Nothing is known about the Russian's childhood and teenage years. The first documented information about him was when he was vacationing in Afghanistan during the 1980's when the Soviets invaded. The Russian loves bloodshed constantly going around the world to different areas with conflicts such as Iraq, Northern Ireland, Chechnya, Rwanda, etc.
The Russian has worked for the Yakuza, Las Vegas PD, and the Italian American Mafia. He is wanted dead by the CIA and many other organizations due to his activities. Sometimes the Russian commits atrocities for money other times just for the sheer joy of it. When he's not committing crimes across the world he follows what superheroes in the United States are up to and starts various superhero fan clubs and especially likes following Daredevil and Thor viewing Thor as a good communist.
The Russian character was created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon during their Punisher Welcome Back Frank story arc and first appeared in The Punisher #8 (2000).
The Russian originally appeared as really muscular human with peak human strength and stamina at the very least. He was a freelance criminal who took jobs from various organizations to murder and/or maim targets those organizations wanted eliminated. He is a friend of Ma Gnucci who helped her eliminate some of her enemies in the past. He was killed in his mission to murder the Punisher.
The Russian later on appears as a transgender cyborg created by General Kreigkopf's scientists. His bones and organs were replaced with high strength plastics, titanium, and Adamantium and the drugs given to him caused him to grow large breasts and granted him super strength, invulnerability, and enhanced senses. The Russian agreed to be Kreigkopf's assassin for bring him back to life and upgrading him.
Major Story Arcs
Welcome Back Frank
The Russian is shown in his home in Kazakhstan being attacked by a well armed paramilitary force working for the Yakuza which he slaughters with ease. After slaughtering the paramilitary force The Russian gets a phone call from Ma Gnucci asking him for his services. The Russian agrees and heads to New York City. Three weeks later he arrives in New York City and greets Ma Gnucci. She shows him pictures of who the Punisher is and he heads off to the apartment complex the Punisher is living in to kill him.
The Russian then attacks the Punisher catching Frank Castle completely off guard. The Russian is easily manhandling the Punisher throughout the fight even letting Frank hit him a few times to make sure Castle doesn't just give up and let him kill him. The Punisher manages to grab a knife and stab the Russian with it which had absolutely no effect on him. After knocking Castle unconscious the Russia waits for him to wake up again not wanting to just kill the Punisher and spoil the fun. The Russian then continues beating on Frank and when Castle grabs a gun and tries to shoot him the Russian simply rips the gun apart with ease.
The Russian continues beating on Frank Castle and finally knocking him through the door of his apartment. In the Hallway of the apartment complex the Punisher tells his neighbors Spacker Dave and Joan to run with the Russian promising Frank that he will kill them brutally after he is done murdering him. The Russian continues pounding on the Punisher laughing the whole time knocking him through Mr. Bumpo's door into his apartment. The Punisher throws Mr. Bumpo's pizza into the Russian's face burning him and then trips him which causes the Russian to fall down. The Russian enraged tells the Punisher the gloves are off but just as the Russian pulls the pizza off his face the Punisher pushes the morbidly obese Mr. Bumpo on top of the Russian smothering him to death.
Army of One
The Russian returns back from the grave to try and kill the Punisher again. The Russian tracks down the Punisher and completely catches by surprise like he did in their first encounter, Frank in disbelief states that "I cut your head off". The Russian laughs knowing that Castle would be surprised to see him alive again knocks him out and takes him to the top of the Empire State Building.
The Russian then explains to the Punisher that he was brought back from the dead by a paramilitary organization using illegal cyborg and resurrection technology stolen from shield. The organization wants the Russian to be their chief assassin which the Russian agreed to if they let him go after the Punisher which after making a few calls to those at the very top of the U.S. Government they agreed to let the Russian have another shot at the Punisher. After telling the Punisher all of this the Russian then grabs him and throws Frank Castle off of the Empire State Building to his death.
Just as the Punisher is about to fall to his death he is saved by Spider-Man. Spider-Man pulls the Punisher up to the balcony of the Empire State Building and the two get into an argument with the Punisher telling him to leave and Spider-Man refusing. As they are arguing Spider-Man's spider sense goes off and when he turns around he sees the Russian standing right behind him. The Russian and Spider-Man then get into a fight with the Russian easily getting the upper hand and throwing Spider-Man high into the sky away from the Empire State Building. The Russian then goes after the Punisher and catches him again, when Spider-Man again shows up and the Russian and Spider-Man fight with the Russian easily dispatching bug boy and flinging him off the Empire State Building. The Russian catches up to the Punisher one more time with Spider-Man again interfering and the Russian this time knocks him out with one punch.
