After the fall of the Soviet Union, photographers Sergei Vasiliev and Arkady Bronnikov documented Russian criminal tattoos, and their photos were compiled into several art books by FUEL publishing. These prison tattoos continue a tradition that goes all the way back to before the Communist Revolution. In those days, a prisoner would be inked with a series of letters that denoted his crime and where he served his sentence. That system grew into an elaborate code that showed what someone had done, how long they'd served, their rank in the prison hierarchy, and if they could be trusted.
The designs of Russian prison tattoos include elaborate religious scenes that denote if the wearer is a legitimate thief, stars that denote rank and time served, elaborate codes in multiple languages, and images of defiance against prison authority. A trained observer can tell everything about a Russian prisoner by their tattoos.So what do Russian mafia tattoos mean? Read through this list of tattoos of Russian criminals to find out.