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True crime. Casually done.

The Rostov Ripper: Butcher, Sadist, Savage

As redundant as it may seem to issue a content warning on a True Crime podcast, especially since my previous entries contained bushland torturers and Italian cannibals, this case in particular is not for the faint of heart. All information will be conveyed carefully and matter-of-factly out of respect for the victims and in condemnation of the man who carried out these horrific crimes.

Please note. “Horrific” is not an exaggeration. It is an entirely accurate description. You’ve been warned. It almost proved too much even for me. Opening up this script is like opening up the gates of hell.

It is the evening of the 22nd of December 1978. The coal-mining town of Shakhty [shack-tea] in the Soviet Union lay just east of the modern Ukrainian border and the Sea of Azov. It was a shockingly flat landscape, characteristic of the region, broken only by a few forest-covered hills that jutted out like naturally-formed pyramids in the midst of the town. The name of the town itself meant “mines” in Russian, a name which had been assigned to the town in 1920 by a dull-minded Soviet bureaucracy. The weather was gloomy and below-freezing. A light skiff of snow covered the ground.

Yelena Zakotnova, aged 9. Murdered 22 December 1978
Yelena Zakotnova, aged 9. Murdered 22 December 1978

Yelena Zakotnova [zah-caught-nova], aged 9, was last seen talking to a man at a bus stop. The man lured the girl to a nearby house, which he had purchased under a false identity three months prior. There the man tried to sexually assault the victim, but was physically unable to. Frustrated, he stabbed the victim three times in the stomach. Only then was the killer able to finish what he started. The dying girl tried to whisper something the killer could not make out. The man then strangled her to death. He took her body to the end of the street and cast it adrift into the freezing river. Yelena’s body was found two days later.

After an extensive investigation, the Soviet police arrested Aleksandr Kravchenko [krav-chen-ko]. He was a 25-year-old labourer who had been released from prison for a rape and murder he had committed when he was underage. The man claimed he was at home with his wife and his wife’s friend at the time of Yelena’s murder, and this alibi was confirmed by his next-door neighbours. Kravchenko was beaten and forced to confess to the murder, his wife was threatened with being charged as an accomplice, and his wife’s friend was threatened with the charge of perjury. The alibi was abandoned. Standing trial in 1979, Kravchenko retracted his confession and claimed it had been tortured out of him. He was nevertheless convicted of murder and given the death penalty. In December 1980, the Supreme Court commuted his death sentence to 15 years in prison, the maximum possible jail sentence at the time.

If you are slightly confused at only 15 years imprisonment for the brutal murder of a 9 year old girl, here is the explanation. Under certain political regimes, crimes over a certain threshold of severity (including highly dubious charges of treason and subversion) almost always bring with it a death sentence, not jail time. It is why the United States or United Kingdom can have significantly higher rates of imprisonment per capita than certain oppressive regimes in the world today, where convicted people are routinely killed for a lot less than the murder of a child. But in Kravchenko’s case, the evidence was not deemed reliable enough to warrant the immediate carrying out of the death sentence, which the slaying of a child otherwise would almost certainly have brought. His guilt had not been conclusively proven. After so much police coercion, the authorities themselves simply were not sure he had done it – and they hesitated.

Yelena’s outraged family demanded a retrial and Kravchenko was again tried and convicted of her murder. This time his sentence was not commuted. He was shot on July 5th 1983.

First a Trickle, Then a Flood

A few dozen kilometres southwest of Shakhty is the city of Rostov-on-Don, a major trading hub between the Sea of Azov and the Russian interior, via the Don River. It is, in some ways, a gateway to the Caucasus Mountains to the south and the Volga river network to the east, centred on Stalingrad. On September 3rd 1981, Larisa Tkachenko [tuh-ka-chen-ko], aged 17, was lured by a middle-aged man with promises of vodka to a forested area along the banks of the Don. There the man attempted to sexually assault the girl, but remained impotent, which enraged him. The assailant muffled the girl’s screams by filling her mouth with mud. He beat her, strangled her to death, and mutilated the body with his teeth and a nearby tree branch. The killer removed one of the victim’s nipples from the scene.

Nine months passed. On June 12th 1982, Lyubov Biryuk [loo-bov beer-yook], aged 13, was walking home from the shops. A middle-aged man fell into step with her and they began chatting. Minutes later, the man hit her over the head with the blunt handle of a knife, dragged her into the bushes, and inflicted 22 stab wounds. Post-mortem, the killer sexually interfered with the body and removed the eyes.

Two months later, on August 7th 1982, Lyubov Volobuyeva [loo-bov vulla-boy-ay-vah], aged 14, was found 275km or 170 miles south of Rostov in a sorghum field near the airport at Krasnodar [kraz-no-dar]. She had been abducted, stabbed, and mutilated 12 days earlier. The eyes were missing.

On August 13th 1982, six days later, Oleg Pozhidayev [ull-leg pozzie-hee-day-ev], a 9 year old boy, was abducted in Adygea [add-dee-ja] 320km or 200 miles south of Rostov. While he was later determined to be one of the Ripper’s victims, his body was never found.

Only three days later, Olga Kuprina [koo-pree-nah], a 16 year-old runaway, was abducted from Semikarakorsk [seemy-kara-korsk], 100km or 62 miles east of Rostov. Her body was found two months later in Koazachi Laheri [cozzacky la-hairy], in the middle of Ukraine, just north of the Crimea, a whopping 660km or 412 miles from the site of her abduction, mutilated, despoiled, missing the eyes.

On September 8th 1982, Irina Karabelnikova [kara-bell-nee-kova], an 18 year-old homeless woman, was lured away from the train station in Shakhty by a man promising money and vodka to a local house. Her body was found by the river, 12 days later. The same gruesome M.O. was practiced.

On September 15th 1982, Sergey Kuzmin [sir-gee cooz-meen], a 15 year-old boy, was abducted shortly after running away from a local boarding school. His skeleton was found in the woods near Shakhty four months later, having decomposed and having been consumed by local wildlife. Although no tissue remained on the corpse, knife marks on the pelvic area indicated the boy had been castrated.

Two months passed. December 11th 1982, Olga Stalmachenok [stahl-match-en-ock], aged 10, was riding the bus home from piano lessons in Novo Shakhty, also a mining town founded in 1939, a few miles from the original. She was last seen leaving the bus, being led by the hand by a middle-aged man. The killer took Olga to the edge of the city, stabbed her 55 times, and removed her uterus, bowels, and eyes.

Thereafter the Ripper went quiet and the killings stopped.

