Tattoos on Russian gangage prisoners from the Soviet era who can be read as a clandestine underworld cv

The tattoos are the fading symbols of a life dedicated to bloodshed, violence and an unspoken moral code in the criminal underworld.

But far removed from a motley collection of senseless drawings and letters, each tattoo has its own meaning and, for those who know it, can be read as a curriculum vitae of the gangland history of the wearer.

In the Soviet era the tattoos of a vor v zakone (thief) worked as a CV – to have no tattoos in the world of the thief, meant that you had no identity and no social status.

The scars on the stomach above the eyes (shown on the left) may be the result of stabbing, but may also be a punishment of fellow criminals for a violation of the code of the thieves or for losing cards. Text on the prisoner's stomach (photo right) reads: & # 39; Man is a wolf for man & # 39 ;. Text on the other side of the line reads: & # 39; Live in sin, die laughing & # 39 ;. A pirate with a knife in his teeth is often accompanied by the acronym & # 39; IRA & # 39; (a Russian female name) written on the knife, which stands for Idu rezat aktiv (I am going to kill the activists). Supported by otritsaly (prisoners who refuse to submit to the rules of prison), this indicates a tendency to brutality, sadism and a negative attitude towards activists – prisoners who openly cooperate with the prison authorities.

Tattoos on women are not as common as in men. In the first place sentimental in nature, they usually refer to lesbian relationships that were instituted during detention. Abbreviations and acronyms are particularly popular. Text on the shoulder reads & # 39; GLI & # 39; (unknown abbreviation). Read text below & # 39; YaLTA & # 39; (literally & # 39; Yalta & # 39;) meaning Ya Lyblyu Tebya, Angel (& # 39; I love you, angel & # 39;) means. Text under portlet tattoo is the acronym & # 39; KULON & # 39; (Russian for & # 39; counterpart & # 39;), meaning Kagda Uhodit Lubov, Ostaetsya Nenavist (& # 39; When love is gone, hate continues to exist & # 39;). Text on the forearm next to the rose tattoo is the acronym & # 39; LENIN & # 39; that Lyublyu y Edinstvennuyu Naveki I Navsegda means (& # 39; I love you, always and forever & # 39;)

Tattoos on women are not as common as in men. In the first place sentimental in nature, they usually refer to lesbian relationships that were instituted during detention. Abbreviations and acronyms are particularly popular. Text on the shoulder reads & # 39; GLI & # 39; (unknown abbreviation). Read text below & # 39; YaLTA & # 39; (literally & # 39; Yalta & # 39;) meaning Ya Lyblyu Tebya, Angel (& # 39; I love you, angel & # 39;) means. Text under portlet tattoo is the acronym & # 39; KULON & # 39; (Russian for & # 39; counterpart & # 39;), meaning Kagda Uhodit Lubov, Ostaetsya Nenavist (& # 39; When love is gone, hate continues to exist & # 39;). Text on the forearm next to the rose tattoo is the acronym & # 39; LENIN & # 39; that Lyublyu y Edinstvennuyu Naveki I Navsegda means (& # 39; I love you, always and forever & # 39;)

Tattoos on women are not as common as in men. In the first place sentimental in nature, they usually refer to lesbian relationships that were instituted during detention. Abbreviations and acronyms are particularly popular. Text on the shoulder reads & # 39; GLI & # 39; (unknown abbreviation). Read text below & # 39; YaLTA & # 39; (literally & # 39; Yalta & # 39;) meaning Ya Lyblyu Tebya, Angel (& # 39; I love you, angel & # 39;) means. Text under portlet tattoo is the acronym & # 39; KULON & # 39; (Russian for & # 39; counterpart & # 39;), meaning Kagda Uhodit Lubov, Ostaetsya Nenavist (& # 39; When love is gone, hate continues to exist & # 39;). Text on the forearm next to the rose tattoo is the acronym & # 39; LENIN & # 39; that Lyublyu y Edinstvennuyu Naveki I Navsegda means (& # 39; I love you, always and forever & # 39;)

The development of the pitshatka (literally & # 39; writing & # 39 ;, meaning the front of the card) is inextricably linked to the history and psychology of cards in prison. Choosing a design from the variety of possibilities is a science. Normal playing cards have different colors, with images or numbers that are clear and easy to read, but prison cards that are deliberately set out to confuse. The use of similar colors and patterns makes it difficult for an opponent to distinguish between the cards, which distracts his attention from the game itself.

They transmitted encrypted secret messages, despite the use of a number of images traditionally in tattoo, such as religious iconography or stars.

For example, a dagger in the neck means that the wearer killed and would kill again for the right price (the number of blood drops on the sheet means the number of murders he committed), while a rose on the shoulder means he has turned 18 prison .

