Vladimir Putin’s Life Rules. Putin’s first TV interview in 1991 and a follow up in 2002 (Part 1)


April 30, 2015

TV Channel “24 Doc”

Igor Shadkhan (director)

Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus

Evening Conversation

Recorded in 2002

Igor Shadkhan: You know it all started when I went to a meeting with Vladimir Vladimirovich. It was not my idea to film him, it was his idea. I was greeted by a young man, Igor Sechin, who was very happy to see me.

Why did he want to meet you? 

There was a series on “Russian Video” channel, called “Power,” when it was a Sobchak channel, were Sobchak’s team was presented. No one else wanted me to film them. There was Gref and Kudrin, and many others. But Putin wanted me to film him.

I asked, why do you want me to film you? He said, “Because I saw your program “A test for grown-ups”.” In this first interview he talks about himself as a former agent of the KGB. 

After the interview, did you meet Putin again with a camera in 10 years?

With a camera, yes

Who was the initiator?

It was me

Where was it filmed?

It was filmed in Sochi at Putin’s residence “Bocahrov Ruchei”

So what happened with him in 10 years?

The concept was the following, first time I filmed him when he was very young, 40 years old. I wanted to check if he retained his convictions from 10 years ago regarding the Gulag, Stalin, his personal values. This was the idea. But of course he had changed, just like he changed over the following 10 years. But at the same time his simplicity, his eagerness to talk with me, his eyes – were very disarming. 

When did you see him last?

In June

Was it a private meeting?

It was a one on one meeting. I was very concerned about education issues, which always concern me. 

You said that Putin appeals to you. Does he appeal to you as a human being or as a politician?

He appeals to me, because I feel my own responsibility for him. He appeals to me on a human level. I worry and care about him. I don’t approve of all of his actions, and I am ready to argue with him. But I can’t believe that this person, whom I met in my life is as horrible, as is portrayed by many today.

Putin [about Bolotnaya]: “What can you say in this case? You can say “Come to me, banderlogi! (laughs)”

This person called the people who came out on Bolotnaya square “banderlogi” 

I think it was simply a bad choice of a reference. He simply said that he likes “Maugli” and in that story there are such characters as “banderlogi”…

10 years has passed. Is it time for another episode?

Of course

[Other clips cited in the video up to this point will be repeated below in the interview]


Putin: Everything is dedicated to work. The entire day is arranged in a way that the time dedicated to work is used most efficiently. 

For most Russians as far as I know Mondays are difficult, what about you?

For me every day is a Monday (laughs)

Are you an early or a late riser?

You know it depends on the circumstances. It’s not easy, but I often have to move through different time zones, so when necessary I have to rise early, and sometimes late.



You don’t drink coffee at all, right?

No, but I could have some. I can drink anything.


Yes, green

You will like it

Thank you very much, Vladimir Vladimirovich

You know, I would like to explain to our viewers how we met. May be you will recall how we met. It was 1991, I came from Norilsk, where I filmed a big movie about Norilsk Gulag for 4 months

I just went there recently…

In Norilsk?

Norilsk, those places…

The prison?



More then horror

Very terrifying

Hard to imagine

I came and I was told that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin wants to meet with you. And you may excuse me, but I asked, who is Putin? At that time  Sobchak’s government was forming, and I simply didn’t know anyone. And I went  to Smolny. Before that I have been there once in my life in Soviet times. When I came into the reception, I was shocked by this atmosphere. There was a huge number of people, speaking Russian, foreign languages. To be honest, after Norilsk, after all of those emotions during filming, I decided that I am going to say “no”. When I came into your office, I asked, “Vladimir Vladimirovich, why did you choose me?” And you gave me a long look and said, “Because I watched your program “A test from grown-ups.” And in a few days, in 1991, your first TV interview was filmed. Was it your first TV interview?

