How Russian crime bosses get their nicknames

How Russian crime bosses get their nicknames
Thief in law Rospis

The nicknames tend to be derived from the names and surnames of the thieves in law, their home towns, past jobs or may reflect their qualities.

Mafia bosses had nicknames back in the XVIII century, writes the telegram channel The Criminal. The channel featured an article on how thieves in law get their nicknames.

In the past, a candidate needed to invest a certain amount in the common fund in order to join the “thieves’ brotherhood”. Only after that would he be considered a full member of the underworld and given a nickname.

Today, thieves in law are “crowned” at special summits. They receive their nickname then and there. After that, all members get malyavas - messages that contain brief information about the newcomer.

Former No. 1 thief in law in Russia, Zakhary Kalashov, was not referred to as Shakro Molodoy but simply as Shakro in his inner circle. Kalashov was born in Tbilisi and "Shakro" is the Georgian for "sugar". To avoid confusion with another influential boss, Shakro Stary (The Old) aka Shakro Kakachia, they started calling him Shakro Molodoy (The Young).

Vasily Khristoforov's nickname, Vasya Voskres, is related to his last name and the Easter greeting of the Orthodox “Khristos Voskres!” (“Christ is Risen!”).

Edik Osetrina received his nickname because the word (the Russian for the “flesh of sturgeon”) sounds similar to his real name, Asatryan. Sometimes he is referred to as Edik Tbilissky, because he was "crowned" in the Georgian capital. Nadir Salifov’s nickname has a similar origin. Guli Bakinsky (“of Baku”), later simply Guli. The thief in law was born in Tbilisi, but was "crowned" in Baku.

Thief in law Oleg Pirogov received the nickname Tsirkach (“Circus man”), because he wanted to avoid going to the army and brought a fake certificate that he was going to a circus school.

Thus, the nicknames tend to be derived from the names and surnames of the thieves in law, their home towns, past jobs or may reflect their qualities. The thief Andrei Isaev received his nickname Rospis (“Fresco”) because he is covered with tattoos, and Pavel Struganov was nicknamed Pasha Tsvetomuzyka (“Colormusic”) because he blinks excessively during a conversation.

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