15 Super-Manly Facts About Vladimir Putin

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Fifteen years ago today, Russia’s very own Macho Man Vladimir Putin was elected president. Since he stepped into the spotlight, he’s worked hard to cultivate a certain image for himself, engaging in only the manliest of activities—that means no dad dancing—usually while his adoring subjects and/or cameras look on.

It was hard to narrow them down, but in honor of Putin's decade and a half in power, here are 15 of his most impressive, totally-not-staged feats of strength and masculinity.

1. He once captured a 46-pound pike.

During a 2013 fishing trip in Siberia, he reportedly caught a pike weighing 46 pounds, which would make his catch one of the world’s biggest. (Anglers argued that the real weight of the fish was probably half that.)

2. He's a regular Indiana Jones.

Budding archaeologist and scholar Putin allegedly discovered some ancient Greek urns while diving in the Black Sea in 2011. (Sadly, this claim was later rowed back; Putin’s spokesman admitted that the urns were planted for Putin to uncover.)

3. He tracks polar bears …

Putin is eager to help out in the rescuing and preservation of endangered species. That’s probably why he was pictured attaching a satellite tracking device to a polar bear’s neck in April 2010.

4. ... And shoots whales with crossbows—for science!

Putin took aim at a gray whale while hanging out with some marine biologists back in 2010. The hope was that, by temporarily immobilizing the whale, the scientists could collect skin samples for their study of the species. Putin’s aim was just about perfect: “I hit it at the fourth try,” he told reporters.

5. He frees caged wildcats …

A champion of creatures great and small, Putin oversees research programs on a number of different mammals. In May 2010, he symbolically released a west Asian leopard from its cage into an outdoor enclosure in a wildlife sanctuary near Sochi. Some naysayers claimed the animal was injured during the photo op, which Putin's spokesman denied. 

6. ... But also keeps them in line.

In 2008, he intervened when a Siberian tigress tried to attack a camera crew following him at the region's Ussuri wildlife reserve.

7. He soars like an eagle.

Putin once took to the skies in this contraption, in order to accompany Siberian white cranes on their migratory route to Asia. Some cameramen just happened to be there to capture the occasion for posterity.

8. He hangs out in shipwrecks.

In 2013, Putin entered a submersible and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Finland, some 200 feet underwater, just to check out a 140-year-old shipwreck.

9. He's really good at hockey.

Really good. He was even able to score a goal against a keeper for Russia's national team! (That guy was definitely playing his hardest.)

10. He's mastered two martial arts.

Who can forget the 82-minute classic, Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin? As part of his KGB/FSB training, Putin also picked up sambo, the Russian martial art. So skilled is Putin in judo that in November 2012 the International Judo Federation granted him a high-ranking 8th Dan, one of the highest grades possible.

11. Accomplished outdoorsmen respect him.

The Kremlin website has a whole page dedicated to Putin’s interests, including this anecdote about a rafting trip in Altai:

Putin also said that once he went whitewater rafting with his daughters down mountain rivers in Altai. “There we were in our raft (maybe I shouldn’t talk about it, but still), and some guys were standing on the bank. They were just standing there, nobody expected us to be there because we flew in quietly, boarded the raft and went down the mountain rivers. They were standing right on the bank, three of them, with these huge beer mugs. When they saw me, they called out: 'Mr President, join us!' I said no, I can’t, I’m in a hurry. 'Well then, here is to your health.' As if they had been waiting for me like I go rafting there every day,” Putin recalled.

12. He once crushed—er, tried to crush—a frying pan with his bare hands.

During a 2012 visit to a Kremlin youth camp, Putin participated in an arm wrestling match, scaled a climbing wall, and attempted to bend a frying pan in half. (No word on if he succeeded.) This is after he called the U.S. a “parasite on the global economy,” by the way. 

13. He’s driven a Formula One race car.

In 2010, Putin took a Renault Formula One race car for a little outing on a St. Petersburg track, reaching speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. During his test drive, he rocked a helmet boasting an image of Russia’s national symbol, a double-headed eagle. Safety first, you guys.

14. His biggest fans are bikers.

The Russian biker gang “Night Wolves” are sometimes called “Putin’s ‘Hell’s Angels,’” because they’re so patriotic. These guys are currently on the U.S. sanctions list because they love their leader so much (oh, and also because they support rebel fighters in Ukraine). 

15. He’s best friends with Steven Seagal.

According to Putin’s spokesman, the statesman and the former action hero are longtime pals. Putin recently proposed that his country make Seagal an honorary consul of Russia in California and Arizona. Obama’s response: “You’ve got to be kidding,” according to one anonymous American official.

A version of this story ran in 2013.

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