Z on Russian Vehicles: Meaning and Origin

Jagran Josh takes a closer look at the Russian military symbol Z having differing explanations on its meaning and origins.
Z on Russian vehicles: Meaning and Origin
Z on Russian vehicles: Meaning and Origin

Z on Russian Vehicles Meaning: If you are keeping abreast of developments on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, you might have come across photos showing Russian military tanks with letter Z painted across their sides. But do you know what does it signify and Why is Russia using the Z symbol? 

What does Z on Russian vehicles signify?

The mysterious symbol Z handpainted on Russian military vehicles was first seen on February 19 when thousands of Russian troops were massed along the Ukrainian border. However, The Independent has quoted that the symbol is not new and was seen on Russian war vehicles when it annexed Crimea in 2014. 

Additionally, letters O, X, A and V have also been spotted on Russian military hardware ever since it began invading Ukraine. But what do they mean?

The Armed Forces of Ukraine has released the symbols and their respective meanings used by Russian forces amid the ongoing war. These are as follows:

1- Z: Russian forces from the Eastern Military District
2- Z enclosed in square: Russian forces from Crimea
3- O: Forces from Belarus
4- V: Russian Marines
5- X: Forces from Chechnya (Kadyrovtsy)
6- A: Special forces, including SOBR, Alpha Group, and the Special Operations Forces

There are other interpretations as well for letters Z and V. The letter Z can either stand for 'Za pobedy' meaning victory or 'Zapad' meaning west while 'V' stands for the power of truth. However, the letters V nor Z do not exist in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet. 

Although the Russian military has not yet commented on the theories doing round on social media, many believe that the symbol is used to identify Russian military vehicles and avoid friendly fire. Others speculate that the symbols are painted on vehicles to signify where the Russian forces are usually stationed. 

Also Read | Russia Country Profile: History, Capital City, Borders, Area, Population, Language, Currency & More

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How did the letter Z become a symbol of war for Russia?

To show support to Russian troops, the Kremlin-controlled international television network, RT, announced on its social media platforms about selling Z merchandise, including T-shirts and hoodies. Since then, thousands of pro-Russian protestors have been seen sporting the symbol. 

The images circulating online also show the letter Z painted on Soviet-era apartment blocks, personal vehicles, street advertisement signs, and students standing in a Z formation to support the invasion of Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, the Russian officers have pledged to include the letter Z in the names of their regions. Z symbols have also been painted on Ukrainian doors in areas annexed by Russian forces.

Recently, Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak who finished third in the parallel bars final at the Apparatus World Cup in Doha sported the symbol on the front of his outfit as he stood on the podium next to Ukrainian gymnast Illia Kovtun, who won the gold.

Russian political activist Maria Butina has also sported the Z symbol in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Resemblance to Nazi symbol

Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov drew a resemblance of the letter Z on Russian war vehicles to the symbol of the Nazis, Swastika. He added that there was a 'Z' station near the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where people were killed in masses, dating back to 1943.

Many have now started comparing the symbol Z with the swastika, the centrepiece of the Nazi flag, with many pejoratively nicknaming it as the 'Zwastika'. 

People are also calling out Putin for his denazification of Ukraine remark as the country that once suffered Hitler's onslaught is now using the same tactics against Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, many states have prohibited the symbols used by the Russian military from being displayed in public, with the Czech Republic considering the symbol Z equivalent to Swastika, Kazakhastan banning the symbols Z, V, and O, and Kyrgystan restricting the usage of symbol Z on vehicles in public. 

Also Read | Explained: What is Russia's problem with NATO and what does it have to do with the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war?

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