What Does the Russian War Symbol ‘Z’ Stand For?

After initially showing on Russian navy tools in Ukraine, the white “Z” has turn out to be one of many main symbols of the Ukrainian invasion.

Spreading from the battlefield to rallies to social media like wildfire, the white Z now represents pro-invasion sentiments and has been included into Kremlin-approved propaganda. But the place did it come from and does it have any deeper that means?

The image gained worldwide consideration because it was noticed throughout the invasion of Ukraine, emblazoned on the facet of Russian navy autos. Similar markings had been noticed years in the past on Russian tanks participating within the Syrian civil battle, in line with The Evening Standard. As such, many have deduced that the image is supposed to assist troopers on the bottom differentiate their facet’s autos from these of the enemy, lowering pleasant fireplace. It has additionally appeared spray-painted on doorways in Ukrainian areas efficiently captured by Russia.

russia z symbol
The white Z, as seen above, has turn out to be a significant pro-Russia image amid the continued invasion of Ukraine.
Andrej Isakovic/AFP through Getty Images

Professor Michael Clarke, former director for the assume tank, Rusi, spoke with Sky News in regards to the image’s potential use as a strategic indicator.

“Often these symbols will be location-based—they will be communicating where a unit is heading,” Clarke mentioned. “If they were only to mark the vehicles as being Russian, you could just use one symbol. The fact that they are different tells you more—they are probably signs which tell you which units are heading to the north-east or north-west of a district, for example.”

As Clarke talked about, a number of symbols have been employed on autos throughout the invasion of Ukrainian. According to Ukrainian navy intelligence, these are the symbols and who they point out forces are operated by: Z for Russia’s Eastern Military District, Z enclosed in a field for Crimea, O for Belarus, V for Marines, X for Chechnya, and A for Special Forces.

What led the Russian navy to decide on a Z, particularly, is unclear. Nothing just like the letter Z seems in Cyrillic, the written alphabet of the Russian language. Despite what some have speculated on-line, it isn’t utilized in reference to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Kamil Galeev, an impartial researcher and Galina Starovoitova fellow, offered some hypotheses about what the image might imply by way of spoken language.

“Z is a letter that Russian Military are putting on their vehicles departing to Ukraine,” Galeev wrote on Twitter. “Some interpret Z as Za pobedy (for victory). Others – as Zapad (West).”

In the identical Twitter thread, Galeev mentioned that the image has infiltrated Russian society, each pushed by the federal government as propaganda and embraced by some voluntarily.

“It found a lot of supporters,” he continued. “Many Russians are putting ‘Z’ on their cars – that’s totally voluntary and to my best knowledge nobody’s forcing them.”

Galeev additionally gave examples of companies utilizing the pro-invasion image, sharing a photograph of a funeral service van with a number of symbols affixed to it. Another picture he shared confirmed a Russian soldier utilizing badges taken from fallen Ukrainian troopers to type the Z.

Ivan Kuliak, a 20-year-old Russian gymnast, is among the many figures to attract heavy criticism and pushback for his use of the image. During his latest efficiency within the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar, Kuliak wore a white Z made out of tape on his uniform, even being photographed on the medal stand subsequent to a Ukrainian performer.

In response to this “shocking behavior,” International Gymnastics Federation introduced that it could be opening disciplinary proceedings towards Kuliak, which might doubtlessly see his bronze medal revoked.

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