The Mark of Cain documents the fading art form and the Russian criminal tattoos, once a taboo subject in Russia. The virtual disappearance is now seen as a reflection of the transition of Russian society in general. Filmed in some of the most notorious prisons in Russia, including the famous White Swan, interviews with prisoners, guards, and criminologists show the secret language of the area and the Code
Stalinist Gulag inmates, or the area, as it is called, has developed a complex social structure (documented in the decade of 1920) that incorporated highly symbolic tattooing as a mark of rank. The existence of these inmates in prisons and labor camps was considered by the state as a closely guarded secret.
In the 1990s, the population of Russia broke jail overcrowding among the worst in the world. Some estimates suggest that in the last generation of over thirty million of Russia’s inmates have had tattoos, but the process is illegal in Russian prisons.
The Mark of Cain discusses all aspects of tattooing, the mere creation of the tattoo ink, tattoo artists interviews and sobriety seen in the double-edged sword of tattoos in prison. In many ways, which is needed to survive brutal Russian prisons, but it makes the prisoner for life, which complicates any reentry into normal society they may have.
Did wou know...?
- a tattoo with a proeminent personality of the comunism (like Lenin, Stalin, Marx and Engels) could be a "safety warrant" against the capital punishment (because no one dared to shoot the image of a great comunist leader)
- a tattoo is like an ID, it can be read like a book and tells everything about a convict
- an executioner tattooed on the forearm means that the person is a killer (usually in the service of a gang)
- a sailing ship is the symbol of a roaming life