FOUND: The Cowboy Saunter of Russia's Top Politicians - Atlas Obscura
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FOUND: The Cowboy Saunter of Russia’s Top Politicians

Vladimir Putin (Photo: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia)

When Vladimir Putin walks down a red carpet, watch his arms. The left one swings vigorously back and forth. But the right one stays closer to his side. Once you look at it, it’s impossible not to see.

This is how “movement disorder enthusiasts,” neurologists who specialize in disease like Parkinson’s, see the world. And a group of them were particularly fascinated by Putin’s walk, which looks somewhat like an early sign of Parkinson’s. But the neurologists observed the exact same walk in other Russian officials–Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev, a couple of defense ministers and a military commander. 

It’s unlikely that this “consistently reduced right-sided arm swing” indicated that all these men had Parkinson’s so they looked for another explanation. They found it in a KGB training manual, which instructed that “moving forward should be done with one side, usually the left, turned somewhat in the direction of movement.” 

A person trained to move in that way, the scientists thought, might display the unique walk of the Russian officials. In a paper published in the BMJ, they write:

We propose that this new gait pattern, which we term “gunslinger’s gait”, may result from a behavioral adaptation, possibly triggered by KGB or other forms of weaponry training where trainees are taught to keep their right hand close to the chest while walking, allowing them to quickly draw a gun when faced with a foe.”

This paper is published the BMJ’s wonderfully quirky Christmas issue, which features very real but very offbeat science. 

Bonus finds: A barn full of awesome vintage motorcycles

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.