Vladimir Putin has been a member of the Russian ruling class since the dawn of the century, serving both as President and Prime Minister of the nation over the last two decades. In that time, the former KGB Lieutenant Colonel has amassed a seemingly limitless fortune, an unprecedented amount of power, and the fear of people all around the world. But unlike many other rulers around the world, who have had their lives and families obsessed over by people around the world, Putin and the people he has put into power have done everything that they can possibly do to try and keep his family away from the prying eyes of people all around the world. It’s strange, especially compared to how western culture tends to put so much focus on the family members of the ruling class.

Putin has done everything he can to keep them hidden from the public eye, even threatening news companies that have reported on them. But still, all the over the top methods they’ve gone through haven’t been able to stop any information from leaking about them. Some of it is frightening, seeing as how easily Putin can seem to have something hushed up by paying unknown sources. Others are revealing, showing another side of the most powerful family in Russia that we’ve never seen before. Even a few are just fascinatingly weird and introduce us to a part of their lives that we could have never expected. Here are 20 of the strangest and surprising facts about Vladimir Putin’s family.

20 Putin Doesn’t Like Questions About His Family

When you’re in the political and public sphere, it’s common for people to wonder about your families. Just look at the Royal Family in Britain, or even the children of multiple American Presidents, to see how much the rest of the culture wants to push the relatives of leaders in the limelight. But Putin does not like that idea at all. Seriously, at all. 

According to Newsweek, Putin has responded to questions from reports about his family with distaste.

He said during a press interview that “I am, of course, aware of the cliché that politicians live in glass houses,” Putin said, “but even in these cases, there must be some limits… I always disliked people who go around with their erotic fantasies, sticking their snot-ridden noses into another person’s life.”

19 His Family Has Been Hidden From The Press

Over the years, Putin and his people have gone all out in their attempts to keep them away from the press. Unlike others world leaders, Putin doesn’t give any real perspective on his personal life. There’s privacy, and then there’s what Putin has done. It takes secretive to a whole new level, according to Whimn. 

Any social media posts about his family members disappear, as do any stories about them in the Russian media. The press has never gotten a good, clean shot of them at any point in their lives.

Beyond the handful of officially released photographs, next to nothing exists on his family. Putin can’t stop every story, but he makes a clear and concentrated effort to get as many as he can.

18 A Documentary Filmmaker Spent Hundreds of Hours With Putin But Never Met His Family

To the uninformed, Putin may just seem like a private person, but here’s a story from Newsweek that illustrates just how little exposure he’s ever allowed his family to have. In 2010 and 2011, German documentary filmmaker, Hubert Seipel, was given more access to Putin than any member of the Russian press had ever been. Seipel spent the two years working on the award-winning documentary, Ich, Putin.

To get the material for the movie, Seipel spent a great deal of time with Putin. Reports suggest that the two spent literally hundreds of hours together in Moscow, but Seipel didn’t see a single one of his relatives even once.

It was part of the agreement that produced the documentary, but it’s just strange to think that he wouldn’t let his children be seen by the filmmaker, let alone be in the documentary about him.

17 Reporters That Talk About Putin’s Family Face Serious Consequences

One of the scariest things about living in Putin’s Russia is the fear of what happens to you if you try to uncover the truth and speak out. Many reporters in the nation have been scared into silence or been threatened with violence. Some have even disappeared altogether. And it’s not like it’s just a shadowy cabal working behind the scenes that do these things. According to Newsweek and Vice, people within Putin’s party have threatened entire newspapers that report on Putin’s family. This has come through official channels, like when News Times suffered server outages and the online watchdog group, Roskomandzor (it’s their symbol in the picture above), issued a fine on a story that shortly followed.  There have been reports of members of the Russian government calling news outlet owners, implicitly threatening them, leading to the owners having to quickly close up shop.

16 A YouTuber Has Been The Best Reporter On His Family Life

Surprisingly enough, one of the biggest voices to actually investigate these secrets is a YouTube personality from Russia.

As detailed by Time, Alexei Navalny has made it his mission to investigate any sign or source of Putin’s vast wealth and has been researching some of the purchases that Putin has made for him and his family.

This guy has been arrested for his role in being part of the resistance to Putin’s complete control of the nation (being a leading voice of dissent in the country while also helping organize protests tends not to endear oneself to the people in power), and even he hasn’t been able to find any real trace of it. But his research has helped lead us to more information about Putin. And the more we have, the better.

15 He Had A Relationship With An Olympic Athlete

The President of Russia had a secret relationship with an Olympic gold medalist who was less than half his age. As Whimn explains, Alina Kabaeva is a gold medalist rhythmic gymnast who became linked with Putin in 2008. While he was still married, Putin and Kabaeva hit it off and began a relationship. This became an open secret in Russia, leading, in part, to Putin’s eventual divorce from his first wife, Lyudmila Shkrebneva. Since then, Kabaeva has been informally addressed as the First Mistress of Russia and has denied rumors that a boy she’s been seen with is the result of their relationship. There’s never been any confirmation about her relationship status with Putin, even ten years after they first became an item.

