Anatoly Moskvin loved history.He was an accomplished traveler, college professor, and journalist in Nizhny Novgorod, the fifth-largest city in Russia. He also spoke thirteen languages. Moskvin also referred to himself as a “necropolyst,” and claimed to be an authority on cemeteries. His work was described as “priceless” by a coworker.
Too bad Moskvin pushed his knowledge to dangerous new heights. The bodies of 29 girls, aged three to 25, were discovered mummified in the historian’s apartment in 2011, leading to his arrest.
A Bizarre Ritual
Anatoly Moskvin was known as the ultimate cemetery expert in his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. He attributes his fascination with the macabre to a 1979 incident when he was 13 years old. Moskvin told this story in Necrologies, a weekly publication about cemeteries and obituaries to which he was a regular contributor.
Moskvin revealed in his last article for the publication, dated October 26, 2011, how a group of men in black suits stopped him on his way home from school. They were on their way to Natasha Petrova’s funeral when they dragged young Anatoly along to her coffin and forced him to kiss the girl’s corpse.
“I kissed her once, then again, then again,” Anatoly Moskvin wrote. The girl’s bereaved mother then placed a wedding ring on Anatoly’s finger and another on her deceased daughter’s finger.
“My odd marriage with Natasha Petrova served me well,” Moskvin said in the article. Strange, to say the least. He claimed that it led to a belief in magic and, eventually, a fascination with the dead. Whether or not the story is true is irrelevant at this point, as his disturbing thoughts would go unchecked for more than 30 years.
A Macabre Obsession Festers
Anatoly Moskvin’s fascination with the corpse-kissing incident never waned. As a child, he began wandering through cemeteries.
Moskvin’s morbid fascination influenced his studies, and he eventually earned an advanced degree in Celtic studies, a culture whose mythology frequently blurs the lines between life and death. The historian also spoke 13 languages and was a widely published scholar.
Moskvin, meanwhile, wandered from cemetery to cemetery. “I don’t think anyone in the city knows them better than I do,” he said of the region’s deceased. Moskvin claimed to have visited 752 cemeteries in Nizhny Novgorod between 2005 and 2007.
He took careful notes on each one and researched the people who were buried there. The self-taught historian claimed to have walked up to 20 miles per day, sleeping on hay bales and drinking rainwater from puddles.
Moskvin published “Great Walks Around Cemeteries” and “What the Dead Said,” two documentary series about his travels and discoveries. These are still published in a weekly newspaper.
He even claimed to have spent one night sleeping in a coffin before a funeral. Anatoly Moskvin’s observations, on the other hand, were more than just observations.
Desecration Of Graves
Locals began to discover their loved ones’ graves desecrated, sometimes completely dug up, in 2009.
According to Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Valery Gribakin, “our leading theory was that it was done by some extremist organizations.” We decided to beef up our police forces and form “groups made up of our most experienced detectives who specialize in extremist crimes.”
However, the Interior Ministry’s leads went nowhere for nearly two years. No one knew why graves were being desecrated.
The investigation was then halted following a terrorist attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in 2011. Authorities soon received reports of Muslim graves being desecrated in Nizhny Novgorod. Investigators were led to a cemetery where someone was painting over images of dead Muslims while causing no harm to anything else.
Anatoly Moskvin was finally apprehended here. After apprehending him at the Muslim graves, eight police officers went to his apartment to gather evidence.
What they discovered there astounded them all — and shook the entire world.
The Creepy Dolls
The 45-year-old shared a small apartment with his parents. He was said to be lonely and a bit of a pack rat. Inside the apartment, authorities discovered life-sized, doll-like figures.
The figures looked like antique dolls. They dressed elegantly and in a variety of styles. Some wore knee-high boots, while others wore makeup over fabric-covered faces. He’d also wrapped their hands in fabric. Except that these were not dolls, but the mummified corpses of human girls.
When police moved one of the bodies, music began to play as if on cue. Moskvin had hidden music boxes inside the chests of many of the dolls.
Photographs and plaques from gravestones, doll-making manuals, and maps of local cemeteries were also strewn about the apartment. The clothes worn by the mummified corpses were also the clothes in which they were buried, according to police.
