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The meaning behind the “Z” that Russian soldiers are using in Ukraine

A pro-war symbol used by soldiers has popularized. This is its meaning.

A picture of a war tank with a letter “z” painted on its sides, school children forming such shape and even an athlete who decided to wear the letter on his uniform during the Winter Olympics have become viral images of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, but up to this day, no one can be sure what the “z” represents.

Just after the later images became viral on social media, people started speculating about its meaning. Mainly because in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet there is no letter like the “z”.

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It turns out, that this letter is becoming more and more a pro-war symbol, used mainly by Russian soldiers and the Russian state to address the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe.

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According to Emily Ferris a Russia and Eurasia research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the “Z” is a powerful and easily recognizable symbol, said to the BBC.

“Often with propaganda, the simplest things catch on the quickest,” she says. “It looks rather intimidating and quite stark. From an aesthetic perspective, it’s a very powerful symbol.”

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Moreover, the symbol used in military units helps identify the vehicles making sure troops are easily recognized by comrades, as Sergey Kuvykin, Russian special forces veteran explain to Russian magazine Life.

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This is far from being strange since military vehicles have had for years markings to help both soldiers and commanders identify themselves during combat. Maybe the most popular ones are the ones that belong to the Red Cross.

Some even speculate that the “z” stands for “zapad”, west in Russian, or even to “zhopa” (ass in Russian) which is a reference to Ukrainian resistance.

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However, one thing is sure, no one is 100% certain of why Russian troops and the Russian state started using this symbol that today has become a way to show support to Russia’s ongoing operations in Ukrainian territory. And that is not cool.

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