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People walk inside a gift shop in central Moscow on April 4, 2022, next to T-shirts bearing Z letter - a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, and an inscription reading "Support Ours!" - The "Z", which has become a symbol of support for Russian military action in Ukraine, is widely used by Russian authorities and President Putin supporters, decorating building facades, bus doors, car windscreens and T-shirts. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Is This Why The Letter Z Is Being Used On Russian Tanks?
History - Science
The letter Z is not part of the Cyrillic alphabet used in languages like Russian and Ukrainian, but that didn't stop Russian supporters of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine from adopting it as a symbol. After appearing on Russian military vehicles during the early stages of the invasion, it quickly made its way into sports, social media, and merchandise in Russia.
It is likely that the Z was originally meant to help distinguish Russian tanks from their similar-looking Ukrainian counterparts. As for how it came to signify support for the war, some say it looks like a traditional symbol of support for the Russian government (the Ribbon of St. George), while the Russian Defense Ministry says it stands for “za pobedu,” or “for victory.”
According to researchers Catriona Kelly and Emily Ferris, the Z has become a favorite symbol to supporters of Putin's aims in Ukraine — not only because it is something they can rally behind, but also because it works well on many kinds of merchandise. As with all effective propaganda, it is simple, stark, and has aesthetic impact.