Real Life Horror: Anatoly Moskvin

Anatoly Yurevych Moskvin is a Russian philologist, historian and linguist, who was arrested in 2011 after the mummified bodies of twenty-six girls between the ages of three and fifteen were discovered in his apartment.

Anatoly Yurevych Moskvin was born September 1, 1966 in Gorky, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union. He lived in Nizhny Novgorod, the fifth largest city in Russia. Moskvin said he began wandering through cemeteries with friends when still a schoolboy. In particular, they visited the Krasnaya Etna Cemetery located in the Leninsky district of Nizhny Novgorod. In an article written shortly before his arrest, Moskvin explained his interest in the dead, attributing it to a childhood incident during which he witnessed a funeral procession for an eleven-year-old girl. Moskvin alleged that the participants forced him to kiss the dead girl’s face, writing that “an adult pushed my face down to the waxy forehead of the girl in an embroidered cap, and there was nothing I could do but kiss her as ordered.”

After graduating from the Philological faculty of Moscow State University Moskvin became well known in academic circles. His main areas of academic interests were Celtic history and folklore, as well as languages and linguistics. Moskvin also had a deep interest in cemeteries, burial rituals, death, and the occult. He also kept a personal library of over 60,000 books and documents, as well as a large collection of dolls. Fellow academics described him as both a genius and an eccentric. As an adult, Moskvin led a secluded life. He never married or dated, instead preferring to live with his parents including his father, Yuri F. Moskvin. He abstained from drinking alcohol and smoking and is purportedly a virgin. In 2016, it was reported that Moskvin was going to marry a 25 year old native of his hometown that attended his trial.

A former lecturer in Celtic Studies at Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University, Moskvin also previously worked at the Institute of Foreign Languages. A philologist, linguist and polyglot who spoke thirteen languages, Moskvin wrote several books, papers and translations, all well-known in academic circles. Moskvin also occasionally worked as a journalist and regularly contributed to local newspapers and publications.  Describing himself as a “necropolist”, Moskvin was considered an expert on local cemeteries in the Nizhny Novgorod region. In 2005, Oleg Riabov, a fellow academic and publisher, commissioned Moskvin to summarize and list the dead in more than 700 cemeteries in forty regions of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. Moskvin claimed to have gone on foot to inspect 752 cemeteries across the region from 2005 to 2007, walking up to 30 km (18.6 miles) a day. During these travels, he drank from puddles, spent nights in haystacks and at abandoned farms, or slept in the cemeteries themselves, even going so far as to spend a night in a coffin being prepared for a funeral. Moskvin also claimed that on his extensive travels he was sometimes questioned by police on the suspicion of vandalism and theft, but that he was never arrested or reprimanded.

The work itself remains unpublished but has been described as “unique” and “priceless” by Alexei Yesin, the editor of Necrologies, a weekly paper to which Moskvin was a regular contributor. After Moskvin’s arrest, Yesin stated that he was confident that there had been a mistake and Moskvin would soon be exonerated. He also told the Associated Press that Moskvin was a loner who had “certain quirks” but who had given no indication that he was up to anything unusual. Between 2006 and 2010, Moskvin worked as a freelance correspondent for the newspaper Nizhny Novgorod Worker, publishing articles twice a month. His father also sometimes wrote for the paper. During 2008, Moskvin wrote an extensive series of articles on the history of Nizhny Novgorod cemeteries that appeared in the paper.

In 2009, locals began to discover the graves of their loved ones desecrated, sometimes completely dug up. Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Valery Gribakin told CNN that initially, “Our leading theory was that it was done by some extremist organizations. We decided to beef up our police units and set up … groups composed of our most experienced detectives who specialize in extremist crimes”. But for nearly two years, the Interior Ministry’s leads went nowhere. Graves continued to be desecrated and no one knew why. Then, a break in the investigation came following a terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport in Moscow in 2011.

Shortly afterward, authorities heard reports of Muslim graves being desecrated in Nizhny Novgorod. Investigators were led to a cemetery where someone was painting over the pictures of dead Muslims but not damaging anything else. This was where Moskvin was finally caught. Eight police officers went to his apartment after they apprehended him at the graves of the Muslims to gather evidence.

