My obsession with Russia dates back to my earliest days. One of my fondest childhood memories involves seeing Catherine the Great: Treasures of Imperial Russia at the Memphis Cook Convention Center as a first grader. The first novel I ever wrote chronicled the adventures of an American lass [such as myself] who infiltrates an offshoot of the KGB and falls for a mysterious Saint Petersburg local named Alexei. Because I was adopted at birth– and know nothing about my biologicals– it’s entirely possible that I could be of Russian decent. If only I could be so lucky! Meeting a Russian elicits an almost embarrassing response that involves a barrage of questions, demands to speak the native tongue, and pleas to take me to ‘the motherland.’ Luckily my friends indulge me.
Several days ago I watched Russia’s Toughest Prisons on Netflix. Life behind bars strangely fascinates me. Most of what I see on Lockup– the ultimate prison authority for someone who’s never been there– features correctional facilities in the good ol’ USA. The Russians don’t play when it comes to incarceration. Punishment for criminal activity non-withstanding, survival in a place like Black Dolphin isn’t for the faint of heart.
Needless to say Russian prison tattoos blow the competition out of the water. Any moron can slap a few teardrops on their cheeks or prominently display the name of their gang on their chest– how original. Ink amongst Russian criminals utilizes mythology, history, religion, and symbolism to tell a story. You have to dig a little deeper, use some intellectual capacity. Plus they just look cool. Somewhere in the former Soviet Union, a hardcore convict is weeping….
In one of my past lives [not the one where I’m Anastasia narrowly escaping impending doom] I must have been a kingpin in the Russian Crime Syndicate, covered with tattoos depicting my dangerous existence in the seedy underbelly of the gutter.
With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,