Russian historian confesses to chopping up lover

SAINT PETERSBURG • A prominent expert on Napoleon has confessed to murdering his young lover and former student and dismembering her body in a grisly crime that sent shock waves across Russia.

History lecturer Oleg Sokolov, who received France's Legion d'Honneur in 2003, was arrested last Saturday on suspicion of murder after he was hauled out of the icy Moika River in Saint Petersburg with a backpack containing a woman's arms.

"He has admitted his guilt," Sokolov's lawyer Alexander Pochuev said.

Sokolov, 63, was reportedly drunk and fell into the river as he tried to dispose of the body parts.

After disposing of the corpse, he reportedly planned to commit suicide at the Peter and Paul Fortress, one of the former imperial capital's most famous landmarks, dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte.

Sokolov teaches history at Saint Petersburg State University, President Vladimir Putin's alma mater, and was close to the Russian authorities. He told investigators that he shot and killed his lover during an argument and then sawed off her head, arms and legs.

Mr Pochuev suggested that Sokolov may have been under stress or emotionally disturbed.

"He is an elderly person," he said, adding that he was being treated for hypothermia in a hospital.

Police discovered the decapitated body of Ms Anastasia Yeshchenko, 24, with whom Sokolov had co-authored a number of works, and a blood-stained saw at his home.

The historian, who also taught at Sorbonne University, is the author of books on French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He acted as a historical consultant on several films and took part in historical re-enactments of Napoleonic wars.

Both he and his lover studied French history and liked to wear period costumes, with Sokolov dressing up as Napoleon.

Students described Sokolov as both a talented lecturer who could impersonate the French emperor and his generals and a "freak" who called his lover "Josephine" and liked to be addressed as "Sire".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Russian historian confesses to chopping up lover'. Print Edition | Subscribe