• Born in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) on October 7, 1952.

• Raised as an only child after two brothers die young.

• Baptised in the Russian Orthodox faith despite prohibitions on such religious rites by the then-Communist Soviet state.

• Graduated from the law faculty of Leningrad State University in 1975.

• Married to Lyudmila, a former stewardess and schoolteacher; two daughters, Katya and Masha.

• After graduation, worked in the foreign intelligence service of the KGB, spending most of his time as an agent in Dresden, in the former East Germany. Known by his nickname, 'the hawk.'

• Left the KGB in 1990 to return to St. Petersburg in a new incarnation as an ally of the city's liberal mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, whom he had known since his university days. Served as Sobchak's chief of external relations before being elevated to deputy mayor's post in March 1994.

• Putin's first stint in the Kremlin came in 1996, when Sobchak lost power. One of the Kremlin's leading liberal lights, Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Boris Yeltsin's privatisation program of the early 1990s, recommended Putin for a job in the Yeltsin administration.

• From 1997 to 1998, served as head of the president's Main Audit Directorate and presidential deputy chief of staff. Takes charge of the Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the KGB, in July 1998. From March 1999, combines FSB responsibilities with work as a secretary on Russia's Security Council.

• Appointed prime minister on August 9, 1999, after Yeltsin fires Sergei Stepashin. Putin's relative youth and energy offer a stark contrast with the increasingly enfeebled Yeltsin, who effectively hands over the business of daily governing to his new PM. Russian television shows images of Putin displaying his judo skills and talking tough about the need to crack down on separatist fighters in the southern republic of Chechnya. Two days before his appointment, hundreds of Russian civilians die when apartment bombings rock Moscow. Russia accuses Chechens of orchestrating the attack, despite a lack of concrete evidence. Putin sends thousands of ground troops into Chechnya, along with heavy artillery backed by aerial bombing runs.

• Becomes acting president on December 31, 1999, after Yeltsin's shock resignation.

• Elected president of Russia on March 26, 2000, after Russians hand him a broad mandate to restore the country's former glory. Putin's pre-electoral platform couples vague promises of economic and social reform with vows to beef up Russia's presence on the world stage.

• U.S. President Bill Clinton, meeting with Putin at a summit in June 2000, lauds the country's new president as capable of "creating a strong and prosperous Russia."

• In August 2000, Putin suffers his first major political setback when the Russian press and ordinary citizens lash out at him for his perceived sluggishness in responding to the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine, with the loss of 118 crew. Putin spends the first five days of the crisis at a vacation resort on the Black Sea. He later denounces the Russian press for its coverage of the crisis.