Yes, first

Today we will watch parts of it. You, 11 years ago:

1991, Interview with Deputy Mayor of Saint Petersburg, Vladimir Putin:

How old are you? 


Do you have a family? 

Yes, I have a family, two children, two girls, 5 and 6 years old 

What is your education? 

I am a lawyer, graduated from Leningrad State University in 1975 

What is your specialty in the legal field? 

I wrote a paper “Principles most conducive for trade” and I researched problems of international personal law 

What is your zodiac sign? 

I believe it’s libra 

It fits your position 

We’ll see… 

Interesting …

Libra looks for balance, does that explain that there is no rush to fire top bureaucrats or is it something else, your patience? It’s impossible that you are content with the work of the government.

Of course, in this regard, sometimes one wants to make some sudden moves. But I am absolutely convinced that it will only bring more harm. The more changes, the fewer chances for success. Although, of course, staff decisions have to be made, they are made, but without a rush. 


Putin: Anatoly Alexandrovich just told me that we had purchased 2.5 tons of sugar in Ukraine to be shipped to Saint-Petersburg 

Are we getting out of the woods? 

We should not say it’s over till it’s over

It was a very difficult time. All economic ties of former USSR collapsed. Nothing functioned. The city of 5 million was on the verge of a catastrophe. We had to open strategic canned goods reserves. The situation was very worrisome and very serious. But luckily we avoided any big consequences … We came out of that difficult situation.

You mentioned Anatoly Alexandrovych …

I always had great interest and great respect for him. Of course, he was a very complex and bright person. I am sure he had made mistakes, in some ways he was not precise and contradictory. But what’s most important, in my opinion, is that he was very passionate and a very decent person. 

Why is decency so important to you?

Because it is one of the most important traits based on which one can do business with people. 

If you take the example of Anatoly Alexandrovich, one could rely on his values and priorities, and it was absolutely clear that he will always follow his priorities, no matter what. He was fearless in this regard.

Excuse me for the next question, but are you surrounded by decent people, meaning your close circle?

It may seem strange, but for the most part in my life, my fate, I was surrounded by people, dealing with whom enriched my life and brought me joy.

I may remember some exceptions, if I really try, but overall I was lucky to be surrounded by honest, decent people. I should not complain for my fate, I am content. 


Do you often have internal contradictions? 

No. Of course, sometimes there are occasions. But overall I don’t experience any internal struggles, indecision and worries. I think I am a pretty balanced person, but of course, now I have to think about and make decisions, which are not so simple.

What would you like to ask? (laughs)

I can only repeat today, do you have any contradictions within yourself?

I can only repeat what I said 11 years ago. Of course now I have to make even more difficult decisions. But that does not cause any internal conflicts. 

I am deeply convinced that before making a decision one must think very hard. And I will never make any difficult decisions which may affect the lives of other people, unless I am absolutely convinced that this decision is correct, and often when it is impossible to solve a problem otherwise.

In the first episode you asked about my education. I will remind you that my base education is legal. And I believe that one must act within the framework of the law and not for some revolutionary feasibility, then it will be easier to make decisions without any internal contradictions. 

Don’t you get inspired?

Inspiration, just as intuition, is only born on the basis of knowlege.

I understand that Russia today is a young country, right? 

After the changes of the early 90’s little time has passed. But Russia has a thousand year history and everything accumulated over time. All of it is our historic intellectual legacy.

All these transitions from one system to another were very difficult, what is more difficult – domestic or foreign policy?

One cannot exist without the other. Foreign and domestic policy are inextricably tied. But foreign policy in any case is a derivative from domestic. And in this sense, domestic policy is more important, it is a basis of life of the state. In my opinion, domestic policy is much more interesting, because it is multi-faceted. And in our country, such complex multi-national country, with a very complex structure, federated country, with a thousand year history, (as we just learned) and at the same time – very young, going through a process of building key state institutions, domestic policy is much more rich and interesting, at least for me.

Part 2 and 3 coming soon …

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