03/10/2022, 09.58
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'Z': Russian forces swastika in Ukraine

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Used as a universal symbol of support for the Russian government and its "special military operation" on Ukrainian soil. An artificial sign of Putin's totalitarianism. But young Russians do not lend themselves to the regime's propaganda.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After two weeks of war in Ukraine, the letter Z in the Latin alphabet has become the universal symbol of support for the Russian government and its "special military operation" in defence of the Donbass and Russian civilisation against Western invasion. The Z can be found on official websites, but also on large advertising screens in the centre of Russian cities with the words #SvoikhNeBrosaem, on public administration buildings, in front of museums and on people themselves, who reproduce it on their clothes, make-up and even manicure. "Z' stands for 'Za pobedu', Russian for 'For victory', the true ideal of the great Putinist Russia.

Critics call the Z the "new swastika", while supporters of the war see it as a symbol of support for the army engaged in operations to "liberate" Ukraine from "neo-Nazis" and agents of the West's strong powers. The leadership of the Russian army suggests that it is also the code for the whole operation, to indicate the special tactical troops marked precisely by the letter Z.

Since the first days of the Russian invasion of the Donbass and the whole of Ukraine, pictures of Russian soldiers, armaments and armoured vehicles marked with the letter Z, but also with V and other Latin letters have appeared on the web. During a flashmob in the squares of various Russian cities in support of the war, people gathered to form a letter Z, both on foot and in cars to be photographed by drones, and this has since become the hallmark of Putin's support for the war. In Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, the flashmob was even forced upon the children of the local orphanage, who were also arranged in the shape of a Z.

The new symbol is used to instil fear in opponents. In the last police search of the premises of the 'Memorial' association, which has been dissolved by court order, the officers took everything and left notes with the letter Z and the words 'Memorial, it's over'.

The Z is painted on the doors of the houses and flats of well-known anti-war protesters, such as the singers Pussy Riot and the film critic Anton Dolin. An anti-Putin journalist and singer, Igor Grigoriev, wrote on Telegram that 'the new swastika, the Z, is now invading all of Russia', and he was joined by the well-known Russian writer and columnist for the New Yorker, Maša Gessen, who said that 'graphically the Z looks more like the swastika than any other Soviet-derived symbol, such as the five-pointed star, the hammer and sickle or the red flag. In less than a week, the Z has become the symbol of the new Russian totalitarianism'.

Online, many people link the Z to the 'Wolfsangel', a German symbol similar to the rune 'Ehiwaz' and the Latin zeta, which represents a wolf-hunt hook, as the name already suggests. It was a symbol reproduced in the late Middle Ages on boundary stones in wooded areas, also as a talisman against wolf attacks, now identified with Ukrainian "neo-Nazis". It was actually used by some divisions of the SS and the Wermacht, precisely those who fought during the Second World War in Russia.

Only this time the symbol has been designed by Kremlin propaganda specialists, as several observers inside and outside Russia assure, suggesting that it is a spontaneous initiative of the Russian population. Advertising actions sponsored by the Kremlin in past years, in which the most prestigious foreign cars for sale on domestic markets were arranged in the shape of a Z at exhibitions, filmed by drones, are circulating on the web.

Young Russians on social networks do not use Z, which is considered a sign of the artificiality of this symbolism. The Kremlin is failing to secure the support of the majority of the population, especially the younger generation. As some experts say, 'you need martyr heroes, but then you have to admit that you are at war'.

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