Tattoos that did not match your actual rank, or that were false, were forcibly removed with a sandpaper or stone. A wrong tattoo can even lead to you being killed.

Text on the chest (pictured left) reads Ne vivelis naa Rusi bogatyri, a distorted version of the adage & # 39; Heroes are not extinct in Russia & # 39 ;, a sarcastic expression of approval for one's unusual or rare (but not necessarily useful ) skills. Text on the right arm is Reih, probably a spelling mistake of & # 39;[The Third] Empire & # 39 ;. Text above the groin reads & # 39; The key to ladies & # 39; [hearts]'. The dagger through the neck advertises this prisoner as a killer who is available to commit murder on behalf of others at the right price. A snake around the neck (shown on the right) is a sign of drug addiction. Most detainees are alcoholics or drug addicts. Their crimes are often committed while they are in a state of poisoning. The stars on the clavicles and epaulets on the shoulders show that this prisoner is an authority.

The past of a kartyozhnik (card-sharp) is clean. He never renounced an acknowledgment of debt, never failed to pay at a deadline and never made false means of transport. He is not proud – he dresses himself in rags – and he spends no less than half his profits on the obshchak [the thieves’ community kitty]. In return, the authorities support him: he is a valued person who lives off the ponyatiya, [literally ‘the understandings’ the thieves’ code of honour] that protects him. Because the code and the criminal authorities assess the character of a prisoner by examining his past and determining his value within the zone, the kartyozhnik is in an untouchable position. He earns his bread honestly (according to the criminal world) and would give everything to the obshchak if asked. The obshchak benefit, is to benefit the zone, and the so-called & # 39; happiness & # 39; within the zone is not made by the lower grades

The images are brilliantly serialized in works by photographer Sergei Vasiliev and the former jailer Danzig Baldaev that can be seen here, next to the newly released images in a new book called Russian Criminal Tattoos and Playing Cards, by Arkady Bronnikov.

It examines the overlapping nature of tattoos and the forbidden card games in prisons from the Soviet era.

The language of cards was applied to detainees according to their status within the zone (prison).

The base of clubs or spades, the main symbol of a lawful thief, is a recurring motif in their tattoos.

The red colors & # 39; decrease & # 39; the status of the wearer in the zone when they are applied as tattoos. The symbol of hearts transforms the wearer into an erotic object, indicating that he is the role of a "woman & # 39; plays.

The symbol of diamonds is forcibly applied to informants and can lead to sexual violence.

Making the actual cards for the games was a delicate process and meant that two sheets of paper were stuck together.

The epaulette tattooed on the shoulder, the stars of the thieves and religious tattoos on the chest, all indicate the high rank of this thief. The skull in the middle of the epaulette can be deciphered as: "I am and will never become a slave, no one can force me to work." & # 39; YK & # 39; indicates that the carrier is the Intensive Colony & # 39; has gone through

The epaulette tattooed on the shoulder, the stars of the thieves and religious tattoos on the chest, all indicate the high rank of this thief. The skull in the middle of the epaulette can be deciphered as: "I am and will never become a slave, no one can force me to work." & # 39; YK & # 39; indicates that the carrier is the Intensive Colony & # 39; has gone through

The epaulette tattooed on the shoulder, the stars of the thieves and religious tattoos on the chest, all indicate the high rank of this thief. The skull in the middle of the epaulette can be deciphered as: "I am and will never become a slave, no one can force me to work." & # 39; YK & # 39; indicates that the carrier is the Intensive Colony & # 39; has gone through

They usually had a thin laptop sleeve (a rubashka, literally shirt) for the back and newsprint or bad-quality paper for the face.

The games themselves were banned by the prison authorities and could be punished for up to six months in an isolation cell.

That's why games were clandestine and often played at night, with a paid lookout to watch out for curious prison guards or possible informants.

The dagger through the neck shows that the prisoner committed murder during the prison and that he is available to hire & # 39; & # 39; for further killings. The clocks on the feet indicate that he has fully served his time (& # 39; on the bell & # 39;), the manacles on the ankles mean that the punishments were more than five years. & # 39; Ring & # 39; tattoos on the fingers show the status of the criminal when the rest of his body is covered. The & # 39; thieves & # 39; on the knees carry the symbolic meaning & # 39; I will not kneel before the police & # 39;

The dagger through the neck shows that the prisoner committed murder during the prison and that he is available to hire & # 39; & # 39; for further killings. The clocks on the feet indicate that he has fully served his time (& # 39; on the bell & # 39;), the manacles on the ankles mean that the punishments were more than five years. & # 39; Ring & # 39; tattoos on the fingers show the status of the criminal when the rest of his body is covered. The & # 39; thieves & # 39; on the knees carry the symbolic meaning & # 39; I will not kneel before the police & # 39;