All this time, Aleksandr Kravchenko was locked in prison for the murder of Yelena, the first victim, in 1978. The real killer remained at large. After a three-year hiatus, the killer struck again. Then nine months passed before the third murder in 1982. Thereafter the killings became a spree, with five people being killed in August and September alone. The Ripper’s ninth victim was taken in December of that same year.

Although the Ripper’s M.O. of stabbing, strangling, and mutilation remained fairly consistent and identifiable, and the Ripper made little effort to conceal the bodies when he left the scene of a crime, the Soviet authorities were slow to draw a link between these murders. This was primarily because so many of them had been committed hundreds of miles apart. And, in one case, the body was dumped in a distant part of the Soviet Union. In short, despite the sudden, rapid, and brazen nature of his attacks, the Ripper was careful to travel wide distances to keep the authorities off his tracks.

Nevertheless, by the end of 1982, the police had linked the M.O. of four of the nine murders, those committed closest to Rostov and Shakhty, to the same killer. The manhunt began.

The Investigation

In January 1983, the Kremlin dispatched Major Mikhail Fetisov [fee-tee-sov] and a team of eleven forensic experts to Rostov in order to investigate the four murders. When 10 year-old Olga’s body was finally found in April, the M.O. was quickly matched, and the number of known victims became five. Meanwhile the Soviets suppressed the news that there was a serial killer on the loose. The government did not wish to cause public discontent or attract negative international press attention. As a result, millions of parents and young adults were left entirely unaware of the threat, and were not given the opportunity to take special precautions. Suppression of news like this is quite typical in Communist regimes. From the suppression of the news of the Chernobyl meltdown to the mass outbreak of certain contagious diseases… “Communism: What a Bag of Sh*t.”

Fetisov’s team came up with a number of theories for the murders. One of the most ridiculous ones was that it was a gang of organ thieves, killing people and removing body parts for sale on the black market. The sloppiness and haphazard nature of the dissections and eviscerations soon ruled out that theory. Another was that the murders were being committed as blood rituals by a gang of Satan worshippers. But there was never any iconography like a pentagram, candle, or amulet left at the scenes. And the ferocity of the attacks seemed to rule out a slow, calculated ritual. Foremost among the theories was that a mentally-ill child-abuser was acting alone. And, because this was Russia, they lumped in homosexuality, which was also considered a sexual offence. The small team spent weeks and weeks trawling through thousands of potential suspects at psychiatric hospitals and the sex offender’s registry checking alibis.

But this was no way for such a small team to conduct an investigation. By casting such a wide net, it would take years to comb through a list of so many individuals. Luckily, the Ripper had gone inactive. This gave the Soviets months and months to refine their dragnet and find the culprit. Half a year in fact.

But they failed. In June 1983, the Ripper struck again. Laura Sarkeesian, 15 years old, was found lying by the railroad in Shakhty. Her body bore the same hallmarks of mutilation as the other known victims. Then Irina Dunenkova [dun-nen-kova], a mentally disabled girl, aged 13, was found in the middle of a park in Rostov on August 8th. A second body was found in the park a day later – Igor Gudkov [goohd-kov], a boy aged only 7 years old. Ludmila Kutsyuba [lud-millah koots-yuba], a 24 year old homeless mother of two, was also killed during this time, but her body was not discovered until March 12th 1984, lying in a forest near a bus station in Shakhty. Also during the summer of 1983, an unidentified sex-worker in her 20s was taken from the Novo Shakhti bus station and her body was found on October 8th 1983. Today we know the total number of victims by this point had risen to 14 people.

Finally, by September 1983, the Soviets were forced to publicly admit they had a serial killer on the loose in the Rostov-Azov-Caucasus area of the USSR. Thousands of miles populated by millions of people. Due to the publicity, tips finally started rolling in. But also due to the publicity, in order to maintain an illusion of control over the situation, the Soviets kicked the investigation into reckless overdrive. Hundreds of people were detained and brutally interrogated. The Soviets extracted multiple confessions to the murders, frequently from mentally disabled young men. Multiple people committed suicide after being publicly accused by the authorities of being the murderer, or of being a homosexual, child-abuser, or rapist. The only good thing to come out of this purge was that hundreds of unrelated cold-cases involving murder and sexual assaults were solved. Though whether all the confessions extracted and convictions secured were at all reliable remains a matter of the utmost cynical speculation. In short, a lot of innocent people were hurt and lives were ruined during this particular phase of the investigation.

Sergey Markov, aged 14. Murdered 27 December 1983
Sergey Markov, aged 14. Murdered 27 December 1983

Meanwhile the actual killer continued to wreak havoc in the Rostov-Azov-Caucasus area. The Ripper’s fifteenth victim, 22 year old Valentina Chuchulina [choo-choo-lina], was murdered September 19th and was found in a forest near a railway station in Krasnodar province on November 27th 1983. Back in Shakhty, a 19 year-old sex-worker, Vera Shevkun [shev-koon] was murdered on the 27th of October, and while her body was mutilated in the same way, her eyes were curiously left intact, suggesting the killer had been interrupted. On the 27th of December, a 14-year old boy, Sergey Markov [sir-gee mark-ov] was lured off a train as it passed through the countryside, and was stabbed 70 times, disemboweled, and castrated. The year ended with the death toll at 17 victims.

Meanwhile the Soviet police, absorbed in hundreds of violent interrogations and forced confessions, were nowhere near to finding the perpetrator of these heinous acts.

Escalation and Arrest

The New Year did not bring any relief. In January and February, the bodies of two more women, aged 17 and 44, were found in a Rostov park. In March, Dmitri Ptashnikov [puh-tash-ni-kov] a 10 year-old boy who loved collecting stamps was lured to his death by a man pretending to be a fellow collector. On May 25th, in Shakhty, 29 year-old Tatyana Petrosian [petro-zian] was murdered in the forest. Her 10 year-old daughter, Svetlana, witnessed the murder, and the Ripper pursued her, killed her with a hammer, and decapitated her.

Between June and August 1984, six more victims were murdered in the Rostov area, bringing the Ripper’s death toll to 28 people. While the Ripper was on a business trip in Uzbekistan in August, he murdered two more women before flying home and killing yet another boy in the Rostov area days later. A week after, on September 6th, the Ripper abducted 24 year-old librarian, Irina Luchinskaya [loo-chin-sky-ah] while she was headed to the sauna in Rostov, and killed her in a nearby park. This brings the total to 32 victims.

