I think it’s safe to say that children in most cultures play with dolls. Whether it is an American Barbie or G.I. Joe, a gazed porcelain China doll, or a AKUA’ BA witchcraft doll, children just love dolls.
Dolls usually take on as much life as possible with their masters talking to them, dressing them up, and making them feel less inanimate. Completely normal behaviour for our human species. But when does doll collecting cross the line of rational to extreme and unhealthy?
For a Russian historian turned body-snatcher, it was probably when he first began dreaming of a world where he could bring back the dead, at least the 29 found in his apartment, dressing them up to bring them life.
In November 2011, police caught Anatoly Moskvin red-handed carrying a bag of bones. The Russian police were already suspicious of Moskvin, after a recent desecration of two graveyards, one in Sormovsky, and the other in Sortirovochny.
When authorities searched through the apartment, which Moskvin shared with his parents in Nizhny Novgorod, they discovered the “mummified remains” of 29 dolls.
Donning each doll was elaborately handmade clothing and masks covering their faces. Also found inside Anatoly Moskvin’s home were photos, headstones, cemetery maps, and even doll making instructions.
The Russian Federation arrested Moskvin under Article 244, “Desecration of the bodies of the dead and their places of burial”, which brought a maximum sentence of three months.
If authorities found Moskvin guilty of abusing a grave out of political or religious hate, then he could have received a much sterner sentencing. This was not the case with Moskvin as his motives were not of hate, but of love (we’ll explain later).
Not only is the “Lord of the Mummies” a gifted and well-respected historian, but he is also a veritable genius. An avid reader with 60,000 books making up his library, a polyglot in 13 languages, a prolific author and lecturer, and expert teacher in Celtic culture.
Moskvin’s latest books were “Long walks through cemeteries”, but was halted by his publisher soon after his arrest.
Perhaps his intelligence alienated him from his peers, causing him much loneliness. Anatoly’s parents would also leave town for months, further isolating the reclusive genius. They would even take the family cat on their trips.
Neither a drinker nor smoker, the “Mummy Master” needed something to fill his free time, and he knew the perfect place to look.
Even as a child, Anatoly visited graveyards, enjoying the quiet atmosphere despite the lack of the living. It was only in the last ten years that he started digging up and dressing up his corpses.
When he finally decided to that he wanted to take some of the dead home, he stared by sleeping near the graves. Many times Anatoly would drink from puddles, keep warm in haystacks and abandoned farms, and once even slept in a coffin.
When he brought his trophy home, he would mummify the remains, which he spent years researching how the Egyptians did this, using a composition of salt and soda.
He crafted clothes for his human dolls using fabric and other materials. He dressed all of his dolls up, most donning “luxurious wedding dresses” and all wearing face masks.
Anatoly claims he’s always dreamed of having a daughter and no one doubts he didn’t take excellent care of his unliving family. He drilled eyeholes in the mask and eyes of the bodies and let cartoons play on the television for them to watch while he worked.
He would talk to them all. They had their own language, and he would even plan holidays and have family dinners with them, although they never seemed to have an appetite for food.
In an interview Moskvin claimed that he “really wanted to have [his] own daughter to pass on to her all the knowledge that I have.”
Moskvin actually believed that the spirits of the deceased would talk to him, often coming to him desiring to be removed from their cold rainy tombs.
His reasoning may sound farfetched. However, most cultures view spirits as actual entities.
After his arrest, experts diagnosed Moskvin as a paranoid schizophrenic, so hopefully he is being properly medicated and treated for his disorder.
In 2016 the media reported he may get married while in his treatment center to a twenty-five-year-old woman, once thought to be his own daughter.
Today doll maker lives in a psychiatric hospital. There have been many attempts, even from doctors, to set him free, but as of now he is still in treatment.