Before entering politics in the 1990s, Vladimir Putin was working as a KGB agent for more than 15 years. Few people forget about Putin’s past, as the man literally came out of nowhere. Born in St. Petersburg (Leningrad back when Putin was born), Vladimir is the only son of a factory foreman and his wife. Putin was born in 1952, just months before Stalin’s death. The now Russian President finished law department at the State University in Leningrad in 1975. And as he has once said, KGB targeted him even before he graduated. Putin himself was motivated to join the Russian agency, where he thought he can potentially use his skills to best serve and help the society.
Putin’s Career as a KGB agent
Vladimir Putin joined the agency shortly after his graduation. In the beginning, he was spying expatriates in his hometown, St. Petersburg. After a few years, he was summoned to Moscow, where he was put on a foreign intelligence training program. After successfully finishing the training, Putin was transferred to East Germany.
Putin arrived in Dresden at the age of 32. Back then, East Germany was a prime target of focus for Moscow, as the Germans were much further in technology than the Soviet Union. Even though the Cold War was between the Soviet Union and the USA, Berlin was a constant source of tension as Germany was in intermediate-range for missiles.
In Dresden, Putin was in charge of finding information about the Stasi, the German secret police. He was reporting to a headquarters at Karlshorst, a small city outside of Berlin. Aside from trying to get into the German secret police, the Soviets were highly interested in technology. Putin and other agents in Dresden used Robotron, an electronics conglomerate, or a computer.
There is not much information about Putin’s tasks during his KGB days, but some things are clear about his time in Dresden. Putin was the man in charge of providing false identities, or “legends” for Soviet agents. He was also tasked with recruiting people to work for the KGB.
Thanks to Robotron, Putin was able to falsify documents, identities and information. Putin’s task was to find people working for major electronics companies such as IBM, as well as military electronics and intelligence regarding NATO. As some professors put it, the now Russian President was able to forge a “guy with a background that looked good”. The “legend” that Putin often provided was a business trip. He was constantly looking for Germans with plausible reasons to travel abroad. Therefore, he targeted people from specific professions, such a journalists, scientists, technicians and professors. With cover stories, agents were able to link with other spies.
After several years of spying and working in East Germany, Vladimir returned to his home country at the end of the 1980s. He worked as an assistant to the University for one year, but that was only a cover story for his continuing work with the KGB. Once he became an advisor for the mayor in St. Petersburg, Putin’s career with the KGB was over.
Why Putin didn’t move up in the ranks
What is interesting that unlike in his political career, Putin never moved up much in the KGB ranks. Even though he was working for the agency for more than 15 years, Putin managed to get to lieutenant.
According to the Russian President, the simple reason why he didn’t move up was his family. Few years ago, speaking with a journalist, Putin said “I have two small children and old parents. They are over 80, and we all live together. They survived the blockade during the war. How could I take them from the place they were born in? I could not abandon them.” If Putin accepted higher rank in KGB, he would hav to move his family to Moscow.
For the past 20 years, Putin is the face of Russian politics. But before the 1990s, he was almost unknown, a nobody for the people in Russia. He started working in administration of St. Petersburg in 1992, and served under mayor Anatoly Sobchak until 1996.
It was then when he entered federal politics, as he became deputy chief of the Presidential Budget. In 1997, Putin was appointed deputy head of the presidential administration. It was then when people started realizing he was being groomed for higher roles.
In 1998, out of nowhere, Putin was appointed for director of the Federal Security Office. In August 1999, he started serving as a primer minister, as Boris Yeltsin retired from politics. He won his first official elections in 2000 when he received 53% of votes. Four years later, he won another presidential elections, this time with 71% of the votes.
Since he could serve only two mandates as President, in 2008, Putin run for prime minister and won the elections. Many believe he is still running the show in Russia, as Medvedev is only a puppet in Putin’s hands.