September 01, 2002

Kremlin Wife

The first time Russians saw their new First Lady was on TV— on New Year’s Eve 2000. She was hardly dressed up for the holiday—wearing instead simply pants and a vest Russians call an “alyaska.” She was accompanying her husband on a flight to Chechnya to wish Russian soldiers there a Happy New Year and to raise a glass of champagne.


A few hours before this, Lyudmila Putina was crying as she listened to the resignation speech of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, which propelled her husband, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, into the presidency. Lyudmila saw her husband’s new appointment as a personal disaster. She did not want the limelight, nor did she wish for her husband and family the immense burdens of power.

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