Status: 03.10.2023, 22:23 p.m.
By: Bettina Menzel
The letter Z on a self-propelled howitzer Msta-S of the Russian army © IMAGO/Dmitry Makeev/SNA
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also had to put up with criticism from within his own ranks in the Ukraine war. Now a Kremlin friend is attacking the "Z" symbol.
Moscow – The "Z" symbol is emblazoned on Russian tanks and uniforms and has stood for the Russian offensive, which violates international law, since the beginning of the Ukraine war. Alexander Dugin, the Russian president's mastermind, lashed out against the Z symbol on Telegram on Sunday (1 October), and received encouragement from other propagandists. Last year, the war advocate had already openly criticized the Kremlin chief.
Propaganda in the Ukraine war: According to war advocate Alexander Dugin, Z is a "bad symbol"
The Z is a bad symbol, the far-right Russian philosopher and political scientist wrote on Telegram. "It doesn't mean anything. This is a PR fake," Dugin said. Russia is fighting under the banner of the savior Vladlen Tatarsky. The ideologue was alluding to the Russian blogger and propagandist Vladlen Tatarsky, who was killed in a bomb attack. These people would not die for the symbol Z, the war advocate continued.
"They are dying for Russia, for Christ, for our people. That is what we need to say to everyone. It's time to throw off the shell of the 'Russian corporation'. Holy Russia, the great empire, is returning to history," Dugin wrote. Among other things, the ultra-nationalist ideologue advocates the idea of a "Eurasian Union", a federation of several countries "from Dublin to Vladivostok" under the leadership of Moscow.
Propagandist: Inadequate symbols suggest "inadequate decisions"
Another Russian propagandist, political scientist Sergei Markov, agreed with Alexander Dugin in his criticism of the Z symbol. "A symbol should reflect goals and warm the soul," Markov wrote on Tuesday in a guest article in the Russian medium Publico. Therefore, it is necessary to choose symbols "that better correspond to the Russian soul and clearly emphasize its goals," says the propagandist.
Such "inadequate symbols" could also raise the question of whether "inadequate decisions are also being made on other issues," Markov said. "Replacing the symbols with more appropriate ones will deal a serious blow to our opponents," the propagandist believes.
Z symbol "foreign, incomprehensible and unrelated to Russian culture"
Sergei Kirienko, the deputy head of the presidential administration, may have come up with the Z symbol, speculates Kamil Galeev of the US think tank Woodrow Wilson Center on Platform X (formerly Twitter). Already last year, Galeev summed up the problem of the Z symbol in three points. It is foreign – there is no Z in the Russian alphabet – it is incomprehensible and it has "no references to Russian culture and tradition."
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Symbols "Z" and "V" stand for Russian invasion – and are initials of the Ukrainian president
Since the beginning of the war, Russian propaganda has used "V" in addition to the letter "Z", which, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, stands for the phrase "The power lies in the truth." However, the letters VZ are also the initials of the Ukrainian president in the English spelling: Volodymyr Zelenskyy. According to Markov, of course, this is just a coincidence. Nevertheless, "such coincidences" should have been gotten rid of long ago, the propagandist writes on Telegram, as quoted by Bayerischer Rundfunk, adding: "Stop promoting Zelensky."
A man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Z symbol stands in front of the headquarters of the Wagner Group in St. Petersburg. There, people laid flowers in memory of the late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. © IMAGO/Alexander Galperin/SNA
Dissenting voices on Dugin and Markov: Symbols too important to "play with"
But not everyone seems to be in favor of abolishing the Z symbol. The Z stands for the special operation, wrote the pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Oleh Tsarev on Telegram – and is too important to "play with". Abolishing the symbols now carries "the risk that people will be alienated. Those who fight under these symbols. Friends and relatives of those who have already died," Tsarev said.
It is still unclear whether the criticism of the Z symbol, which Alexander Dugin initiated, reveals deeper breaks with the elite in the Kremlin. When the Kremlin philosopher last spoke out with public criticism, the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) interpreted this as a possible beginning of an ideological break between the war advocates in Russia and Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin.