Between 1978 and 1990, the murderous reign of Andrei Chikatilo was in full swing. Chikatilo was a Soviet serial killer who is responsible for the cannibalistic murders of over fifty people. His case in particular is interesting not only because the large number of victims but also because the society Chikatilo lived in did not accept that a serial murderer could exist in a communist state. That however, proved to be wrong, and indeed, contributed to his success as a murderer and prolonged his spree. He is case and story are definitely one that allows for much discussion. By analysis Chikatilo as a person and his backstory, it is possible to somewhat explain how and why he did such gruesome things. By going in depth about Chikatilo’s life, his murderous rampage, and his reasoning behind killing, there can be a clearer understanding of how not only him, but also other cannibalistic serial killers develop into monsters. Along with a further understanding, it is also interesting to analyze Chikatilo through the application of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster theses. Applying Cohen’s theses allows an outside eye to see the cultural and environmental issues that led to the eventual creation of the monster that Chikatilo became.
It is important to understand Chikatilo’s upbringing and life before analyzing his murders. Andrei Chikatilo was born in Yablochnoye, U.S.S.R (now Ukraine). He grew up during the aftermath of what is now known as the great Ukraine famine of the 1930s, during which the struggling people turned to cannibalism because they did not have the food required to survive. Both of his parents were farm workers and lived in a one-room hut. As a young boy, Chikatilo was constantly told by his mother that his older brother was kidnapped and eaten by their neighbors. This is where many people believe the spark of interest in cannibalism originates. Growing up, his mother was very abusive towards her children and that also may be that cause of some mental distress imposed on Chikatilo. His father was reportedly a kind man, but was not there for them being that he was captured as a World War II prisoner. Despite all of the hardships that he experienced at home, Chikatilo still managed to become a great student and an ardent member of the communist community. He had social issues with women as a result of the abusive experience he had with his mother. He had sexual problems that were related to him suffering from Hydrocephalus (water in the brain) at birth, which caused him to have genital-urinary tract problems throughout his life. His hardships, however, did not stop in his childhood, he failed his entrance exam to Moscow State University, which led to him moving to Rodionovo-Nesvetayevsky, a town near Rostov, in 1960, where he became a telephone engineer. Following that, his sister moved in with him because she was concerned about his problems with women. Because of that, she arranged a meeting between Andrei and a woman named Fayina, who he later went on to marry in 1963. Despite sexual problems that he suffered from, they produced two children, and lived and outwardly normal family life. In 1971, Chikatilo decided he wanted to make a career change and became a school teacher. This is where things began to become problematic. As a result of a string of complaints about indecent assaults on young children, he was forced to move from school to school before he finally settled at a mining school in Shakhty, near Rostov (Wilcott et al.). His troublesome background definitely contributed to his mental instability and his eventual cannibalistic killing spree.
When discussing Chikatilo, it is easy to apply the monster theses of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. By applying Cohen’s theses, it is possible to create a better understanding of Chikatilo as a murderous monster. The first thesis that should be discussed in terms of Chikatilo is Thesis VII. Thesis VII discusses the idea that a “monster stands at the threshold… of becoming” (Cohen 20). This idea is relative to the fact that Chikatilo is the product of a childhood filled with abuse and hardship. His actions were consequential of all of the poor situations that he endured as a child, and therefore, created the murderous mentality of Chikatilo. This is applicable to Chikatilo because it explains how his actions are a direct result of his feeling of not fitting in. From a young age, he had always been surrounded by situations that caused him to feel bullied or out of place. It seems like he felt odd or unsure about himself, and as a result, experienced mental instability. An example of this is when he had a girlfriend in his adolescence. This is the first situation where his impotence caused him to be bullied. His girlfriend of the time went to her friends to ask them what to do because he was unable to perform sexually. Her friends started rumors and told everyone about his impotence, and therefore, was bullied by everyone about it. As a result of this, he was very shy and his only sexual experience during adolescence occurred at the age of 15. He was reported to have overpowered a young girl and ejaculate immediately during their brief struggle (Goldberg). When his peers heard of this story, he was ridiculed even more than before. That is a reason Chikatilo performed those horrific acts. He killed to satisfy his sexual desires and was stimulated through the pain that he inflicted on others. The creation of a monster, however, is not only physical but also mental. Granted, he did perform horrible and horrific acts, but that is not necessarily the only monstrous quality to him. The monstrosity of Chikatilo could also be identified through his mind and mentality. He became the monster he was as a result of his horrible and traumatic experiences. That, coupled with his awareness of his actions, confirmed his demented monstrosity, and in turn, shows that his characteristics as a monster are clear. This is how Cohen’s Thesis VII is applicable to Chikatilo and allows for a better understanding of him as a murderous monster.
