Content warning: This story includes rape, sexual abuse, sexual abuse of minors, and extreme violence.
In the northeast of Ukraine lies a small village of Yabluchne. In 1936 as part of the U.S.S.R., the country faced a devestating famine due to Stalin’s forced the collectivization of agriculture. Collective farms offered a one room hut and small area of crops to cultivate for food in exchange for work rather than actual wages. Members of one of these collective farms, Roman and Anna Chikatilo gave birth to a son Andrei in October of 1936.
The family struggled to have enough food, often eating grass and leaves just to survive. Anna told her son stories of his older brother, Stepan, being kidnapped and cannibalized but other starving members of the farm, but this fact has never been officially verified or debunked.
As World War II raged across the globe, Roman was drafted into the Russian military in 1941, leaving Anna and Andrei on the farm alone. Andrei’s sister, Tatyana, was born in 1943, but her father is not known since Roman was not there to father the child. He had been wounded in combat and taken prisoner which branded him as a traitor to the Soviet government.
During the war, the Chikatilo family witnessed bombings, shootings and were even forced to stand and watch their hut burn to the ground. Throughout the war, the family had little and Andrei was forced to share a single bed with his mother. Being a chronic bedwetter, this led to more problems for the boy. Each incident of wetting the bed, his mother would beat him. It has been said that his mother was harsh and unforgiving, often berating and beating her children.
In school, Andrei was shy and physically weaker than the other children. Added to the family being so poor and his often fainting from hunger, he became a prime target for bullies. Somehow he still managed to be a good student and loved to read, but his untreated nearsightedness led to struggles in the classroom with not being able to read the blackboard.
He was able to maintain his reputation as a model student, becoming the editor of the school newspaper and Chairman Pupil of the Communist Party Committee.
During puberty, Andrei discovered chronic and severe impotence which worsened his social awkwardness and self-hatred. At 17, he developed his first crush but never gained the courage to talk to the person. Instead, he approached his younger sister’s 11 year old friend and wrestled her to the ground. The struggle and power trip resulted in him ejaculating, which then set precedence for his desires.
As he finished schooling, he applied to the Moscow State University but was not accepted. Disheartened, he moved to Kursk in central Ukraine and worked as a laborer for 3 months before enrolling into a vocational school in 1955.
This year also marked his first romantic relationship. However, his inability to perform in the bedroom and subsequent self-hatred led her to leave him after 18 months.
Upon completing his vocational training, he once again relocated, this time to Nizshny Tagil (kneej-knee ta-gill) in Russia. He was drafted into military service in 1957 and served three years as a Communications Technician. In this position, he would install, maintain and repair various communications equipment, cables and wires.
After his service ended, he returned home to the Ukraine, attempting to settle back into an attempt at a normal life. He started dating, but when he continued to struggle sexually, his girlfriend confided in her friends and asked for advice. This led to the gossip mill starting and soon most of the town learned of his impotence. Ashamed and embarrassed, he attempted to take his own life but his mother stopped him and literally removed the noose from his neck.
At this time, he relocated to Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, looking for a new start. After his younger sister, Tatyana, finished her schooling, she joined him in Rostov and they shared an apartment. She moved out just six months later when she got married. Their parents also relocated to Rostov, reuniting the family with hopes of better opportunities.
Tatyana saw the struggled Andrei had with women and decided to play matchmaker. She introduced Andrei to Feodosia Odnacheva in 1963. Their relationship was a mere two weeks long before they were married.
Feodosia understood that he was impotent but the couple still wanted children. They devised a system that he would pleasure himself and then use his fingers to impregnate her. In 1965, the couple welcomed a daughter, Lyudmila. In 1969, her little brother Yuri was born.
In 1970, Andrei earned degrees in Russian Literature and Philology (the study of language in oral and historical sources). He started teaching Russian Literature in nearby Novoshakhtinsk. While extremely knowledgeable on the subject, he was an ineffective teacher unable to control or discipline his students.
In May of 1973, he sexually assaulted a 15 year old student. A few months later, he locked another student in his classroom assaulted her sexually and physically. Neither offense was disciplined by the school.
By the next year, however, complaints had piled up and the school asked him to resign or be fired. He quit and was able to quickly get another job at a different school in the same city. This position he lost in 1978 due to staffing cutbacks. He was able to find another teaching job at Technical School #33 in Shakhty.
1978 was also the year Andrei murdered for the first time. He lured 9 year-old Yelene Zakotnova into a secluded building and attempted to rape her. Unable to perform, her struggle led to his choking and stabbing her multiple times. He then threw her body in the nearby river. From this point on, he was only able to get aroused when stabbing or slashing one of his victims.
