Vladimir Putin was elected president of the Russian Federation in 2012, beginning his third full term as president of Russia since taking over as the hand-picked successor of Boris Yeltsin
in 1999. After earning a law degree in 1975, Vladimir Putin joined the KGB, the security force of the former Soviet Union. He spent years working primarily in East Germany, then left the service in 1991 and became active in the politics of St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad). He was brought to Moscow by Yeltsin in 1996 and served as an administrator in the Kremlin and an official for the security organizations which replaced the KGB. In 1999, Putin became Yeltsin's fifth prime minister in 17 months, then became acting president when Yeltsin abruptly left office. He was officially elected to the office in 2000 and then re-elected in a landslide vote in March of 2004. As president he gained a reputation as a clever and ruthless political operator with a hunger for Russian power and not too much concern for the niceties of democracy or diplomacy. He stepped down in 2008 (as required by term limits) and was replaced by his own hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev
. Medvedev then installed Putin as prime minister, a move which left Putin, as The New York Times
put it, as "the country's dominant politician, with a firm grip on power." This seemed to be proved out in March of 2012, when Vladimir Putin was again elected president for a fresh six-year term.