How good are your powers of observation?

When Ukraine tore down the 30-foot-tall bronze monument “Soviet Friendship” in Kyiv last week, did you happen to notice any distinctive features?

No? Look at the photo provided. Broadly, what you see are two male figures, one supposedly Russian, the other Ukrainian hoisting high above their heads the medal called the “Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples.”

That’s the award given to those known for strengthening the ties between the two countries. But the medal is not the distinctive feature I had in mind. Neither are the figures’ boots that you might have heard were left in the wake of the dismantling.

Give up? OK. If you look closely, you’ll see that the figures’ shirts are wide open to the waist exposing their bare chests. Isn’t that what Putin likes to do in photos – display his upper body? So, is this a Russian thing?

Showing off

Think back on all the photos of a shirtless Putin, like the one showing him hunting fish on a Siberian holiday with a speargun – presumably to enhance his strongman creds.

Of course, wielding a speargun to look manly is silly given that his prey was a pike. Yes, this fish can be aggressive, but only toward its young and only when short on food.

There are also photos of a bare-chested Putin on a horse. And only last week he had his picture taken – again stripped down to the waist – immersing himself in an icy lake to celebrate the Orthodox Christian ritual.

Keeping in mind the unbuttoned shirts on the toppled monument, one may well wonder if Putin got the idea to parade his chest from Russian statuary, as a symbol of power.

You can see shirtless men in Russia’s agricultural monuments in many of its cities. And in Volgograd, next to a statue of a woman with a raised sword called “The Motherland Calls” is a figure of a male wielding a rifle and, yep, without a shirt.

In contrast, sculptures of the male form throughout European art history are typically bare from top to bottom. Exposed torso aside, in Russian art, males keep their pants on as does Putin.

Mid-life crisis?

So, have we gotten Putin wrong all this time thinking his topless ways were his modus operandi to look tough owing to his aging body?

At 69 years old, it was logical to think of him going through some kind of mid-life crisis, worrying that his virility was waning.

But looking at the statue "Soviet Friendship" again, installed in Kyiv more than 20 years ago, seeing the two figures with unbuttoned, wide-open shirts suggests now that exposing one’s pectorals is a Russian thing.

Machismo, then, is not only Putin’s need. Flaunting the muscled male chest is his country's longtime need to look powerful. The only problem with Putin imitating Russian art is that he’s not as muscled as the statuary. Lacking pecs, he’s just left looking half-naked.