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The Russian word ‘Suka’ means bitch and was used by Russian prisoners to refer to a person who has made a “bitch out of oneself” by serving or collaborating with the law enforcement, the government or the tsar (in the previously tsarist Russia) by snitching or ratting.

During world war 2, Joseph Stalin offered to grant amnesty to prisoners in exchange for military service, and they would be granted a pardon or reduction in jail time after the war was over. When these prisoners returned to the labour camps and prisons, they were labelled as suki(bitch) and placed in the lowest rung of the prison food chain.

As the suki broke the prisoners” code by serving the establishment they were differentiated from the others by the means of tattoos. Tattoo culture in Russian gulags had its origin in the branding of prisoners. Each prisoner had a particular tattoo depending on the level of his authority and the type of crime he committed. Tattoos represented the prisoners’ achievements and the kind of work they did.

A tattoo of a dagger piercing a heart was modified by adding an arrow and was worn by a real thief to indicate his desire to seek vengeance against the suki.

The suki were provided better jobs by the prison officials out of sympathy as they were persecuted by the leaders of the Russian criminal underground. The war between these prisoner lords and the suki was termed as bitch war. Many prisoners lost their lives in this “war”.

Prisoners got tattoos of Lenin and Stalin on their chest and forehead to prevent the execution by firing squad (executing a person by shooting at his brain or heart).

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