The Mafia Wars era that characterized Russian culture during the 1990s is notable for some its violent traditions: kneecapping, protection rings, unflinching ruthlessness, and, in somewhat of an Egyptian throwback, their desire to be buried surrounded by their wealth. Didn’t anyone tell them “you can’t take it with you”?

In his new series “Essence,” Russian photographer Denis Tarasov captures the unsettling tombstones of ex-mafioso that depict ghostly portraits of their grave-holders with their favorite possessions, including castles, leather clothing articles, cars, jewelry, and banquets. Taking a stroll through one of these cemeteries must feel like some kind of morbid version of MTV Cribs. The tombstones themselves are enormous, usually about 10 feet high and occasionally featuring multiple panels. The extravagance serves a symbolic purpose, however, as the Tarasov tells the Huffington Post, “this was done primarily to stand out and surpass all the dead in the cemetery,” which is very fitting for people who spent their lives trying to outdo one another.

The over-the-top tombstone phenomena is not a rarity in Eastern European graveyards. They are a staple in major cities across Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and in other countries that used to belong to the former Soviet bloc. Apparently, they have become a popular way for people to depart from the physical world as dramatically as possible.

Photographs from “Essence” are now on display at Saatchi Gallery as part of the “Body Language” exhibition.

RELATED: Awesome Tombstones From New York’s Coolest Cemetery

[via The Huffington Post]