The letter "Z", a symbol of support for the war, is spreading throughout Russia

The ‘Z’ first attracted attention several weeks ago when it was painted a few feet high on the sides of thousands of tanks, armored pers...


The ‘Z’ first attracted attention several weeks ago when it was painted a few feet high on the sides of thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles gathered along the Russian border with Ukraine.

In Russia, the letter then began to appear everywhere. There are Z stickers on the back of cars and utility vehicles, and a talk show pundit recently appeared wearing a T-shirt with a big white Z on it.

Some company logos and newspaper names containing a Z have manipulated the letter to make it prominent. An advertising campaign using billboards in major cities featured a large Z created from a black and orange ribbon, the St. George ribbon, which is a symbol of the Russian military.

It is not uncommon for vehicles dedicated to a military campaign to display an easily identifiable mark – US Army vehicles used to repel the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait were painted with a large white chevron, for example. Seeing it spread among civilians is another matter.

The campaign’s ubiquity led many to conclude that it was an orchestrated effort by the Kremlin to drum up support for the war, not least because it resembled so many previous efforts. It was accompanied by a hashtag echoing past wars: “We don’t abandon ours. (As with soldiers.)

“It’s definitely a state-induced meme,” said Vasily Gatov, a Russian-American media analyst based in Boston. “There are always people receptive to this kind of message.” He noted that there was a small army of propagandists paid to spread the meme on social media to give it a false appearance of popularity.

The fact that some of the usual suspects lined up added to the sense of government coordination.

Mary Butina was expelled from the United States in 2019 after being sent to prison for working as an unregistered agent for Russia. Now a member of the State Dumaor Parliament, she posted a video of herself drawing a white Z on the lapel of her suit jacket.

“Do your job, brothers,” she said in an apparent reference to Russian troops in Ukraine. “We will always support you.”

Public television network RT also broadcast the symbol.

Another online video showed what looked like a flash mob of young people in a factory or meeting room, wearing black T-shirts with a Z and dancing in formation amid a sea of ​​Russian flags. Similar videos have appeared in previous Kremlin campaigns, the only difference being the addition of the T-shirts.

Critics on social media didn’t miss the chance to point out that Hitler also mobilized thousands of blackshirted supporters, and some manipulated the letter Z to make it look like the Nazi swastika.

There is no doubt that some of the displays reflected genuine support. On Saturday, for example, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak wore a Z on his uniform during a competition in Qatar that also included Ukrainian gymnasts. The Russian head coach and some fellow Russian gymnasts publicly defended him, even as the sport’s international governing body opened disciplinary proceedings.

The symbol has also been deployed as a threat: Anton Dolin, a prominent film critic who left Russia because of his opposition to the war, posted on Facebook a photo of a giant white Z that someone had painted bomb on the door of his apartment, which he called an effort to intimidate.

Curiously for a nationalist symbol, the Z used is the Latin alphabet version. The Russian version, from the Cyrillic alphabet, is more rounded, like a 3.

After weeks of speculation about what it meant, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it came from the preposition “Za”, the first word of the Russian phrase “Za pobedu”, or “For victory”.

That explanation appeared to have sparked a heated exchange Monday at the United Nations Security Council, where Ukraine’s Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said the “Z” actually stands for “zveri,” which means beasts or animals in Russian. His Russian counterpart, Vasily Nebenzya, replied that Russians have their own opinion on the identity of animals.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The letter "Z", a symbol of support for the war, is spreading throughout Russia
The letter "Z", a symbol of support for the war, is spreading throughout Russia
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