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Russian prison tattoos

The Russian prison population is one of the largest in the world. From the mid-1960's to the 1980's, thirty-five million people were incarcerated, and of those, twenty to thirty million were tattooed. The tattoos display inmates' contempt for official justice and retribution-- phrases and images directly mock the political system and the absence of any possibility for "reform" within the jails. "For a convict, prison is a crime college," reads one typical statement. Convicted female gang members sometimes prefer the simple declaration, "People are wild animals." Images chosen by the prisoners borrow from popular art and the rich tradition of Russian icon painting. Churches, kittens, images of saints or the Madonna and Christ, portraits of Russian political leaders and Soviet architecture, death's heads and barbed wire are transmuted into a clandestine social and political language that can be decoded by fellow inmates and by ex- cons outside of the prison walls. For more infos, read this remarkable book.


carlito said...

i belive the last pic with the eyes in the pelvic area is a forced tattoo aplied by others to mock him and his crime or mark him as easy to rape

Anonymous said...

The eyes if placed on the backside above the buttocks represents a forced tattoo. It means the inmate needs eyes behind his ass to alert him of what's coming. Not really sure if it's the same if tattooed in the front.

BB said...

Eyes on the front are a symbol of a sex crime, probably rape. The cross on his chest means he is a prince of thieves and the stars on his shoulders signify him as a "thief in law" or "Vor v zakone" in Russian. This is the main organized crime in Russia and extended to most of the world now as well. These thieves in law or "Vory v Zakone" began after the October revolution, not sure the exact date but became wider spread after WWII. But he is surely not one to be raped or attacked, he is backed by many, unless he ratted someone out which is strictly against the thieves code.

Russian Criminal Tattoo said...

stars can mean otritsala,not only vor v zakone.