Russian Criminal Tattoos
Are Still Art

11.26.12 Marina Galperina

For a Russian gulag subculture honed by cutting inmates’ skin with make-shift shivs and pouring in ink made from melted paper, blood and misc shit… That’s some nice style consistency there, Baldaev.

The work of Danzig Baldaev has been imitated, rounded up in 3 volumes of the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia and now, it’s full-on institutionalized via Saatchi Gallery’s grand Soviet art retrospective.

As documented in the dramatic black and white photographs of Sergei Vasiliev, the tattoos tell auto-biographical stories of struggle, survival, Soviet persecution, giant tits, rapey devils, Communism, Patriotism, Spiritualism, pithy philosophy from the most melancholy, cynical pockets of the dark depths of the Russian soul and… uh… hate for “the other,” in various versions of thereof. Ahem.

They look cool though.

Conveniently, there’s also this brand new Tumblr that translates Baldaev and faux-Baldaev insignia. You know, so you don’t accidentally get some hateful tattoos all up on yourself. But they look cool though.

Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union: Art from Russia,” Nov 21 – May 5, Saatchi Gallery, London