Banning the ‘Z’ Symbol in CEE Will Backfire

A Hypocritical Blurred Line of Legitimation

12 May 2022

Miles R. Maftean

Editorial Director, Visegrad Insight

Banning the Latin letter — as several European countries have done — while legitimate on the grounds of practical security, will not win any ideological war.

In April, Germany banned the Z symbol from public display for principled reasons, arguing that it was a declaration of war to liberal democracy, followed quickly by Lithuania and Estonia, who offered a different rationale based on practical security concerns. While legitimate, these attempts will not save democracy from itself and puts us on a slippery slope of justifications.

The infamous ‘Z’ symbol first displayed on Russian military vehicles taking part in the invasion of Ukraine has been heralded as the new emblem in support of Russian troops. From flash mobs organised at schools and universities to displays on buildings and merchandise sold online, the pompous exhibition of such a symbol spreads hate and extremist viewpoints. 

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Miles R. Maftean

Editorial Director, Visegrad Insight

A political theorist whose work examines the rise of political extremism and illiberal politics in Central and Eastern Europe. He has a Ph.D. from Central European University where he researched how democratic states respond to the current populist crisis of pluralist democracy.

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