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.
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.
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.