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Russian prison tattoo guide


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Nakolki (наколки in russian) meaning tattoos

Background and tradition

 

During the 20th century in the Soviet Union, criminals maintained a culture of tattoos to indicate their criminal lifestyle, their career and ranking amongst other criminals. This was well-spread among the prisoners in Gulag camps and spread out to other prison entities. This is soon to be a tradition with almost a hundread years long history, the practice of criminal tattoos first started to appear in the 1930s, reaching the peak point in the 1950s after which it slowly started to decline, due to Nikita Khruschev's new policies. Krushcov tried to eradicate the criminals from the society, thus he introduced extended prison sentences for known criminals, those that identified themselves with the tattoos. In the same time, the traditional criminals that formed the Thieves in Law aka Vory (Воры́ в зако́не) as a response to the Khruschevs new policies started to enforce their criminal code, making sure that the ones that were unworthy of the tattoos got them forcefully removed. In the 1970s the tensions had risen to the boiling point, due to Vory enforcing their code and rules too much. At this time, prison authorities often threw Vory and legitimate criminals who enforced the code in the same cells, most of the time alone with multiple convicts from whom they removed the tattoos or had beaten up, or in some instances had raped.

 

After the mid 1970s, tattoos started to come in fashion in the juvenile facilities and that flooded the ''Prison community'' with people who wore the ''unearned tattoos'', combined with the extreme punishments the Vory received for enforcing their code, Vory outlawed rape as a method of punishment and stopped enforcing the code of tattoo as strict as they had previously. After the perestroika in 1985 tattoos had spread outside of the prisons and made their way in the general fashion and reduced the value of tattoos being associated with criminal lifestyle.

 

Modern days

 

In the modern world, tattoos are rarely associated with criminal lifestyle, as they for most of the society are acceptable way of self-expression and in some instances just an attribute to enhance the looks. Altho, criminal tattoos are still a thing in most societies and post-soviet states are no exception. They are not enforced as harsh as they were, but surely wearing some of them are strong indications and the wearer knows the price of it. Most of the criminals chose not to get them, because they are like a sign that says ''I am a convicted felon and a criminal'' ultimately reducing their chances of living a casual civilian life. But for those who chose to get them, they often hold more of a personal meaning,a reminder, rather than displaying their criminal career. Of course, that goes both ways, some get them to display their ranking among the criminals in the prison community.

 

 

Here I have compiled a rather long list with the most common and some more rare tattoos. S/O to Kiril_Ustinov for helping me find the websites.

 

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Virgin Mary - Wearer has been a thief/criminal from their early days or protection from some misfortune. (spoiler for a few variants I found)

Spoiler

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Casual stars

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Vory stars
 

See spoiler for alternative variants and analogs I've found so far.

Spoiler

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Stars have primarely two meanings, the most basic ones are worn on either shoulders to represent authority among others, worn on knees to represent ''I don't kneel to nobody''.

Stars that are more complex in details most of the time are worn by Thieves in Law aka Vory (Воры́ в зако́не in russian). Vory are the post-soviet criminal upper echelon, a lot of them are in prison for life, they basically mediate between post-soviet criminal groups and link up people. Vory are pretty much the untouchables among these post-soviet criminals. Analog for the stars are crosses, they can appear on the same places as the stars.

 

 

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Beetle is a symbol of a pickpocketer. There is also an analog for this, letters reading ''ZHUK'', that literally means a beetle in russian. That is also an acronym, reading ''Zhelayu Udachnykh Krazh '' meaning ''May your theft be a success''

 

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Spoiler for more variants and pictures

Spoiler

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Churches, can be seen on hands, chest and back The number of dome towers (cupolas) indicates either number of prison terms or number of years of the sentence.

 

 

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Tiger - Just a symbol that that the wearer is hostile towards the law enforcement.

 

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Sailing ship, the wearer is a traveling thieft, sometimes known as brodyaga.

 

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Spider in a web, can be seen on any place of the body. In the web, it can indicate that the wearer is a drug addict or if moving upwards, a criminal who is active, if moving downwards, a criminal that seeks to exit the life of crime.

 

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Sunset, especially with birds represents freedom. The reading ''svoboda'' also means freedom, literally.

