Danzig Baldaevs unparalleled ethnographic achievement, documenting over 3,000 tattoo drawings, was made during a lifetime working as a prison guard. The motifs depicted represent the uncensored lives of the criminal classes, ranging from violence and pornography to politics and alcohol. A medieval knight is surrounded by the severed heads of his enemies, a naked woman simultaneously services a man and two dwarfs, a crying President Gorbachev grips a human bone between sabre-like fangs, a group of angels drinks vodka with God on a cloud the meanings of these arresting images are explained to the uninitiated eye. Accompanied by graphic photographs showing the grim reality of the Russian prison system and some of the alarming characters that inhabit it, the illustrated criminals of Russia tell the tale of their closed society.
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