The tattoos of the Russian mafia and criminals carry a deep and complex symbolism, being a form of non-verbal communication within the world of organized crime in Russia. These tattoos are more than just marks on the skin; they are a code, revealing the history, hierarchy, achievements and even personal beliefs of criminals. The tradition of tattoos in Russian crime dates back to the Soviet era, when prisoners began to tattoo themselves as a way of expressing their identity, status and resistance to the system.

Concepts and Symbolisms

The russian criminal tattoos are known for their meanings and coded symbolism. For example, a star tattoo on the shoulders or knees can indicate that the individual "kneels to no one", signifying power and authority. Animals such as lions, tigers and wolves represent power and aggression, while cathedrals and churches with a specific number of domes can indicate the number of years the prisoner has been condemned.

Types of Criminals and Their Tattoos

Different types of criminals have different types of tattoos, each with its own set of symbols and meanings. For example:

  • Thieves in lawAn elite among criminals, known for their strict rules of conduct and their network of influence. Their tattoos often include crowns, stars and crosses.
  • AssassinsThey may have tattoos that symbolize the act of killing, such as a skull or a knife with drops of blood.
  • Scammers and cheatsThey often choose images of playing cards, cats (symbolizing cunning) or lucky symbols.

Top 10 Tattoos of Russian Criminals

  1. Stars on the shoulders: Indicates maximum authority; a person who considers himself a "vor v zakone" or "thief in law".
  2. Cross on the ChestSymbolizes a "thief in law" or a high-ranking criminal, a respected leader.
  3. Eyes in the backIt means that the criminal is always vigilant, never caught unawares.
  4. Spider webs on the elbowsCan indicate years spent in prison; the more elaborate the web, the longer in prison.
  5. Deck of CardsAssociated with scammers, it symbolizes risk and the ability to manipulate.
  6. Tiger or LionRepresents power, strength and aggression; the criminal is dangerous and should not be underestimated.
  7. Cathedral with domesThe number of domes can indicate the number of sentences or the total number of years the prisoner has been sentenced to.
  8. SkullGenerally associated with a murderer. The presence of additional details can provide more context about the crimes committed.
  9. RosesAlthough they may seem harmless, roses tattooed on the shoulders indicate that the prisoner has come of age while incarcerated.
  10. AnchorTraditionally symbolizes a criminal who has served in a naval penal colony or who has a long history of theft-related crimes.

These tattoos are a unique language within the criminal underworld, offering deep insights into the life, beliefs and hierarchy of Russian criminals. They tell stories of defiance, power, loyalty and even regret. Body art among Russian criminals is an open book for those who know how to read its codes.

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