14 He Has A Secret Family With Her

So, remember how that kind of got slipped into the last entry? Yeah! So, as reported by Newsweek, Putin spent part of the spring of 2015 somewhat removed from the spotlight. Despite denials from the Kremlin, avid journalists ignored the risk of angering Putin and investigated reports from Switzerland. According to these reports, Putin and Kabaeva had arrived in the Alps for the birth of their secret child. This was followed by the first public appearance of Kabaeva two months later, and sporadic sightings since them. Of note is the engagement ring she wore on her hand during a sports event in the Georgian region of South Ossetia in November of 2016. It’s like a fairytale romance, complete with the crazy massive empire around them.

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13 They’re Way Older Than You’d Expect

For Putin’s family to have been so well-hidden, especially in the age of social media, is rather remarkable. And it’d be easy to assume that it was due to them being younger, so it would be easier to keep out of the limelight.

Both of his daughters are much older than you’d expect from the level of silence that surrounds them. As reported by Whimn, we’re not even exactly sure how old they are for sure (although, it’s thought that they were born in 1985 and 1986, respectively), and have been playing important roles in education for years.

They even have their own families, although, some of them are also linked to members of Putin’s inner circle, which just makes all of this even more alarming.

12 They Go To Church Just For Show

It’s not just the young and angry that find Putin and his family’s opulence and status to be contradictory with the living conditions of the rest of the country. While he and his family are afforded security and, in some cases, even luxury, the people who live in his country have been dealing with a declining situation for years. While the disenfranchised youth of Russia are the most vocal about this disconnect, even the Church has been noticing the hypocrisy. During an interview with Time, Father Panteleimon, a priest at the Russian Orthodox Church in Biarritz, claimed that while Putin owned land in the area, he had never come to the church to pray or help the needy. “Let God be the judge… But to me, what they do here just doesn’t look good. They just come here to enjoy themselves.”

11 His Ex-Wife Might Have Secretly Gotten Remarried

Even though she was not technically a part of Putin’s family anymore doesn’t mean his first wife got to escape the seemingly endless amount of security and secrets. Lyudmila has been divorced from Putin since 2013, but hasn’t been seen any more or less than she was before. So, you know, basically not at all. As explained by Newsweek, social media posts and the local magazine, Sobesednik, both indicate that Lyudmila had gotten remarried to a man named Arthur Ochertniy. The report was also carried by NTV, a state-run TV network. But that story was left out of every following news report and has been hushed up since, with many of those social media posts later being deleted.

10 We Don’t Even Know Their Names For Sure

Seriously! That’s how secretive this entire side of things is for Russians. Ever since their childhoods, Putin’s two daughters have never even been formally or publicly seen. Even pictures of who we think are his daughters have come under scrutiny, as we can’t outright confirm that it’s them. As pointed out by Whimn, there’s even some serious debate over whether or not we actually have their names right in the first place. Although we’re pretty confident that the younger daughter is named Katerina, there’s been some debate over the actual name of the eldest daughter. While many think it’s Maria, there’s been some speculation that her actual name is Mariya. Just compare that privacy to America, where seemingly everyone has a Twitter, Instagram, and eight other platforms that you can find information about them on.

9 Masha Had Friends That Her Dad Wasn’t A Fan Of

Mariya (or Maria, we can’t be sure) does also have a known nickname, Masha. And by all accounts, Masha actually had some real fun when she was younger. She picked up a group of friends over the years, some who Putin was probably pretty annoyed to hear about. According to Whimn, Masha had more than a couple of friends that bothered the famously homophobic Putin on a principal level. Putin has been a hard opponent of gay rights in Russia throughout his entire political career, so it wouldn’t be surprising to hear he was bothered by his daughter becoming friends with people like a gay fitness expert, and a lesbian artist. Masha was seemingly a bit more of a people person than the rest of the family, reportedly making friends easier than her father or sister.

8 A Mayor In The Netherlands Called For Masha’s Deportation

According to Newsweek, a town in the Netherlands that was serving as her getaway might have changed their minds about her and the number of reporters her presence apparently brought. Masha reportedly married a Dutch man, and was spending time in his native Netherlands when this was discovered by the press. People descended upon the small town she was reported to be in, but no one was able to find her or even speak to anyone who actually knew her. This, in turn, led to Pieter Broertjes, the mayor of Hilversum, to call for the deportation of Masha from the Netherlands. While he would eventually retract that statement, it’s a sign of just how badly people want to know more about these two women, and how it can affect unconnected people surrounding it.