Meanwhile, the Soviets were becoming desperate to stop the killer and extended their totalitarian surveillance to anything even remotely suspicious. In Rostov, on September 13th 1984, two undercover policemen observed a socially awkward middle-aged man trying to chat up women at a local bus station. The women he approached that day universally thought he was creepy and moved away from him. The sight of a creepy man, undergoing some sort of midlife crisis and ineptly hitting on every young woman he saw, was unpleasant and pervy, but not, in itself, a crime. But as the policemen continued to observe the man, they noticed he was periodically rubbing himself through his pants. The police promptly arrested him on suspicion of being the Rostov Ripper.

The man was 5-foot-11, had empty, soulless, blue eyes that seemed to stare past you. The bone structure of his face was pronounced, almost skeletal. He had permanently arched and furrowed eyebrows that gave him a sinister appearance, especially when he broke into an unsettling goblin-like smile. When the police searched the man, they found several lengths of rope, a knife with an eight-inch blade, and a jar of lubricant with traces of semen inside it. The man also fit several witness descriptions of the Rostov Ripper, most notably the man who posed as a stamp collector in order to abduct and murder 10 year-old Dimitri back in March. A sample of the man’s blood was taken for comparison to semen samples found on several of the victims. And while the man was in custody, the police ran a background check to see exactly what sort of person they were dealing with here…

Meet Andrei Chikatilo [andré chick-a-till-oh]

Andrei Chikatilo was born on October 16th 1936 in the tiny Ukrainian farming village of Yabluchne [yah-blutch-nah], in the aftermath of the Holodomor [whole-low-doh-more], a Stalinist-engineered genocide of 4-5 million Ukrainians. Some estimates go as high as 10 million. Officially, the Holodomor ended in 1933, with the end of the last mass famines, though for years more localised famines persisted, and the wider Ukrainian population suffered malnutrition and starvation in the extreme until several years after the Second World War. We’re talking Ethiopian levels of deprivation in what was supposed to be the “bread-basket of the world.” This was due to Stalin’s forced collectivisation of farms, where individually-owned peasant property was forcibly amalgamated into state farms. As a result of collectivisation, productivity cratered, and what food that was produced was frequently shipped off to other parts of the USSR leaving Ukrainians with nothing. Speaking to Churchill in August 1942, Stalin revelled in the fact that his forced collectivisation had killed off millions of “kulaks”, which in this context referred to any Soviet peasant who was reluctant to give up their property rights to the state. Of course, not all Ukrainians were kulaks, but they were starved to death anyway, and the genocide was also cynically used to de-fang a growing Ukrainian nationalist movement seeking greater autonomy within the USSR.

It was in this hellscape that Andrei Chikatilo was born. For Chikatilo’s parents, collectivisation amounted to nothing more than slavery. They were not paid. They worked as labourers in the fields of a state farm during the day, and in their spare time they were permitted to grow food for themselves in a small patch of dirt in the backyard of their hut. The Chikatilo family subsisted on root vegetables, not even being able to grow grain to bake into bread (not that they had the equipment to do this anyway), and they frequently had to resort to boiling and eating grass. Theft of food from the state farm was punishable 10 years imprisonment or by death. It goes without saying that any meat in their regular diet was out of the question, and would have been the utmost luxury. It is rumoured that three years earlier, during the Holodomor itself, Andrei Chikatilo’s older brother, Stepan, had been kidnapped and cannibalised. Indeed cannibalism was widespread throughout the Holodomor, with 3000 people being caught and charged with the crime, and countless more cases going undiscovered and unpunished.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union a few months before Chikatilo’s fifth birthday, his father was drafted into the Red Army. A few months later, the Germans had occupied the Ukraine. While many Ukrainians had initially greeted the Germans as liberators, they soon realised that the Nazi occupiers were even worse than Stalin had been. This was because of Hitler’s policy of Lebensraum, which mandated that all Slavic peoples west of the Ural Mountains be either enslaved or killed in order for the vast farmland of the USSR to be settled by Germans. Within a century, with a massive increase of German “living-space”, Hitler hoped to quadruple the size of the German population from 80 million to 320 million.

This necessitated the treatment Ukrainians as disposable and sub-human, starving them out where possible, and generally heaping abuse upon them. In 1942, Chikatilo’s mother was raped by a German soldier in her home. Given that Chikatilo shared a bed with his mother in their small hut, it is believed the six year old boy witnessed the assault. In 1943, Chikatilo’s mother gave birth to a baby girl, Tatyana. It goes without saying that Chikatilo’s father had been away at war since 1941.

Here comes the passage you might have expected. Chikatilo’s mother was extremely abusive to both of her children. Physically abusive, yes, but in this case what seems to have done the most damage was when she was abusive verbally. As mentioned, Chikatilo shared a bed with his mother, but had a problem with bed-wetting, for which he was beaten and humiliated night after night. Occasionally he was made to sleep on the floor. When his father returned from the war years later, he was in contrast a very kind person. Yet this did not seem to provide a sufficient antidote to Chikatilo’s gradually contorting psyche.

When Chikatilo began school at the age of eight, he was relentlessly bullied. This was not aided by the fact that his mother’s treatment had left him painfully shy, and severe malnutrition had left his growth extremely stunted, his body painfully thin, and his stomach distended. Due to malnutrition, Chikatilo would frequently faint at school, for which he was also bullied. With all that said, Chikatilo proved an intelligent and talented student and, while by no means a genius, he did reasonably well at his academic work. He threw himself into it as a distraction and a shield from the rest of his miserable life. He was the only student on his entire collective farm to graduate high school.

When Chikatilo reached his teenage years and began to think he knew how to fix all the world’s problems, as teenagers often do, he became very passionate about politics, and became a devout communist. He was appointed to several Young Communist positions in school, devoured the Marxist-Stalinist reading list, and enjoyed organising street demonstrations. Because this was the USSR, these street demonstrations were not so much protests as loud and animated agreement with whatever state propaganda told him and whatever the Kremlin’s policies were at the time.

Also when Chikatilo reached his teenage years, he manifested several pathologies toward women. He was cringingly shy and barely capable of asking a girl the time, much less asking her on a date. The mental scars inflicted by his mother had left Chikatilo terrified of them, and at the same time filled with hate. When Chikatilo was 17, he worked on a student newspaper with a girl named Lilya Barysheva [bah-ree-shay-va]. Although infatuated with her, he never approached her romantically. Instead, in a shocking foreshadowing of his later crimes, he took out his frustrations on an 11 year-old friend of his sister, and sexually assaulted her. As he pinned the poor girl to the ground, he immediately achieved sexual gratification, indicating that his sexual sadism had already taken root. In any other circumstances, Chikatilo had chronic impotence and could not achieve arousal without the presence of violence.