 

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A cat, often with a hat, symbolizes luck. It can also mean that the wearer is a thieft. It used to be that, the added bowtie represents that the thief snitched to get a reduced sentence, but in the modern days there is no such stigma around adding bowties, it's seen as a decoration mostly. Also an acronym KOT (meaning cat) stands for ''Korennoy Obitatel Turmi'' meaning Native Prison Inhabitant, a guy who lands in the jail all the time. English word would be a jailbird.

 

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Crucifixes, they are worn by the criminal ahtority figures. Career criminals with significant respect.

 

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Eyes on shoulders, means that the wearer oversees his surroundings and is always alert. Can also be linked to schitzophrenic origins, because eyes are often seen by schitzophrenic people causing them panic and making them check their surroundings all the time.

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Eyes can also be worn on buttocks and lower belly, but that is most often a forced tattoo because it means that the wearer is gay.

 

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Bells, ringing bells symbolize that the wearer will serve full sentence, ''From bell to bell''.

 

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Swastikas / Nazi related insignia are a sign of rebellion against Russian prison authority. Doesn’t literally mean that the wearer is a nazi sympathiser.

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Runes - One who does not confess, also tattooed as sign of rebellion to authority, again not usually associated with the Nazi symbol.
SS - Sohranil Sovest' - Preserved the conscience.

 

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SER - Svoboda Eto Ray - Freedom Is Paradise.

 

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Mix of women, money, cards or gambling related stuff and weapons / drugs just symbolizes the things that are killing ''us'' or the wearer. This is sometimes tailored for each person due to what's ruining his life.

 

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A bat, also a symbol of a thieft.

 

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A bull, basically the wearer is easely aggrevated and really aggresive. They are used as the hitsquad in prisons.

 

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Knife in shackles, wearer has commited a crime in prison.

 

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Roses, often with barbed wire just means ''Ruined childhood''. These are worn by criminals who started the career very early in life or had landed in juvenile facility.

 

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Knife in the neck, the wearer is skillfull with melees and has either killed somebody with a sharp object or has caused severe harm with the object.

 

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The joker, wearer likes to gamble.

 

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Pirate, wearer is a robber.

 

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Sight, the wearer says that if you shoot, you better kill him, because he won't miss when he retaliates.

 

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Scorpion, many meanings

 

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1.Astrological Sign
2.Special Forces tattoo. If the claws are open then the owner has seen combat.
3.Did Box-time (time in the hole)
4.Drug-Addiction. Stinger up-means still using. Stinger down means "I quit".
5.Scorpion in optical sight - Owner has seen combat

 

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LHVS - Legavim Huy Voram Soboda - To trashcops the dick, to thieves freedom.

Another meaning of LHVS it's just joke - Lublu Halvu Varenie Sahar - I like halva, marmalade, sugar.

 

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--+#  Searched, searched, caught, condemned.

 

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Ring tattoos, these are tattooed on fingers like rings. For the meanings, check the quote under this.

 

