This one is very interesting and I’m glad that eBaum’s World user Infantgenius has shared it with us. It is a story about the meaning that tattoos are meant to convey in Russian prisons. Here is how the author puts it:
Prisoners without tattoos are looked down upon. They are viewed as white sheep in a black herd. Tattoos tell the prisoners’ stories, their world-views and group affiliations; and some tattoos indicate rank, accomplishment, and prestige in this walled-in segment of Russia’s underbelly.
As you will see, some of these tattoos are remarkably detailed. I am especially impressed by the one with the Russian Cathedral, which indicates that the prisoner is a safe cracker and where the number of domes is supposed to indicate the number of times he’s been convicted. Here are the images.
1. Eyes on the chest indicate that this prisoner sees everything or that he’s watching over something.
2. The walled-in cathedral indicates that this prisoner is a safecracker, and the number of domes on the cathedral correspond to the number of times he’s been convicted.
3. An epaulette on the shoulder implies that the criminal is of high rank among the other prisoners.
4. The bracelet tattooed on his wrist means that he has spent at least 5 years in prison.
5. The tattoo on his pointer finger means his parents died while he was in prison. middle finger: he served his full sentence, without parole. Ring Finger: The upside-down spade means he was convicted for hooliganism.
6. The cross in the center of his chest shows allegiance to the thieves, but its small size shows that he holds very little power among them. Tattoos of saints and angels are commonly used to show that the prisoner is not mired in betrayal.
7. Matching 8-point stars on the prisoner’s shoulders means that he is a professional criminal.
8. Matching 8-point stars on the knees imply anarchic views. It says, “I bow to no one, and no one can make me fall to my knees.”
9. The tattoo of a dagger through his neck means he has committed murder while in prison and is available to hire for more murders.
10. The white boat with shaded sails on the thigh means the prisoner spent a significant amount of time traveling around while evading capture.
11. An image of birds flying over the horizon means, “I was born free and should be free.”
12. Barbed wire tattooed across the forehead signifies a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
13. Sometimes a tattoo of Lenin implies that the prisoner is patriotic, but prisoners often tattoo Lenin’s face on them under the belief that law enforcement won’t shoot at an image of one of Russia’s greatest heroes and leaders.
14. The 100-rubles note on the right side of his chest indicates some involvement with counterfeiting.
15. A tiger tattoo typically signifies that the bearer has killed a policeman or a prison guard.
16. This pirate tattoo means the bearer has committed armed robbery.
17. The monk writing in a book signifies a criminal who is dexterous with a razor, knife, or sharpened coin.
18. The bat on his chest means that he is a thief who works at night.
Source: eBaum’s World / Infantgenius
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