Vladimir Putin’s embarrassment over part-time job after USSR fall

Russia: Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Xi Jinping

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Since the war in Ukraine was launched more than a year ago, Vladimir Putin’s name has dominated headlines. This week has been no different as the 70-year-old Russian President faced an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court which said that both he and his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, are responsible for war crimes. Much has changed for Putin and the world in the past three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Putin was forced to return to his home city, St Petersburg, which he had known as Leningrad at the time.

He had been living in Dresden in what was then the German Democratic Republic, or the GDR, working for the Soviet Union intelligence service, the KGB.

But when the wall and then the Soviet Union collapsed, his job in Germany disappeared. He was forced to return to Russia, whose economy was wildly unpredictable, and find another way to make ends meet.

He did so by working as a taxi driver, something he did not relish having to do, as he made clear in an unearthed interview.

According to Business Insider, in an excerpt from a documentary titled, Russia, Recent History, Putin described how difficult it was for him to talk about his second job.

He said: “Sometimes I had to earn extra money. I mean, earn extra money by car, as a private driver. It’s unpleasant to talk about to be honest, but unfortunately, that was the case.”

At that time, Russia’s economy was struck by inflation, sinking into a deep depression by the mid-Nineties.

Taxis were also rarely seen in Russia at that time, meaning some simply resorted to giving rides to strangers to earn extra cash. In some instances, vehicles such as ambulances were used as taxis.

Putin’s resorting to part-time work did not last long as he soon venture into politics, landing a job with St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak in the early Nineties.

The collapse of the Soviet Union appears to have been a particularly difficult time for Putin who has long lamented its demise.

In the documentary, he said: “It was a disintegration of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union. We turned into a completely different country. And what had been built up over 1,000 years was largely lost.”

Putin and his now ex-wife, Lyudmila, moved to Dresden midway through the Eighties after he was sent there on his first foreign posting as a KGB agent.

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After graduating from Leningrad State University in 1975, he joined the KGB and worked his way up to lieutenant colonel.

In Dresden, much of his work was mundane. However, part of his job involved identifying East Germans who had believable reasons to travel abroad before attempting to recruit them so that they could then spy on the West.

While his work was not always enthralling, he, his wife, and his two daughters, Maria and Katerina, enjoyed it there as the standard of living was far better than in the Soviet Union.

His German biographer, Boris Reitschuster, told the BBC how East Germany, which he described as his “little paradise”, inspired much of what Putin went on to do with his life, particularly his politics.

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