The dagger through the neck shows that the prisoner committed murder during the prison and that he is available to hire & # 39; & # 39; for further killings. The clocks on the feet indicate that he has fully served his time (& # 39; on the bell & # 39;), the manacles on the ankles mean that the punishments were more than five years. & # 39; Ring & # 39; tattoos on the fingers show the status of the criminal when the rest of his body is covered. The & # 39; thieves & # 39; on the knees carry the symbolic meaning & # 39; I will not kneel before the police & # 39;

Orthodox religious tattoos are still one of the most popular criminals today. The crucifix and the Madonna and the Child, pictured in the orthodox tradition of painting with icons, meant "my conscience is clean for my friends", "I will not betray it." The Madonna meant & # 39; the prison is my home & # 39; - that the wearer was a frequent offender and recidivist. The number of domes on the tattoo of a church indicates the number of convictions. If a dome was decorated with a cross, it meant that the sentence was completely finished. Except that it is a totem of a pickpocket, the dung beetle is considered to bring happiness to the wearer, these are usually tattooed on the hands, rarely (as in this picture) they appear on other parts of the body

Orthodox religious tattoos are still one of the most popular criminals today. The crucifix and the Madonna and the Child, pictured in the orthodox tradition of painting with icons, meant "my conscience is clean for my friends", "I will not betray it." The Madonna meant & # 39; the prison is my home & # 39; - that the wearer was a frequent offender and recidivist. The number of domes on the tattoo of a church indicates the number of convictions. If a dome was decorated with a cross, it meant that the sentence was completely finished. Except that it is a totem of a pickpocket, the dung beetle is considered to bring happiness to the wearer, these are usually tattooed on the hands, rarely (as in this picture) they appear on other parts of the body

Orthodox religious tattoos are still one of the most popular criminals today. The crucifix and the Madonna and the Child, pictured in the orthodox tradition of painting with icons, meant "my conscience is clean for my friends", "I will not betray it." The Madonna meant & # 39; the prison is my home & # 39; – that the wearer was a frequent offender and recidivist. The number of domes on the tattoo of a church indicates the number of convictions. If a dome was decorated with a cross, it meant that the sentence was completely finished. Except that it is a totem of a pickpocket, the dung beetle is considered to bring happiness to the wearer, these are usually tattooed on the hands, rarely (as in this picture) they appear on other parts of the body

Read the tattoos on the eyelids & # 39; Do Not / Wake Me & # 39 ;. The mind on the forearm is a very common symbol of drug addiction. If an addict is imprisoned for drug offenses, he or she must go through the withdrawal in the & # 39; zone & # 39; (prison). Epaulette tattoos (on the shoulders) represent the rank of the criminal in a system that matches that of the army (major, colonel, general, etc.)

Read the tattoos on the eyelids & # 39; Do Not / Wake Me & # 39 ;. The mind on the forearm is a very common symbol of drug addiction. If an addict is imprisoned for drug offenses, he or she must go through the withdrawal in the & # 39; zone & # 39; (prison). Epaulette tattoos (on the shoulders) represent the rank of the criminal in a system that matches that of the army (major, colonel, general, etc.)

Read the tattoos on the eyelids & # 39; Do Not / Wake Me & # 39 ;. The mind on the forearm is a very common symbol of drug addiction. If an addict is imprisoned for drug offenses, he or she must go through the withdrawal in the & # 39; zone & # 39; (prison). Epaulette tattoos (on the shoulders) represent the rank of the criminal in a system that matches that of the army (major, colonel, general, etc.)

He apparently condemns random tattoos that refer to his rank within the criminal world. Across the chest Death is not revenge / the dead do not suffer & # 39; On the poor & # 39; I live in sin / I die laughing & # 39;

He apparently condemns random tattoos that refer to his rank within the criminal world. Across the chest Death is not revenge / the dead do not suffer & # 39; On the poor & # 39; I live in sin / I die laughing & # 39;

He apparently condemns random tattoos that refer to his rank within the criminal world. Across the chest Death is not revenge / the dead do not suffer & # 39; On the poor & # 39; I live in sin / I die laughing & # 39;

The commitment to the game was agreed in advance and can be anything, from tea, body parts or the life of the player himself.

The games were noisy and the dark conditions and the smoky atmosphere meant that the cards were hard to see.

Each player registered his own scores and any disputes could be settled through a razbor, an investigation.

Debts were paid after playing and everyone who reclaimed a debt was called a suka (b ****).

