Vladimir Putin is one of the most well-known leaders of our time. He is also one of the most worrisome. In recent years, Putin has invaded neighboring countries, stifled journalists and free speech in his country, and seemingly solidified complete control of the region.
As his influence has grown, intriguing stories have come out about him. Besides his public career, Putin has lived a life more unusual than anyone could wish to have.
10 Putin’s Chronic Tardiness
In 2013, Pope Francis made his first visit to Russia. There, he was supposed to meet Vladimir Putin, but something strange happened. For 50 minutes, Pope Francis simply waited.
Finally, Putin arrived after making the Pope wait for almost one hour. This isn’t an isolated incident for Putin. According to journalists, Putin regularly runs hours late for press meetings and other public appearances.
Putin doesn’t seem to care about anyone he meets, no matter how important they are. In 2012, Putin kept Secretary of State John Kerry waiting for three hours. In 2003, he was late for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
Even when it’s entirely inappropriate, Putin will be tardy. Reportedly, he was two hours late to a meeting where the grieving parents of children killed in a plane crash were waiting for him.
He has kept important officials waiting for as long as four hours. Such was the case with the president of Ukraine during the invasion of Crimea. While the president was waiting, Putin further snubbed him by spending much of that time talking to a biker on the street.
He’s not just tardy in his public life, either. According to his ex-wife, he was constantly late when they were first dating, often driving her to tears.
So why does Putin behave in this manner?
Some believe that he does so as a calculated form of psychological manipulation. Political commentator Dimitry Abramov explains Putin’s behavior as “born of a desire to demonstrate that he occupies a ‘tsar’s place‘ in world politics, as in the heyday of the Russian empire.” Essentially, Putin wants to give the image of being in complete control.
9 Putin Might Be The Richest Man In The World
Since Putin is the most powerful person in Russia, it stands to reason that he has a standard of living far above the average citizen. Even so, it appears that he has a personal fortune which is mind-blowing: $200 billion.
That number comes from Bill Browder, a former fund manager in Russia who has become a critic of Putin. Browder claims that Putin has put together a financial empire that would make him the richest man in the world.
To put this in perspective, Putin’s alleged net worth is more than twice that of Bill Gates. Still, there are those who call foul. In 2013, Putin claimed that his income was just 3.6 million rubles, or $101,000.
While champions of Putin claim that he lives a respectable life, his net worth in 2007 was put at $40 billion, and by 2012, that number had become $70 billion. So what’s the source of this wealth?
In 2007, Russian political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky claimed that Putin controlled 37 percent of oil company Surgutneftegaz and 4.5 percent of natural gas company Gazprom.
However, there is almost no way to connect Putin to most of the assets he allegedly owns. But think of it in these terms: As leader of Russia, he can use any assets as he sees fit, even for his own personal gain. Despite these revelations of alleged corruption, most of the Russian public has responded with apathy.
8 Putin’s Palace
In addition to any monetary riches, another lavish secret was uncovered about Putin: his $1 billion estate on the Black Sea coast. It was originally envisioned as a modest summer home but eventually evolved into a modern-day palace.
First seen by satellite, images of the palace showed an enormous marble complex with gardens, a private theater, and three helicopter landing pads. The question was soon asked: How was all this paid for?
According to a former Putin associate, the answer is lies, deceit, and a fair amount of smoke and mirrors. Sergei Kolesnikov, who fled Russia years ago, said that Putin and his cronies put together a scheme to improve Russian hospitals. They convinced several Russian billionaires to donate to this venture and used the money to import medical equipment.
Kolesnikov’s company did this at a discounted price, and Putin told him to put the savings into offshore investments without telling the donors. Some of the money was used for the shipbuilding industry, but a larger portion was directed to “Project South” (aka Putin’s palace).
Kolesnikov even claimed to have been with Putin in the palace as Putin discussed security details during its construction. He never tried to justify the palace. He simply believed that it was his right to have it.
Still, an elaborate mystery surrounds the estate. Officially, the Kremlin claims that it has never been involved with the construction or ownership of the palace. But documents show that Vladimir Kozhin, head of the Department of Presidential Affairs, signed off on having the mansion built on state-owned land.
