“Z”: the symbol of support for the Russian army invading public places

Since the beginning of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the letter “Z”, inscribed on Moscow tanks, has appeared in the public space of Russia: on cars, an athlete’s trunk and even on women’s nail polish.

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If there are several theories about its meaning, one thing is certain: it is a symbol of support for the Russian army, the appearance of which crystallizes feelings, for or against.

The letter “Z”, a Latin letter, not a Cyrillic letter, first appeared by drawing it on a Russian shield advancing toward or into Ukraine, possibly to distinguish it from similar Ukrainian equipment and to avoid friendly fire.

screenshot | CNN

But the recognition sign quickly became a symbol, and it spread on cars on the streets of Moscow, on clothes or in the profiles of Russians on social networks. It seems that the authorities want to encourage this phenomenon.

The Russian Ministry of Defense on its Instagram and Telegram pages rejected the message in several messages: “Za Pobedo” (“For Victory”), “Za Mir” (“For peace”), “Za Pravdo” (“For the truth”) , “Za Rossio” (“For Russia”).

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A demonstrator draws the letter “Z” on the ground at a rally in support of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in Belgrade on March 4, 2022 (AFP – Andrej ISAKOVIC)

Local media also published a picture taken from the sky of about sixty sick children, their families and caretakers forming the letter “Z” in the courtyard of their snowy residence in Kazan, Tatarstan.

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A few days later, 20-year-old Russian gymnast Ivan Kulyak climbed to the third step of the podium at the Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar, with the letter “Z” placed across his chest. Next to a Ukrainian athlete in the first step.

screenshot | CNN

The International Gymnastics Federation responded by calling for “disciplinary proceedings to be opened against Kolyak for his shocking behaviour”.

For his part, the young athlete declared to the Russian media that if I had to do it again “I would do the same”: “I saw it worn by our soldiers and looked at the meaning of the symbol. (…) I wanted to show my position. As an athlete, I will always fight for victory and I will play For peace “.

Among the theories about the meaning of “Z”, there is also a very small possibility that the first letter of the word “zapad”, which means “west” in Russian, is in reference to the Armed Forces of the Western District. from the country.

Finally, some also pointed out that it was the first letter of the name of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Either way, from politicians to celebrities to some influencer, everyone wants to show off their “Z”, which has become a symbol of loyalty to the Kremlin.

Thus, Roskomnadzor, a Russian media policeman, used the letter “Z” in his name on Telegram.

In many Russian regions, including outlying regions, flash mobs and other demonstrations of support multiplied under the slogan “We don’t abandon us,” with women’s choirs also singing the letter “Z” on the chest, and taxis displaying the letter “Z” in their windows. Or their cars parked in the shape of the letter “Z”.

A resident of Donetsk, a pro-Russian separatist city in eastern Ukraine, also posted on Instagram a picture of her fingernails painted black with a white “Z” on them.

And in Brnwall (south), a huge “Z” appeared in the snow, in the orange and brown of the St. George’s Ribbon, a symbol of military valor.


The hardworking minds have also discovered the right vein and now “Z” t-shirts are being sold online.

In the camp of opponents of military intervention, symbols are less visible in public space, even if small demonstrations take place daily despite the ban.

Peaceful slogans are sometimes painted on the walls in Moscow. But it was quickly erased.

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