Knowing about the deep symbolism associated with Russian Mafia tattoos

The fact is that people in general are just dimly aware as to what is the truth behind the tattoos of the Russian Mafia. Perhaps one must  have come across ‘Eastern Promises’,  a multi award winning and much acclaimed movie which has starred Viggo Mortensen, where he is said to  portray the role of a driver working for the son of Russian Mafia boss. His body has been riddled with several tattoos, which traces his history to the Russian world of crime, which is Vory v Zakone.

Significance of the tattoos among the Russian mafia members

This Mafia film is genuinely worth watching and does show clearly the importance of tattoos that are in vogue with the Russian Mafia. However, such tattoos are considered to be much more than mere body art, with each symbol and picture depicting with some meaning or the other. The life story of  the person having the tattoo can be know, which includes his prison sentences, sins, rank he had possessed, his origin and the number of people killed by him.

Furthermore, the tattoos are regarded to be deeply symbolic, while unraveling properly the meanings that are behind its creation, which can be understood only by the Russian Mafia members. Often, the used symbols tend to be of religious in nature and may include churches and cathedrals having number of spires, which indicate the different times, the person had been in prison.

Who is given the tattoo?

When a person is initiated into the Mafia, as a new recruit, he is given a tattoo, which is engraved on his chest, incorporating a rose. With their rising in the Russian Mafia rankings, they are given more tattoos and once they become a captain, finally they are provided with a star on the shoulder as well as on the knees,  for indicating that they are not to kneel before anyone.


The Russian Mafia tattoo culture is said to have its origination in Gulag, a Siberian prison, known to be among the world’s toughest prisons. A stringent conduct code is followed by the criminals, similar to that of the Italian Mafia. Members who may falsely tattoo themselves for pretending to have achieved certain things which actually they have not or inflating their ranks, often are punished to death. Moreover, if the code is broken, then a tattoo depicting sexual nature is often forced to be had on a prominent place of the body like the forehead. They are designed specifically for embarrassing the wearer.