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Behind the most powerful protest photo of the year

“This is the kind of photograph that ends up in history books for decades to come.”


Fernando Alfonso III

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 20, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 5:47 pm CDT

A disheveled Ukrainian man and his son walk in the streets of Kiev, a protest site for the past four months. Both their faces are drenched in blood. They’ve come across a Ukrainian soldier or police officer dressed in riot gear. Reuters freelancer Vlad Sodel snapped the photo as the man and his son exchange glances. 

I can’t stop returning to this image from #Kiev earlier today. What words were exchanged? Photo by Vlad Sodel/Reuters

— Vaughn Wallace (@vaughnwallace) February 18, 2014

“This is the kind of photograph that ends up in history books for decades to come,” Reddit user landcaster1983 commented

Since Sodel uploaded the photo to his Facebook Tuesday, viewers across social media have one question: Who are they?

Professor of the Natl Academy of Sciences Mikhail Kuznetsov (R), one of the many injured in Kiev on Tue. Photo: AFP

— Kety Shapazian (@KetyDC) February 19, 2014

?? ?????? ? ??? — ?? ??????? ???????? #??????? #???? 18.02.2014 #Ukraine #Kyiv

— ?????? ???? (@sodel_vlad) February 18, 2014

Stellar sleuthing by Reddit and Twitter users has turned up the name Mykola Kuznetsov, a professor at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. It is unclear whether Kuznetsov and his son were involved in the protests against President Viktor Yanukovich or just walking down the street minding their own business. Either way, their injuries and the look of utter despair on their faces captures what millions of Ukrainians have been feeling since November.

Social media has played an instrumental role in rallying protesters and disseminating footage of police violence.

on pic the father ans son. Father is the professor from #Kiev #University #?????????? #Ukraine #Kiev #euromaidan

— klumba (@prima_vara) February 19, 2014

On Wednesday, a brief truce was negotiated between the government and protesters. That was quickly “shattered” following more violence in the Ukrainian capital, which included 21 protester deaths by sniper attack.

Amidst the chaos, Kuznetsov and his son were captured on video being tended to by medics sometime after Sobel’s iconic photograph was taken. They can both be seen at 00:40 in the clip.

Photo by Vlad Sodel

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*First Published: Feb 20, 2014, 12:24 pm CST