Vladimir Lukin was raised by his relatives, as his parents had been repressed by the Stalinist regime soon after his birth.
In 1990s, Lukin was one of the founders of the liberal-democratic Yabloko Party (the letter L in "Yabloko" came from his name). He previously served as the deputy chairman of the Russian Duma, chair of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee and as Ombudsman. He is a director on the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), and is also a former Ambassador to the United States. He is considered a long-time specialist in U.S.-Soviet/Russian strategic arms control issues and is a member of Russia's Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, an independent association of national security experts.
On 18 February 2009, at President Medvedev's recommendation, the Russian Duma voted him another five-year term as human rights commissioner. This term expired in March 2014, and Lukin was replaced by Ella Pamfilova.