The 26th letter of the alphabet
As easy as АБВ
North, South, Vostok and Zapad
Z is for...
Victory and truth
The Z Man
The Ribbon of St. George
Remembrance
Supporting Putin
Banning the ribbon
Fascination towards the last letter
Z that stands for Zorro
'He lives'
Shortest movie title
Comic book villain
Real-life villain?
Q before Z
The Q-Files
Q & (lack of) A
Into the storm
The Lost Meaning of Z
Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(1/21)
The 26th letter of the alphabet

Just a few days after the Ukrainian invasion began, a mysterious symbol emerged all over Russia. The letter Z, and to a lesser extent O and V, was first seen in Russian tanks and military personnel but soon grew to become a symbol of the war itself. But what does Z means?

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(2/21)
As easy as АБВ

Making things even more mysterious, the letter Z doesn’t even exist in the Cyrillic alphabet, which is how Russian is written. Its equivalent would be the letter (З). Why Z if it’s not even Russian?

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(3/21)
North, South, Vostok and Zapad

One theory commented by the BBC is that Z stands for “Zapad” (запад), which is the Russian word for “West”. This would explain why some tanks are marked V, which would be for “Vostok” (восток), “East” in Russian.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(4/21)
Z is for...

Another theory pointed out by Al Jazeera Is that the Russian word for “for” (за) is rendered as “Za” in the Latin alphabet, allowing all sorts of interpretations. “For Putin”, “For Justice”, “For the Motherland”, etc.

Pictured: People carrying a banner with the message “For Putin” during a concert in Moscow in celebration of the annexation of Crimea.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(5/21)
Victory and truth

The Russian Ministry of Defense, highlights The Guardian, hinted on social media that it means “For Victory” while V would supposedly stand for “Our strength is in truth”.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(6/21)
The Z Man

An early attempt to decipher Z on Russian state media cited by The New Yorker argues that V and Z might stand for Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine who is heading the resistance against Russia’s invasion.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(7/21)
The Ribbon of St. George

The symbol is usually seen in black and orange, colors associated with the Ribbon of St. George, one of the most important military decorations of Imperial Russia. The award has been revived by the Russian Federation.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(8/21)
Remembrance

Since the mid-2000s, it has become customary to wear the ribbon around Victory Day to show respect and support to the veterans, similar to how people in the UK wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(9/21)
Supporting Putin

Nonetheless, the ribbon has evolved to become a symbol to represent support to Putin and the Russian military.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(10/21)
Banning the ribbon

The use of the black-and-orange ribbon by pro-Russian groups in Crimea and the Donbas led to its prohibition by the Ukrainian government in 2017.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(11/21)
Fascination towards the last letter

Throughout history, the twenty-sixth letter of the English alphabet has been a shorthand for a myriad of things. The most memorable is probably Zorro.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(12/21)
Z that stands for Zorro

A masked swashbuckler in colonial California, the character created by Johnston McCulley in 1919 was one of the inspirations of Batman and has been played through the years by Douglas Fairbanks, Guy Williams, and Antonio Banderas (pictured).

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(13/21)
'He lives'

During the time of the military junta in Greece (1967-1974), Z became a symbol of protest, the letter is a homophone to “He lives”, a reference to assassinated politician Grigoris Lambrakis.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(14/21)
Shortest movie title

The death of Lambrakis would be the basis of the 1969 movie 'Z', by Greek filmmaker Costa-Gravas.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(15/21)
Comic book villain

On a lighter note, Z is also the symbol of Zorglub, a recurring villain of the French-Belgian comics ‘Spirou et Fantasio’.

Image: Dupois

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(16/21)
Real-life villain?

French right-wing politician Éric Zemmour played with this for the title and cover of his book 'Z comme Zemmour', published in 2011.

Image: Le Cherche Midi.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(17/21)
Q before Z

However, the use of a seemingly random but memorable letter leading to lots of talk about secret codes brings to mind Donald Trump and the QAnon conspiracy.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(18/21)
The Q-Files

Q was supposedly an insider from his administration, sharing information to bring down a cabal that was conspiring against the US president.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(19/21)
Q & (lack of) A

Q became wildly popular in some internet circles, and his followers could be seen sporting the letter in Trump rallies. Trump’s evasive answers about Q only fueled more speculation.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(20/21)
Into the storm

The HBO documentary 'Q: Into The Storm' speculates that the supposed informer might have been just a conspiracy theorist running an internet forum. Whatever it was, there was nothing vast or meaningful behind it, but still convinced many to rally to the US Capitol.

Z is for Putin: What’s behind the mysterious letter shown in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
(21/21)
The Lost Meaning of Z

Meanwhile, the mystery around Z continues. “This is definitely a state-induced meme,” said Vasily Gatov, a Russian-American media analyst based in Boston, to The New York Times. “There are always people receptive to this kind of message.”

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