The “Good Criminal” Russian Style: Saving Souls through Symbols and Rituals
The Soviet Union, inherently materialistic and atheistic, opposed religion and religious culture for 70 years and yet whilst simoultaneously founding its ideology on a rather dogmatic, and even teleological basis. Nevertheless, soviet law (zakon) always lacked a deep and coherent ethic and spiritual validation, which allowed criminal elites to replace their leading role with a parallel, criminal law, founded on a detailed unwritten code, and imposing a life of obedience and loneliness vaguely similar to a monastic one. Those “consecrated” as vory-v-zakone (thieves in law) were the leaders of a powerful, influentialand thoroughly ritualized criminal society.Soviet criminal subculture deeply mirrors itself in tattoo imagery, in which faith, religion and their subversion (?) are widely intertwined with soviet reality. In post-soviet era, as a result of on odd overturning, massmedia culture projects vory-v-zakone heritage on newly central Orthodox church. A tattooed musclebound priest, annihilating evil in a very physical way, is one of most beloved films and novel heroes.