“Traditionally, in accordance with their code, professional thieves are not supposed to engage in any useful activity that could benefit society. Instead they must live off their ‘professional’ earnings, that is, only on income gained through criminal activity. Furthermore, they are not supposed to commit any other type of crime except robbery.

A four-time offender gave the following explanation of the tattoos on his body:


My first three convictions were for robbery. Hwne I was sitting out those sentences I had tattoos made that symbolised my trade- an eight-pointed star on the shoulders. But my last sentence was for beating up a woman. Once this crime became known in the ‘zone’ [penal colony], I was told that I no longer had the right to be a thief. In other words my life as a thief was over. Now my trademark tattoo indicates that ‘I am alone on an iceberg’ [a fallen tree branch].” – Russian Criminal Tattoo: Police Files Volume 1.