A look into Russian criminal subculture. 

Tattoos on the world’s most dangerous prisoners in Russia. Most of these convicts are located in the Selekamsk prison, also known as The White Swan. It is considered the toughest prison and its purpose to break criminal leaders. Most of these men are murderers,rapists,terrorists and maniacs. Ink isn’t strange to them, specially when every design tells each of their story very well… Here a look at their “art work” and each of their significance.

Barbed wire: Each spike represents one year of imprisonment.
Bells:
 meaning the person has committed a serious crime and will spend the rest of their life in jail, “from bell call to bell call.”
Bird:
 If flying over the horizon can represent a longing for freedom.
Butterflies: 
This person can be trusted in an escape.
Candle sticks:
 Beware, this person will extinguish your flame.
Cat:
 This is the sign of the thief and symbolizes cunning. This tattoo is seen as a pair on the upper chest, just under the shoulders.
Cathedral: 
The number of steeples might mean how many times the person has been to prison. “The church is the house of God” (prison is the home of the thief) will sometimes be written beneath the church.
Cobwebs: 
Could be found on the shoulders, signifying drug addiction.
Dagger:
 This person is a killer.
Genie: Seen coming out of a lamp, this indicates that the inmates is serving time for drug-related crimes or is a drug addict themselves.
Knight: In full armor, this can represent an inmate accused of hooliganism, a gangster.
Military shoulder piece: Given for various criminal accomplishments. What do you think a shoulder piece adorned with a skull is given for?
Mother Mary & baby Jesus:
 This person was born a criminal.
Pirate Tattoo: Sometimes accompanied by “167,” the article for armed robbery in the Russian Penal Code.
Prison bars: An inmate with a life sentence, prison is his home.
Rose: This person went to prison as an adolescent.
Skulls: Given to one who has committed murder.
Snake: A snake coiled around the neck & chest represents the Communist party’s grip on that individual. It can also generally mean power.
Spider: Can indicate a drug addiction, or that the person is a thief.
Stalin & Lenin: Images of the leaders’ faces were tattooed over a person’s heart, so that a firing squad would not shoot them there.
Sailing Ship: The person lives a roaming life and can also be trusted in an escape.
Stars: Star tattoos on the knees mean that the person won’t be brought to their knees, usually given as a promotion to Captain. Also seen on the upper chest in a pair near the shoulders.
Tiger: Someone who can be called on to enforce a captain’s bidding.

Excerpt taken from Lost In a Supermarket blog.

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