Hate Symbols

Groups and movements supporting intolerance and discrimination frequently use symbols to share and express their views. Such hate symbols can appear in graffiti, memes, printed materials, or tattoos. Often, they are part of the crime scene when used or worn by perpetrators of hate crimes. In addition to having meaning for people who use or display them, they can also be useful in understanding hate crimes and other bias-motivated abuses, helping society and law enforcement understand who perpetrated the crime and why.

According to data gathered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, hate crimes are increasing in Ukraine. Unfortunately, most hate and bias-motivated crimes in Ukraine go unpunished; many hate crimes are not even investigated by police or are investigated as ordinary crimes because signs of a hate motivation, such as the presence of a hate symbol, are not recognized.

In order for society and the government to more effectively recognize the presence and actions of groups and movements supporting intolerance and discrimination – especially the radical right-wing groups most active in organize hate-motivated violence – and the meaning of hate symbols associated with these groups and actions, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union created a database of hate symbols commonly used in Ukraine.

Organization of the Database

For each symbol, the database describes its general characteristics and a detailed analysis of how it is used. Symbols and logos associated with radical right-wing groups are also covered. Symbols selected include those associated with or used by the Nazis, neo-Nazis, well-known radical right-wing groups, and racist groups. The symbols and logos of Ukrainian radical right-wing groups due to those groups’ of symbols included in this database.

Some symbols in the database are not associated with radical right-wing ideas, but, because they are used by radical right-wing groups, they are on their way to having such associations and being hate symbols. In any case, the presence of such symbols at a crime scene is a sign that the perpetrators may have had a hate motivation.

While the authors consulted similar well-known databases (such as those created by the Anti-Defamation League, the Fare network, and the UK Police) while selecting symbols to include in the database, the decision to include a symbol in this database was made exclusively by the authors.

The symbols in the database are used in Ukraine by radical right-wing organizations, groups, and individuals. While the most commonly used symbols are described in detail, the text also mentions other less frequently used symbols.

The entry for each symbol includes:

  • Common and alternative names
  • Depictions of the symbol, including a depiction of how it is most frequently used or known, as well as additional depictions of variants
  • Depictions of similar symbols not considered hate symbols
  • Description of the symbol’s origin, including its original historical meaning (if any)
  • Description of usage as a hate symbol and otherwise
  • Use not as a hate symbol or without understanding its meaning

The database of hate symbols was prepared by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, in partnership with Freedom House, to educate the public and others about hate symbols commonly used and seen in Ukraine. A full booklet describing the most used hate symbols in Ukraine and their use was prepared by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and is available in Ukrainian here.

Select and Download Symbol Factsheet(s)

Select and Download Symbol Factsheet(s)