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  • 1. "Was incarcerated." This tattoo plays purely informational role, anyone can get it as long as they have been incarcerated.
  • 2. "Wasted childhood." Convicts that spent their childhood in confinement tend to get this tattoo.
  • 3. "Served my sentence whole." This means that the convict served his whole sentence without parole or amnesty. If spoken to this individual, it is suggested to use as less of prison jargon as possible, especially if you do not possess the complete knowledge of it.
  • 4. "Served for murder or assault." There are two types of people who wear this finger tattoo. One can be a real cold blooded killer; those have to be dealt with caution. The other type was under influence when committed the crime; who despite the tattoo, can be soft and easy going. In either case, they should be dealt with balanced civility.
  • 5. "Convicted for battery." Convicts who wear this tattoo should be dealt with caution. Do not approach them trying to establish dominance, but also do not let them offend you.
  • 6. "Convicted for robbery." Usually people who engage in battery are more cowardly. They are less eager to attack groups of people and tend to target individuals. If you share a cell with a convict that wears this tattoo, try not to gamble with him or her; do not poke to much fun in front of over inmates. Even though they will not attack you directly, they might attack you when you least expect them, for example, in your sleep.
  • 7. "Convicted for theft." This tattoo is associated with thieves and people who feel the need of creating associative groups, so called gangs and other syndicates. The way to behave around them is to politely deny all their offerings, and be careful with words. Keep more to yourself, because they will use anything against you.
  • 8. "Convicted for Disorderly Conduct." This tattoo can also be applied on the ear buds, can also be read as "prosperity for violence" or "can't be rehabilitated." The only way to deal with them is to force strict rules and administer swift punishment if those rules are broken.
  • 9. "Denier." The owner of this finger tattoo is very negative of law enforcement. They also are negative about convicts who decided to aid law enforcement. It is known that the owner of this finger tattoo is a high ranking individual among thieves.
  • 10. "The man." This finger tattoo reads that this individual has nothing to do with career criminals and does not want to go up in the ranks. This is the most likable mind set and they are less likely to be aggressive, but still caution is required.
  • 11. "Rooster or Homosexual." This finger tattoo symbolizes the lowest rang of all in the criminal world. All convicts try to avoid individuals who have this tattoo. The status of a "Rooster" is given to an individual with a lower will power or to those who were convicted for rape or rape attempt, or to those who were incapable of paying their card debt. This tattoo is usually made against the individual's will. Communication with a convict that owns that rank is detrimental to your reputation and can result in you receiving the same tattoo. It is advised not to communicate with "Roosters" much, but also not to be too disrespectful either.
  • 12. "Sixer." This finger tattoo implies that the individual servers one of the pod bosses and does choirs for them. It is advised to be careful with "sixes" since they tend to spy on the whole pod.
  • 13. "Path through crosses." This tattoo symbolizes that the individual that was under investigation spent time in remand. The crown in this case symbolizes that the individual conflicted with law while being in remand and possibly was a pod boss.
  • 14. "Three towers and 3K." Design illustrating correctional institutions. Individuals with this finger tattoo want you to know that they have been incarcerated.
  • 15. "Dot." Symbolizes possible escapes from correctional facilities. The number of dots or crosses means attempts.
  • 16. "One among friends." The owner of this tattoo has been incarcerated.
  • 17. "Memory of Parents" or "I am Murderer." This design symbolizes a long memory about individual's parents that passed away while the individual was incarcerated. But there might be another meaning. The individual is trying to bring revenge to the members of law enforcement. Hill with lines through it means this individual did what he /she wanted.
  • 18. "Following beloved father's steps." This design is used by offspring of convicted criminals.
  • 19. "Convicted for rape."

 

 

 

Used literature and websites in the spoiler

 

Edited by betonists
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There is nowhere else on Earth where that is more true than in the Russian prison system. Every prisoner is marked, every drop of ink holds meaning, and the symbols are a language in and of themselves. Each body tells a unique story of time served and crimes committed.

Moscow is Russia’s largest city, and it is rampant with criminal activity. The prison system is known as the “Zone,” and the prisons are grossly overcrowded. There are typically 100 inmates jammed into a cell, and they have to take turns sleeping due to limited space and bunks. This overcrowding is used as a means to “break” the inmates, causing them to turn on one another and encouraging beatings in the cells. Russian prisons are well-known for being dangerous and violent, ignoring humanity in favor of strict punishment.

 

Online clicker counter   assists you to count several things like the number of sit-ups while performing an exercise or also much other stuff. You can do all just by clicking on a mouse or a button of mobile phones.

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On 10/12/2021 at 9:10 AM, ryanemma said:

There is nowhere else on Earth where that is more true than in the Russian prison system. Every prisoner is marked, every drop of ink holds meaning, and the symbols are a language in and of themselves. Each body tells a unique story of time served and crimes committed.

Moscow is Russia’s largest city, and it is rampant with criminal activity. The prison system is known as the “Zone,” and the prisons are grossly overcrowded. There are typically 100 inmates jammed into a cell, and they have to take turns sleeping due to limited space and bunks. This overcrowding is used as a means to “break” the inmates, causing them to turn on one another and encouraging beatings in the cells. Russian prisons are well-known for being dangerous and violent, ignoring humanity in favor of strict punishment.

 

Online clicker counter   assists you to count several things like the number of sit-ups while performing an exercise or also much other stuff. You can do all just by clicking on a mouse or a button of mobile phones.

This is kind of true. There is prisons where they teach you shit like in Serbia. 

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