Tom Harwood: Counter Putin's Z with Churchill's V for victory

Tom Harwood: Counter Putin's Z with Churchill's V for victory
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Tom Harwood

By Tom Harwood

Published: 07/03/2022

- 10:38

Updated: 07/03/2022

- 10:45

'We are seeing a merging of the two great totalitarian evils of the last century'

Now I want to talk to you about symbols. Totalitarian symbols. And a haunting echo of the nationalist collectivism we thought had been left behind in the 20th century.

If you have been keeping a keen eye on footage emanating from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, on TV and of course on social media, you may have noticed the Russians have been adorning their military hardware with a new symbol.

The letter Z.

Yes, you’ll see it painted on Russian Army lorries and armoured vehicles as they slug their way through Ukraine. You'll see it brandished by Russian troops on their uniforms and vehicles. You’ll see it in propaganda videos, and you’ll even see it increasingly within the Russian Federation as well.

Russian civilians wanting to show their support for Putin’s regime and his war of aggression, have painted the letter Z on their cars and their vans.

And at a a Gymnastics World Cup event in Doha over the weekend, Russian athlete Ivan Kuliak prominently wore the symbol on his shirt after being poetically beaten by a Ukrainian competitor - Illia Kovtun – who won gold.

The rapid spread of this letter Z – one that does not appear in the Russian alphabet – is hauntingly evocative.

Not just the fact of a new, easy to daw, easy to recognise symbol representing an expansionist totalitarian regime – but down to the sharp angular lines of the thing.

There is something distinctly fascistic about it.

Like a new rune to represent Putin’s warped interpretation of history. His attempt to build an ethnocentric cult within a militaristic state with no free media no free assembly, and no free thought.

We are seeing a merging of the two great totalitarian evils of the last century. To me Putin, his imperialism, and his symbolism represent a fusing of Stalinism and Naziism. A one man Moltov Ribbentrop pact.

And he needs this symbolism because his war of aggression is not going exactly to plan. Poor logistics, weak supply lines, and no lighting attack. Putin will need more men and more motivation to succeed, and that is where this disturbing propaganda comes in.

Now, according to Kamil Galeev, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Z stands for either ‘Za pobedy’ (meaning for victory), or even Zapad (meaning West).

Yes, we have moved beyond hammers, sickles, and swastikas. The totalitarian cause in Europe now marches under the letter Z.

So to my mind if we are back in this age of symbols we thought we had left behind – is there any better symbol to counter Putin’s Z with than the old Churchillian V for victory.

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