If you’ve never heard of Andrei Chikatilo, here’s your primer as our T.H.U.L.E. (True Horror and Urban Legends Exposed) series continues. The Ripper of Rostov, the Red Ripper, the Butcher of Rostov. Chikatilo’s crimes terrorized and shocked Soviet Russia. He confessed to a total of 56 murders, of which Andrei was convicted of 52. One of the worst solo serial killers in world history, Chikatilo’s victims were primarily children under the age of 17. They were assaulted and mutilated in the most horrific ways, and he was deemed a monster.
Andrei Chikatilo was born in Ukraine in October of 1936 during Stalin’s reign. It was a time of mass hunger and collective farming. His parents were farmers at this time that were allowed a small plot of land to work. They lived in a one room hut, and Andrei’s mother had told him he used to have an older brother. The rumor was the famine had caused such desperation that starving neighbors had cannibalized his older brother.
It was said his father was a kind man, but his mother was a mean woman who was harsh and berated young Andrei constantly. When World War II started, Andrei’s father was drafted and left to fight. It was during this time, when the Nazis occupied Ukraine, that Andrei saw the horrors of an occupational war. He witnessed the family hut burned to the ground. He slept in ditches and even shared a bed with his mother as needed. This led to many beatings for him at his mother’s hand, since Andrei was a habitual bed-wetter. In 1943 His mother gave birth to his younger sister Tatyana. Since his father had been gone since 1941, it was rumored the child was a result of rape at the hands of the Nazi occupiers, and that Andrei may have witnessed this himself.
In 1944 Andrei Chikatilo began school. Considered a model student by his teachers, he was relentlessly bullied by the other children for being small and timid. As he grew so did his passion for reading and the Communist Party. By the time he had reached puberty he quickly discovered he suffered from chronic impotence. He would later recall that at the age of 17 he had a crush on a girl, but due to his condition and shyness he never could ask her for a date. However, while wrestling with a friend of his younger sister, Andrei spontaneously ejaculated as the 11 year old girl struggled under his grip.
After high school Andrei applied to college. While his entrance scores were good enough, his grades lacked and he was denied entry. He spent a few months as a laborer before ultimately attending a two year vocational college where he studied to be a communications technician. It was during this time that he had his first long term relationship. Once again his chronic impotence prevented any kind of intercourse, and his girlfriend finally called it off after 18 months. After graduation Andrei went off to a long-term construction site in the Urals. Two years into this he was drafted into the army in 1957.
Andrei served three years in the military and had an impeccable record. Just before he left the army in 1960 he was accepted as a member of the Communist Party. After leaving he moved back with his parents for a short time. While there he began a relationship with a divorcee in the town. It ended abruptly when she had innocently asked for advice from her friends on how to deal with Andrei’s impotence. Once word spread he was impotent, the whispers began and their relationship ended. He was so distraught by his problems made public, he attempted to hang himself. Andrei was pulled from the noose by his mother and a couple neighbors. He left his homeland at this point, he ran.
Then in 1961 Andrei Chikatilo found his way to the Rostov-on-Don region. He was shortly followed by his parents and sister, where his sister vowed to help Andrei find a wife. She followed through a couple years later. In 1963 Andrei was introduced to Feodosia Odnacheva and only two weeks later they were married. Feodosia was exceptionally accommodating to her husband’s impotence. They decided to try getting pregnant using a masturbation and manual insemination. It proved successful. Feodosia gave birth to a daughter in 1965, and a son in 1969.
In 1970 Andrei completed a correspondence course in Russian Literature and earned his degree. Within a year he began his first teaching job. While knowledgeable in the subject, he was a very poor teacher. Andrei had no control over his students, and had none of their respect. From this time until 1981 Andrei moved from school to school. He worked for three different schools, and each time he moved on the reasons were sexual molestation. He would fondle himself in front of students, walk into the girls dorms hoping to catch them undressed. He sexualy assaulted one of the female students in a pool, and had spontaneously ejaculated as she struggled against him. Another time a young girl was sexually abused when Andrei had locked her in a classroom with him. By 1981 the amount of complaints against him by both sexes were so much that he was forced to leave teaching forever.
Andrei Chikatilo wound up as a supply clerk for a company dealing with construction materials. It was a unique position that allowed him to travel extensively across Russia. He was to negotiate for raw materials, or have them delivered. The nature of the job helped to hide the activities of Chikatilo since he was always on the move. Perhaps if his territory was smaller he may have been caught sooner for his crimes.
In December of 1978 Andrei committed the first of his documented murders. He had bought a secret house where Andrei had taken 9 year old Yelena Zakotnova. He had taken Yelena there and tried to rape her, but was unable to achieve an erection. His frustration grew and he stabbed the girl three times. He had ejaculated while stabbing the girl. Afterwards he took her body and threw her into a nearby river.
