What Do Russian Prison Tattoos Symbolize?

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There are a wide variety of Russian prison tattoos, the meanings of which often help to tell the story of that prisoner's life as relates to their crimes. An epaulette and a spider signify a criminal who was higher ranking within the criminal hierarchy, according to the Daily Mail. A man wearing a turban with a knife in his mouth means brutality and hostility towards people who cooperate with authorities, whereas a sailing ship symbolizes a yearning for freedom and possible escape.

Prisoners from previous decades tattooed dots or small crosses on their knuckles, meaning thievery. An oskal is a tattoo of a roaring tiger that signifies aggression within a thief.

Tattoo rings describe antisocial personalities or someone who refuses to do prison work. The rings also signify someone who goes against the prison system, and it can mean an underage prisoner within a circle of thieves. A rose on the shoulder means a prisoner turned 18 while in prison.

Bells on the feet are for prisoners who have served a full sentence, and shackles on the ankles denote a sentence that is more than two years. Broken shackles alludes to a prisoner who once escaped from prison. Barbed wire translates into the number of years in a sentence.

Eyes on a stomach is a meaning for homosexuality, with the penis forming the nose. Obscene tattoos are reserved for homosexuals or people who lose during card games, according to The Guardian. A heart inside a white triangle is the symbol of a child rapist.

Images of monsters or demons are meant to intimidate other prisoners and heighten social status within a group. A dagger on the neck means a prisoner has committed murder within prison and that he is available for a murder contract. Tattoos on the face are a sign that a prisoner never expects to be freed.