Moskvin was arrested on November 2, 2011 and he actively cooperated with investigators. The 45-year-old lived with his parents in a small apartment. He was reportedly lonely and something of a pack-rat. Inside authorities found life-sized, doll-like figures throughout the apartment. The figures resembled antique dolls. They wore fine and varied clothing. Some wore knee-high boots, others had makeup on over faces Moskvin had covered in fabric. He had also hidden their hands in fabric. Except these were not dolls — they were the mummified corpses of human girls.

When police moved one of the bodies, it played music, as if on cue. Inside the chests of many of the dolls, Moskvin had embedded music boxes. There were also photographs and plaques taken off of the gravestones, doll-making manuals, and maps of local cemeteries strewn about the apartment and a collection of photographs and videos depicting open graves and disinterred bodies, though none of these photos or videos could be conclusively connected to bodies found in the apartment. Police even discovered that the clothes worn by the mummified corpses were the clothes in which they were buried. Investigators later found music boxes or toys inside the bodies of the dead girls so that they could produce sounds when Moskvin touched them. There were also personal belongings and clothing inside some of the mummies. One mummy had a piece of her own gravestone with her name scrawled on it inside her body. Another one contained a hospital tag with the date and the cause of the girl’s death. A dried human heart was found inside a third body.

Investigators from the Centre for Combating Extremism discovered twenty-six bodies (initially reported as twenty-nine). Video released by police shows the bodies seated on shelves and sofas in small rooms full of books, papers and general clutter. Although only twenty-six bodies were discovered in his home, Moskvin was suspected of desecrating as many as 150 graves after police found numerous grave accoutrements. After exhuming the corpses from their graves, Moskvin researched mummification theories and technique from books in an attempt to preserve the bodies. He dried the corpses using a combination of salt and baking soda and then cached the bodies in secure and dry places in and around cemeteries. Once the bodies were dried, he carried the bodies back to his home where he used various methods to make “dolls” of the corpses. He would also insert buttons or toy eyes into the girls’ eye sockets so that they could “watch cartoons” with him.

Unable to prevent the bodies from withering and shrinking as they dried, he would wrap the limbs in strips of cloth to provide fullness, or he would stuff the bodies with rags and padding, sometimes adding wax masks decorated with nail polish over their faces before dressing them in brightly colored children’s clothes and wigs. These details made the bodies appear to be large homemade dolls, which prevented their discovery by his parents. It was unclear if each doll contained a full set of human remains. Moskvin claimed he made the dolls over the course of ten years. His parents, who were away for large portions of the year, were unaware of his activities.

The historian said that he mostly loved his girls, though there were a few dolls in his garage which he claimed to have grown to dislike. He said he dug up graves of girls because he was lonely. He said he was single and his biggest dream was to have children. Russian adoption agencies wouldn’t let Moskvin adopt a child because he didn’t make enough money. Perhaps that was for the best, judging by the condition of his pack-rat apartment and psychotic obsessions with dead people. Moskvin added that he had done what he did because he was waiting for science to find a way to bring the dead back to life. In the meantime, he used a simple solution of salt and baking soda to preserve the girls. He celebrated the birthdays of his dolls as if they were his own children.

Elvira, the professor’s then-76-year-old mom, said, “We saw these dolls but we did not suspect there were dead bodies inside. We thought it was his hobby to make such big dolls and did not see anything wrong with it”. Shoes in Moskvin’s apartment matched footprints found near desecrated graves and Police knew without a doubt that they had their grave robber. The 29 life-size dolls in Moskvin’s apartment ranged in age from three to 25. One corpse he kept for nearly nine years. The Russian media called him “The Lord of the Mummies” and “The Perfumer” (after Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume).

Neighbours were shocked. They said that the renowned historian was quiet and that Moskvin’s parents were nice people. Sure, a rancid smell emanated from his apartment whenever he opened the door, but a neighbor chalked that up to the “stink of something that rots in the basements,” of all the local buildings. Moskvin’s editor at Necrologies, Alexei Yesin, didn’t think anything of his writer’s eccentricities. “Many of his articles enlighten his sensual interest in deceased young women, which I took for romantic and somewhat childish fantasies the talented writer emphasized”. He described the historian to have “quirks” but would not have imagined that one such quirk included the mummification of 29 young women and girls.

