Russia’s Doll Man
Anatoly Moskvin was a lecturer in Celtic Studies at Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University, Russia. He speaks thirteen languages and often contributed as a journalist to local publications. Moskvin is a self-proclaimed “necropolist”, with deep interests in more dark subjects such as cemeteries, burial rituals, death, and the occult.
In 2011 there were a string of grave desecrations in and around Moskvin’s hometown, with the speculative motive being Islamophobia. On November 2nd, 2011, the police turned up at Moskvin’s apartment, which he shared with parents Yuri and Elvira. When police searched his apartment, what they found was much, much worse than what they expected.
In his home and garage were the mummified bodies of twenty-six girls, disguised as lifelike dolls. Moskvin had dug up the bodies to preserve and keep for himself. The girls were often dressed in the clothes they were buried with, and wore wigs and makeup too. They were tightly bound with fabric, and also stuffed with fabric. Some of the bodies had music boxes put into their rib cages, so that they made sounds when interacted with. Some also had buttons or toy eyes in their eye sockets, so Moskvin could “watch cartoons with them”.
Despite this going on in their own home, Moskvin’s parents had no suspicion of him. They saw the dolls but never suspected that they were actually dead bodies. They said, “We thought it was his hobby to make such big dolls and did not see anything wrong with it.”
The footage from police body cams has been released to the public, where you can see these “dolls” propped up around his house. If you can stomach it, the video is below.
Why would someone do this? While his obsession was never sexual in nature, Moskvin’s motive is almost equally as disturbing as what he did. Moskvin explains that his interest in the macabre was triggered by an event when he was younger. As a child, he witnessed the funeral procession of an 11-year-old girl, and that the girl's mother forced him into kissing the body, pushing his head down against her face. He said that there was nothing else he could do but kiss her, so he did. Again, and again.
But not only did Moskvin steal the bodies from their rightful place of rest, but he taunted the families of the victims for years. When Olga Chardymova was just ten, she was brutally murdered merely a block away from her house. She told her mother, Natalia, that she was big enough to walk to her grandmother’s house by herself. But, she never arrived there. A drug dealer had been hiding nearby, and robbed her of her earrings. When Olga tried to escape
from him, he hit her over the head with a metal bar. She was laid to rest in 2002, and only ten years later her mother found that her grave had been emptied. The picture to the right shows just what Moskvin had done to Olga.
Natalia says, “You can't begin to imagine it, that somebody would touch the grave of your child, the most holy place in this world for you. We had been visiting the grave of our child for nine years and we had no idea it was empty. Instead, she was in this beast's apartment.”
Natalia and her husband, Igor, took immense care of their child’s gravesite, painting fences around it and laying wreaths for her. To their horror, they began finding anonymous notes that addressed Olga as if she was still alive. They celebrated birthdays, and congratulated her on whichever school year she will have been moving into. Soft toys and seasonal decorations were being left, too, and Olga’s parents had no idea who was doing it. Notes left by Moskvin were signed off with the initials “D.A.”, standing for “Dobry Angel” or “Kind Angel” - the sick nickname that Moskvin used to refer to himself.
In his notes, Moskvin began threatening the parents directly. In one, he wrote, “If you don't erect a great monument which she deserves, we will dig her body out.” So, her parents erected a headstone in memory of her. The next day, Moskvin had taken an axe to it. This mixture of grief and harassment drove Natalia and Igor apart - Natalia could not stand to live in the place where her daughter had been killed only a block away, where Igor did not want to leave and would sit in Olga’s room for hours on end.
After Moskvin’s arrest, the police insisted that Olga’s grave was opened. As her parents watched on, the police discovered that her coffin remained mostly intact, aside from a hole at the top where he had pulled her body out. Natalia said, “My girl had been murdered, if anyone deserved to rest in peace, she did, but instead her grave had been robbed.” Olga has now been reburied in an unmarked grave, where her parents hope she can finally be at peace.
Even in court, Moskvin made haunting remarks towards the families of his victims. He told them, “You abandoned your girls in the cold - and I brought them home and warmed them up.” Moskvin told investigators that he was waiting for science to create ways of allowing the girls to live again. He also told them that his selection was not at random - he would lay on their graves and communicate with the girls, “listening to them”.
Moskvin was charged with the desecration of graves and dead bodies, a charge that would get him up to five years in prison. However, after a psychiatric evaluation, he was diagnosed with a form of paranoid schizophrenia, so was deemed unfit to stand trial. Much to the dismay of Olga’s parents, Moskvin faced no criminal liability whatsoever. He was placed in a psychiatric clinic to receive treatment, and was to be reevaluated at regular intervals. In 2013, his treatment was extended after a hearing. A year later, his treatment was extended again. This happened again in 2015. As of 2019, Moskvin is still undergoing treatment.