I love tattoos. While I don’t have any – I find many of them both beautiful and slightly disturbing at the same time. “Between 1948 to 2005, 3,000 drawings were compiled by prison warden and ethnographer Danzing Baldaev of the tattoos of the inmates. Supported by the KGB, who recognised the usefulness of such a document, these drawings were supplemented by photographs by Sergei Vasiliev, a fellow warden.” Many of these photographs are currently on exhibit at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London.
Their body art and meanings were recorded and assembled into 3 books, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia volumes 1 – 3 can be purchased through Fuel Design. You can also view a sample of them on this slightly dark video. These tattoos have recently been depicted in a film by David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises) and a Martin Amis novel (House of Meetings).