Kasyanov was born on 8 December 1957 in the settlement of Solntsevo near Moscow. His father was a teacher of mathematics and the headmaster of a local school. Joining the Red Army , his father participated in some major actions of the Second World War and fought until the victory in 1945. Kasyanov's mother was an economist, a head of a department of a governmental construction company (Glavmosstroy). In his childhood Mikhail studied at a music school and played the cello. In high school he played in a rock group. In 1974 Kasyanov entered the Moscow Automobile and Road Construction University. In 1976–1978, he served in the Soviet Army in the guard of honour at the Office of the Commandant of Moscow, which is today the Kremlin Regiment of the Federal Protective Service. From 1978–1981, he became a technician and then an engineer at the scientific institute of the State Committee for Construction of USSR. At the time he was still studying at the Moscow Automobile and Road Construction University. He finished in 1981. For nine years after graduation Kasyanov worked at the State Planning Committee (GosPlan) as an engineer, economist, leading specialist and chief of sector. In 1987 he was awarded the diploma of the Highest Economy Courses at GosPlan. The Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Finance In 1990–1993 Kasyanov was working in the State Committee of Economy of the Russian Federation and then in the Ministry of Economy. In 1993 the Minister of Finance Boris Fedorov invited Kasyanov to join the Ministry. He was appointed the head of Foreign Loans and External Debt Department. In 1995 Kasyanov became the deputy Minister of Finance.
In 1994–1996 Kasyanov was occupied with the restructuring of Soviet externals debts (about $150 bn). In 1996 Kasyanov reached an agreement with the Paris Club and the London Club of creditors for a comprehensive restructuring of Soviet debts for a period of 25 years with a 7-year grace period. Thanks to this agreement Russia was able to gain access to international capital markets. In 1996 Kasyanov gave the road show of Russia's economy development prospects at various International finance centers. As a result, Russia, for the first time since 1913 issued securities, eurobonds on the capital markets of Europe and the United States, and Russian banks and companies were able to take cheap foreign capital for investments into the economy of the country.
In 1998 the global financial crisis started and the Russian government defaulted on its debts, rouble was dramatically devaluated. Kasyanov was the head of the working team for restructuring Russian government external debts and of the private banks of the country. At the same time he negotiated with Russian creditors for restructuring domestic debts. Kasyanov negotiated with the International Monetary Fund which granted favourable perspectives for reaching profitable agreements for Russia. As a result of this, the rouble rate was stabilised, which in its own turn helped reduce the inflation and restored production and services parts of Russian economy. These successes proved Kasyanov to be a good negotiator: he was called "the principal financial diplomat of the country". In February 1999 he was appointed First Deputy Minister and in May 1999 President Yeltsin appointed Kasyanov Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation.
In June 1999 Minister Kasyanov became a member of the Security Council of Russia. Kasyanov was occupied with the problem of budget deficit and external debt. His time as Finance Minister saw Russia's first non-deficit budget. In July Russia received the first post-crisis loan from the IMF. The government of Sergei Stepashin worked for three months; however, Kasyanov retained his post in the new government of Vladimir Putin. He continued the negotiations with international creditors on a global restructuring of the USSR's debts.
The war in Chechnya provoked the suspension of the negotiations with the London club of creditors. Nevertheless, Kasyanov was able to resolve the principal problems of Russian debts in a span of several months. This fact facilitated the transition towards economic growth in Russia. As a result of non-deficit budget and prudent financial policy in general the multi-month delays in salary payments and pensions were overcome. On 10 January 2000 Kasyanov was appointed the first Vice Premier of the Russian government. The situation was such that effectively Kasyanov was in charge of the government, serving as its chairman, as Vladimir Putin was the Acting President at the time. He was still the head of the Ministry of Finance.
On 17 May 2000 Russian State Duma approved Mikhail Kasyanov's Prime Minister candidacy. The Chairman of the Cabinet started pursuing the policy of active collaboration with business community and civil society.
