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Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume II cover Zoom

£22.50 Buy

205x125 mm hardback
400 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9550061-2-8
Published 2006

10% goes to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.

This second volume of the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia is an essential companion to the critically acclaimed first volume. It features previously unpublished drawings and photographs from the extraordinary archives of Danzig Baldaev and Sergei Vasiliev.

During his lifetime as a guard in St Petersburg's notorious Kresty Prison, Baldaev diligently recorded over 3,000 criminals' tattoos and their coded meanings. His drawings form a unique gallery; a passport into a hidden world of shovel-faced politicians, fornicating devils, messages tangled in barbed wire. Tattoos on hands, feet, legs, torsos, foreheads, eyelids, buttocks and genitals all take their place in this fascinating document of a rapidly disappearing criminal society, where history, status and even sexual preference are indelibly etched on the body.

Introduction by Anne Applebaum, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.


A fantastic book, completely mind-blowing, that outlines the sub-culture of tattooing in Russian prisons. [The books] told us what the tattoos meant and how they could become central to the movie. I said to Steve Knight [writer] when you see these books you're going to want to do a major re-write to incorporate tattoos as a central metaphor.
David Cronenberg. Director, Eastern Promises

A unique social document recording a now disappearing sub-culture. The criminals inhabit as desperate a nether world as you are likely to come across. A hipnotic aspect of art and words. 

The prison tattooist's life is made doubly difficult given the ink at his disposal. Called 'mazut' it's usually made of fuel oil mixed with dirt. For splashes of colour the tattooist will squirrel away the most valuable food products in the prison camp: tea, fat and jam. The poorest will make do with urine, soot and ground-up boot heels.

For once, there's a sequel that is equally as powerful and captivating as its predecessor.
Domy Books

The book uses drawings made over the years by a prison warder called Danzig Baldaev, who, during the course of work in reformatory settlements all over the former Soviet Union, collected some 3,600 images. There are also photographs, of the most dismal character.
James Fenton, The Guardian

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