An Illustrated Guide To Russian Criminals Tattoos In The Soviet Era

Xavier in Guides

Ever wondered what those Russian criminals tattoos actually mean long before they were considered hip and edgy? Let's find out.

A Soviet-era prison won't be complete without tattooed prisoners, each bearing marks of their crimes and their pasts. These were the days when you have to earn your right to get certain tattoos. You can't just simply point to that one over there because you think it'd look pretty on your bicep. It doesn't work like that, mate.

Tattooed Russian
Tattooed Russian

The Factorialist brings us a quick infographic about what went on in the bowels of Soviet-era prison tattoo scene.

Russian Criminal
Russian Criminal

Both tattoos mean to say “I'm watching you.” While the one on the chest clearly represents criminal status, the one below that is merely declaring the person's sexual preference.

Let's just say this particular criminal likes to travel. And if he's that good, he'll probably be off somewhere else faster than you can say “escape.”

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Russian Criminal tattoos
Russian Criminal tattoos

Looks like the eight-pointed star is truly as majestic as it looks; the bearers are supposed to be the top of the prison chain. In other words, don't mess with these guys.

Tattoos used to keep count of hard years of “experiences.”

Uh-oh, the sexy pin-up tattoos don't look too good in the Soviet-era prison. Getting them means you lost a bet, broke a gang’s code of honor, or sold out to the authorities.

It's pretty clear here that you shouldn't really be messing with criminals tattooed with skulls with daggers through them.

Tattooed russian
Tattooed russian

Criminals would get portraits of notable men like Lenin knowing that guards will refuse to shoot the image of a revered leader.

“KOT” is supposed to mean “cat” in Russian, a term used for native prison residents.

Russian tattoos
Russian tattoos

This kind of intimate-looking tattoo can have many possible meanings then. It might be purely familial, it may refer to a specific gang, or it may mean that the bearer has been a ruffian since birth.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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