7 Things You Didn't Know About Vladimir Putin, The On-The-Market, War-Mongering, Daughter-Hiding Russian President
We get it. You think you know Russian President Vladimir Putin. You've seen the photos of him shirtless astride a horse, nuzzling a puppy, kissing a giant fish, and chillin' in a submersible — you know, doing all those things Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to do when he's not viciously persecuting minorities and gay people in his country, or quashing nonviolent resistance, or invading Crimea, or secretly stoking a civil war in eastern Ukraine, or just generally coming perilously close to setting off another world war.
But in the interest of getting to know our pal Vlad a bit better, we've taken great pains to compile a few choice facts about the man who's more than just a sharp-tongued interlocutor with piercing eyes and a heart of Donets coal. He's more than the man who swindled then-President George W. Bush, who once said this about a meeting with Putin...
I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.
...only to have Putin insult his beloved dog Barney for being too small to be a real dog. Lesson: Never trust a Putin.
1. He's divorced, and told everyone about it in a really awkward way.
We hear Putin's a tough guy, but apparently announcing his divorce on Russian television tripped him up. No problem: His wife did it for him. In the interview with his then-wife, Lyudmila Shkrebneva, Putin only managed to imply that his wife wasn't into him working all the time and was incompatible with his public lifestyle. Without context, he then said, "It was a joint decision."
Meaning Shkrebneva had to jump in and spell it out: "Our marriage is over, because we practically never see each other.”
So in case you were wondering, there is at least one person realer than Putin.
2. He's crazy-secretive about his daughters, and nobody in Russia even knows who they are.
Despite leading the country for the last 14 or so years (there was that whole "tandemocracy" period, but we'll just call it a win for Putin), nobody in Russia would recognize Maria, 29, and Yekaterina, 27. The women went to school under assumed names and there are almost no photos of them available online.
3. He drops insults, but he can't take 'em.
As we've mentioned, Putin had no problem dissing Barney, Bush's beloved Scottish terrier. And he once took Senator John McCain to task on the most off-limits topic there is when it comes to making fun of McCain: his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. (Putin suggested the experience made McCain 'nuts' after McCain needled Vlad by tweeting that the Russian president should get ready for his own version of the Arab Spring.)
In classic bully form, Putin can't take insults. For example, let's look at that time Obama critiqued Putin's body language back in August 2013.
I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.
Obama went on to say that the conversations between the two were often productive, so it wasn't even a good insult. But Putin was reportedly infuriated, according to The New York Times. So infuriated that he decided to invade Crimea? It was only a few months later. You decide.
4. He is not this dog.
This dog looks a lot like Vladimir Putin, but did you know it is not him?
5. His friends are scared of him.
Speaking of Putin's under-the-radar progeny, even Putin's buddies live in fear of him. When the Times reached out to Maria Putin's godfather, director of the St. Petersburg Music House, to ask about Putin's children, he said he couldn't talk because he wasn't sure if it was OK with the big guy. And it's not like he was going to ask, a publicist implied:
He is afraid to talk about these things because he does not know if Mr. Putin will be happy about this.
6. He's an amateur actor.
Putin's always down for some time in front of the camera, especially if it involves staging him as a hero. He particularly likes stunts where he appears with big cats, which he's said he does to promote more awareness about endangered species. Putin's "saved" a TV crew from an escaped tiger, tagged whales, and flown with Siberian cranes.
7. He's kind of embarrassed about his English
Putin is fluent in German, but as for English? Nein, you guys. Putin knows English but generally doesn't speak it because it makes him feel awkward. In 2013, while trying to get his country a bid for host of the 2020 World Expo, Putin released a speech in English. It was kind of awkward.