Moskvin was charged under Article 244 of the Criminal Code for the desecration of graves and dead bodies, a charge which carried up to five years in prison. Originally Moskvin was also accused of having defaced the graves of Muslims, but this charge was later dropped. After a psychiatric evaluation, it was determined that Moskvin suffered from a form of paranoid schizophrenia. In a hearing on 25 May 2012, the Leninsky District court of Nizhny Novgorod deemed Moskvin unfit to stand trial, releasing him from criminal liability. He was instead sentenced to “coercive medical measures”. The prosecution was satisfied with the decision and did not appeal the verdict. In court, Moskvin said to the victims’ parents, “You abandoned your girls, I brought them home and warmed them up”. Police say he was not motivated by twisted sexual desires, with one officer saying: “He loathed sex and thought it was disgusting”.
Moskvin was removed to a psychiatric clinic, with his stay to be reviewed regularly. In February 2013, a hearing approved an extension of his psychiatric treatment. His treatment was again extended April 2014, and yet again in July 2015. In 2014 a spokesman stated:

  “After three years of monitoring him in a psychiatric clinic, it is absolutely clear that Moskvin is not mentally fit for trial…He will therefore be kept for psychiatric treatment at the clinic”. 

Though as of September 2018, he was faced with the opportunity to continue psychiatric treatment in his home. Psychiatrists claimed they had cured the historian and recommended outpatient treatment for Moskvin – but then dramatically reversed their claim. A judge demanded a new set of psychiatric tests, which found Moskvin’s condition had actually deteriorated, but there has been an unexplained delay in approving an order to keep him detained. Natalia Chardymova, the mother of Moskvin’s first victim, believes Moskvin should stay locked up for the rest of his life:
“This creature brought fear, terror and panic into my (life). I shudder to think that he will have freedom to go where he wants. Neither my family nor the families of the other victims will be able to sleep peacefully. He needs to be kept under surveillance. I insist on a life sentence. Only under medical supervision, without the right of free movement.”
Moskvin has stated that he felt great sympathy for the dead children and felt that they could be brought back to life by either science or black magic. He enclosed the remains in the dolls in an attempt to give them functional bodies to be used when he eventually discovered a way to bring them back to life, feeling that their physical remains were too decayed and ugly for them to feel comfortable or happy. Moskvin said that he was aware that he was committing a crime, but felt the dead children were “calling out” to him, begging to be rescued. He believed that rescuing the children was more important than obeying the law. He was also motivated by his own desire to have children, specifically a daughter. Moskvin often regretted that he never had children and at one point attempted to adopt a young girl against the wishes of his parents, but his application was declined due to his low income. Moskvin denied any sexual attraction to the dolls and instead considered them to be his children. He would talk to and interact with the corpses, sing songs to them, watch cartoons with them, and even hold birthday parties and celebrate holidays for their benefit.
In an interview after his arrest, Moskvin explained that as an expert on Celtic culture, he had learned that the ancient Druids slept on graves in order to communicate with spirits of their dead. He also studied the culture of the peoples of Siberia, in particular, the culture of the ancient Yakuts, and discovered they had a similar practice for communicating with the dead. Moskvin began searching for obituaries of recently dead children. When he found an obituary that “spoke” to him, he would sleep on her grave in order to determine if the child’s spirit wished to be brought back to life. Moskvin claimed he had been doing this for around twenty years and insisted that when he began, he never dug up a grave without the permission of the child within. As he grew older, it became physically painful for him to sleep on the graves, so he began bringing the bodies home where it would be more comfortable to sleep near them. He hoped the spirits would be more willing to speak in a safe, welcoming home and that they might be easier for him to hear when they were no longer underground.

Since his prosecution, several of Moskvin’s colleagues quit their collaboration with him. His parents live in utter isolation as their community ostracizes them. Elvira suggested that she and her husband perhaps just kill themselves, but her husband refused. Both are in an unhealthy condition. Moskvin allegedly told authorities to not bother reburying the girls too deeply, as he will simply unbury them when he is released.

“I still find it hard to grasp the scale of his sickening ‘work’ but for nine years he was living with my mummified daughter in his bedroom,” Natalie continued. “I had her for ten years, he had her for nine.”
“We saw these dolls but we did not suspect there were dead bodies inside. We thought it was his hobby to make such big dolls and did not see anything wrong with it.” – Elvira Moskvin
If you want to watch a documentary on Anatoly Moskvin then just check out the video below:

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