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Russian Criminals Tattoo

Russian Criminals Tattoo

Russian Criminals Tattoo

Russian Criminals Tattoo. The tattoo for a long time has been used mostly for identification, authentication. Meanwhile, tattoos contain more detailed information, they tend to close (its symbolism, plot), the criminal in spirit, in his specialization in a particular criminal case, to the place he holds in the criminal hierarchy. If you decode these pictures on the body, they can tell a lot about the tastes of their carriers, to give some biographical information. The Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive, founded by FUEL design group based in London in 2009, is a tattoo collection that comprises 739 original drawings by Danzig Baldaev and the photographs of Russian prisoners taken by Sergei Vasiliev, born in 1937 in Chelyabinsk, Russia. FUEL – the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia published in three volumes in 2003, 2006 and 2008 respectively. The books are part of the permanent collection of the Design Museum, London. Vasiliev photographed between 1989 and 1993 in prisons and reform settlements in Russia – Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Tagil, Perm and St. Petersburg.

Mikhail Kovanev, poet, artist and musician

Mikhail Kovanev, poet, artist and musician

Mikhail Kovanev, poet, artist and musician, was serving a sentence of fifteen years for murder. He claimed he was innocent of this charge. Every part of his body was covered with tattoos, many of his own design. The eyes on the stomach mean that he was a homosexual (the penis makes the ‘nose’ of the face). In the colony he became a drug addict and was subsequently killed.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

ext above Lenin reads ‘Wake up Ilyich (Lenin)’, above the tiger ‘They (criminals) are getting brazen’.

Traditionally tattoos bearing images of Lenin and Stalin were usually tattooed onto the chest, it was a commonly held belief that Communist firing squads were not permitted to shoot at an image of their leaders. Text above Lenin reads ‘Wake up Ilyich (Lenin)’, above the tiger ‘They (criminals) are getting brazen’.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

tattoo on the shoulder of a spider in a cobweb can carry different meanings

The tattoo on the shoulder of a spider in a cobweb can carry different meanings: if the spider is climbing up the web then the bearer of the tattoo is fully committed to a life of crime, if it is climbing down the wearer is attempting to break free of their criminal lifestyle.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

This convict’s tattoos were applied in the camps of the Urals where the tattoo artists produce work of exceptional quality.

This convict’s tattoos were applied in the camps of the Urals where the tattoo artists produce work of exceptional quality. Because they were so held in such high regard, criminals often attempted to be transferred there in order to be tattooed. The dollar bill on the shoulder signifies the bearer’s commitment to a life of crime.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

This convicts apparently random tattoos denote his rank within the criminal world

This convicts apparently random tattoos denote his rank within the criminal world. They embody a thief’s complete ‘service record’, his entire biography, detailing all of his achievements and failures, his promotions and demotions, his ‘secondments’ to jail and his ‘transfers’ to different types of ‘work’. A thief’s tattoos are his ‘passport’, ‘case file’, ‘awards record’, ‘diplomas’ and ‘epitaphs’. In this world a man with no tattoos has no social status whatsoever. Across the chest ‘Death is not vengeance / the dead don’t suffer’. On the arms ‘I live in sin / I die laughing’. 1990. Corrective Labor Colony No.8.
Chelyabinsk Region.

Orthodox religious tattoos

Orthodox religious tattoos

Orthodox religious tattoos are still among the most popular among criminals today. The crucifix and the Madonna and Child, depicted in the Orthodox tradition of icon painting, meant ‘my conscience is clean before my friends’, ‘I will not betray’. The Madonna signified ‘prison is my home’ – that the wearer was a multiple offender and recidivist. The number of domes on the tattoo of a church indicates the number of convictions. If a dome was adorned with a cross, it meant that the sentence had been served in full. As well as being a totem of a pickpocket, the scarab beetle is considered to bring luck to the wearer, these are usually tattooed on the hands, rarely (as in this image) they appear on other parts of the body.
1990. General Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.5.
Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The tattoos across the eyelids

The tattoos across the eyelids read ‘Do not / Wake me’. The genie on the forearm is a common symbol of drug addiction. If an addict is imprisoned for drug offenses, he or she will have to go through withdrawal in the ‘zone’ (prison). Epaulette tattoos (on the shoulders) display the criminal’s rank in a system that mirrors that of the army (major, colonel, general etc).
1990. General Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.5.
Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

This inmate was convicted for drug related crimes. ‘Gott mit uns’: ‘God with us’ was a rallying cry of both the Russian empire and the Third Reich. The Nazi Iron Cross expresses ‘I don’t care about anybody’.

