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Monday, March 29, 2010

Two Dollar Russian Criminal Tattoos By Rich Handford & Jacob Mikolash

Russian prison tattoos have a long and fantastic history, if you want to know more I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of the Mark of Cain a documentary film on Russian Prison Tattoos. I checked in with Roman Belenky, when it comes to Russian Criminal Tattoo Culture this guy knows his дерьмо. Roman also runs "MIR" a great website you should check out if you are into unique clothing.

He had this to say when i asked about the symbols these lads tattooed on each other:

About the guys tattooing Russian Criminal images on themselves, I wouldn't really say anything positive about that. A lot of those tattoos had to be earned, have deep meanings behind them that you should live by and believe in before you tattoo something like that. Basically its just out of respect for those people that lived that life that a normal cat shouldn't tattoo those images. Basically thats all I can say about that. Thats kinda one of the reasons why I made the shirts. I think its better to get a shirt if you like the Art of Russian Criminal Tattoos, than to tattoo it on your body. After the books came out I started seeing young kids popping up with Russian Criminal tattoos. I thought it would've been better for them if they got a shirt instead.

I asked if he would not mind having a look at the tattoos just to give us a little more info on what the symbols chosen are:

Yeah, those are status and rank tattoos. The suit of clubs is the suit of the sword or the suit of the thieves. Thats not something you wanna tattoo on yourself unless you're prepared to answer for it. Especially the skull from the star. The stars are the "holiest of holies" to the thieves. Back in the days, you would be killed on the spot if you didn't earn them, no questions asked. Of course they probably never will have to answer for those tats. But if they did, they would be given some sandpaper or a piece of glass and told to take that shit off and fast. And that the best-case scenario...

The reason you see a lot of this great artwork on peoples bodies come out of the soviet era, is because a lot of great painters and artists were imprisoned for one reason or another, or usually for nothing since that was a big thing during the soviet times. Imprisoning people for nothing, I mean. Thats how the artists made extra money for themselves, by tattooing. Theres a lot of masterpieces walking around to this day.

And No, you cant earn any rank if you're just an artist. If you didn't live your life as a thief, you cant earn rank or any status just by tattooing. You earn status and rank and tattoos by committing crimes inside the zone or violating the rules or killing someone.You may be respected a little more than just a regular guy in prison, bu tthats only because you can provide a valuable service. Thats it.

There you have it folks, a little lesson on Russian prison tattoos. I still believe Rich and Jakob (of Kapala Tattoo in Winnipeg Manitoba) did a fantastic job, tattooing this was is not easy, and certainly if you watch the Mark Of Cain you will see how not easy it really is when when you have to make everything out of found objects.


Anonymous said...

Kinda figures. These guys are a couple of thieves and criminals anyhow. Also not surprised they had to trace out of a book instead of actually drawing.

George Brown said...

But they have their names and pictures posted, and you're just fucking anonymous. Harsh words all around for this one. Let's not forget, people, that we're all working from bastardized and hand-me-down imagery. Was a time that the spider-web elbow meant something much different as well. Maybe we shouldn't take it all so seriously; it is tattooing, after all, not brain surgery.

Marissa Rossie said...

Rich is my uncle and an honest man. He made Kapala a name all on his own. He's an amazing artist and I'm proud to say family.

Good on ya uncle Rich.