Z is for Zeitgeist

American readers of a certain age will remember when Z stood for “Zorro”. Some years after that it stood for “He lives”, at least in Greece. In Germany today, however, Z represents something so doubleplus ungood that the letter must be completely extirpated, and those who use it must be prosecuted.

Many thanks to Hellequin GB for translating this article from Die Welt:

Federal states take action against Russian “Z” symbol

The “Z” is considered a sign of approval for the Russian war against Ukraine. Lower Saxony and Bavaria are already taking action. The public use of the symbol, for example during demonstrations, is now punishable there. NRW and Berlin are now following suit and are examining the consequences under criminal law.

More and more federal states are taking action against the “Z” symbol, the symbol of support for the Russian army in the Ukraine war. Lower Saxony and Bavaria ordered that the public use of the symbol in Germany, for example in demonstrations, be punishable. Up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine are possible. North Rhine-Westphalia announced on Sunday that it would examine criminal consequences.

Berlin is also taking action against the “Z” symbol. “If the context of the war is created with the use of the white Z, as can be seen on the Russian military vehicles, then of course that means advocating a war of aggression,” Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) told Der Tagesspiegel on Monday. “That would be a punishable offence, so we’ll intervene immediately.”

In Russia, the Latin letter “Z” appears in many places in public spaces. It is easy to recognize as a symbol because it does not exist in the Cyrillic alphabet. Numerous Russian military vehicles also bear the “Z”.

The “Z” is shown on buildings, cars or clothing to show approval of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Interior Ministry said in Hanover. There have also been “corresponding observations” in Lower Saxony.

Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) explained that anyone who uses the “Z” symbol to publicly express approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine must expect criminal consequences in Lower Saxony. “It is absolutely incomprehensible to me that the stylized ‘Z’ can be used even here to condone these crimes.”

Bavaria’s Minister of Justice Georg Eisenreich (CSU) warned: “Sympathizers who publicly use the ‘Z’ mark of the Russian armed forces in Bavaria” could be liable to prosecution for approving criminal offences.

Reul: “I don’t understand it at all”

The basis for the actions of the federal states is paragraph 140 number two of the Criminal Code. According to this, behavior is punishable if it is to be understood as publicly flaunted approval of aggressive wars and is likely to disturb public peace. Eisenreich also mentioned Paragraph 13 of the International Criminal Code, which deals with “crimes of aggression”. “We do not accept international crimes being condoned,” the minister said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) told the Rheinische Post (Monday edition) that Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine was causing “unspeakable” suffering. “I have absolutely no understanding of how these crimes could be condoned.”

The white “Z” is often seen on Russian military vehicles during combat operations in Ukraine. The sign is now also shown outside the war zone to express approval for the Russian attack.

The letter appeared a few weeks ago on Russian tanks advancing towards Ukraine. Items of Russian military equipment were probably marked in this fashion so that the soldiers could distinguish them from Ukrainian ones. Whether the Latin letter also has a meaning in Russian is not certain.

One theory says that it could be the first letter of the word “Zapad” (“West”). This could mean the direction of movement of the troops or that the tanks are from western parts of the country. Some also see a nod to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose surname is transliterated with a “Z” in many languages.

Afterword from the translator:

Then the “O” and the “V” will probably soon be banned, because the Russian military also uses these two letters for their vehicles and units as identifiers for the areas of the invasion of Ukraine, the “Z” for (southeast/Donbas). One can only hope that the war will end as quickly as possible, and that Putin does not have the letters changed, thus putting the entire alphabet to the test in Germany.

15 thoughts on “Z is for Zeitgeist

    • We Brits were, and remain, very political; I remember my American manager at Tower Records (remember them?) in London in 1986 commenting on this. Maybe it was, at least in part, because our mainstream media, despite it’s generally leftwing bias, offered better coverage of worldwide affairs than any others, especially from the US, whose media remain remarkably parochial.

      This remains so; whatever you may think about the BBC’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict, and despite cutbacks, several of their top reporters are in Kiev, or elsewhere in Ukraine, putting themselves in potential danger.

      • Oops: “it’s” needs no apostrophe in this context; my old English teacher (the most decent in my senior school) would have said something. I blame the beer.

  1. Can we talk about the letter “A”? I feel offended because one notorious insult begins with this letter. And what about the entire alphabet?
    The “P”? Didn’t the NaSis cheer with a “Prost”? Or eat a “W”urst along with it? Go on and find out.

    • If I were Putin I’d be using the whole Alphabet.
      Just imagine how it would twist their knickers into a massive Gordian knot. One they cannot undo by virtue-signalling, and that’s the only thing German Politicians and their following Sheople are really good at.
      It would, by their own twisted definition of logic, shut them up for good, if they don’t want to be called Nazis, since everyone is a Nazi that disagrees with them.
      And then imagine the blissful silence, because the spoken word has letters too, no more propaganda 24/7.

      • Scrawl the tanks with LGTBQXYZ123.

        Then everytime some wokerati wanted to flatulate it’s support of perverts it wouldn’t be able to for fear of suggesting support of Putin’s special operation.

      • Z is not actually a letter in the Russian alphabet – just one that Russian army used, to mark their invasion forces. It’s not the only one though: V, X and O (I think) were also used. No idea why it was “Z” that became the symbol of the invasion.

  2. Lithuania also wants to ban the letter Z:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.express.co.uk/news/world/1585327/EU-news-lithuania-russia-war-ukraine-z-symbol-Nazi-swastika/amp

    Estonia wants to ban the letter Z:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/hindustannewshub.com/russia-ukraine-news/estonian-authorities-are-going-to-ban-the-sign-z-and-other-pro-russian-symbols-the-moscow-times/%3famp=1

    Latvia already has banned the letter Z:

    https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/7682226/latvia-outlaws-use-of-letter-z-as-symbol/

    And I read something, somewhere about Poland wanting to ban it too…

    Since the Polish language uses the letter Z probably more than any other, banning it here might cause even more problems…

    However, as I understand in most cases “banning the letter Z” won’t actually mean you can’t use it or display it – unless it’s in a context which obviously supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Similarly to how most of these countries already ban certain other symbols of military aggression, such as the Swastika.

      • There’s z (in Russian, З), ź (I found Ukrainians write this as Зь, as in my city, Лодзь ), and że and rz (both sound like Ж ).

        Particularly with the last 2, sometimes it can get confusing which form should be used… and if someone uses the wrong one, other Poles will take great joy pointing out how uneducated that person is!

  3. The “special operation” (as it is called in Russia, otherwise – a prison) is arranged in such a way that Putin tied up ALL the top of Russia as his accomplices. There are no forces left in the elites that could arrange a political coup.
    It’s scary to say the word against. Recently, a priest was arrested who spoke out against the war. They did not kill him on the spot. But they issued a fine that he would have to work out for 10 years.

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