Investigators later discovered music boxes or toys inside the bodies of the deceased girls, which made sounds when Moskvin touched them. Some of the mummies also contained personal items and clothing. Inside one mummy was a piece of her own gravestone with her name scrawled on it. Another contained a hospital tag with the date and cause of death of the girl. Inside a third body, a dried human heart was discovered.
Anatoly Moskvin admitted to stuffing the decaying corpses with rags. He would then wrap nylon tights around their faces or place fashion doll faces on them. He would also insert buttons or toy eyes into the girls’ eye sockets so that they could “watch cartoons” with him.
The historian claimed that he mostly liked his girls, but that there were a few dolls in his garage that he had grown to dislike.
He claimed he dug up the graves of women because he was lonely. He stated that he was single and that his greatest desire was to have children. Moskvin was denied adoption by Russian adoption agencies because he did not earn enough money. Given the state of his pack-rat apartment and psychotic obsessions with dead people, it was probably for the best.
Moskvin went on to say that he did what he did because he was waiting for science to discover a way to resurrect the dead. Meanwhile, he preserved the girls with a simple solution of salt and baking soda. He celebrated his dolls’ birthdays as if they were his own children.
Anatoly Moskvin’s parents claimed to be unaware of the true origins of their son’s “dolls.”
“We saw these dolls but we didn’t suspect there were dead bodies inside,” Elvira, the professor’s then-76-year-old mother, said. We assumed it was his hobby to make such large dolls and saw nothing wrong with it.”
Moskvin’s shoes matched footprints found near desecrated graves, and police knew they had found their grave robber.
Trial And Sentencing In The House Of Dolls Case
Anatoly Moskvin’s apartment contained 29 life-size dolls, according to authorities. They ranged in age from three to twenty-five. He kept one corpse for nearly nine years.
Moskvin was charged with a dozen crimes, all of which involved grave desecration. He was dubbed “The Lord of the Mummies” and “The Perfumer” by the Russian press, after Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume.
Neighbors were taken aback. They said the renowned historian was quiet and Moskvin’s parents were pleasant. Sure, his apartment emitted a rancid odor whenever he opened the door, but a neighbor chalked it up to the “stink of something that rots in the basements” of all the nearby buildings.
Alexei Yesin, Moskvin’s editor at Necrologies, was unconcerned about his writer’s eccentricities.
“Many of his articles reveal his sensual interest in deceased young women, which I mistook for romantic and somewhat childish fantasies,” the talented writer wrote. He described the historian as having “quirks,” but he had no idea that one of those quirks was the mummification of 29 young women and girls.
Moskvin admitted to 44 counts of grave and dead body abuse in court. “You abandoned your girls, I brought them home and warmed them up,” he told the victim’s parents.
Will Anatoly Ever Go Free?
Anatoly Moskvin was diagnosed with schizophrenia after his sentencing and sentenced to time in a psychiatric ward. However, as of September 2018, he had the option of continuing psychiatric treatment at home.
The families of the victims believe otherwise.
Moskvin’s first victim’s mother, Natalia Chardymova, believes Moskvin should be imprisoned for the rest of his life.
“This creature instilled fear, terror, and panic in me.” (life). I shudder at the thought of him being free to go wherever he wants. My family, like the families of the other victims, will not be able to sleep peacefully. He must be kept under constant surveillance. I demand a life sentence. Only under medical supervision, with no freedom of movement.”
Even though psychiatrists say Moskvin, now in his early 50s, is improving, local prosecutors agree with Chardymova’s assessment.
“This creature instilled in me fear, terror, and panic.” (life). The thought of him being free to go wherever he wants makes me shudder. My family, like the other victims’ families, will be unable to sleep peacefully. He must be kept under constant observation. I’m asking for a life sentence. Only under medical supervision, with no mobility.”
Despite the fact that psychiatrists say Moskvin, who is now in his early 50s, is improving, local prosecutors agree with Chardymova.
“It’s still difficult for me to comprehend the scope of his sickening ‘work,’ but for nine years he was living in his bedroom with my mummified daughter,” Chardymova continued. “He had her for nine years, I had her for ten.”