Russian Prison Tattoos – Hidden Meanings, Dark Art And Punishment

Russian prison tattoos carry an epic depth of meaning and have spawned a whole genre of ink art. Dark and strangely beautiful, take a peek.

As you can imagine, access to ink is impossible inside. So they’ve got a couple of methods to produce it: one mixes molten rubber from the heel of a shoe with sugar and water, the other mixes the rubber with soot and urine. Tasty. For a needle they either use the sharpened end of a guitar string attached to an electric razor or a sewing needle sharpened on the floor.


Like any art form, fashions come and go. There have been phases where medieval knights were all the rage or pictures of prison guards dressed as wolves. Apparently even Reagan was popular for a time. During the Soviet era it was common to see pictures of Lenin or Stalin (with or without horns) on prisoner’s chests. One theory is that prisoners had these pictures on their chests or abdomens because the prison guards couldn’t shoot the USSR founding fathers’ image.

Russian Prison Tattoo - Church on Chest

Political slogans are often found in an arch over the stomach, these are called “grins” and are a mark of a hardened gang member. There are rumours that in Soviet times there were “secret orders” to remove political slogan tattoos and this removal was often fatal. So if you’re ballsy enough to flaunt one right next to your vitals, you must be pretty serious and not to be frigged with.

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