In terms of Cohen’s Theses, it is important to touch on Thesis I when discussing Chikatilo. As a result of many different environmental aspects, it is clear to see how Chikatilo’s development as a monster came to be. Through a number of childhood issues and other flawed cultural beliefs, he became a character that was not only very homicidal, but also unbeknownst to the people of the time. A point that must be asserted in terms of Chikatilo’s cultural being is the political arena he existed in. As stated, Chikatilo grew up in the Communist state and was surrounded by a shrouded view of murderers and serial killers. Because of that culturally flawed view on murderers, it made it very easy for him to be successful as a serial killer. His mental instability also spurred from his own environmental hardships. From a young age, Chikatilo was in a horrible living environment that was also affect by his impotence. Being bullied for his impotence on top of his feelings of not fitting in created a mentality of loneliness. The failures of the police department along with his job situation are factors that allowed him to harness all of that resentment and murder the fifty-plus individuals he did. As a teacher, that was where he first began to commit crimes. As stated by John Philip Jenkins, in an article on Britannica.com, “He was forced to resign his position, however, after some parents complained of sexual assault by Chikatilo on their children.” Because of those accusations, he moved from school to school before finally settling down in Rostov, U.S.S.R. In Rostov, he got a job as a factory worker and that is when he began to murder his victims. This is another example of an environmental influence on his murders. Because he was working such a typical job, that drew very little attention to himself, he was able to perform these murders without being easily identified. Along with his job, the other factor that contributed to his success as a murderer was the police malpractice. The police had repeatedly failed to apprehend Chikatilo, and instead, arrested and persecuted other men in his place (Jenkins). The police would try to solve cases as quickly as possible in order to keep down the public concern. As a result, they were brutally interrogating innocent men and forcing confessions out of them. Until the eventual in-depth investigation, Chikatilo had already gotten away with several murders, as a result of poor policing. Chikatilo’s actions are a product of cultural and environmental flaws that surrounded him.
In conclusion, Chikatilo is one of the most prolific serial killers that has ever existed. His murderous rampage that resulted in the deaths of, from what he stated, fifty-six women and children should never be forgotten or overlooked. With the deranged mind of a sexually driven killer, Chikatilo’s name will now forever live in infamy. Because of a series of failed policing situations and a job that allowed Chikatilo to remain ordinary, his murders piled up like never before. With a further understanding of his development, mentality, and actions as a monster, there can be an identification of such behaviors before another monster like him is created again. Through the analysis and exploration of Chikatilo with Cohen’s theses, a more vivid picture of the monster he was can be illustrated. Seeing how he was unnoticed and, in some ways, disregarded by the society he existed in is dreadful. His reign was heinous and appalling, and as a result, Chikatilo will be considered one of the worst murderous, cannibalistic serial killers to have ever existed. Chikatilo is an apparent example of a monster that was affected by his surroundings. Whether it be his rough childhood, his impotence, or simply his mental instability, his character directly correlates to the way he was treated. As a community, it is important to identify those in need and reduce the amount of bullying that exists in children. His life was tragic, but that does not justify the horrendous deeds he performed. Therefore, as a member of today’s society, there must be more effort put forth in the preventions of monstrous people like Chikatilo.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
Goldberg, Carey. “COLUMN ONE : ‘I Was Like a Crazed Wolf ‘ : Andrei Chikatilo Looks like a Harmless Schoolteacher. But 53 Murders Make Him the Most Horrible Serial Killer Russia–Perhaps the World–Has Ever Seen.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 1992, http://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-04-28-mn-966-story.html.
Jenkins, John Philip. “Andrei Chikatilo.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Andrei-Romanovich-Chikatilo.
Willmott, Dominic, Daniel Boduszek, and Rebecca Robinson. “A psychodynamic-behaviourist investigation of Russian sexual serial killer Andrei Chikatilo.” The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 29.3 (2018): 498-507.