Russia probes art display of preserved corpses

·2-min read
Russia probes art display of preserved corpses

Moscow investigators said on Wednesday they would probe an exhibition that displays corpses as artworks after complaints it could insult religious believers.

Body Worlds exhibitions were pioneered by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, dubbed "Doctor Death", who for 20 years toured the world with his controversial show, exhibiting preserved corpses and human organs.

Russian investigators' focus on the controversial display of human cadavers appeared to only fuel interest in the works, with dozens of Muscovites rushing to see the exhibition Wednesday night.

Earlier in the day the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said in a statement it would "conduct a procedural check against the initiators and organisers" of the Moscow edition of Body Worlds.

Investigators said public figures had suggested the exhibition "violates moral values" and "can be regarded as an insult to the religious feelings of believers" -- criminal offences in Russia.

The statement also said a petition had been launched to close down the show, which opened in the Russian capital on March 12.

Investigators appeared to be referring to an initiative on the Change.org website that says the show "destroys the ethical, moral and spiritual side of a person, lowering society and the state to the level of medieval laws".

It has garnered more than 900 signatures.

On Wednesday evening, an AFP journalist saw dozens of people at the display in Moscow, with more queueing outside to get in.

Taxidermist Margarita Chaika said she was a huge fan of the German anatomist and had long dreamt of visiting the display.

"It's my second time here already," the 24-year-old told AFP, adding the works helped doctors and other professionals study human bodies.

Yekaterina Kuzminova, a 33-year-old yoga instructor, went as soon as she heard about the exhibition.

"I did not expect that there would be so many people," she told AFP. "It's a workday but there are so many people here. Really unexpected."

The first exhibition of von Hagens' preserved bodies was held in Japan in 1995. Tens of millions have since visited the shows globally.

While the sourcing of the bodies has sparked controversy, the founder maintains that all corpses are obtained with the full knowledge of the donors and has himself expressed a desire for his body to be put on show after death.

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