Tattooed Russia: A declaration of love captured on the body

Alexander, 30, St. Petersburg. Has a tattoo of a bear with vodka, an image of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, the face of famous Russian actor Yuri Nikulin, Soviet cars and the cat from Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel ‘The Master and Margarita’. ‘I find patriotism interesting, it’s close to my heart. I consider myself a patriot.’

Alexander, 30, St. Petersburg. Has a tattoo of a bear with vodka, an image of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, the face of famous Russian actor Yuri Nikulin, Soviet cars and the cat from Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel ‘The Master and Margarita’. ‘I find patriotism interesting, it’s close to my heart. I consider myself a patriot.’

Ulyana Turchanina
Russians with tattoos dedicated to the Motherland on why they did it and what it means to be a patriot in Russia.
Mikhail, 32, tattoo artist, Kazan. Has a ‘Glory to Russia’ tattoo: ‘As for me patriotism is a fake idea, aimed at dividing the various peoples of the world. I got this tattoo because I love the land where I was born’.
Anton, 28, barman, Moscow. Has a ‘Moscow’ tattoo inscribed on his back. ‘I love Moscow and am proud I was born here. I think everyone should know the history of their city and country.’
Alexander, 47, Moscow. Has a tattoo of Vladimir Putin’s face, USSR landmarks, chesses and religion quotes. ‘For me Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] is an idol. Sure, I see myself as a patriot.’
Ivan, 18, student, Moscow. Has a tattoo with an image of ‘The Motherland Calls’ statue (located in Volgograd, Russia, commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad). ‘My grandfather was born in Volgograd and fought in the war. For me it’s an honor [to have this tattoo]’.
Alexei, 30, government worker, Moscow. This tattoo consists of a picture of Josef Stalin, Spasskaya Tower in the Moscow Kremlin, planes, cars, soldiers and part of a famous Russian patriotic song: ‘I made the tattoo for the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War. My grandfather served throughout the war. This tattoo was made in memory of him.’
Andrei, 27, designer, Samara. Owner of a tattoo with a bear: ‘My wife came up with the idea of the sketch for this tattoo. As for me, it conveys the atmosphere of Russia. It shows Russia in all its splendor.'
Sergei, 23, truck driver, Moscow. Has a tattoo depicting the famous photo ‘Raising the Flag over the Reichstag’ by Yevgeny Khaldei: 'I’ve been interested in patriotic themes since childhood. It became a part of my life. I remember and respect the people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.'
Eduard, 28, police worker, St. Petersburg. Has many tattoos with planes, soldiers, and red stars dedicated to the Second World War with captions ‘1945’, ‘We’ve reached Berlin’, ‘Great Patriotic War’: ‘The history of Russia is often rewritten. When my children and grandchildren ask me what these tattoos mean, I’ll tell them the story of my country.’
Andrei, 33, Samara. Has a tattoo with the titles of the main Soviet newspapers, Second World War soldiers, planes, and the symbol of the USSR – the hammer and sickle: 'All my family members are in the military. The history of our country deserves respect.'
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