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May 3, 2024 8 mins

Born into complete poverty and now, by some accounts, the richest man in the world, Vladimir Putin has also become an enemy of most of the world. Here's where he came from, how he got a stranglehold on power, and what he’s doing with it.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
All right, this story is going to blow you away.
And if you're an enemy of this guy, you have
a really excellent chance of being blown away. He's in
the news, reviled by most around the world. But what's
the story behind Russia's powerful and villainous leader. From poverty
to being one of the richest people in the world.
From worshiping Communism as a KGB officer to completely embracing

(00:23):
democracy until it no longer served his purposes. I'm Patty Steele.
Vladimir Putin was his rise to power one of the
greatest examples of gaslighting ever? That's next on the backstory
the book. We're back with the backstory. Vladimir Putin has

(00:45):
lived a life of violent contradictions fueled by his narcissism.
Back when his public persona in America was a little
more positive due to his support of the US in
the aftermath of nine to eleven, Folks were both impressed
and amused by his macho public persona. We saw images
of him doing everything from judo to hunting, fishing, horseback riding,

(01:08):
half naked, kind of going for the Jean Claude van Dambluk.
But his popularity in the US faded fast and continued
to spiral down after two thousand and three, when he
strongly opposed the US war in Iraq, and his rep
has gotten far worse since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lately,
as we've all seen in the news, he's become an

(01:30):
authoritarian dictator in his own country, a bit of a
megalomaniac who has no problem ordering the murder of his opponents.
So where did he get his start? Well, Putin grew
up in poverty in the nineteen fifties and sixties. His
two brothers died as children before he was even born.

(01:50):
His dad had been disabled by a grenade in World
War II and struggled to work, while his mom earned
a pittance as a street sweeper to feed the family.
They lived in a communal apartment with several other families,
with no hot water and lots of rats. Now think
about the contrast of that life with his current life.

(02:11):
By some estimates, he's worth a staggering two hundred billion dollars,
which would make him close to the richest man in
the world. He now lives in a complex in the
Russian countryside on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea. That's
worth close to one and a half billion dollars. The
press calls his enormous Italianate style home Putin's Palace. The

(02:35):
main house, with its frescoed ceilings, is almost two hundred
thousand square feet that's around four times the size of
the White House. There's an arboretum, a greenhouse, an ice
palace where he plays hockey, a church, an amphitheater, a
two hundred and fifty foot bridge, and a special tunnel
inside the cliffs with a tasting room. There's also an

(02:57):
indoor marble swimming pool lined with statues of Greek gods,
a spa, saunas, Turkish baths, a nightclub, a hookah lounge,
a movie theater, a wine cellar, a casino, and about
a dozen guest bedrooms. It's like a really high end resort,
so much for communal living, with rats and no hot water.

(03:18):
In addition, he's said to own nineteen other houses, seven
hundred cars, fifty eight aircraft and helicopters, as well as
a five hundred foot long, six floor super yacht said
to be worth well in excess of seven hundred million dollars.
It has a massive defense system, a submarine, as well
as a spa, swimming pools, two helipads, wood burning fireplaces,

(03:42):
and a pool table designed to tilt so as to
reduce the impact of ocean waves on his game. As
far as his personal inclinations go, on the one hand,
he loves the violence of martial arts and is a
ruthless eighth degree black belt in judo, but he also
has an intense love for an animals, working to protect
Siberian tigers and bears, pushing for laws for the better

(04:05):
treatment of all animals, banning petting zoos in mauls and restaurants,
as well as laws prohibiting the killing of stray animals
and mandating proper care for pets, of which he has
a whole time. He supports religion, and he's a huge
fan of spy novels and of the Beatles. He also
collects watches, of which one alone is worth half a

(04:26):
million dollars. His career is also filled with contradictions. Coming
of age during the Cold War, he embraced Communism fully
becoming an officer in its security agency, the KGB, learning
the art of espionage and manipulation. In the midst of
all that, putin studied law at Leningrad University before joining

(04:47):
the KGB full time. He made his share of mistakes,
but he always managed to come out unscathed. In nineteen
ninety one, he allowed close to one hundred million dollars
in precious metals and gems to be exported from Russia
in exchange for foreign food aid, but that food never arrived.
There's some question as to whether he may have kept

(05:09):
the medals and gems. An investigation left Putin without a
blemish on his career. Then, in the mid nineties he
defended his doctoral dissertation in economics, but word is he
plagiarized much of his work from an American textbook. Kind
of ironic, right. Probably his most cunning move was his
ability to manipulate the Russian Psyche. People were craving stability,

(05:33):
and Putin gave them hope, promoting himself as a strong
and decisive leader who would restore Russia to its former
glory in the days of the Tsars. That's where those
manly publicity shots of him bare chested in the Siberian
wilderness came into play. Much like Hitler had in Germany,
he capitalized on the Russian people's longing for return to greatness.

(05:56):
As his power grew, Putin used the media to shut
down upononents. Critical voices were silenced, and state controlled propaganda
meane him out to be a hero of the people
as the free press was systematically dismantled. And then there
was Putin's ruthless crackdown on political opponents. Journalists, activists, and

(06:16):
political rivals have been harassed, imprisoned, and even killed for
daring to challenge him, most recently the murder of Alexei Navalny,
a vocal critic who survived a poisoning attempt in twenty
twenty but continued to speak out against Putin's corruption. He
was finally arrested and put in a Siberian prison, where,
at forty six he somehow died earlier this year. The

(06:40):
same thing has happened to those who speak out about
Putin's brutal war in Ukraine. So what's next with him?
Around six years ago, he was already thinking about the
possibilities of AI when it comes to global power. As
a big fan of AI, he said, artificial intelligence is
the future for Russia and for all humankind. It comes

(07:01):
with colossal opportunities and threats. Whoever becomes the leader in
this sphere will become the ruler of the world. Wow,
there's the megalomaniac peaking out right. So through cunning, manipulation
and force of will, Vladimir Putin took complete power in Russia.
It's definitely a warning about unchecked ambition the future of

(07:25):
the world. Hope you're enjoying the Backstory with me, Patty Steele.
Please subscribe It would be much appreciated. And if you
have a story you'd like me to take a dive
into and share, feel free to dm me on Facebook
at Patty Steele or on Instagram at Real Patty Steele.

(07:49):
I'm Patty steel The Backstories a production of iHeartMedia, Premier Networks,
the Elvis Durand Group and Steel Trap Productions. Our producer
is Doug Fraser. Our writer Jake Kushner. We have new
episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Feel free to reach out
to me with comments and even story suggestions on Instagram
at Real Patty Steele and on Facebook at Patty Steele.

(08:11):
Thanks for listening to the Backstory with Patty Steele. The
pieces of history you didn't know you needed to know
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