The logo first spread on social media and was used by many young people in Russia, as a sticker on cars or painted on the streets.
Shortly after its tanks rolled into Ukraine last spring, Russia’s “Z” symbol became an emblem for its conquest of Kiev.
To promote the craft, Russian authorities filmed terminally ill children making a Z shape outside a hospital in the southwest of the country, while Russian gymnast Ivan Kulyak was banned for a year from the sport after displaying the symbol on his clothes on the podium.
The exponential rise of this slogan is causing a sensation in 2022, making headlines all over the world.
But the use of this character seems to have decreased in recent months. Twitter users noted his conspicuous absence from the Russian military parade during D-Day.
In this context, Emily Ferris, a specialist in Russian affairs at the Royal Institute for Studies, said that “there are a number of factors that have led to the decline in the use of this slogan by Russia.”
“The Z symbol grew naturally, and when the war began, it was not a symbol of the state. But in the end the state took control of it,” Ferris explained, speaking to Euronews.
And she considered that the reason behind the officials’ adoption of the symbol was due to its “versatility”, especially given Moscow’s ability to mobilize the Russian street by using it.
Governments have long adopted symbols and reinterpreted them to serve their goals. One of the most famous examples is Nazi Germany’s use of the swastika, which was transformed from an ancient symbol into a Nazi emblem.
The end of the war?
Part of the reason for Z’s potential decline is that, like many social trends, after rapid growth the craze for it naturally subsides.
The slogan spread for the first time on social media and was used by many young people in Russia, as it was placed as a sticker on cars or painted on the streets.
Ferris saw that “this slogan in its infancy was youthful, emanating from the enthusiasm of this group, but after its adoption by the Russian army, it has lost its luster and attractiveness.”
“It’s not the problem that the country has a logo that was started by citizens. But when the government starts forcing children to form the letter ‘Z’, it takes the fun out of the idea that created the logo.”
It was remarkable with the beginning of the Russian invasion that the letter used did not belong to the Russian alphabet, but rather to Latin, which was a surprise at first.
Banners during warfare are common, like banners, rallying forces behind one thing. “It’s important to have something that you can unite behind,” Ferris said. “It defines you as being within a certain group.”
According to Ferris, another reason why the Z token has not remained popular is that Russia now has other ways of mobilizing people.
And she continued: “The authorities have more effective ways to mobilize the public behind the war, and in the “Putinian ideology” country, this is done in schools and on television.”
At the same time, Ferris reasoned, the decline of Code Z could mark a fundamental shift in Russia’s attitude toward the war, with the Kremlin likely looking to negotiations in the future.