If that weren’t damning enough, the estate was allegedly guarded by both Kremlin security guards and private guards. However, the security company refutes that, claiming that they bought Kremlin uniforms and identity cards for their employees.
7 Putin’s Shadowy Marriage And Divorce
In 2013, Putin announced that he was divorcing Lyudmila, his wife of almost 30 years. It came as a surprise to many because few knew that he was married. Only the Russian elite and Western journalists knew any details about the union. Putin and his wife had been photographed together, but few knew who she was.
There were rumors about Vladimir and Lyudmila, but none of them were good. Some said that Lyudmila had been forced into a convent. Others claimed that she had been drugged or killed. Either way, Putin’s marriage was unlike any other.
During his KGB days in the 1980s, Putin was described as an abuser and a philanderer. So it seems that Putin’s marriage was doomed from the beginning. In 1999, when Putin was declared Boris Yeltsin’s successor, Lyudmila cried because they “hardly ever [saw] each other.”
The Putins have two children, although both of them were adults when Putin announced the divorce. It has been alleged that Putin was involved with someone else before the divorce, but Vladimir and Lyudmila mutually announced their split.
Possibly the most intriguing fact about the divorce is that Russian couples must split their income 50-50 if they divorce. So was Putin going to base that split on his relatively meager salary or his billions of dollars in assets?
6 Putin Drank A Ukrainian National Treasure
When Putin first invaded the Ukrainian region of Crimea, there was international outrage. However, he was allowed to annex the territory and soon had complete control. This understandably angered the people of Ukraine.
But what Putin did next especially infuriated them: He drank a 240-year-old bottle of wine, a national treasure in Ukraine, with disgraced former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
After Putin claimed control of Crimea, he went to the Massandra Winery, which claims to have the largest collection of wines in the world. There, he and Berlusconi drank a bottle of 1775 Jeres de la Frontera which was brought to the region by Count Mikhail Vorontsov when Catherine the Great controlled the Russian Empire.
While this may have seemed to be a simple diplomatic gesture between friends, the former prosecutor general of Crimea didn’t take it that way. In 2014, he filed a lawsuit against Putin with estimated damages of £60,000 for the bottle.
It is unknown if Ukraine’s case will receive any serious attention because of the state of affairs under Putin. However, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister, Berlusconi’s visit to the region was against EU regulations and therefore illegal.
5 Putin May Have Stolen A Super Bowl Ring
In 2005, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was visiting Russia and met Vladimir Putin. There, it was believed that he gave Putin his Super Bowl XXXIX ring. While this was the official story for many years, Kraft eventually decided to tell the real story about what happened to his $25,000 iconic ring: Putin stole it.
While meeting with Putin, Kraft showed him the ring. Putin then took it and said, “I could kill someone with this ring.” When Kraft tried to take the ring back, Putin put it in his pocket. He was surrounded by three KGB agents and left.
The story only gets more bizarre from there. The White House then called Kraft and told him to let Putin keep the ring as a gift to keep Russia on good terms with the US. Kraft agreed, and it wasn’t until 2013 that he told the full story to the press.
Soon, a high-profile individual involved himself in the matter: Senator John McCain called out Putin and demanded that he return the ring. Putin denied having taken the ring but offered to replace it.
Rather sarcastically, Putin said, “We will ask our enterprises to craft a really good, noticeable thing, so it is clear that it is expensive, made of a good metal, with a rock . . . so that this jewel is passed on from generation to generation in the team whose interests Mr. Kraft represents.”
According to The New York Times, the ring has been held in the Kremlin library in a section devoted to gifts to the government.
4 Putin The Musician
In 2010, Putin shocked the audience with his musical skills when he was in St. Petersburg for a charity event. He went to a piano and began to skillfully play. Then he took the microphone and sang the popular American song “Blueberry Hill” in perfect English.
In the audience were such celebrities as Sharon Stone and Kurt Russell, but probably no one had ever seen such a tender side of the famously stone-faced leader. Despite his talented piano playing, Putin described his skills modestly. “Like an overwhelming majority of people,” he said, “I can neither sing nor play, but I much like doing it.”
