Friday, March 25, 2011
Russian Mafia & Prison Tattoos
They will tell the educated onlooker exactly what the tattooed has done in their own criminal career; if they have been in prison, betrayed, lied, stolen or murdered. They speak of the wearer’s position within the criminal hierarchy, the people to whom they have loyalty, even their sexual preference.
To bear the truth with your tattoos is vital as a member of the Russian underworld; if you are exposed as possessing fake tattoos or tattoos that lie about you, the chances are high that the consequences will be severe. If you lose your rank or change loyalties, there is a decidedly painful way to show it; you’ll have to burn off your old tattoos with magnesium powder and tight bandages, quite literally burning away your skin and 'old truths' to make way for new ones.
The meanings and precise symbolism of these tattoos is of course slightly misty and obscure to anybody outside the gang culture, but a few can be discerned. A cathedral with five domes can symbolize five years of imprisonment, for example. Stars, very particularly stylized on the knees, symbolize a man who has never had to kneel before anybody; stars found on the chest however signify a ‘career criminal.’
Criminal organization members who break the gang honour code, fail to pay debts, snitch, cheat or any litany of other things can be forcibly tattooed, too; this obviously happens most often in prisons, and the tattoos applied are generally lewd images or derogatory words.