The hellscape of Stalinist Ukraine and the multiple torments of his upbringing had created a monster. Yet given what he would turn out to do, I am not sure that accounts for even a tenth of the explanation. Certainly, childhood trauma is a major predictor of later criminal activity. But not all victims of child-abuse become criminals. Certainly, the history of 20th century Ukraine is one steeped in misery, and blood-stained darker than almost any other region in modern history. But most survivors of that period did not become killers. Chikatilo was later diagnosed with extreme psychopathy (possibly genetically inherited), and borderline personality disorder, which were both exacerbated by brain damage he had suffered while he was forming in his mother’s womb, and compounded by the multiple toxic elements of his upbringing. It was likely he was born a high risk, unstable individual. And what nature started, nurture finished.

An Attempt at a Normal Life

In 1954, Chikatilo tried and failed to win a scholarship to Moscow State University. He moved to Kursk, a major city on the Russian-Ukrainian border, and briefly worked as a labourer before training to become a signals technician. While in Kursk, at the age of 19, he attempted a romantic relationship with a woman, which lasted a year and a half. The relationship fell apart because Chikatilo was not able to maintain an erection, and his partner finally gave up on the lack of physical intimacy. From Kursk, Chikatilo moved to the Urals, where he worked on a construction project and took further training as an engineer. In 1957, he was drafted into the Red Army, and spent two years as a border guard in Central Asia, followed by a stint as a communications technician in a KGB unit in East Berlin.

Chikatilo returned to his native Yabluchne in 1960, where he entered a brief dalliance with a divorcée. This relationship did not last long because of Chikatilo’s physical incapability of having sex. Word travels fast in a small town, and it soon became public knowledge that Chikatilo, still in his mid-twenties, was chronically impotent. This ended any hope of the shy young man from entering a relationship with any other woman in his village, and resulted in his being mocked for months openly and in public. A physical malady which today might be fixed with simple medication was, by the attitudes of the time, regarded as a sign of infantile, stunted, and feeble manhood. Combined with Chikatilo’s social awkwardness, this reduced him to the status of a figure of fun. He tried to hang himself, but was rescued by his mother and his neighbours. At which point, Chikatilo resolved to leave Yabluchne behind forever and move to a place where nobody knew him and where he could rebuild his reputation again from an untarnished position.

In 1961, Chikatilo settled in Rostov and began work as a communications engineer. His sister, Tatyana, soon came out to join him. They lived together for six months before Tatyana, then aged 18, met a man, got married, and moved out. Tatyana took pity on her brother, and in 1963 set him up with a woman, Feodosia Odnacheva [feo-dose-ya ode-nah-chay-va]. Although only 24, Feodosia was somewhat desperate to get married and did not have an abundance of suitors. She overlooked and even appreciated Chikatilo’s shyness and lack of assertiveness. They were married within two weeks of meeting.

As for Chikatilo’s physical malady, the impotence did not seem to bother Feodosia either, whose priority was to set up a stable family unit, rather than holding out and hoping for a passionate romance with someone. Instead of having sexual intercourse, Chikatilo and his wife engaged in a crude form of insemination, where Chikatilo would masturbate into his hand then manually inseminate his wife with his fingers. Feodosia gave birth to a daughter in 1965, and a son in 1969. As unusual and ineffective as this form of insemination sounds, there is no evidence that Feodosia was ever unfaithful. However, after the birth of her son in 1969, Feodosia began practicing abortions in secret because she feared Chikatilo could not support a larger family. Gradually, what little physical affection they had dried up during the late 1970s, in a typical case of “serial killer bed-death” where a sex-based killer is no longer able or willing to feign the slightest interest in conventional sexual activity. And, no, Feodosia did not know what Chikatilo was up to, or had any strong inkling of his sexual sadism or other pathologies. Like many serial killers, Chikatilo kept his darker impulses and his family separate. His family life had to be preserved – at the very least as a useful mask – and it was the rest of the people in the world that were disposable.

Chikatilo meanwhile had studied, via correspondence, a Russian literature degree with a minor in philology at Rostov University, graduating in 1970. The following year, Chikatilo moved to Novo Shakhty to take up the position as a school teacher.

In May 1973, Chikatilo began sexually assaulting his underage students, spying on them in changing rooms and dormitories, and committing furtive but public acts of masturbation. Often when he was sat at his desk in front of the class. The school ignored student complaints, but after the behaviour continued for a further six months, the administrators asked Chikatilo to resign to avoid a scandal. This culture of silence and permissiveness was not unusual to Soviet schools at the time.

Because his conduct was never made public, Chikatilo managed to find a job at another school in Novo Shakhty. This time Chikatilo was careful. If he engaged in any more abuse of his students, it has never come to light. It is possible he simply sequestered his darker impulses from the workplace in the same way he had done from his family. Chikatilo was nevertheless laid off in 1978 due to budget cuts, and moved with his family a few dozen kilometres to the town of Shakhty to take up another teaching job.

His dark instincts, having been suppressed for half a decade, came roaring back to the forefront. Immediately after arriving in Shakhty, Chikatilo rented a second house, unbeknownst to his wife, under a forged identity. It is clear that from the start he intended to use this house as a staging area for varying acts of child-abuse. Merely three months later, Chikatilo had committed his first murder there, 9 year-old Yelena, with whom this story began.

For three years, Chikatilo committed multiple acts of child-abuse against his students, but may not have killed any more children (there are three troubling and unsolved allegations). He was fired in 1981 after multiple complaints of molestation had stacked up. Now unable to find another teaching job, Chikatilo took a job as a supply officer for a Rostov factory. This job required Chikatilo to travel hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles, to meet with suppliers. Thus Chikatilo was able to move across the Soviet Union, killing as he went, without arousing suspicion. Within six months of arriving in Rostov, Chikatilo had committed his second murder. At this point, Chikatilo claims that he abandoned any attempt to “restrain” himself and the entire sickening cataclysm of dozens of brutal murders had begun.

The Twist

Which brings us back to September 1984 when Andrei Chikatilo was finally in custody, having been caught by two undercover policeman harassing women and rubbing himself through his pants at a train station in Rostov. They found incriminating evidence on his person – a knife, rope, and sexual lubricant – and had sent his blood away for testing.

At long last, after much police incompetence, suppression of the news of a serial killer followed by a hysterical and unproductive witch-hunt, the Soviet authorities had found their man. They had Andrei Chikatilo in custody, but what to charge him with to keep him there, while the police built their case?

Fortunately, in 1984, the factory Chikatilo worked at had raised suspicions that he had stolen certain supplies in order to sell them second-hand for extra money. The police promptly charged him with theft and kept Chikatilo imprisoned.

