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Russian Mafia – Organized Crime Part 1


Here’s a great video link for part one of a Russian Mafia documentary that was aired recently on the history channel.  It talks about the Russian Mafia in America, and their connections with other crime organizations.


Decoding Russian Mafia Tattoos

Russian Mafia Tattoos

To the naked eye, one look at the Tattoos of the Russian Mafia and they appear to be nothing more than cathedrals, portraits, crosses, stars and spider webs – that’s what you’re supposed to think.  Little did we know, until movies like Easter Promises hit the silver screen, that Russian Mafia Tattoos and Russian Mafia Symbols are very intricate and hold grave meaning and conviction upon the host.

It’s hard to be absolutely sure of the exact translation that some of these tattoos contain, as I’m sure things have been manipulated and adjusted throughout history, but here are some basic interpretations of common Russian Mafia Symbols:

  • Cathedral, Church or Monastery – Usually on the chest, shoulder, or back.  Depending on the number of steeples or towers are shown on the tattoo, it translates to the number of years, or number times an individual has been incarcerated.
  • Stars – If there are star tattoos on the shoulders, it typically symbolizes a individuals dignity and honor and that he lives by a certain code and tradition.  Star tattoos on the knee caps are usually given once a member has become promoted to Captain status, and it symbolizes that the owner of the tattoo will never be brought to his knees.
  • Pirate Tattoo – This means that the owner has committed armed robbery, or article 167 of the Russian Criminal Code.
  • Cobweb – Usually found on the shoulder.  Thought this tattoo has become popular amongst suburban rebels and movie stars, in the Russian Prison system it stands for drug addiction.  Not something I’d want to be boasting if I was an actor or professional athlete!

More Russian Mafia Tattoo designs…


Russian Mafia Tattoos In Hollywood

Russian Mafia Tattoos

The most popular display of Russian Mafia Tattoos in a mainstream movie production would have to be on the body of Viggo Mortensen’s character in the David Cronenberg award winning film Eastern Promises.  Cronenberg made it a point to place detailed attention on the symbolism and importance of the tattoos that prisoners and mafia members acquired.

Most people don’t know this, but before Eastern Promises there was an acclaimed documentary on Russian Mafia Tattoos released in 2000 titled The Mark of Cain, directed by Alix Lambert.  This film goes into great detail to uncover the tradition, brutality, and practice of Russian Criminal Tattoos – some of the film is even shot in Russia’s fabled White Swan prison.  More Russian Mafia Tattoos…


Russian Mafia Tattoos – Cathedrals And Churches

russian mafia tattoos

As you can see above, it is common to find churches, monasteries, fortresses and castles in Russian Mafia Tattoos.  It’s most common to find these tattoos on the chest, back and hand region.  If you look closely you will see seven towers in total on the structure tattooed on the middle of his chest.  Some people translate the number of towers to the number of years, or number of times an individual has been to prison.  It’s common to find the phrase “The church is the house of God” written beneath the cathedral – which is usually translated to “Prison is the home of the Thief”.  More tattoo designs…


Russian Mafia Tattoos With Skulls

russian mafia tattoos

Military insignia and uniform epaulets (ornamental shoulder pieces) are seen in Russian Mafia Tattoos when symbolizing criminal accomplishments.  When a skull is portrayed it is usually meant to designate a murderer.  Epaulets will be decorated with various crests and symbols in the center section where you can see the skull in the image above – it’s common to find reference to an individuals criminal status prior to incarceration, especially if it was of any significance or importance.  You will also see certain crests and symbols in Russian Mafia Tattoos that represent a persons time spent in solitary confinement.  More tattoo designs…


Chopper Tattoo Design

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