What stories do Stephen Moyer’s Russian prison tattoos tell?

“In Russian prisons, your life story is written on your body, in tattoos. If you don’t have tattoos, you don’t exist.” – Eastern Promises

Sometimes we tend to forget that tattoos are not merely a fashion trend but do represent deep symbolic meaning, especially in the criminal world.

There is no Russian criminal without a little ink to show his fellow inmates who he is, what he’s done and what he stands for. In The Double Stephen Moyer’s character, Brutus has a clearly visible tattoo that caught my attention.

Our AllStephenMoyer Board member, and owner of the only Russian Stephen Moyer fan site, Kseniya from Ukraine discovered that the exact same tattoo on Stephen has been used before in the movie Eastern Promises to star Viggo Mortensen.
Russian Prisons
Russian Prisons

Tattoo of Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises

The information available about Russian criminal tattoos is all related to the Russian mafia and may not apply to spy Brutus serving his sentence in an American prison, but it’s interesting nevertheless.

Viggo sports the tattoo in question on his left upper arm where for Stephen’s Brutus the right upper man was chosen.

The tattoo represents a skull with three flowers with the words “наперекор судьбе” which means ”In spite of destiny”. This kind of tattoo would be found on the body of a high-ranking gang member who is a murderer and celebrated three teenage birthdays in prison.

I am not sure if this is really the case with Brutus since it seems that the tattoo was more chosen for its aesthetics and feel than for its symbolism.

Through the co-writer of The Double Derek Haas we learned exclusively that director Michael Brandt gave Stephen the choice of tattoo. Brandt: “We gave Stephen some ideas to choose from, and the one he picked happened to be the one Viggo had. No deeper meaning other than the tattoo spoke to Stephen in some way. It just resonated with him.”

Brutus’ second tattoo is a star on his neck. Stars symbolize the dignity of the person wearing them and that they live by the code and tradition.

A couple of remarks Stephen made in public make me think that he is considering to get tattooed himself. I wonder what image and symbolism he would choose if he ever did decide to follow the example of his wife and decorate his body with ink.

source: mafiawarsblackbook.com


  1. Tattoo’s are ok in limited amounts with me, although in Stephen’s case I would not like anything to mar that perfect body. But not for me to say. and I definitely do not like them on women, altho my daughter has a compass rose on the back of her neck, and it is pretty but I think she now regrets it and there lies the problem with tattoos people have changes of heart as they get older. It would be interesting what Stephen would choose maybe ANNA, or some reference to her. What is pinging?

    1. The 2 tattoo parlors I got my tats from both have a policy against inking names of spouses or significant others. They have too many people coming in to have them covered up after a break-up. And it’s really hard to do. A reference would be cool.

  2. Thanks for the additional info Shad. And thanks to Kceniya for getting that ink discussion started over at the AS forum.

    I’m a fan of tats (got some myself), so I wouldn’t have a problem seeing Steve with one of his own. Maybe something to symbolize his kids or something. Tats can be tasteful!

  3. no wives no girlfriends!!! If Stephen gets Anna’s name tattooed on him, you might as well get the lawyer and start filling out the divorce papers. Even tattoo artists will recommend against it and some really respected ones wont’ do it at all. They’ve seen the same thing happen over and over.

    I know a lot of people who get tattoos of their children, I could see him getting symbols or putting his children’s names on himself..that..I could see him doing. We all know how much his children mean to him. And he’s 40 years old now, so it’s not like he’s going to get something dumb or put it in a place everyone can see it ..like one’s neck…that’s just dumb. sorry sharon!!

    I work with a lot of young people and when they start talking tatoos, I always tells them to get it someplace a normal shirt/pants will hide it and to think hard if this is something they’d want people to see when they’re 40 and 50 years old. Something that looks cool when you’re 20 , won’t look cool when you’re gray, have a paunch and expecting grandkids.

    cosmetic surgeons get to charge a fortune to remove them too, not to mention it’s horribly painful getting them removed…much worse than when you get them put on I’ve heard.

  4. Thank you for appreciating my research in such a way, Shad! I’m really proud!And I liked the additional information either. I haven’t known about the other tattoo. By the way, I’m not the only owner of this site! There are 4 of us! I’m just an ordinary newsmaker and nothing more…

  5. i think that tatts are cool…from a distance…and only on men…but not a man I’m dating (hopefully). weird, i know. in general, i think that women have so many things we can do that are not permanent and that we can change with our moods, so why get stuck with a tatt that you may not like later? angelina jolie’s tattoos…she’s a special case, i guess.

    steve is so gorgeous just the way he is.

  6. I remember Viggo Mortensen getting a tattoo in “Eastern Promises.” He kept drinking vodka and never changed his expression. Of course he was being watched by his “boss.”
    Terrific movie, and he was wonderful in it!
    I am not a big fan of tattoos, but a small one in an unobvious place doesn’t bother me.
    I do agree with Sharon that Stephen’s body is so enjoyable “a la carte” that IDT he needs it accessorized. LOL!
    Thanks for the posting!

  7. The neck tattoo is actually an Adinkara symbol from West Africa (Ghana). It’s called Sesa Wo Suban  which means “Change or transform your character” or simply “Transformation”.

  8. I have a lot of ink, signifying things that are important to me, my twin passions of science and music, my Christian faith ( yes, Christians sometimes get tattoos) tributes to both of my parents, and a scroll on my back with “Mum & Dad” and the names of my sister and 3 brothers. It’s ok to get the names of family members or your own kids – they will always be family. But I’d never get the name of a girlfriend or spouse. Ive s lot of tattoos but all by artwork can be easily covered by clothing. I would *never* get a tattoo on my face neck or hands.

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