The blood tests came in after being compared to semen samples found on several of the victims. This being the Soviet Union in 1984, however, there was no capacity for DNA testing. In fact, the process of DNA profiling was only just being developed in the laboratories of the United Kingdom and the United States, and it would be a further two years before it was first used forensically in a criminal case. Instead the precursor at the time was to match blood types. By no means as precise as DNA, it was still a useful method of securing convictions and ruling out suspects.

Andrei Chikatilo had Type A blood. The semen samples meanwhile had been classified at the police laboratory as Type AB. Thus Chikatilo was ruled out as a suspect. He was convicted of theft, given a one year sentence, and released after serving three months. Exonerated as a suspect in the serial murders, Chikatilo walked. The Ripper had just been set loose again on the public.

Blood Red Resurgence

Now known to the police, Chikatilo kept his head down while he regularly followed the news of the manhunt, watching out for breakthroughs in the case. He needn’t have worried. Although he was now on file in police records, they dismissed him utterly as a suspect due to the blood type discrepancy. Meanwhile Chikatilo scored another factory job in Novocherkassk [novuh-chur-cask] 41km or 25 miles northeast of Rostov. The job afforded him the opportunity to travel again. Chikatilo waited nearly a year after the date of his arrest to make sure he wasn’t being observed by the Soviet police. Then, on August 1st 1985, he struck again.

Chikatilo had travelled to Moscow to talk with a supplier. There he saw Natalia Pokhlistova [poke-list-ova], 18 years-old, standing on a railway platform near a Moscow Airport. Chikatilo followed her onto the train. Watching her from a distance, he continued to stalk her when the train pulled in to her stop. She got off. So did he. Trailing her behind her, Chikatilo seized his opportunity and dragged the victim into a small thicket of trees. There he tied her up, assaulted her, stabbed her 38 times while simulating sexual movements every time he struck, and then strangled her as she lay exsanguinating on the ground. Her mutilated body was discovered two days later. She had died less than two blocks from her house.

The news hit the Soviet police like a bucket of cold water. It had been 11 months since the last murder and there had been no developments in the case. If the Ripper had stopped permanently, in a few months the Soviets could have swept the case under the rug and mollified the public with a propaganda campaign. Now there was another murder, with the same grisly M.O., in the nation’s capital no less.

Given that the majority of the murders had happened in the vicinity of Rostov, the police came to the conclusion that the killer was based there. Thus investigators looked at the passenger records of all people who flew from Rostov to Moscow around August 1st. But Chikatilo had not flown. He had taken the train from Novocherkassk to Moscow. The Ripper slipped the net yet again.

At the end of August, Chikatilo returned to Shakhty, where it had all began. On August 27th, he lured 18 year-old Irina Gulyaeva [goul-yah-ay-va] away from the bus station and murdered her in a small woodland grove. She was found the next day with the same telltale signs that it had been the Ripper’s work.

Still anxious about the police, Chikatilo then halted all of his activities. He knew that the two murders would have sent them into a frenzy to find him again. So the Ripper bided his time, waiting for things to settle down.

The Soviet police were not idle. Massive government pressure bore down upon them. 34 people had been killed. The Ripper had been on the loose for years. The public was outraged. So the police kicked things into high gear. A special prosecutor was appointed. The number of people working the case was quadrupled. Another round of interrogations plagued Russia, but less coercive than before. The beat-cops absolutely flattened Rostov with their overwhelming presence. Undercover female police officers posing as prostitutes and teenage school children hung around Rostov waiting to be approached by the killer. All to no avail. Because the killer was no longer based in Rostov.

Russian Mindhunter

In November of 1985, Dr. Aleksandr Bukhanovsky [boo-kan-ov-ski], a behavioural psychiatrist, was appointed to the investigation to engage in the first psychological profiling of a serial killer in Soviet/Russian history. Bukhanovsky compiled a 65-page report that predicted the man was well-educated, with a professional career that allowed him to travel, that he probably had a family from whom he kept his activities a secret, and that he was between 45 and 50 years old. Bukhanovsky also accurately predicted the man would be sexually stunted, incapable of socialising with women, that he likely suffered from impotence, and he could only achieve orgasm by engaging in sexual sadism.

The reason for the killer’s sadism would derive from a feeling of inadequacy, probably inculcated in childhood by an abusive parent. Given the preponderance of female victims, probably the mother. With a catastrophically low self-esteem and feeling unworthy of a woman’s voluntary physical affection, he would not be aroused by it, but only made anxious by it. Instead he would only respond sexually to physical contact when he had seized that contact for himself against the victim’s will. The killer had developed a deeply-rooted mental pathology where deep down he did not think he could ever be desirable, and so the only “true” sexual circumstances for him were those of brutal coercion.

Due to the coercive nature of the acts, the killer would prey upon those he thought were vulnerable and weak. As such, the fact that the Ripper occasionally targeted children had nothing to do with a particular attraction to them, unlike most child-abusers. He simply thought they were weak enough to allow him to strike. The same went for preying on adult women who were either prostitutes, poor, homeless, or runaways. Or simply alone and of a submissive and easily-led disposition. As the killer’s confidence grew, he began to target adult women more and more. And while the Ripper had targeted young boys on multiple occasions, even teenage boys, the demographic of adult men was conspicuously absent because in the killer’s mind they did not fit the profile of vulnerability which the killer required. While almost certainly bisexual, the killer would not enjoy sex of any description with an adult male who theoretically could resist and overpower him.

Most intriguingly – and grotesquely – the killer’s impotence had prompted him to use his knife as a substitute for an erection. Each stab would be accompanied with a pelvic thrust. And only when having inflicted enough violence to become aroused would the killer either masturbate or defile the victim’s body. The killer appeared to have no qualms about whether this happened pre or post-mortem.

As for the post-mortem mutilations and eviscerations, this was the killer revelling in what he had just done. He had sexually seized another human being. Seeing the harm he had already inflicted, with a sense of euphoria he would continue to cut into the victim and wreak further damage in a sick and twisted sort of “victory lap” after the murder and his own orgasm. As such, he would cut out the genitals, bowels, and stomach and lay them aside to admire as trophies. He would also tear out the victim’s tongue and nipples with his teeth. It was likely the killer either chewed or fully consumed some of these body parts raw. Given his likely double-life with a wife and family, he would discard anything he took with him long before he returned home. However, the cutting out of the eyes was a special case, since the act implied somehow the killer did have a vague sense of shame for feeling driven to commit these crimes. He did not want his victims to “look” at him. Yet the cutting out of the eyes, once his calling card, had grown less and less frequent over the years, implying that the killer’s sense of shame was diminishing.

