A Story About President Putin — Putin’s Justice (Part 0)
Is This "Dictator" an Angel or a Demon?

As Russian President Putin annexed the southern Ukrainian peninsula of
Crimea, Western powers criticized him for being “evil”, and for “attempting to revive the Cold War”. However, Mr. Putin’s Russian approval rating remained high, at 82.3% after the annexation of Crimea. Is Mr. Putin, who’s being criticized for being a dictator, an angel or a devil?


Part 0


A Story About President Putin — His Unknown Face

Half of Putin’s Life Has Been a Russian Version of the American Dream


1. Childhood.



2. Putin in a KGB uniform.



3. 1985, before leaving for East Germany under orders from the KGB. Left, Putin’s father, Vladimir Spiridonovich, middle, his mother, Maria Ivanovna.



4. September of 2000, Putin’s visit to Kodokan and his participation in a Judo practice session there.



5. 2000, Christmas in a Russian Orthodox Church, shaking hands with (then) Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.



6. Playing in the snow with “Yume” (below), a pedigree sent from Akita prefecture in Japan.



7. March of 2012, he wept in spite of himself after winning the Presidential election.

Mr. Putin had been previously unknown until his sudden appearance on
the political scene in 1999 when President Yeltsin appointed him to be his successor in that same year. His life could be described as a “Russian version of the American Dream”. Here, The Liberty describes his path to the Russian Presidency, and introduces episodes from his life that will provide glimpses of his true face.

Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad (note 1). His early youth can be fairly
described as having been impoverished, living in an apartment shared by three families with no bathroom or warm water. During elementary school, he had a poor attitude with his teachers and his days spent engaged in fights with other youths in the courtyard of his apartment earned him a reputation for being a “problem child”. However, at the age of 10, he was introduced to martial arts, and he found his dream to become a KGB agent one day because spy novels and movies influenced him.

When asked in later years what it was about being a spy that appealed to him, he said that “it was possible for one man to do what an entire army could not”.

At the age of 16, he visited a KGB branch office to ask “what would it take to join the KGB?”, an official responded that he looked for people with physical prowess, that studying law in college would give one an advantage, and that he should not tell anyone that he wished to join the KGB. Mr. Putin did exactly as advised, studying hard to enter Leningrad University’s Law School, and trained in Judo. During his fourth year in college, he received an offer from the KGB, and successfully entered the path to becoming a spy.


Resigning from the KGB to Become a Politician

In 1989, Mr. Putin, who at the time was engaged in espionage in East Germany, was faced with large scale pro-democracy protests after then-General Secretary of the Communist Party Gorbachev’s visit. While he continued to send intelligence to Moscow, there were no orders or responses, which led to misgivings that eventually compelled him to leave the KGB.

After returning to his alma mater, he decided to pursue a career in politics after being reunited with his university professor, the then-mayor of St. Petersburg, Mr. Sobchak. Mayor Sobchak eventually came under suspicion for various forms of misconduct, and was forced to resign, but Mr. Putin continued to defend him throughout that ordeal. He eventually declined an offer from the new mayor’s office.

A few months later, after gaining a position at the Office of the President through a friend, he was rapidly promoted through the ranks. After proving himself in various important posts, such as the deputy chief of the Presidential Staff, President Yeltsin appointed him to the post of Prime Minister. While his ascent to the center of political power was unexpected, in 1999, he was appointed as acting President in the midst of Mr. Yeltsin’s failing health, and he eventually won the Presidential election in the following year. That was the birth of President Putin.


“Judo Is a Philosophy”

Putin is a known Judo practitioner. It was sports that straightened Putin out, who was a troubled child. Judo placed a large emphasis on inner aspects, he said, “Judo is not merely a sport, but a philosophy. You need to respect your elders and opponents. It has educational value.”

In September of 2000, when visiting Japan, Putin visited Kodokan, the head dojo of Judo. The headmaster attempted to give the Kouhaku belt of the sixth dan to Putin at that time, but Putin refused, “As a Judo practitioner, I understand well the meaning of the sixth dan. I will train hard in Russia so that I will be worthy of wearing that belt as soon as I can.”

Incidentally, Putin was later awarded the eighth dan from the International Judo Federation in 2012. Besides Judo, he has enjoyed other sports such as ice hockey, skiing, and swimming.

Putin might have some bitter memories when it comes to his sport’s career.
During his university years, his best friend, who was poor but was friendly and studied hard, hit his head on the floor during a martial art competition, and passed away after a few days in a coma. This episode was personally difficult for Putin. He threatened to sue the person responsible, but people around Putin restrained him.

At the funeral, Putin stood by the coffin expressionless, holding back his emotions. However, after everyone left the funeral, Putin suddenly started shaking and crying. Despite his hard-faced image, Putin has a sensitive side.


“What God Gives Must Be Right”

Religion was disavowed during the Soviet era, but today freedom of religion has been recognized. Putin himself was raised as a Russian Orthodox. Putin revealed that, “As soon as I was born, my mother and one of her female acquaintances baptized me without the knowledge of my father, who was a member of the Communist Party.”

In a separate episode, he had the chance to visit Israel while working for the City of St. Petersburg. He mentioned that he was given the cross from his baptism, his mother told him to get it consecrated at the grave of Christ (note 2). Putin put that cross on his neck and hasn’t taken it off since.

Putin has two daughters. Putin’s wife (note 3) was asked during an interview if “her husband ever told her that he wanted a son”?, to which she responded that “her husband had always said that ‘what God gives must be right’. He had never said that he wanted a son.” This episode seemed to show the strength of Putin’s faith.

(note 1) A city located in western Russia known as St. Petersburg in later years.
(note 2) To distinguish an object as a sacred for ritual use.
(note 3) They announced their divorce last year.
A Story About President Putin — Putin’s Justice (Part 0)
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