According to his press agent, Putin learned the lyrics to “Blueberry Hill” as part of his English language studies. There have been other occasions in which Putin has shown off his piano skills. While meeting with a boys’ choir, he sat down at the piano and said, “I don’t sing too well, but I try to play. I’ll start, and you sing along.”
He began to play the song “Moscow Windows” while the choir sang. After he finished, they cheered him.
3 Putin’s Crusade Against Food
In 2015, Putin began one of the most bizarre public campaigns in history: a boycott against European foods. French cheeses, Polish apples, and other imported delicacies were gathered in St. Petersburg and destroyed.
Officially, the destruction of the food was to retaliate against the countries that boycotted Russia after the annexation of Crimea. But many natives noticed a more frightening parallel.
St. Petersburg had been the site of a brutal Nazi invasion in which many of the citizens starved and went to desperate lengths to find food. There are still many older citizens of the city who remember the hard times during the siege, and they made it clear that they were horrified by Putin’s wasteful display.
The ploy by Putin has become something of a public flop. The first week after Putin gave the order to destroy imported foods, over 600 tons were bulldozed. Many Russians were infuriated by the government’s callous attitude.
In an interview with the BBC, Muscovite Olga Saveleva said, “If they start destroying food, what next? It’s like our authorities don’t care about the people.” Saveleva launched an online petition to overturn Putin’s order. By August 2015, the petition had already garnered more than 285,000 signatures.
The repercussions of the food destruction are already materializing. According to Saveleva, inflation is on the rise, and more people are falling into poverty because of rising food prices.
After the outcry, the Kremlin admitted that the public food destruction didn’t look good. But they said that the food was smuggled illegally and needed to be confiscated anyway.
2 Putin’s Love Of American Literature
In 2011, the world was waiting to see if Putin would assume a third term as president of Russia. He did, of course. But at that time, one of the few Western magazines that snagged an interview with him was, surprisingly, Outdoor Life.
Many people have seen photographs of Putin hunting or riding on horseback, and his interview confirmed that he is a sportsman. More interestingly, Putin revealed that most of his favorite reading material is American literature.
Of the three authors Putin mentioned, only Jules Verne was European. The other two were Americans Jack London and Ernest Hemingway. In the interview with Outdoor Life, Putin explained, “The characters depicted in their books, who are brave and resourceful people embarking on exciting adventures, definitely shaped my inner self and nourished my love for the outdoors.”
However, Putin said that he preferred the Hemingway novels that were not about hunting. Putin’s favorites are For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. All of these novels deal with somber, wounded characters rather than boisterous adventurers.
Putin also described Theodore Roosevelt, a famously adventurous person, and Barack Obama as manly US presidents. While Putin’s interview may have been nothing more than a PR move, his admiration for American authors seemed to be genuine.
1 Putin The Animal Lover
Putin has gained a reputation over the years for cruel, cold, and possibly criminal behavior as the leader of Russia. But in direct contrast to this image is the fact that Putin is a professed animal lover.
There are hundreds of photographs of Putin spending time with animals—from his pet dogs to tigers to polar bears. So the question is, does Putin really like animals, or is this just a way to make him seem lovable?
According to Jan Kubik of University College London, there are three messages that Putin is trying to express through his photographs with animals.
First, he is trying to distinguish Russia from the rest of Europe by showing himself riding shirtless on horseback. He is depicting himself as a rational man and a powerful animal. In addition, he is representing Russian males as masculine in comparison to “effeminate” European males.
Second, Putin is trying to show that he is not a heartless dictator. Finally, with photographs of calm but fierce animals, Putin is demonstrating that he can be benevolent but tough and can tame wild animals if need be.
Putin’s personal website talks extensively about his work with animals, including endangered species like the Siberian tiger, the polar bear, the white whale, and the snow leopard. Officially, Putin is the chairman of the Russian Geographical Society’s Board of Trustees, which works with most species in the country.
Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects, but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at [email protected].