“Eccentric” Professor Mummified 26 Dead Girls and Turned Them Into Dolls
He wanted to bring them back to life.
Anatoly Moskvin’s obsession with death led him to bring the dead home with him. Yet, no one knew for years, not even his parents. His story and crimes beg the question: where is the line between “genius” and just plain “madness?”
Who is Anatoly Moskvin?
Anatoly Moskvin is a Russian academic. He speaks 13 languages, was a journalist in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, wrote for Necrologies, a Russian newspaper that focuses on obituaries, cemeteries, and dead people, and taught college classes.
As well as studying languages, his interests included Celtic history and folklore. He even taught Celtic studies at Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University.
His peers dubbed him a “genius” and described him as “eccentric.” Anatoly named himself a “necropolyst,” or an expert on cemeteries.
The eccentric professor’s love of cemeteries, the dead, and the occult eventually led him to darker places.
The Start of an Obsession
According to Anatoly, it started with a kiss.
In Necrologies, Anatoly wrote about the start of his obsession with all things death-related.
He claimed that in 1979 when he had just been 13 years old, he was stopped on his way home from school by a funeral procession for 11-year-old Natasha Petrova. He wrote that he was dragged to the coffin and his face was forced close to that of the girl’s corpse. He was instructed to kiss her. So he did.
Anatoly wrote that he “kissed her once, then again, then again.” The girl’s mother had then put a wedding ring on Anatoly’s finger and then a similar ring on the finger of the corpse, essentially marrying them.
Anatoly then said, “My strange marriage with Natasha Petrova was useful.” It steered his interests and studies to that of the occult, the dead, and cemeteries.
Once he reached college age himself, Anatoly earned a degree in Celtic studies, which he then went on to teach himself.
A String of Empty Graves
In 2009, local residents discovered that the graves of their children were dug-up, the bodies vanished. They didn’t know at the time that the grave robberies had been going on for over a decade.
For two more years, they thought the crimes were committed by an extremist organization. It wasn’t until November 2, 2011, that they found the true culprit.
After a nearby terrorist attack on a Moscow airport, police were informed that someone was desecrating Muslim graves and painting over the pictures of Muslims at the gravesites. Because of the high alert that the terrorist attack had brought, police responded in full force.
When they arrived at the cemetery, they were shocked. It wasn’t an organization. It was one man: Anatoly Moskvin.
His “Doll” Collection
Once arrested, police swarmed his residence. They were surprised to find a tiny apartment that Anatoly shared with his parents and twenty-six life-sized dolls.
At least, at first glance, they were reported to appear as antique, homemade dolls.
Their faces and hands were covered in thick fabric. Makeup was painted on their faces, and some had buttons where eyes should be so that “they could watch cartoons” with Anatoly, as he later stated. When police touched one, music played— many had music boxes nestled in their chests.
Upon further inspection, the police realized these twenty-six figures were not dolls — they were the mummified bodies of young girls and women; bodies that had gone missing from graves around Russia.
“The Lord of the Mummies”
The media quickly dubbed Anatoly as “The Lord of the Mummies.”
In addition to the bodies, the police discovered instructions on how to mummify the girls using salt and baking soda, along with Anatoly’s personal instructions on how to make the girls into “dolls.”
People that knew Anatoly and his parents were shocked. The Moskvin’s were described as “nice” people. The editor of Necrologies, the magazine Anatoly wrote for, commented that although Anatoly had “quirks” he would have never thought he was capable of something so horrifying.
Even Anatoly’s parents said that they were entirely unaware of what the dolls in their home actually were. They traveled away from their home for most of the year, and it was while his parents were away that Anatoly would construct the “dolls.”
His mother, Elvira, 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.”
The Mindset of the Criminal
In court, Anatoly was largely unapologetic, though he did cooperate with investigators. He claimed he’d been making the “dolls” for over ten years, though he didn’t look at them as dolls, but viewed them as his children.
Anatoly had always wanted children of his own. However, Russian adoption centers had rejected previous applications from Anatoly, marking him ineligible to adopt a child due to his low income. So, he took matters into his own hands and took home the dead “abandoned” children.
Anatoly said during a court hearing, “You abandoned your girls, I brought them home and warmed them up.”
Since Anatoly was an expert on ancient Celtic culture and beliefs, he knew that ancient druids would sleep on the graves of their deceased to commune with them. Anatoly claimed that he would do the same for each girl that he dug up. He claimed to commune with their spirits, seeking permission to dig up the bodies if they wished to live again. He assured authorities that he never dug up a grave without “permission” from its occupant.
Once he created a new “doll,” he celebrated their birthdays, watched cartoons with them, and held holiday parties. He claimed to be waiting for a way for either science or the occult to bring the dead back to life.
When authorities asked if he was aware that he was committing a crime, Anatoly said yes. However, in his eyes, rescuing the girls from death and giving them new life was more important than obeying the law.
Originally, Anatoly was charged with desecration of graves and dead bodies, which would only give him five years of prison time.
However, after the mandatory psychiatric evaluation that was ordered, they diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.
In May 2012, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. Three years after that, in 2015, the doctors at the psychiatric hospital recommended releasing Anatoly, saying that his schizophrenia had been cured. However, a judge still declared him unfit and his treatment continued with new evaluations every six months.
Despite this, some people would be happy if he were to stay in psychiatric care indefinitely.
Natalia Chardymova, the mother of Olga, who was 10 years old when she died and became one of Anatoly’s “dolls,” had been unaware that when she visited her daughter’s gravesite the coffin in the ground was empty. She only found out once her daughter was identified as one of the twenty-six mummified children.
“This creature brought fear, terror, and panic into my life,” said Chardymova, “I would be happy to know he will spend his life in the hospital. He is a sick person.”