A Moscow trade show pitching glitzy funeral options takes on grim significance as hundreds of Russians die each day from COVID-19.
Actors simulate a mourning ceremony at Moscow's NECROPOLIS-TANEXPO, a funeral industry trade fair that is scheduled to run from October 26-28.
The exhibition is a joint project of the Russian NECROPOL trade fair and the Italian TANEXPO. The annual events are the largest of their kind and showcase the latest trends in European and Russian funerals.
Events at the expo include an embalming class, a lesson on "ritual floristry," and a class dedicated to the legal complexities of funeral management.
Oksana Zhavoronko, the project manager for the Russian NECROPOLIS expo, told RFE/RL that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a surge in interest in the funeral industry.
"More people have come to appreciate our profession," she says, "because in these past two years death has come to so many people."
After a steady decline in mortality rates since the 2000s, Russia -- like many other countries -- saw a sharp uptick in death rates in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic took its grim toll. That trend appears likely to continue. On October 27, the country reported a record 1,123 COVID-19 deaths over the past 24 hours.
Zhavoronko says around 1,000 people visited the exhibition on October 26. Those who visited were overwhelmingly professionals in the funeral industry, although "some artists and other people came to see the fashion show of the mourning dresses."
Zhavoronko confirmed that unusual, funeral-specific clothing such as this headpiece is worn by some mourners.
The NECROPOL exhibition's website states: "Today we are on the verge of a new understanding of the philosophy of death," adding that since the first such trade fair in 1993, the organizers have aimed to "change attitudes in society, to show that death should be as beautiful as the birth of a child."
Due to the surge in coronavirus deaths, the Moscow exhibition will be closed early, on October 28, as part of a nationwide lockdown in Russia.