This symbol of aggression and insubordination is often tattooed on the chest tattooed as if hung on a chain. The barbed wore on the forehead denotes that the bearer ‘will never be corrected’.
1991. Corrective Labor Colony No.5.
Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The tattoo on the neck reads ‘I don’t need happiness’, beneath the neck ‘I live in sin, I die laughing’.

The scar on this criminals face is usually forcibly applied as a punishment to any convict who has informed or betrayed his fellow inmates. 1991. Strict Regime Corrective Labour Colony No.40.
Kungur, Perm Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

Text under the eyes reads ‘Full / of Love’; on the chin ‘Danger of Death’; around the neck ‘To each his own’; above each head of the double-headed snake ‘Wife’ and ‘Mother-in-law’; on the chest ‘It is not for you whores, to dig in my soul’; on his arm ‘Communists, suck my dick for my ruined youth’.

1993. Strict Regime Forest Camp Vachel Settlement.
Penza Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The tattoo on the chest is a ‘grin’ at the authorities, the text above and below reads ‘If I can’t crush them with my strength / I will crush them with my rage’.

The number of barbs on the wire equal the number of years in the sentence. The manacles on this prisoners wrist signify a sentence of five years or longer.
1992. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.12.
Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The dagger through the neck shows that the prisoner committed murder while in prison, and that he is available to ‘hire’ for further murders.

The bells on the feet indicate that he served his time in full (‘to the bell’), the manacles on the ankles mean that the sentences were over five years. ‘Ring’ tattoos on the fingers show the status of the criminal when the rest of his body is covered. The ‘thieves’ stars’ on the knees carry the symbolic meaning ‘I will not kneel before the police’.
1991. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.40.
Kungur, Perm Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The eyes on the top of the chest signify ‘I can see everything’ and ‘I am watching’.

Text across the chest reads ‘Son of the criminal world’. This photograph shows tattoos in a combination of old and new styles. In the ‘new’ style a large number of almost random images on the convict’s body. In the ‘traditional’ style there is one large central tattoo on the chest, filling as much space as possible.
1992. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.6.
Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The text across the chest reads: ‘O Lord, forgive me for the tears of my mother’. On the right side of the bearers chest is tattooed 100-ruble note, usually signifying involvement in counterfeiting and commitment to criminal life.

1989. Special Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.14.
Puksinka Settlement, Sverdlovsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

Here the text reads ‘They’re / Sleeping’.

Tattoos on the eyelids are made by inserting a metal spoon under the lid so that the ‘needle’ doesn’t penetrate the eye. Here the text reads ‘They’re / Sleeping’. It is common for this type of tattoo to personify the part of the body on which they appear, for example tattoos across the feet might say ‘They’re tired / of walking’.
1992. Corrective Labor Colony No.6.
Farnosovo, Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The text on the ankle reads ‘100 thousand kilometers without a major overhaul’ (referring to the distance walked by the prisoner).

The eye signifies that the bearer is always on guard. The thieves cross tattooed on the knee means ‘I will not kneel before the police’.
1990. Corrective Labor Colony No.8.
Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

A group of convicts imprisoned for drug-related crimes.

