Where did Putin grow up?
He was born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in 1952. The city was still recovering from the German siege during World War II, in which Putin’s older brother died and his mother nearly starved to death. Post-siege Leningrad was, in the words of Russian journalist Masha Gessen, “a mean, hungry, impoverished place that bred mean, hungry, ferocious children.” Putin grew up with two other families in a communal apartment, with a shared sink and stove and no hot water. Short and slight, he was always getting into fights with bigger and stronger children— a disadvantage he overcame by studying judo and the Russian martial art sambo. Putin became, in his own words, “a real thug,” and adopted a belligerent approach to combat. “The Leningrad street taught me a rule,” he said in 2015. “If a fight is inevitable, you have to throw the first punch.”
Putin in 2000: A KGB man for life