Russian authorities are investigating an online community dedicated to taking selfies with the recently dead.
Police in Syktyvkar, the capital of Russia’s Komi Republic, are looking into the group, Селфи с покойными (“Selfie with the Deceased”), according to AFP. The group is hosted on VK, a Russian social media service.
The ostensible organizer of the group is Alfred Polyakov, whose VK account is currently suspended for “suspicious activity.” AFP was in touch with Polyakov, but wasn’t able to confirm that he was using his real name. He claimed to be a 28-year old university professor from Donetsk, a separatist-controlled city in Ukraine. Other reports claim he’s an employee at a “ritual agency,” or funeral home.
Polyakov told AFP that the group, which he created about a month ago, was intended to “change popular attitudes toward death.” The group also offers cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 rubles ($15 to $75) for the best selfies with the dead. After “numerous requests from morgue workers, doctors, etc.” the contest rules were updated to include that contestants needed permission from the relatives of the dead to take the selfie. The post updating the rules mentions that taking selfies with the dead without permission violates a criminal code about desecrating the dead.
Alongside selfies with the dead (including one with the embalmed corpse of Vladimir Lenin), the group is also home to a number of posts containing death-themed artwork, and discussions about whether or not there's life after death.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org