Through hard work, luck, or a combination of the two, these men and women became famous in their countries, and beyond. They exemplify the heights one can reach in the society of their homeland and reveal the opportunities available to those who live or travel there.
Dancing with a classmate, St. Petersburg, 1970.
At the top of our list has to be a man and a country both notable for their rise to international prominence in the last decade: Vladimir Putin and Russia. Putin is arguably the most famous man in Russia and with his net worth, perhaps the richest man in the world. Sources estimate his wealth at around a whopping two hundred billion! Yes, that’s roughly a hundred and thirty billion more than Bill Gates. Most of this money was accumulated when Russia’s oil industry experienced enormous growth and Putin made sure that he and a select group of loyal comrades cashed in on the boom.Of course we all know from his much publicized photo blog, that Putin travels round the world fishing, hunting and riding motorcycles…but do you know what Russia’s most famous man enjoys spending his money on the most? If you guessed Vodka, you’re wrong. The world’s richest man loves to drink beer! He reputedly acquired a taste for it in Germany while stationed there as a KGB operative. One thing is certain: two hundred billion will you buy a lot of beer.
Not all well known people are famous, some are infamous. Perhaps Saudi Arabia’s most famous citizen of the twentieth century also happened to become the most hunted man in the world after September 11. Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda and the leader of multiple terrorist groups across the globe, was born in Ridyah, Saudi Arabia to a billionaire. Osama’s father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was an immensely wealthy man who made his money in construction and Osama was said to have inherited a fortune of three hundred million dollars. Strangely, Osama, by all accounts, was a very frugal and soft spoken man who preferred austerity. Reportedly, he liked spending his wealth doing simple things like taking his twenty-six children for shooting parties or picnics in the desert.
It is arguable that J. K. Rowling competes with Queen Elizabeth for Britain’s most famous woman, but one simply can’t tell a tale of celebrity riches without choosing Rowling as one of Britain’s best examples. Did you know at one time Rowling was a single mother on social welfare, drifting from job to job in near poverty? All that changed when Bloomsbury published the struggling author’s first book in 1997 in the now legendary Harry Potter series. This lovely lady went from zero to hero and in a short time became one of England’s richest women. Her net worth these days after countless Harry Potter books and films, is estimated to hover around the one billion mark! Rowling likes to spend her money on charitable causes and most notably, started her own organization called Lumos that seeks to provide education, healthcare and assistance to impoverished children in orphanages around the world. In fact, Rowling’s billionaire status has fluctuated over the years, due to her giving so much of her wealth away. The author who touched so many hearts, has a huge heart of her own.
Germany has produced some of the world’s most renowned musicians and athletes, but what about scientists? How about Albert Einstein? The father of relativity was born in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1879 and the rest is well, history. Albert Einstein became the most famous physicist of the twentieth century, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and crossing cultural barriers to become somewhat of a popular icon. Germany’s most famous scientist had only a net worth of one million dollars when he died, but what he lacked in funds he made up for in fame. Einstein’s humor and wisdom have been immortalized in books containing his quotes and his heirs now manage a twelve million dollar cottage industry. While alive, Einstein maintained a simple lifestyle enjoying music, especially his beloved Mozart, and teaching at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey until his death in 1955. His most radical expenditure revolved around spending his genius to challenge conventional wisdom about matter and spacetime.
There’s more to Austria than meets the eye. How about none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austria’s most famous body builder, film star and Californian governor? Arnold was born in Thal, Austria and he came from humble beginnings. His father was a local policeman who discouraged his son’s body building obsessions. But that didn’t deter Arnold and in 1967, when he was twenty, he won the Mr. Universe title. Arnold eventually immigrated to the United States to follow his dream of becoming a Hollywood movie star. He hit the big time when The Terminator was released in 1984 and Arnold found himself set firmly on a path for super stardom and a string of feature films. Today Arnold’s net worth is estimated at three hundred million dollars and at sixty-eight years old, he is still going strong. Arnold likes the ladies and after a much publicized divorce we discovered he had fathered at least one love child. But when Arnold is not paying child support he likes to live large. He owns a thirty-eight million dollar private jet and enjoys driving a Porsche 911 Carrera convertible. When he’s feeling casual, however, he simply revs up one of his custom Harleys.