A group of convicts imprisoned for drug-related crimes. Convict (left) on both arms: ‘I live in sin / I die laughing’. Images of demons and monsters are intended to intimidate other inmates and give significance to the bearer within his circle. Convict (centre) German text below the neck: ‘God with us’; on the left arm: ‘Hurry up and live’. The sailing ship on the forearm signifies a lust for freedom and that the bearer is a potential escapee. Convict (right) on upper arm: ‘Keep love’; on forearm: ‘KRAB’: Klyanus Rezat Aktivistov i Blyadey (I swear to kill activists and sluts). The rose on the shoulder means that the bearer turned eighteen in prison.
1991. Corrective Labor Colony No.5.
Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The tiger and the text ‘Killer’ (in English) tattooed on the hand symbolize the bearer’s aggression.

His ring tattoos signify he is a high-ranking thief and an anarchist, who ‘will never be corrected’. In this colony they make and sell wooden items that are in great demand. He was killed by his fellow inmates for refusing to contribute money to the ‘community kitty’.
1992. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.12.
San-Donato Station, Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

A palm tattoo from a convict detained in this famous prison (constructed in 1890).

Beetles, ants, cockroaches, bumblebees, flies, and spiders (without cobwebs) are the symbols of pickpockets. Palm tattoos carrying texts of brief threats and insults (‘Shut up, bitch!’, ‘Beat the party activists!’) were widespread in the late 1940s and mid 1950s.
1992. Isolation Cell Block No.1, Prison No.1.
The ‘Crosses’. St. Petersburg.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

An authoritative, ‘legitimate’ thief.

An authoritative, ‘legitimate’ thief. The tattoo on the chest is a portrait tattoo of a loved one, the text in the clouds left and right reads ‘Curse you Communists / for my wasted youth’. Text above reads ‘Give me freedom / I will become more honest’.
1991. Corrective Labor Colony No.40.
Kungur, Perm Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The Latin text on the handle of the knife reads ‘As long as I breathe, I hope’.

The knife through the neck shows that this criminal committed murder in prison and is available to hire for further murders. The drops of blood can signify the number of murders committed. The Latin text on the handle of the knife reads ‘As long as I breathe, I hope’.
1992. Corrective Labor Colony No.5.
Obukhovo, St Petersburg.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

The swastika in the thieves star tattooed on the knee is a symbol of aggression against the authorities. It means the bearer ‘will never be corrected’, and ‘it’s better to be in the SS than the Communist Party’.

The fetters on the ankle signify a sentence of five years or longer, if they are broken it means the prisoner was on the run. The dagger through the fetter on the forearm symbolises revenge against the prosecutor.
1990. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.6.
Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

Text across the chest reads ‘As long as I breathe, I hope’.

The turbaned man clutching a knife in his mouth indicates an inclination to brutality, sadism, and a negative attitude toward activists – prisoners who openly collaborate with prison authorities (also often a pirate). The Latin text on the shoulder reads ‘Remember your mortality’.
1992. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony.
Sosva, Sverdlovsk Region

Russian Criminals Tattoo

German text across the chest reads ‘To each his own’.

German text across the chest reads ‘To each his own’. The SS insignia symbolizes aggression against the authorities. The Madonna and Child, depicted in the Orthodox tradition of icon painting, means ‘my conscience is clean before my friends’, and ‘I will not betray’.
1990. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.6.
Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk Region.

Russian Criminals Tattoo

A high-ranking, authoritative thief.

In the early 1950s, it became customary for thieves to tattoo dots or small crosses on the knuckles, the number of dots indicating the number of terms. The punishment for the slightest attempt to position oneself as a legitimate or to wear an undeserved tattoo was severe. At best, the tattoo would be removed with sandpaper or a razor, but it was not uncommon for the offender to be raped or killed. Convicts were even punished for tattooing more dots on their hands than sentences they had served, or for wearing a ring tattoo with the symbol of a crime they hadn’t committed. German text on the top of his right arm reads ‘God with us’. Latin text on the forearm ‘Remember your mortality’. Text on the fingers of the left hand reads ‘BARS’: (literally ‘lynx, snow leopard’), Bey Aktiv, Rezh Suk (beat up activists, kill bitches); underneath this ‘No Salvation, No Happiness’.
1989. Strict Regime Corrective Labor Colony No.9.
Gorelovo Settlement, Leningrad Region.

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