The Russian then goes after the Punisher who ran to Spider-Man and just as the Russian is about to hit the Punisher Frank throws Spider-Man's unconscious body in front him using him as a human shield. The Russian laughs at this and pounds on the unconscious Spider-Man taunting the Punisher the whole time. During this Frank tries to get Spider-Man's web shooter to work and finally does catching the Russian in the mouth causing him to gag and stumble backwards to the point where he has one foot barely on the building about ready to fall off. The Punisher then casually walks over and with one finger pushes the Russian off the Empire State Building. The Russian crashes through the street into the subway network beneath and is run over by a subway car but survives and makes it to an extraction point.
The Russian is then brought back to Grand Nixon Island for repairs where General Kreigkopf told him he was not allowed to go after the Punisher again. General Kreigkopf gave the Russian a mission to kill a target in Europe and the Russian boards a plane with the scientists who made him a cyborg and some of the General's soldiers. Just as the plane is about to take off the Punisher shows up on the runaway having tracked down the Russian and General Kreigkopf and blows up the plane's engine which causes it to crash into the island's fuel depot. The Russian survives the crash.
General Kreigkopf then orders the Russian to load a nuclear bomb onto the other plane on the island belonging to the French government. As soon the Russian does that he sets off to hunt down and kill Frank Castle. The Russian then hears a gunshot and sees General Kreigkopf wounded and the Punisher jumping on the back of the plane with the nuclear bomb and the Russian runs after the plane. The Russian manages to catch the plane and climb on board. The Russian fights the Punisher and tries to hit him with a punch and gets his arm stuck since he punched throw the side of the plane.
The Punisher then orders the ramp on the back of the plane down and the pilot to climb. The Russian gets his arm free and runs at Frank and the Punisher stabs him through the mouth with a hook attached to the nuclear bomb which falls out of the back of the plane taking the Russian along with it. The Russian laughs congratulating the Punisher falling with the bomb back to Grand Nixon Island. The bomb then explodes taking out Grand Nixon Island and killing the Russian once and for all.
Powers and Abilities
The original version of the Russian had no known super powers. He was peak human in terms of strength of stamina. He was shot in the head multiple times and had the bullets pulled out suffering no permanent physical damage as well as being able to survive a plane crash during which he landed on his head only suffering temporary amnesia. The human version of the Russian's strength was beyond that of a normal human and he accidentally killed a man by giving him a friendly hug.
The Cyborg Transgender version of the Russian is shown to be made out of titanium, adamantium, and hard plastics. He possessed three hearts to power his cyborg body as well as having lungs from a guerrilla to up his respiratory system. The Russian is shown to have superhuman strength easily being able to defeat Spider-Man and shrug off Spider-Man's blows. The cyborg version is also shown to be able to survive a plane crash that resulted in the plane exploded causing a massive fire which did almost no damage to him. His cyborg body was also able to heal itself naturally over a period time. The Russian's body also gave him superhuman smelling allowing him to track down targets with ease.
In the Noir universe the Russian is a World War 1 veteran who fought for the Russian military. Later on during the war he fought for each side getting paid to do so but mostly just because he loved killing and committing as much chaos as possible. He was hired to kill Frank Castelione an American soldier who was returning home after the war ended.
During their fight on top of a train Frank dropped a grenade in the Russian's pants and throws him off the train. The grenade exploded castrating the Russian but the Russian survived the attack. Years later the Russian along with Barracuda and Jigsaw were hired by Dutch Schultz to kill Frank Castelione which the three of them succeeded in doing so.
Several years after the death of Frank Castelione his son Frankie grew up and chased down and murdered Jigsaw and Barracuda looking for the third assassin. Dutch Schultz once again hired the Russian to take care of a vigilante attacking his organization. The Russian this time being transgendered confronted Frankie and the two of them fought in the Bronx zoo. The Russian eventually gets his left arm ripped off by gators during his fight with Frankie in the zoo. The Russian managed to kill the gators even missing one arm but was shot repeatedly in the head by Frankie until he died.
The Russian appeared in the 2004 "The Punisher" movie. He was played by former WWE wrestler, Kevin Nash. He engages in a brutal fight with Frank in his apartment, while the song "La donna è mobile" played in the background, destroying much of the apartment's interior.
After nearly killing Frank by using many items such as a knife, a toilet, a refrigerator door, and even his bare hands, he is defeated by Frank, who threw a pot of boiling water in his face and tackled him down a flight of stairs, killing The Russian.
Note: Interestingly enough, in the fight scene between these two, Frank stabbed The Russian in the shoulder with a knife that was actually real because actor Tom Jane forgot to switch it for the prop. Nash was said to be so amped up that he did not realize he was bleeding until after the fight scene ended.
The Russian appeared as a boss in the 2005 Punisher video game. The Russian is fought in apartment complex and on Grand Nixon Island based loosely off Garth Ennis Punisher comics.