From Where We Are

Z: A mysterious new symbol is being used to show Russian support

The letter “Z” has shown up in many forms including schoolchildren posing in a “Z” formation in different parts of Russia.

This is a picture of a river in St. Petersburg, Russia covered in snow. There are buildings to the right and left of the river.

Much is still left to be known about an odd new symbol plaguing the newfound Russian front. Matthew Andrade has the story.

In the midst of the Russian war against Ukraine, an ominous new symbol has come out of the federation. This symbol is simply the letter “Z.”

The symbol has been plastered all over Russia tanks, parks, cars, buildings and other public structures. It has been dubbed the Russian shorthand word for “victory,” according to sources at CNN.

One thing to note is that “Z” doesn’t necessarily have a singular, homogeneous ideology. The letter has been worn by Russian communists, white supremacists and ordinary citizens alike. Most recently, it has been branded by 20-year old Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak directly after his loss to a Ukrainian gymnast. This image is drawing similar parallels to the Nazi salute at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

This “Z” moniker has drawn many parallels to the Nazi Swastika from historians and psychologists. Aric Toler, director of research and training at Bellingcat, suggests that the model for “Z” has “smart marketing” implications as well.

ARIC TOLER: It’s almost certainly some kind of tactical grouping. There are a million different theories about what the “Z” means, but I think it’s used for marking. It’s just easy to do, just like a square or a triangle.

Z. A letter that is not even featured in the Russian alphabet has managed to become the symbol of an unlawful invasion of a sovereign country. Even given its context of war, the letter has been dawned in even darker contexts than what has previously been mentioned.

For example, one image trending out of Russia in the city of Kazan this weekend showed terminally ill Russian children and their caregivers standing in this “Z” formation in the cold snow outside their hospice. A clear and dark propaganda effort.

This war is still very much in its infant stage. It is impossible to predict what other means of propaganda can be expected on the Russian front., however, this is yet the latest to do so.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Matthew Andrade.