MOSCOW – Russian police discovered 29 mummies at the home of a well-known local historian who dug the bodies up from cemeteries and dressed them in clothes scavenged from graves, they said Monday.
A police video of the man's apartment in the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod shows a gruesome tableau of what looks like dolls -- dressed in bright dresses and headscarves, some with their hands and faces appearing to be wrapped in cloth. Police said they were mummified remains.
Police refused to name the suspect arrested last week, but released photographs of him, gave his age as 45 and described him as a well-known specialist in the history of the city about 250 miles east of Moscow.
Russian media reports identified the man as Anatoly Moskvin, a 45-year-old historian who was considered the ultimate expert on cemeteries in Nizhny Novgorod, and who had spoken openly about rummaging through cemeteries and studying grave stones to uncover the life stories behind them.
Russian newspaper reports quoted police as saying that the man had only selected the remains of young women for his grisly collection.
The arrest followed a long-running investigation into the desecration of graves at several cemeteries in Nizhny Novgorod, police spokeswoman Svetlana Kovylina said. She did not explain how they tracked him down.
The national daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said Moskvin was detained at a cemetery while carrying a bag of bones. But Kriminalnaya Khronika, an online publication specializing in crime news from the Nizhny Novgorod region, said police investigators discovered the bodies when they visited Moskvin to consult with him about the desecration.
Moskvin, who long had been known in the region for his interest in the dead, wrote several articles about cemeteries in the region. A linguistic expert by training, he specialized in Celtic culture and studied 13 foreign languages.
In a 2007 interview with the newspaper Nizhegorodsky Rabochy, or Nizhny Novgorod Worker, Moskvin said he had inspected 752 cemeteries, often traveling some 20 miles a day by foot.
He said he drank from puddles, spent nights in haystacks or at abandoned farms and once even slept in a coffin readied for a funeral. He said he was repeatedly questioned by police, who then always let him go.
Just last month, he wrote a piece for a publication on necrology to explain his interest in the dead. He said that when he was 12, he came across a funeral procession whose participants forced him to kiss the face of a dead 11-year-old girl. He said he later grew interested in the occult.