20 + Best Russian Tattoos & Their Meanings


Russia’s history with tattoos is predominantly centered around its complex prison tattoo culture. It’s a practice that has been fading for decades ever since the younger generation started embracing skin art and piercings as a form of personal adornment rather than criminal identification. Russian prison tattoo art is a powerful and interesting motif, which is being applauded for its creativity all over the world. 

The criminals branding with tattoos

Criminals were branded with acronyms on their foreheads, cheeks, or forearms. The common acronyms included ‘BOP’ which means thief and ‘KAT’, a three-letter acronym tattooed on a criminal’s face which means criminal. The practice of branding criminals with ink was officially forbidden by law in 1863. 

Tattoo culture in Russia today

The tattoo culture in Russia has changed over time. Although the older generations still identify tattoos as a mark of hardened criminals, the younger ones have embraced them with open arms.

Famous Russian Tattoos

  • Epaulettes Tattoo

It shows a negative attitude to the system. This tattoo is found on high-ranking criminals who often have a nickname like ‘major’ or ‘colonel’. Epaulettes with three stars or skulls mean, ‘I am not a slave of the camps, no one can force me to work’. It also means, ‘The strong win – the weak die’ and ‘Horses die from work.’

  • Lighthouse tattoo

A lighthouse tattoo represents a strong desire for freedom.

  • Wrist Manacle tattoo

It means that the prisoner has served a sentence of five years in the prison.

  • Prometheus tattoo

Its base lies on the myth of Prometheus, who has got eternal punishment after tricking Zeus.

  • The sailing ship tattoo

 The sailing ship means the bearer of the tattoo is a traveling thief who is prone to escape.

  • Skulls and Coffin Tattoo

Skulls signify conviction for murder and coffins signify murder.

  • Eight pointed stars tattoo

This tattoo represents a high ranking thief who has been a part of large number of burglaries.

  • Bow tie tattoo

Bow tie tattoos was mostly on thiefs who were with the authorities.

  • Snake around the neck tattoo

This tattoo represents that the person is a drug addict and has also committed pedophilia.

  • Eyes on the stomach tattoo

The eyes on the stomach tattoo represents homosexuality.

  • Rose on the chest tattoo

we can find this tattoo on the criminals who have turned 18 in the prison.

  • Skull and crossbones tattoo

This tattoo in inked on those criminals who are serving a life sentence.

  • Mermaid tattoo

This tattoo means that the bearer of the tattoo was with child molestation.

Russian Tattoos of the new age

  • Khokhloma tattoos

Khokhloma tattoos portray a form of art that is typical to Siberia. The perfect amount of black ink used in this art form makes it ideal for tattoos too. The main colors in this tattoo are gold and red which is to make patterns. The usual themes include creatures like sparrow, roosters, pheasant, peacock, foxes, bears and something that is common for every tattoo, flower vines etc.

  • Nesting doll tattoos

There are several connotations for this tattoo. This tattoo portrays maternity and productivity. It also represents Russia as a country. This tattoo sometime signify life experiences.

  • Misha tattoo

Misha is the Olympic mascot of 1980. It looks really delicate and cute.


The Russian Tattoos have a variety of meanings and they represent the different eras of the country. The tattoos aren’t just for to criminals now, it has spread throughout the country as a form of art. Russian Tattoos have become trendy throughout the world for their rich history and deep meanings.