She was discovered two days later. 25-year-old Aleksandr Kravchenko was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder even though he had an alibi. He was executed for the crime in July of 1983.
Chikatilo’s teaching career ended in 1981 after many complaints of child molestation were filed about students of both sexes.
At this time, he got a job as a supply clerk, a position that included extensive travel for work.
In 1981, he was leaving the public library in Rostov and saw 17 year old Larisa Tkachenko standing at the bus stop. Again, he used a ruse to lure her into a secluded area and attempted to rape her. Being unprepared, he did not have a knife with him and instead strangled and mutilated the victim.
He developed a pattern of approaching children, runaways and vagrants at bus and rail stations with some type of ruse such as offerings of alcohol.
His murdered escalated to be more brutal and violent. In 1982, he killed 13 year old Lyubov Biryuk by stabbing her over 20 times and beat her severely, including breaking both eye sockets.
Many of his victims were stabbed, slashed and disemboweled, but some were also strangled and beaten. Many of the victims also suffered trauma to the eye sockets consistent with gouging the eyes out with a knife. He would lire them into a secluded area, overpower the victim, tie them up and muffle their screams often by filling their mouth with mud or other materials nearby. He would also try to conceal the bodies a little, but they were usually found fairly easily.
In January 1983, 4 victims were linked together as having the same killer. The Moscow Police sent a task force to Rostov, led by Major Mikhail Fetisov. The official name was “Operation Forest Path” and included 10 investigators and Specialist Forensic Analyst Viktor Burakov. Examination of the body of Chikatilo’s ninth victim, Olga Stalmachenok, Burakov confirmed there was a serial killer in the area. By September 6, 1983, the team had officially linked six of the murders together.
Their initial theories based on the brutality of the crimes included organ harvesters, a satanic cult or a mentally ill individual. The task force interrogated and sometimes tortured suspects. By September of 1983, multiple people confessed to the crimes after these interrogations and four ended their own lives by suicide.
The task force was able to solve over 1000 unrelated crimes during their search, including 95 murders, 245 rapes, and 140 aggravated assaults.
Chikatilo’s victims usually suffered between 30 – 50 stab wounds, but his 17th victim Sergei Markov was not only emasculated but also stabbed over 70 times before being killed.
In September of 1984, the task force had undercover officers on patrol in areas believed to be possible locations the killer would find victims like rail depots and bus stops. An undercover cop witnessed Chikatilo committing acts of frotteurism. This is a type of sexual assault where the criminal rubs against their unwilling victim, pelvis to pelvis. The officer arrested Chikatilo and found an 8” knife, rope and Vaseline on his person.
They took a blood sample from Chikatilo which returned as type A, but the semen from all of the serial crimes had been typed as AB. He was charged with theft from a former employer that he had been dodging and was sentenced to 1 year in prison. After serving 3 months, he was released.
In August of 1985, he killed victim #33, Natalia Pokhlistova, on a business trip to Moscow. Between the 38 stab wounds and other tell tale signs, her murder was linked to the serial killer of Rostov. The task force reviewed airline records between Rostov and Moscow, but Chikatilo had taken the train and remained off their radar.
In November 1985, Issa Kostoyev was appointed to oversee Operation Forest Path. More resources were added to the manhunt, and a psychiatrist was consulted to develop a psychological profile on a serial killer for the first time in Soviet history.
Dr. Alexandr developed a 65 page psychological profile on the assailant stating the man committing these crimes was between 45 and 50 years old. He had a painful and isolated childhood but was well-educated. He struggled with flirting and courting women but was likely married with children. He probably traveled for work. He was an impotent sadist who was only aroused by seeing his victims suffer, and the murders were an analog for sex.
The media followed the investigation closely, and Chikatilo followed their coverage just as closely. He attempted to keep his urges at bay in hopes of staying a free man. In 1987, he killed three times, each while on a business trip outside of Rostov. These murders were not linked to the manhunt. He then went quiet again until 1989.
He started killing again in 1990. With this new surge in murders, a massive police operation was put into place including more undercover officers and extensive CCTV installed in possible abduction and attack areas.
In November of 1990, an officer witnessed Chikatilo covered in grass stains with a red smear on his cheek and a wound on one finger as he washed up at the Donleskhoz Station. The officer checked his papers but had no reason to hold him. Instead noted his name in a report.
The body of a woman was found not long after and he was flagged after having been questioned in the investigation previously. He was arrested on November 20, 1990.
He was strip searched, and police discovered rope and a folding knife as well as more details on the finger wound he sustained. The finger was broken, the nail bitten off, and the wound consistent with human teeth marks. In addition to the odd injury, he did not get professional medical attention to tend to it.
