying Kremlin” – with a toilet made of gold – and a $100 million dollar megayacht. I think it’s safe to say that Vladimir Putin lives a life fit for a megalomaniac. It’s also painfully clear he can’t be trusted and is a ruthless force to be reckoned with – one that is increasingly unpredictable.
Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]