It goes without saying that Bukhanovsky’s work turned out to be fairly accurate.

Finally, given the lack of effort to conceal the bodies once he had killed them, and the nature of the attacks, it was likely that the Ripper did not return to the scene of his crimes to relive the events like some serial killers did. However, the killer may indeed favour particular locations to carry out some of his killings, and his version of “reliving his crimes” was simply returning to the location to repeat the act again with another victim. This would explain why the killer, capable of operating all over the country, seemed incapable of staying away from the woodlands of Shakhty and the parks and bus-lanes of Rostov, even if he no longer lived and worked in the area. Here was a possible opportunity to make an arrest.

The Timid Ripper

After his 34th victim, the stepping up of the police investigation, and the overpowering public hysteria around the killings, Chikatilo was intimidated into silence and inactivity. He did not kill again for another year. Then on August 11th 1986, he targeted 18 year-old secretary Irina Pogoryelova [poe-gore-yell-ova] while he was in Bataysk [bah-tie-sk], just 15km or 9 miles south of Rostov. With this victim, Chikatilo displayed an uncharacteristic degree of caution by burying her in the fields of a collective farm. The fact that he had delayed his killings and had taken care to conceal this particular crime implies Chikatilo was getting nervous.

Almost another year passed. Chikatilo lured a 12 year-old boy, Oleg Makarenkov [ulleg mack-car-en-kov] from a railway station in Revda, a small town in the Ural Mountains, with promises of a meal at his house, which Chikatilo claimed was nearby. Once again, after the murder, Chikatilo took care to conceal the body.

Two more young boys were killed in 1987. The first, Ivan Bilovetsky, aged 12, was murdered in July and concealed in the trees near a railway in Zaporizhia [zap-pour-iz-hee-ah] in the middle of the eastern Ukraine. His own father found his body while searching for him. The second, in September 1987, was 16 year-old Yuri Tereshonok [tay-resh-hon-ok] who was murdered and buried near Leningrad.

Then the killings ceased again. Most notably, in 1987, Chikatilo refrained from killing anyone in the Rostov area due to the police focus there. Instead he spread out his murders across the USSR and attempted to delay or prevent the bodies from being found. This was just as well since, unbeknownst to him, in 1987 he had briefly been added to the bottom of the list of potential suspects.

Chikatilo tried to observe the same caution in 1988, with only partial success. Again he killed only three victims that year – in April, May, and July – before stopping again. The first victim was an unidentified woman in her 20s in Krasny Sulin [kraz-nee sule-in], and he switched up his M.O. by bludgeoning her with a slab of concrete rather than strangling her after he had stabbed her. He also refrained from eviscerating the victim. The second murder was of 9 year old-boy, Alexi Voronko [vore-ron-ko], in Ilovaisk [ill-ove-vigh-sk], far away from Rostov in the Ukraine. But in this murder Chikatilo could not resist returning to his usual M.O. Then in July, Chikatilo was drawn back to Shakhty where he murdered 15-year-old Yevgeny Muratov [yev-genny myura-tov] where he also followed his usual M.O. to the letter. It is quite clear that Chikatilo could not achieve the same euphoria when he deviated from his set pattern, and that he remained drawn to the Rostov region, and Shakhty in particular – the site of his first murder.

Despite Chikatilo’s fading discretion, he managed to suppress his urges for another seven months before killing again. By the end of 1988, the Rostov Ripper had claimed the lives of 41 people, most of them young adults or children, in a reign of terror that now spanned over a decade. And now he was nowhere near the list of suspects being investigated by the Soviet police.

Manhunt à la Muscovite Noire

On February 28th 1989, fresh hell broke out anew. Chikatilo lured Tatyana Ryzhova, a 16 year-old runaway, to his then 24 year-old daughter’s apartment in Shakhty. Chikatilo’s daughter had left her apartment vacant for a while and so Chikatilo thought it was the ideal place to discretely commit murder, dismember the body, and throw the remains into the sewers in an effort to conceal his crime. It didn’t work and the victim was found a little over a week later. Chikatilo would kill four more people in 1989, three of whom were murdered in either Rostov or Shakhty. And due to Chikatilo’s caution, two of the four murders were not discovered at the time.

Meanwhile the mask had begun to slip in Chikatilo’s family life. On his way home from a business trip, he looked in on his daughter and his grandson in Shakhty. One night, Chikatilo entered his grandson’s room and tried to molest him. He was caught. From this point forward, Chikatilo’s daughter cut off all contact with him. Not long afterward, Feodosia, Chikatilo’s wife, filed for divorce.

As the year 1990 dawned, and the Soviet Union crumbled all around them, the gloom of the Russian populace was heightened by the fact that a serial killer was still on the loose and claiming victims. By this point, however, Chikatilo had largely abandoned caution and focused most of his efforts on the Rostov-Shakhty area. Because it was the area of his earliest murders, it held a strong erotic power over him.

Meanwhile the police had stepped up their game once again in the Rostov-Shakhty area. While undercover policemen had been a fixture of the railways and bus lines for years now, they had never managed to detain and question a suspicious character who turned out to be the Ripper. (Well, no, actually they did do that in 1984, but they let him go). But now in 1990 undercover policemen were equipped with cameras to film passengers on the busses, trains, and at the stations. In addition, hidden cameras were also installed in train cars. The idea was, even if they couldn’t spot the Ripper in action, if they could film the last moments of a victim being lured away by the Ripper, once the body was identified they could review the footage and see the man who had taken them. In a world before CCTV cameras were abundant in most urban areas, I have to admit this was a pretty solid idea.

But it didn’t work. The problem was if you assigned a few dozen undercover policemen, equipped with cameras, to the massive transport system of Rostov, you were filming literally tens of thousands of people a day. And people make conversation. Quite innocently, in fact. As hard as it may be to believe – especially after this f*cking script – not all people who talk on public transport are serial killers or their future victims. So you’d have to be really, really lucky to capture on film someone who later turned out to be a victim, and capture the precise moment when the killer approached them and lured them away.

From January 14th to October 17th 1990, Chikatilo killed a further six people. Five of the six people were killed in the Rostov-Shakhty area, to which the killer had appeared to have gravitated again and intended to stay. Only one other victim was killed elsewhere, in Chikatilo’s city of residence, Novocherkassk, which wasn’t very far away. They were all killed with the same gruesome M.O. which, if I have to relive it again, I think I’m going to be sick, have to take yet another break, and this script will never get done.

