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The Daily Vertical: A New Look At An Iconic Old Photograph (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Sometimes, taking a fresh look at an iconic old photograph can be pretty revealing.

Twenty-six years ago this weekend, Boris Yeltsin stood atop a tank and faced down a hard-line coup.

At the time, it appeared to represent a victory for democracy. And the image of Yeltsin on the tank was its signature moment.

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Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we, of course, know how that all turned out.

So now, let's take a closer look at that iconic old photo.

The man standing next to Yeltsin, of course, is Aleksandr Korzhakov, the KGB general who became the head of Yeltsin's security. We all know that.

But zoom in on that tall guy in the dark, charcoal gray suit towering above Yeltsin.

Do you know who that is?

Of course, you do. It is none other than Viktor Zolotov, then a young officer with the KGB's 9th Directorate.

After the failed coup, Zolotov would go on to become Vladimir Putin's chief bodyguard and judo sparring partner in St. Petersburg.

He, of course, stayed by Putin's side all the way to the Kremlin and became one of his chief confidants and most hard-line advisers.

And today he is in charge of the National Guard, which is effectively the Kremlin leader's personal Praetorian Guard.

Now take another look at that old photo. Check out the soldier with his face in his hands. It's almost like he knew what was coming.

Now, this is not to suggest some grand conspiracy.

But it does suggest that the likes of Zolotov -- and the likes of Putin -- are very skilled at taking advantage of any political situation and biding their time until they can reveal their true colors.

And it does give this old iconic photograph some fresh symbolism and meaning about who were the real victors of that fateful long-ago August.

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