On the index finger is a variant of an "Otritsala" ring, which indicates someone who is hostile to law enforcement and the regime. They can not be re-trained. Middle finger & # 39; Freedom for youth & # 39; or & # 39; I have cleared time and I am going to steal again & # 39 ;. Third finger & # 39; Ruined youth & # 39 ;, the wearer was sentenced as a minor. The five dots on the wrist are a familiar sign of someone familiar with the prison regime. They denote & # 39; Four watch towers and I & # 39; or & # 39; I am through the zone & # 39 ;, a prisoner who has been punished in a correctional labor or penal colony. Lenin is regarded by many criminals as the most important Pakhan (boss) of the Communist Party. The letters BOP, which are sometimes tattooed under his image, have a double meaning. The acronym stands for & # 39; Leader of the October Revolution & # 39; but also for the Russian word VOR (thief)

On the index finger is a variant of an "Otritsala" ring, which indicates someone who is hostile to law enforcement and the regime. They can not be re-trained. Middle finger & # 39; Freedom for youth & # 39; or & # 39; I have cleared time and I am going to steal again & # 39 ;. Third finger & # 39; Ruined youth & # 39 ;, the wearer was sentenced as a minor. The five dots on the wrist are a familiar sign of someone familiar with the prison regime. They denote & # 39; Four watch towers and I & # 39; or & # 39; I am through the zone & # 39 ;, a prisoner who has been punished in a correctional labor or penal colony. Lenin is regarded by many criminals as the most important Pakhan (boss) of the Communist Party. The letters BOP, which are sometimes tattooed under his image, have a double meaning. The acronym stands for & # 39; Leader of the October Revolution & # 39; but also for the Russian word VOR (thief)

On the index finger is a variant of an "Otritsala" ring, which indicates someone who is hostile to law enforcement and the regime. They can not be re-trained. Middle finger & # 39; Freedom for youth & # 39; or & # 39; I have cleared time and I am going to steal again & # 39 ;. Third finger & # 39; Ruined youth & # 39 ;, the wearer was sentenced as a minor. The five dots on the wrist are a familiar sign of someone familiar with the prison regime. They denote & # 39; Four watch towers and I & # 39; or & # 39; I am through the zone & # 39 ;, a prisoner who has been punished in a correctional labor or penal colony. Lenin is regarded by many criminals as the most important Pakhan (boss) of the Communist Party. The letters BOP, which are sometimes tattooed under his image, have a double meaning. The acronym stands for & # 39; Leader of the October Revolution & # 39; but also for the Russian word VOR (thief)

The tattoos on this prisoner mimic those of higher ranking criminals and indicate that the wearer has adopted a thieving mentality. However, he does not wear the & # 39; thieves & # 39 ;, he is not & # 39; vor v zakone & # 39; or & # 39; thief in the law & # 39 ;, and therefore has no real power under this caste. As soon as the normal prisoners find the mass population of the zone (a prison or a camp), they realize that the thieves are in charge. They copy both their tattoos and their way of doing in an attempt to improve their status. For self-protection they must show that they are exceptional, experienced, courageous and seasoned men. Besides fear, respect and the obedience of friends, their tattoos are meant to demonstrate a desire for self-awareness and the conquest of authority in the criminal environment.

The tattoos on this prisoner mimic those of higher ranking criminals and indicate that the wearer has adopted a thieving mentality. However, he does not wear the & # 39; thieves & # 39 ;, he is not & # 39; vor v zakone & # 39; or & # 39; thief in the law & # 39 ;, and therefore has no real power under this caste. As soon as the normal prisoners find the mass population of the zone (a prison or a camp), they realize that the thieves are in charge. They copy both their tattoos and their way of doing in an attempt to improve their status. For self-protection they must show that they are exceptional, experienced, courageous and seasoned men. Besides fear, respect and the obedience of friends, their tattoos are meant to demonstrate a desire for self-awareness and the conquest of authority in the criminal environment.

The tattoos on this prisoner mimic those of higher ranking criminals and indicate that the wearer has adopted a thieving mentality. However, he does not wear the & # 39; thieves & # 39 ;, he is not & # 39; vor v zakone & # 39; or & # 39; thief in the law & # 39 ;, and therefore has no real power under this caste. As soon as the normal prisoners find the mass population of the zone (a prison or a camp), they realize that the thieves are in charge. They copy both their tattoos and their way of doing in an attempt to improve their status. For self-protection they must show that they are exceptional, experienced, courageous and seasoned men. Besides fear, respect and the obedience of friends, their tattoos are meant to demonstrate a desire for self-awareness and the conquest of authority in the criminal environment.

If a debt could not be paid, an opponent could be beaten or even stabbed.

If the debtor is again caught playing, the person to whom he owes money may seize the winnings of that game or even kill him.

The tattoos on the body of a prisoner would often convey the relevant penalties or successes in games.

For example, a thief with clubs or diamonds with tattooed cards on his hands was a skillful card-sharp, while a man tattooed with a few copulations would have refused to pay his debts.

Russian criminal tattoos and playing cards are issued by FUEL

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