Chikatilo complained that they had already interviewed him in the 80s, but his complaints fell on deaf ears. They once again tested his blood which returned type A. Just to be sure, they tested a semen sample as well, and this came back AB. They had a match.
As they interrogated him, he denied the murders but did confess to the child molestation of his students in the past. Frustrated at their lack of progress toward a confession, Burakov and Fetisov requested Dr. Bukhanovsky assist in the questioning.
The doctor saw with Chikatilo and read excerpts from his 65 page profile. Within 2 hours, Chikatilo burst into tears and confessed to 36 of the 38 murders they had linked to him.
He denied two of the murders and gave detailed accounts of each crime he confessed to, including body positioning and landmarks. When asked about the eyes, he referenced an old folk tale that the eyes would retain the image of their murderer so he destroyed them to cover his tracks.
He admitted that he would often taste the blood of his victims and would tear at parts of their body with his teeth.
On November 30, 1990, he was officially charged with 36 murders and then confessed to an additional 20 with the same level of detail.
In August of 1991, he was transferred to the Serbsky Institute for a 90 day psychiatric evaluation. Senior Psychiatrist Andrei Tkachenko noted multiple physiological problems attributed to prenatal brain damage in addition to a multitude of biological and environmental factors. Chikatilo was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder but was declared fit to stand trial.
His trial began on April 14, 1992, and it was the first major media event of Post-Soviet Russia. A press conference announced the charged but did not include any details on the identity of the accused.
The media’s first introduction to him was in the courtroom on the first day of the trial. He was kept in an iron cage in the corner of the courtroom to protect him from the outrage of victims’ friends and family.
Chikatilo was convicted of 52 of the 53 counts of murder and all 5 counts of sexual assault against minors. He was given a death sentence plus 86 years. He tried to appeal, even sending a request for pardon from President Boris Yeltsin but it was denied in 1994.
On February 14, 1994, Andrei Chikatilo was executed by a single gun shot behind the right ear. He was then buried in an unmarked grave in the prison cemetery.
Dr. Bukhanovsky has since released a set of criteria known as the Chikatilo Phenomenon, even lecturing about it around the world including at the FBI’s Department of Behavioral Science. This set of criteria outlines various predispositions, environmental factors and distinct characteristics of the physical brain that indicate heightened possiblity for a person to become a violent criminal. Anomalies of the cerebral cortex and third ventricle of the brain can be markers for a predisposition to commit violent acts. Bukhanovsky states, “Multiple murderers feel an enormous relaxing of tension after they kill and this instills a self-belief that what they do is necessary.”
This ties into Jim Fallon’s research on the MAOA gene that states the combination of genetics, brain damage and environmental factors increase a person’s likehood of psychopathy. The MAOA gene affects neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, but I have not been able to find in-depth research on a combined scope of this genetic research and the Chikatilo Phenomenon.
Due to the scope of his killings, I did not include details of each murder within the story, however, I believe they deserve the respect and reverence of being listed on our website.
In Memory of those lives lost….
|Yelena Zakotnova||Larisa Tkachenko||Lyubov Biryuk|
|Lyubov Volobuyeva||Oleg Pozhidayev||Olga Kuprina|
|Irina Karabelnikova||Sergey Kuzmin||Olga Stalmachenok|
|Laura Sarkisyan||Irina Dunenkova||Lyudmila Kutsyuba|
|Igor Gudkov||Unknown woman||Valentina Chuchulina|
|Vera Shevkun||Sergey Markov||Natalya Shalopinina|
|Marta Ryabenko||Dmitriy Ptashnikov||Tatyana Petrosyan|
|Svetlana Petrosyan||Yelena Bakulina||Dmitriy Illarionov|
|Anna Lemesheva||Sarmite Tsana||Natalya Golosovskaya|
|Lyudmila Alekseyeva||Unknown woman||Akmaral Seydaliyeva|
|Aleksandr Chepel||Irina Luchinskaya||Natalya Pokhlistova|
|Irina Gulyayeva||Oleg Makarenkov||Ivan Bilovetsky|
|Yuri Tereshonok||Unknown woman||Aleksey Voronko|
|Yevgeny Muratov||Tatyana Ryzhova||Aleksandr Dyakonov|
|Aleksey Moiseyev||Yelena Varga||Aleksey Khobotov|
|Andrei Kravchenko||Yaroslav Makarov||Lyubov Zuyeva|
|Viktor Petrov||Ivan Fomin||Vadim Gromov|
|Viktor Tishchenko||Svetlana Korostik|