A long, long time ago (July 5, 1937), Soviet leader Joseph Stalin gave Ivan T. Spirin, chief navigator of the “Russian expedition to the Polar regions,” a sloppy kiss on the lips. V. M. Molotov, chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, looked on with glee.
A very short time ago (August 17, 2013), two female Russian sprinters kissed on the lips after receiving their gold medals at the World Athletics Championship in Moscow. But their lip-smack, unlike its predecessor, welcomed more controversy than glee.
That’s due to Russia’s new crackdown on homosexuality. And while the athletes claim that their kiss was not an act of protest against the country’s gay-averse laws, they’ve got people speculating far away from the gold-medal podium about their intentions. Instead, the sprinters say their kiss was a “fraternal kiss,” aka a “Socialist fraternal kiss” or “Brotherhood kiss.” The fraternal kiss was a unique sort of greeting practiced by the leaders of the former U.S.S.R. to symbolize friendly relations between the various states. And it’s a well-documented phenomenon. Even Vladmir Putin fraternally kissed and told (in pictures).
Don’t believe us? Check out this roundup of the most famous fraternal lip-locks in Russian history:
Russia’s Tatyana Firova (right) and Russia’s Kseniya Ryzhova kiss after winning the women’s 4×400 meter relay final at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow on August 17, 2013.
Soviet Premier Khrushchev (right) plants a big kiss on Soviet President Voroshilov (left) in 1959 after Khrushchev returns from the U.S.
A mural in Berlin depicts the kiss shared between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker, president of East Germany. They kissed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic in 1979.
Soviet leader Michail Gorbachev and Erik Honecker lock lips at a conference for the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Russian Liberal-Democratic ultra-nationalist party, kisses a Russian in a bear costume on December 12, 1999, during a rally in support of Zhirinovsky.
Russian singing sensations TATU nearly kiss on stage at a performance at MTV headquarters in New York City on March 3, 2003.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a little boy a kiss on the stomach in the streets of Russia as the boy’s friends look on.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (2nd from left) kisses former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi (right) on August 6, 2009, while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) watches.