The Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive presents highlights from FUEL’s singular collection of authentic material on this subject. Previously unpublished in its original form, this work comprises ink on paper drawings by Danzig Baldaev, the photographic albums of Arkady Bronnikov and prisoner portraits by Sergei Vasiliev. The selection is contextualised with insights from Mark Vincent PhD (author and academic specialising in the Soviet Gulag) and Alison Nordström (photography scholar, writer and curator).
The meticulous depictions of tattoos by prison guard Danzig Baldaev are reproduced in facsimile, authenticated by his signature and stamp, alongside his handwritten notes on the reverse. The paper has yellowed with age, giving the exquisite drawings a visceral temporality – almost like skin.
Sergei Vasiliev’s photographs portray inmates in startling intimacy. He achieves a remarkable level of trust within the closed criminal society, a strict hierarchy, where outsiders are viewed with hostile suspicion.
Arkady Bronnikov’s collection of photographs are shown in the albums in which they were collected. Used exclusively to aid police in their investigations, they depict a motley line-up of assorted body parts.
This unique book is the only publication of primary material on this subject, highlighting the pioneering methods of these three individuals used to document this unique phenomenon.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Danzig Baldaev worked as a warden in ‘Kresty’ (‘the Crosses’) – an infamous Leningrad prison – where he began drawing the tattoos of criminals. Between 1948-2000 he travelled to reform settlements across the former USSR, using pen and ink to record the tattoos he found.
Sergei Vasiliev worked as a photographic journalist for more than 30 years. He documented Russian prisoners and their tattoos in between 1990-93. His work has been exhibited internationally including in the Saatchi Gallery, London and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin.
Arkady Bronnikov was a police officer working in the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Perm between 1963-91. During this time, he collected thousands of photographs of tattooed prisoners from across the Soviet Union.
Mark Vincent is a writer and academic. He is the author of Criminal Subculture in the Gulag (Bloomsbury). He is a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, School of History.
Alison Nordström is an independent scholar, writer and curator specializing in photography. She holds the PhD in Cultural and Visual Studies and is currently a Research Associate in Photography at Harvard University.
EDITORS: Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell have been publishing critically acclaimed books on Soviet culture since 2004 with their Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia series. More recent titles include Chernobyl; A Stalkers’ Guide, Spomenik Monument Database and Soviet Bus Stops.
Published 20 July 2023 by FUEL Design & Publishing
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