Young Vladimir Putin, who was this child growing up in Soviet times? Westerners often don’t know his background, which is why I thought it was crucial to integrate Putin’s childhood into this novel. To understand where Putin comes from, is to understand the man himself.
First off, Vladimir Putin was born on October 7, 1952. He had a mother and a father, and is rumored to have two brothers who died. Growing up as an only child, in his memoir, those close to him discuss his love and bond with his mother. However, there are conflicting reports in Putin’s memoir about his relationship with his father. Some say it was a loving relationship, where both parents doted on him; others say Putin’s father was a cold, unfeeling man who was hard on his son. I chose the latter description for my novel to bring forth conflict for fiction and delve into why Putin comes across as cold and stoic himself.
Putin grew up in communal housing, which was not a pleasant experience. In the Soviet Union in the cities, two families or several people would share a one-bedroom apartment. Conditions were cramped, walls were thin, and the noise was loud. The actual sanitary and living conditions were lacking in regard to a barely-there kitchen, one bathroom for many people to share, and the hallways being dirty and not taken care of. While researching, I had read of people who would carve toilet seats out of wood and bring them to the bathroom to use if they had a communal, hallway bathroom, because the toilet seat was in such bad condition. I recreated Putin living in communal housing in my novel as well.
He grew up in St. Petersburg. In his memoir, Putin refers to himself as a “bad boy” and often hung out on the street. Then he was introduced to judo, and his world changed. He practiced hard and became a judo master and then a judo champion in St. Petersburg. Judo was such a huge influence on him that I credit a lot of his traits and decision-making to his devotion and training to the sport, while others believe it is his KGB experience. Obviously, 16 years in the KGB has had a massive influence on Putin, but to me, his love for control, power, domination, and using an enemy’s strength against himself started with judo.
To read more about Putin’s childhood, I suggest reading my novel to fully understand Putin’s humble beginnings and how he rose to power.