The Soviet police shifted strategy once again. If the large train stations of Rostov were too crowded to catch the Ripper in the act, either in person or on film, then these large train stations should be flooded with 360 uniformed policemen, who made their presence obvious. This would drive the killer away from the large crowded stations for fear of being caught. Instead the killer would be forced to start stalking victims at the smaller train stations exclusively. Here there would be no uniformed police. Only undercover policemen who could more easily make out the Ripper amongst the crowd and, if not catch him outright, capture him on film with his intended victim. Genuinely. It was pure genius. Assuming the Ripper didn’t abandon the Rostov-Shakhty area again and start doing long distance killings in wider Russia.

On October 30th, three days after the new police operation commenced, Chikatilo managed to lure Viktor Tishchenko [tish-chenko], aged 16, from one of the smaller railway stations in Rostov without being spotted by undercover police. Chikatilo took him to a nearby forest. There Chikatilo ambushed the teenage boy. But Viktor Tishchenko was no pushover. He fought back. When police later arrived at the scene, they noticed the brush had been thoroughly disturbed, with blood spatter in multiple locations, and branches torn to the ground amid a desperate struggle. As the two men grappled, Viktor Tishchenko managed to bite one of Chikatilo’s fingers, breaking the bone and ripping off one of the killer’s fingernails. Unfortunately, Viktor could not put up resistance forever against an armed man, and he was stabbed 40 times and dispatched in a way similar to the other victims. Chikatilo dumped some iodine onto his finger to disinfect the wound but he did not seek medical treatment for it.

A week later, on November 6th 1990, Chikatilo lured a 22 year-old homeless woman, Svetlana Korostik [corose-tik] from yet another small railway station to the woods, where he killed and mutilated her according to his usual modus operandi. Chikatilo then returned to the railway station where he was noticed by an undercover policeman as he washed some mud from his hands and face. The policeman also noticed Chikatilo had mud caked onto his clothes. It seemed odd that the man should be tramping about the woods in business attire. The policeman approached Chikatilo and checked his identification papers. As he did so, the policeman noticed a smudge of what could be blood on Chikatilo’s cheek, and a rather nasty looking wound on one of his fingers. Yet even in Soviet Russia, one didn’t arrest a man for having a boo-boo on his finger and muddy clothes. The policeman let Chikatilo go.

Svetlana Korostik’s body was found seven days later. The undercover policeman from the nearby train station revealed to the investigation team a suspicious man with mud, a wound, and possible blood on his cheek had been there around the time of the murder. This man was identified as Andrei Chikatilo. The investigation team remembered the man whom they had arrested in 1984. At the time he had fit the profile of the killer fairly well, but had been exonerated by blood testing. A background check revealed that Chikatilo’s employers in Rostov and Novocherkassk had sent him on business trips that accorded with the timing and locations of the known murders. A further background check with two of the three schools that had employed Chikatilo in Shakhty and Novo Shakhty in the 1970s revealed that the man was an egregious sex pest who was predatory toward his students. If Chikatilo had been reported by the schools and charged for some or all of the molestations of his students, he would have been on the sex offender’s registry and would have been picked up by the Soviet police as early as 1983.

Despite the inconsistency with the blood testing in 1984, Chikatilo fit their killer’s profile very well indeed. They placed Chikatilo under police surveillance the very next day. What the police witnessed was disturbing. For hours at a time, instead of going home or to work, Chikatilo would hang out at stations, on trains, or on buses, apparently headed nowhere in particular. He would approach a woman or child and begin chatting to them affably. When the potential victim got creeped out and moved away, Chikatilo would sit there for a moment in silence, move to another part of the train where he hadn’t already been observed by other passengers, and try the same thing again with a new intended victim. After six days of recording this repeated behaviour, Chikatilo was arrested at a small café near his house in Novocherkassk.

Blood Isn’t Spunk

When Chikatilo was arrested for the second time, he denied everything and claimed he had been through all this before in 1984. One can almost see him rolling his eyes and acting offended. Like last time, a search of Chikatilo unearthed a knife and some rope. Examination of the wound on Chikatilo’s finger revealed that it was caused by a human bite mark, which Chikatilo unwisely denied. Chikatilo was then shipped off to Rostov where he was locked in a cell with a police informer, whose job was to pump Chikatilo for information or a confession. When Chikatilo was interrogated by the police, they too tried to get him to confess. A confession was really the only way they were going to pin the murders on him. They didn’t have anything beyond Chikatilo’s presence nearby one of the murders, covered in mud, a vague correlation between his movements and the murders over several years, the fact he obviously was a child-abuser, and the fact that surveillance had observed him for several days being creepy in public.

This time the police sent out both a blood and semen sample from Chikatilo to be tested. Like last time, Chikatilo’s blood came back as Type A. But Chikatilo’s semen sample came back as Type AB, matching the samples found on the victims. If they had tested Chikatilo’s semen back in 1984, the police would not have dismissed him from their inquiries, and it is likely the man would have been caught much sooner. Potentially saving twenty-five lives.

Meanwhile the interrogations were getting nowhere and Chikatilo had revealed nothing to the police-informer in his cell. The police had arrested Chikatilo on the 20th of November. They had ten days where they could hold him without charge, after which they would have to charge him with something or let him go. On the 29th of November, Dr. Bukhanovsky, the criminal profiler who had five years earlier submitted his report on the Rostov Ripper, was invited to sit in on the interrogation. Bukhanovsky talked with Chikatilo for several hours, reading the Ripper his 65-page psychological profile of him. Moved to tears by Bukhanovsky’s explanations for why he felt driven to commit the murders, Chikatilo confessed. He signed an official police document only a few hours before the police would have been forced to release him.

Trial and Execution

While he was held in prison awaiting trial, Chikatilo admitted to 57 murders. Three of them he claimed to have committed between 1980 and 1982 in Shakhty, which filled the gaps in the killer’s supposed hiatus between his first murder in 1978 and the long gap after his second murder in 1981. But the murders have never been tied to any unsolved cases or missing persons. The fourth, Irina Pogoryelova, whom he had killed in 1986 and buried on a collective farm was also disputed due to contaminated evidence and Chikatilo’s deranged issuing and then withdrawing then re-issuing of confessions. But the nature of the wounds on the victim fit Chikatilo’s M.O. and make it overwhelmingly likely he did it. Chikatilo also made several confessions and led the police to the remains of several bodies, tying him to a huge number of murders that the police were not even aware of. In total, over the course of his career as a serial killer Chikatilo had committed an astonishing 53 to 57 brutal and gruesome murders. Jesus f*cking Christ.

