If you’re a top dog in Russia, you may have a distinctive walk—one that researchers are calling a ”gunslinger’s gait” to reflect its theorized origin in the weapons-training manuals of the KGB.
In a study published Monday (Dec. 14) in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), four neurology experts examined the gait of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who walks with his right arm motionless and close to the side of his body, while his left arm swings to and fro:
Movement disorder specialists sometimes diagnose such asymmetrical movement as a sign of Parkinson’s disease—but the researchers believe that Putin’s gait may be caused by his roots as a KGB officer. Researchers found a training manual for the Russian security agency, now known as the FSB, and pinpointed a section that instructs operatives to “keep their weapon in their right hand close to their chest and to move forward with one side, usually the left.”
The authors think this could explain the absence of the right arm swing in Putin, and posited that they could find a similar gait in other Russian officials “who might have received similar instruction during weapons training by the KGB or other military or intelligence agencies.”
Sure enough, when the researchers watched YouTube footage of Putin and four other highly-ranked Russian officials—including prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and two former ministers of defense—walking down long corridors at media events, they found the same gait. Of the five, two subjects—Putin and Sergei Ivanov—were once KGB officials, and two others, Anatoly Sidorov and Anatoly Serdyukov, have close ties to the Russian military.
The case is weaker for prime minister Medvedev—but he could be copying Putin’s style to “imitate the boss,” the researchers argue.