Danzig Baldaev was born in 1925 in Ulan-Ude, Buryatiya, Russia. The son of an ‘enemy of the people’, he was subject to repression in communist Russia and sent to an orphanage for children of political prisoners. After serving in the army in World War II, he came to Leningrad in 1948 and was ordered by the NKVD to work as a warden in ‘Kresty’ – an infamous Leningrad prison – where he started drawing the tattoos of criminals. His collection of tattoos were recorded in different reformatory settlements across the former USSR between 1948–2000. Danzig Baldaev died in 2005.
The first Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia was published in his lifetime (2004), the second and third volumes posthumously (2006 and 2008).
A further volume of work Drawings from the Gulag was published in 2010.
His drawings have been exhibited internationally as part of the Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition.