Russian Tattoo Meanings

Russia is known for being a huge country. So big in fact, it is the largest country in the world. With an expansion of over 6.6 million square miles, it has every country beat in terms of landmass, the runner up is Canada with 2.8 million square miles. With a whopping 9 different time zones spread across the country, it shares borders with 14 other neighboring countries. With all of this land, it is no wonder that Russia has a large display of tattoos. When looking up Russian tattoos, you may find that a lot of them are prison tattoos. Although there are a number of people locked up in Russian prisons that get tattooed in jail, this is not the entire population of the Russian tattoo enthusiasts.

Believe it or not, the most common type of tattoos that have come from Russia, all have very religious meanings. The Russian Orthodox Church has over 150 million members and counting, since many Russians had to emigrate for their love and faith in their religion, tattoos are a reminder to those individuals what they have done and gone through to keep their faith. Below in this article will be examples of both religious Russian tattoo designs, and Russian prison tattoos as well. Placements and meanings will go along with these designs.

Russian Tattoo Designs

Russian tattoos often have a very dark side to them, such as the ones that have been sported by convicts and criminals. This is not always true however. Russia is a large and beautiful country filled with a great heritage and history of art. Although Russians do not always get tattoos pertaining to patriotism, there are other things in the art of Russia that is used quite frequently.

Khokhloma Tattoo

Khokhloma is a popular design in Russia. First appearing sometime in the 17th century, this art form was created when those who would flee the persecution of officials took refuge in painting and designing different displays on things such as soft wooden utensils, dishes, pots, pans, and other kitchen-ware. This form of art is known to use patterns such as brightly colored flowers, usually with colors such as green, red, and gold colors over a black background.

These designs and colors give the light, soft wooden sculptures/dishware the effect of looking heavier than they are, almost as if they are made of a metallic substance. This concept and flower design has been implemented into many things in the Russian culture, including tattoos. Many people of Russia with tattoos will get animals, such as bears, birds, wolves, and other woodland creatures. Basically, anything that you want as a tattoo, but inside of the frame of the tattoo is this Khokhloma design. The Khokhloma design has an array of floral patterns and thick vines throughout the piece. Tattoos such as these are often done with the Khokhloma colors, red, green, gold, and black. A Khokhloma design without these colors is also seen, but is not nearly as eye catching and does not hold true to the roots of the Khokhloma art.

Matryoshka Doll Tattoo

The Matryoshka doll is one that many have seen, whether you are Russian or not, these dolls are well known all over the globe. Perhaps you would recognize them by their more popular name, the ‘Stacking Dolls’ or the ‘Russian Nesting Doll’. These dolls are made from wood and are stacked on top of each other. Each doll has a doll that is smaller in size that is able to fit inside the other one. Typically, these dolls come in groups of 5, which means that there is a large one, that is accompanied by a smaller one, that fits inside of another smaller doll, etc… Since 1890, these dolls have been popular all throughout Russia and as of recently, have become the centerpiece among Russian tattoo enthusiasts! These dolls are usually in the shape or figure of an old woman, although this was the original and most sought after design, these figurines can virtually by designed as whoever, or whatever you would like. As for tattoos, since the old woman doll design is the most notable, tattoos of this design are recognized immediately as Matryoshka dolls. These dolls have very vibrant colors and designs throughout the doll. A tattoo of this could consist of the doll, maybe standing next to a smaller doll, with floral patterns throughout the frame. A tattoo like this looks great just about anywhere on the body and is normally seen on the upper arm.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral Tattoo

The Saint Basil Cathedral is a well-known cathedral dwelling in the Red Square in Moscow. This cathedral is one that many cherish as a part of Russian history. With its unique and extravagant architectural style, it is no wonder why so many would want a work of art such as this on their body as a tattoo. Since this is a big graphic to get illustrated on oneself, picking a big enough spot for this tattoo would be the first order of business. This piece is usually done as a big back, or chest piece. A tattoo such as this signifies that the owner of this tattoo has a strong faith in their religion. Since this tattoo is of a popular cathedral, those who see this tattoo, especially in Russia, will assume you are a person of God and have a strong belief. This tattoo is normally done with color, since there are so many vibrant colors within the architectural design itself. Although most tattoo artist are familiar with concepts like this, it is best to find a tattoo artist that has a background in sketching buildings as tattoos.

Russia has a great history and the art is astounding. Whatever you decide to get as a Russian tattoo, it is sure to raise questions and turn heads. Russia has a unique style and sense about the entire country so there is no shame in showing off your heritage with a Russian tattoo! Be sure however, to get the correlating color patterns as described, the wrong colors could signify a whole other country.

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