Entering the iron cage during his trial.
Entering the iron cage during his trial.

The trial began in April 1992, when the Soviet Union had fallen and the Russian Federation had risen in its place. This was to be the first trial of its kind in the newly democratised country. And, for many people, it was a way of achieving some closure to a troubled Soviet past. Chikatilo became symbolic of the dying days of the Soviet Union, with his senseless murders, the police incompetence, and their inability to stop a roving terror. It was representative of wider problems plaguing Russian society at the time. By putting the case of Rostov Ripper to rest, the Russian Federation was hopefully turning a new page in its history.

The trial itself was a circus. Which is perhaps symbolic of the current Federation. It was abundantly clear that Chikatilo was guilty, and it would only take conviction on one or two murders to justify putting him to death. However, the presiding judge, Leonid Akubzhanov [ack-koob-zan-ov], himself a hold-out from the days of the more authoritarian Soviet justice system, was excessively accusatory and inquisitorial rather than staying impartial and letting the facts speak for themselves.

Meanwhile it appeared that Chikatilo’s strategy was to behave as crazy as possible in order to escape being put to death. While being questioned, Chikatilo was frequently dismissive of the murders and evasive when it came to providing details. Instead Chikatilo preferred to talk about his harsh childhood or, with a grin at the pained expressions of his audience, going on nonsensical disjointed rants about his life and the state of the world. He’d deny charges, then admit to them, then deny them again. He’d shout over the judge, and tell him to “shut the f*ck up” so he could finish talking. The judge didn’t help things by occasionally shouting back, telling Chikatilo, “no, you shut the f*ck up” and openly and baselessly accuse Chikatilo of not being insane. Chikatilo would occasionally break out into maniacal laughter. He would sing songs. More than once he got his c*ck out and waggled it at the courtroom.

While Chikatilo had never been a stable person (obviously) he was capable of more artifice than this. He had maintained a family façade and kept up a marriage for 26 years. He had hidden the fact that he was the Rostov Ripper for years too. He had managed to lure countless victims to their deaths by winning over their temporary confidence. He was not the raving loon he appeared to be in that courtroom. There is nothing to indicate that between his arrest and trial that Chikatilo had mentally deteriorated. So it was likely a stratagem. Or perhaps, with the mask having slipped and being caught bang to rights, Chikatilo felt he could simply be himself. Either way, the Russian press didn’t care. They were lapping this stuff up.

Despite his efforts, Chikatilo was sentenced to death, not an insane asylum. He appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but it was rejected. He then appealed to President Boris Yeltsin to commute his sentence, and this was also rejected. No politician in his right mind would have humoured him.

On February 14th 1994, Chikatilo was taken from his cell, knelt in the middle of a sound-proofed room, and was shot once behind his right ear. And I hope this time Simon will agree with me when I say – may the bastard rot in hell. And get f*cked in the arse by Satan’s thorny c*ck.

Dismembered Appendices

1. Chikatilo was not a master criminal, and was never very good at cleaning up crime scenes, concealing bodies, or removing evidence. It was only by virtue of the sudden ferocious rapidity of his murders, the randomness of his victims, and his constant movement around the Soviet Union, that allowed him to get away with things for so long.

Back in 1978, when he committed his first murder with the slaying of 9 year-old Yelena Zakotnova, Chikatilo actually left behind a lot of evidence. Blood was found outside the house Chikatilo had bought in fraudulent circumstances, having dripped off the body as he carried it to the river. Multiple neighbours could describe Chikatilo and place him at the house that night. Yet another witness had seen a man of Chikatilo’s description talking to Yelena at the bus stop. These witnesses described a middle-aged man, not a 25 year-old like Aleksandr Kravchenko, who was arrested and eventually executed for the crime.

All the police would have needed to do is investigate the house where blood was found, where they would likely find forensic evidence of the murder committed there, and then hunt down the house’s owner. All this could have been stopped back in 1978.

Instead, the police, in a rush to pin the murder on a likely local suspect, collared and forced a confession out of an ex-con who lived in the area. Even then Kravchenko was initially not going to be executed because the evidence was so thin. But Yelena’s grief-stricken family protested loudly and publicly, and in order to save face, an innocent man was put to death while a monster walked free.

2. Regardless of what you think of the death penalty, particularly for piece of sh*t animals like Chikatilo, the wrongful execution of Aleksandr Kravchenko underlines the importance of due process and the presumption of innocence before being proven guilty. This lesson seems all the more relevant in 2021 where rushing to accuse someone of a crime and throwing the presumption of innocence out the window is becoming depressingly common again. Both in the public square and social media, and even, more troublingly, in a few actual courtrooms in supposedly “civilised” countries. How many generations are we going to have to spend learning the same lessons over and over? This is basic sh*t people.

3. If Chikatilo had managed to do a better job on his entrance exams when he was 18, he might well have won a scholarship to Moscow State University. Given his passion about politics at the time and his slavish devotion to the Communist ideal, it is very possible that one of the worst serial killers in modern history would have obtained high office in the Soviet Union. There he would have been in very good company, alongside the likes of Lavrentiy Beria, Nikolai Yezhov, and Joseph Stalin himself. All of whom were responsible for signing off on the deaths of millions on paper. Beria himself was known to relish in taking part firsthand on occasion, in addition to his systematic coercion and rape of thousands of Soviet women and girls over decades. It is monsters like these who thrive in a totalitarian system. Andrei Chikatilo would have been right at home. And it kind of makes you wonder what skeletons (perhaps literal skeletons) might be in the closets of some of the high-ranking officials in totalitarian regimes today.

4. The story of Andrei Chikatilo has inspired numerous fictionalised versions of his disgusting story in books and movies over the years. All of them have been instant trash. I’m still waiting for a good one that is in the least bit introspective and not just trying to titillate the audience in the cheapest and most disgraceful of ways.

5. While other serial killers have exceeded the record of Chikatilo’s body count, particularly in the lawless wilderness of Columbia, the Rostov Ripper remains notorious for the brutality of his murders, effortlessly extended to continue, to be repeated, and to create yet another damaged and grieving family for years, despite living in a totalitarian society. The fact that, in such systems, innocent people’s lives can be socially engineered and controlled to the microsecond, but, despite all the government control and intrusion, such monsters are allowed to thrive while good people suffer, is the ultimate condemnation of the totalitarian, utopian, and social-engineering ideal. Who the hell thinks a government bureaucrat with a sociology degree or some f*cking bullsh*t like that is smart enough to have such overwhelming power anyway?

Let liberty reign, and let us all go to hell in our own way. Some of us might even stumble across a happy ending.

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