‘Z’. How Russia transformed a letter of the Latin alphabet into the official (and ominous) symbol of its invasion of Ukraine

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The first photos and videos featuring Russian military vehicles with an unknown marking on their sides appeared on social media several weeks before the start of the war. Most often, it was the letter Z, either inside of a box or without it; there were also V’s. The letters were most likely tactical markings referring to Russia’s various military districts. Then, in a matter of days, Z and V (but especially Z) essentially became the official symbol of Moscow’s “special military operation.” Whose idea was it to make Z one of the key elements of Russian propaganda? No one knows for sure. The organizers of the rallies and allegedly spontaneous flash mobs across the country, tasked with depicting nationwide support for the invasion, don’t actually know what Z means. Meduza found a man who claims it was his and his associates’ idea, commandeered by the state propaganda machine. 

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