There was plenty of damning evidence pointing to Chikatilo. Yelena’s backpack was found on the riverbank near his secret house. Blood was in the snow around his house and neighbors put him in the house the night of the murder. An eyewitness described someone who closely resembled Chikatilo talking with young Yelena at the bus stop she disappeared from. Despite all of this, another suspect was captured. Aleksander Kravchenko.
As a teenager Aleksander was convicted of the rape and murder of a teenage girl. The police believed they had their man. Aleksander did have an airtight alibi, but the interrogation methods of the time were very persuasive. After several days his wife and friends retracted their statements and conceded the possibility that Aleksander would have the opportunity to murder Yelena. Once the case went to trial Aleksander rescinded his confession and claimed his innocence, but it was too late. He was sentenced to 15 years for the murder. However, after an outcry from the victim’s family the sentence was changed to death. In 1983 Aleksander Kravchenko was retried and executed for the murder of Yelena Zakotnova.
After the murder of Yeletna Zakotnova, Andrei Chikatilo found he could only achieve orgasm when slashing and killing women and children. He claimed he resisted the urges, but as with every serial killer the urge is too strong.
September 3rd, 1981. Andrei enticed a 17 year old girl named Larisa Tkachenko into the woods near Rostov with the promise of Vodka and relaxing. Andrei forced himself on Larisa, but again was unable to perform intercourse. Frustrated he began beating the girl and shoving mud in her mouth to muffle her screams. With no knife Chikatilo clawed and bit at the girl with his teeth and a stick. Ripping through her flesh and tearing her nipple off with his teeth. After strangling her to death Andrei hastily covered the body with sticks and twigs, her body was found the next day.
Nine months later Andrei was on a shopping trip nearby when he crossed paths with 13 year old Lyubov Biryuk. He waited until he was sure no one was looking and forced Lyubov into some nearby bushes. He tore her dress and attempted to rape her. Two weeks later her body was found. She had been mutilated with 22 knife wounds to her face, neck, chest and pelvic region. There were numerous striations around her eyes as well.
Lyubov’s murder was a turning point for Chikatilo. He would no longer resist his urges. Chikatilo would become consumed with the desire to slash and kill children and women. Five more would die at his hands over the next few months. He began to develop a pattern to his killing. Andrei would troll bus stations and train stations looking for young victims. Homeless vagrants, children, prostitutes. He would lure them into nearby woods or a secluded area and attempt intercourse. Failing at this he would slash, stab and eviscerate his victims. Most often he would gouge their eyes out. The old wive’s tale of the eyes seeing the last thing the victim saw haunted Chikatilo, so he would destroy their eyes to ease himself of what little guilt he felt.
The handling of the case by the authorities were an absolute travesty. Whether it was hubris or plain ignorance, the powers that be caused the death of dozens of people through their negligence. They believed serial killers were a western phenomenon, that there were none in Soviet Russia. They decided to focus on what they deemed degenerates. They broke down the doors of innocent gay men. They questioned former inmates and the mentally handicapped. They believed these were the only ones that could commit such heinous crimes. There was no way that a party member could do such things. This was a large reason that Chikatilo was able to commit such horrendous murders for so long.
Several people admitted to murdering the victims. Each and every confession was forcefully coerced. The authorities were brutal in their interrogations. So much so that several suspects committed suicide afterwards.
Andrei Chikatilo was picked up and questioned at one point, but his blood type did not match with the semen found on the victims. There was some dissension in the ranks since party members were given preferential treatment and not interrogated as harshly as others. Chikatilo was able to walk away and continue his killings.
Years went by with no viable suspects, and the murders continued. Finally in 1990 Andrei Chikatilo was caught literally red-handed. He was leaving the woods after murdering another child, and he stopped to wash up in a public fountain. An undercover officer asked him what he was doing and for his papers. Since he was a party member he was let go, but the record of the questioning stayed. Recognizing the name, Chikatilo was brought in for questioning again. This time though they did not let up. After hours of intense interrogation, Andrei Chikatilo finally confessed. He was accused of 34 murders, but confessed to 22 more. Three of these they were unable to find a body or sufficient evidence, so 53 charges were made.
The trial was a circus. Andrei Chikatilo had his head shaven, for lice. He was kept in a cage during the proceedings as protection for him. His behavior became disruptive and erratic in court. Many believed he was trying to get a sanity plea with the behavior, but no one believed him. By the time it was over there were 52 convictions of murder and five counts of sexual assault. Andrei Chikatilo was sentenced to death.
After an appeal and a request for clemency, the sentence was carried out on February 14th 1994. Chikatilo was taken to a soundproof room in the prison. He was executed by a single shot behind the right ear.
There are volumes of books out there dedicated to the Ripper of Rostov. Some movies were made which were loosely based on the crimes. The best of the bunch has to be Citizen X. It has an all star cast. Including Stephen Rea, Donald Sutherland, Max Von Sydow. Watching many of them struggle with a Russian accent can be painful at times. Especially Donald Sutherland whose accent drifts from Russian to British to American and back again.
Thank you all for reading, and enjoy the trailer for Citizen X
-Ray Nichols, Editor in Chief SQ Horror Magazine