Join Date: Oct 2010
Russian Prison Knives
Around 2000 I came across some knives in South Russia that may be of interest to the Forum members. These things are apparently all kinds of illegal. In Russia they are classified as Cold Weapons and possession without a hunting license is a felony. The irony of this is glaring. These tools make the crude shivs and shanks made from sharpened toothbrushes common in the US seem very unimaginative. Their provenance, technology forms of self-expression make them remarkable, not to mention their cultural context of apparently being fabricated within prison workshops. Obviously, not all inmates in Russian prisons are oligarchs and novelists.
My colleague came across the knife with the cream colored Delrin scales when a driver brought in some samples to his office. He was impressed by the high level of craftsmanship; the hollow ground blade and the unique locking mechanism. Depress the metal lever shown on the right of the second photo and the blade will close. Unfortunately it had no way to lock the push-button. Suggestions were made to the driver for possible design modifications, and an order for three units was made. Later inquiries about delivery were disappointing. The driver reported that while the new knives had been made, they could not be smuggled out of the prison. They were never delivered.
The middle one has aluminum scales with wood insets. The opening mechanism is a coil spring; an innovative idea, but the spring doesn’t have enough force to open the blade. An assisting flip to the pivoting cross guard provides for a leisurely opening action.
The stainless steel knife is the crudest, but has the greatest “cultural content”. The blade looks to be taken from a common kitchen steak knife. The engraved Wolf is the national symbol of Chechnya.
High quality prison knives are not well documented. Their manufacture apparently is not limited to a single institution, but more than likely part of a cultural milieu of perhaps Soviet prison life. Some time ago I saw an academic article on Ukrainian knives on the net that had a section on prison knives, but apparently it is no longer available. Does anyone know of other references or can bring addition light to this fascinating area of collecting?