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TOPIC: putin biography

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Who Is Putin? The Long And Subtle Manipulation Of A Public Biography

Even Russians are unlikely to have noticed that over the 23 years of Vladimir Putin's presidency, the biography the Kremlin presents of him has been repeatedly altered. Having recently celebrated his 70th birthday, Proekt reveals details of how the authorities have hidden facts and evidence about Putin's life and his relationship with his family and friends — and the Russian people.

In January and February 2000, Russia was one of the main topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Specifically, the change of power in Moscow, where former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, heralded as Boris Yeltsin’s successor, was preparing for his first presidential election.

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"Who is Mr. Putin?" the American journalist Trudy Rubin asked the Russian delegation. Anatoly Chubais and Sergei Kiriyenko, leaders of the now-defunct, center-right SPS party, looked at each other but couldn't answer. Neither could then-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The audience laughed, but the situation was difficult. The country of 146 million people had been entrusted to a man whom few people knew, either in Russia or abroad.

Just weeks later, Trudy Rubin would get an answer to her question, with the publication of First Person, a compilation of more than 24 hours worth of interviews with Putin by Natalia Gevorkian, a journalist at Kommersant. The book—solicited by Valentin Yumashev, Boris Yeltsin’s Chief of Staff—came out just in time for the Russian presidential election.

The book was partly personal, with fragments about Putin’s daughters and quotes from his wife Lyudmila Putina. In it, she recalls seeing her future husband for the first time. "Volodya (Putin) was standing on the steps of this cash register. He was very modestly dressed; I would even say poor. He was very plain, and I would not have noticed him on the street,” describes Putina.

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