During its four-year term Kasyanov's Cabinet launched a number of structural reforms – tax and budget reform, liberalization of capital control and external trade, customs reform, reorganization of national infrastructure, pension reform, creation of land market and others. Successful implementation of systemic transformation measures led Russia to a trajectory of sustainable economic growth. Inflation was reduced significantly, the economy and people's income grew by one third while oil prices were at the level of $20–25 per barrel.
Experts think that the tax reform of 2000-2002 was one of the most successful reforms of Kasyanov`s Cabinet. A flat income tax rate (13%) was introduced. All turnover taxes were eliminated. VAT was reduced to 18% and social taxes — to 26%. These measures together with the policy of strong fiscal discipline significantly increased budget revenue.
In addition to this in 2003 Kasyanov`s Cabinet reformed the taxation of petroleum sector and established a special Stabilization fund. As a result the budget revenue stream from this sector has increased and the Stabilization Fund has started accumulating significant amounts of foreign exchange creating a financial airbag for the country. It was a time of an overall financial liberalization.
An important achievement of Kasyanov’s Cabinet was the successful implementation of the small business encouragement policy. Introduction of simplified taxation system , easy state registration of businesses and ban on frequent inspections by state agencies were among those measures. It was during Mikhail Kasyanov’s time as Russian Prime Minister that the transfer of agricultural lands to private property began. Additionally to that
credit support mechanism for agricultural production was introduced and Russia very rapidly again became one of the leading exporters of grain after decades of huge annual import of wheat.
Kasyanov was dismissed, along with the entire Russian cabinet, by President Vladimir Putin on 24 February 2004 after more than three years in office, two weeks before the 2004 Russian presidential election on 14 March. There were disagreements between Kasyanov and Putin on matters of policy. The President stated on national television "This decision bears no relation to any assessment of the performance of the former composition of the government. It was dictated by my desire to once again delineate my position on the issue of what development course the country will take after March 14, 2004. Leaving the government After the Beslan tragedy Mikhail Kasyanov refused working with Vladimir Putin. The politician noted that the president took advantage of the masskilling in Beslan school to destruct of democracy and to strengthen his autoritorian power instead. Putin cancelled elections of governors and forced re-registration of political parties. As a result participation of citizens and parties in Russian national and local elections became seriously constrained. The end of 2004 was the last time when the president invited former prime-minister to a meting. Kasyanov used this meeting to refuse any further cooperation with Putin on the international bank project and on any other projects due to the fundamental disagreement with the new political line of the power.
In 2005, Kasyanov made statements about slowing down the economic growth of Russia. In his address to the people of Russia he insisted that Putin leads the country to a restoration of the Soviet system with an elements of the state capitalism. Kasyanov warned Russian civil society that the Russian authorities were dismantling the “democratic foundations of the constitutional order”. The politican stressed that a separation of the political power and judiciary in the country is not working. He said that the authorities put severe pressure on media freedom. Private property in Russia is not protected any more. In 2006 Kasyanov initiated creation of the Russian People’s Democratic Union (RNDS) where he was elected the chairman. On December 8, 2007, the congress of RNDS nominated Michail Kasyanov as candidate for president of Russia. Kasyanov's team collected 2 million 220 thousand signatures in support for his nomination. Just in the first two months of the election campaign, Kasyanov's support increased from 6 to 15 percent. At the end of January 2008 facing a serious risk of losing peoples' support, Putin's clique suspended Kasyanov from presidential election. Since 2012, Mikhail Kasyanov is co-chairman of the Party of People's Freedom (PARNAS). After the murder of his friend and ally Boris Nemtsov in February 2015, Kasyanov remains the only party chairman. In 2016, the PARNAS party led by Kasyanov participated in the elections of the State Duma. In 2015-2016 the politician was many times subjected threats and assaults for his political position.
Kasyanov opposes and constantly attacks Putin's power for violating basic human rights, breaching of the Russian constitution, domestic and international laws. Michael Kasyanov condemns Kremlin's aggressive foreign policy, which contradicts to Russian national interests and interests of peoples of Russia as well as interests of peoples of the world.