7 Masha Was Kinda Living Large For A Bit

Yeah, apparently Masha was also able to actually live pretty big during her time in college and as a young adult. Masha attended Moscow University as a medical student and partied just like every other college student.

Most other college students don’t get to go anywhere as extravagant as Masha was apparently able to. According to Whimn, Masha was a bit of a party girl, even taking out some mega-yachts for cruising alongside her Dutch paramour.

It’s here that she made the friends that would annoy her father, and gave her a taste of the outside world that her father seemingly doesn’t share. It’s just extraordinary that almost all pictures and records of this have been kept under wraps, even in the age of digital oversharing that we find ourselves in now.

6 Katerina Is A Respected Dancer

Katerina has led a different life than her sister and probably has the most public exposure of the two in the most unexpected way possible. Katerina has actually appeared in public, according to Whimn, usually in the form of her rock ‘n roll dance aerobics routine. Katerina participated in the 2013 Boogie Woogie dance competition, and no, we’re not making any of that up. Performing under the surname, Tikhonova (her maternal grandmother’s surname), Katerina ended up winning 5th in the competition. A video of her dance has even managed to surface on YouTube. It’s never been officially confirmed that this is the Katerina in the dance, but it’s an open secret in Russia that she is, in fact, the Boogie Woogie dancer in that video.

5 Katerina Had Bodyguards Following Her Everywhere As A Teen

Katerina seems to have had a more difficult time adjusting to life, according to this Time article. Interviewing a former classmate, the story paints a picture of a quiet and smart young girl who was somewhat separated from her peers.

She attended a prestigious German school in Moscow, but never really fit in with the other students at the academy. This is at least somewhat blamed on the bodyguards that followed her everywhere, even to parties.

While Masha had been able to fly more under the radar with people and even remain kind of low-key about her identity while in school, Katerina stood out the second she walked into the building. She ended up marrying the son of a family friend, instead of branching further out into the world like her sister did.

4 Katerina Might Have Gotten A Nice Job Under False Pretenses

According to Newsweek, Katerina might have even used her recognition to get herself a nice job at the prestigious, Moscow University. The discovery was made by bloggers, Alexei Navalny and Oleg Kashin. Kashin discovered the information and released it after a report came from Russian news after it was announced that Katerina would be taking part in an expansion to the college.

There has been speculation that she received this position as a result of her family name, and not through any specific set of skills or knowledge.

The Kremlin has denied these accusations, Putin’s spokesman Peskov even saying he did not know who Katerina Tikhonova was during an interview. But given how little the Kremlin has ever confirmed about Putin and his family, that’s not a surprising response.

3 He Has A French Hideaway For His Family

When most of us imagine Vladimir Putin, we don’t tend to envision a sleepy town in the French countryside. But that might actually be the personal favorite hideaway for Putin and his family. Time has reported about whatever financial news we can learn about Putin, and one of the most revealing is the properties that he owns in the French town of Biarritz. Close to the wine country in neighboring Spain, the town has been a longtime favorite vacation spot for the Russian ruling class, and Putin is no exception. The town holds a special place in Putin’s heart, as it’s where he learned that he would be assuming control of Russia in 1999. The town is respectful of his privacy as well, despite the various calls and reporters who have come looking for info on Putin.

2 We Just Found Out He Was A Grandpa Last Year

It’s always surprising to learn just how little we know about the Russian leader. Take for example the casual bombshell that was dropped during an interview. As reported by Time, Putin only revealed the existence of his own grandchildren this last year.

Over the course of the four-hour documentary, The Putin Interviews, with Oliver Stone, Putin was asked whether or not he likes his grandchildren. He said he did, but that he doesn’t have much time to play with them.

And that’s it. That’s probably the most candid he has ever been about his family, and it was a single sentence that casually told the world that he was a grandfather. The man is a stone wall, not even talking about his grandkids gets him to lighten up.

1 They Are Actually Billionaires

It’s the thing that really makes Putin one of the most powerful men in the world. It’s not just that he controls Russia with the kind of authority that allows you to basically rig an election and still call it democratic or the way his political opponents and critics seems to disappear. It’s the wealth he’s amassed, and just how secretive he’s been about.

As reported by Time, journalists have devoted years to trying to track down whatever leads they can about his finances, and they haven’t been able to find anything. And with Katerina being formerly married to a billionaire banking associate of Putin’s, that power wouldn’t disappear if he left office.

It’s why his commitment to secrecy and privacy, even at the expense of his family’s happiness and well-being, is so frightening. He’s maybe the richest man in the world— and we know nothing about him. And we’ve read enough comic books to know that’s never a good thing.

References: Newsweek.com, Time.com, Newsweek.com, Whimn.com.au, Vice.com, Youtube.com

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