The early life of Andrei Chikatilo was filled with war and poverty; born in Russia in 1936 shortly before the start of World War II, he lived in a small village in the grip of famine.
Andrei Chikatilo was born on October 1st, 1936, in the village of Yabluchne, in the Ukrainian SSR. He was born amid a severe famine due to Joseph Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture. His parents worked regularly but were not paid for their work, instead they were given a small plot of land to farm for food.
According to interviews with Chikatilo, his family was impoverished; he later claimed that he did not taste bread until he was twelve and that his family would eat leaves and grass to survive.
Other, more disturbing stories about his childhood draw a nearly direct parallel to another famous, albeit fictional, serial killer: Hannibal Lecter.
According to his mother, Anna, Andrei was not the first-born child; he had had an older brother Stepan who was allegedly kidnapped and cannibalized by neighbors when he was four years old. Due to the chaos and lax record-keeping, this claim cannot be proven or disproven, but if true, the trauma of this story may have been a factor in his drive to commit heinous crimes later in life.
Chiklatilo’s father, Roman, was conscripted by the Soviet Union in 1941 when the country entered WWII; he was wounded and taken prisoner. After the war was over, former friends branded Roman as a traitor for surrendering to the Germans to avoid death.
In 1943, while his father was away, his mother gave birth to a second child. Tatyana was born two years after their father joined the army, which means that Roman could not have been her father. Reportedly, around that time, many women were raped by German soldiers as they ravaged the country. There is speculation that someone may have attacked Anna in front of her son.
Although Andrei was intelligent and a dedicated student, his small stature made him a constant target of bullies. He also may have been born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain). This congenital disability led to bed-wetting well into his teens, along with other issues through adulthood, including the inability to maintain an erection.
According to his sister, Tatyana, their father was a kind man, but their mother was verbally abusive.
By the time Chikatilo turned fourteen, he was both an ardent communist and an excellent student. He became the editor of his school paper at fourteen, and at sixteen, peers nominated him to be the chairman of his school’s Communist Party committee.
Later, Chikatillo claimed that learning was not easy for him; another side effect of his disability was myopia, which made it difficult for him to read the blackboard. He also experienced headaches and poor memory and relied heavily on memorization to succeed in school.
When he began puberty, he discovered that he was impotent, which made Chikatilo (who was already shy around women) even more socially awkward.
When he was seventeen, he attacked an eleven-year-old female friend of his sister. He reportedly threw her to the ground but ejaculated as she struggled to get away from him.
Although he passed the entrance exam for Moscow State University with excellent scores, he was denied admittance to the school. Acquaintances have said that Chikatilo insisted that the school rejected his enrollment and scholarship application due to his Father’s war record. In reality, his grades from school were simply not high enough.
He decided not to apply to another university and enrolled in a vocational school in 1955 to focus on becoming a communications technician. He entered his first romantic relationship in the same year; it lasted for eighteen months before the unnamed woman ended it.
In 1957, after he completed his communications training, he was drafted into the Soviet Army. Service was compulsory at the time, and he completed his tour between 1957 and 1960.
He served as a border guard, and in a KGB communications unit in Berlin. His military records are exemplary, and he officially joined the communist party in 1690, shortly before his discharge.
After he left the army, he returned to Yabluchne and lived with his parents. He met a young divorcée, and they began a relationship. It ended after three months after he discovered that she had asked her friends for advice on how to help his impotence. Many of his peers heard these stories and ridiculed him, leading to more anger on his part.
In a 1993 interview regarding this incident, Chikatilo stated: “Girls were going behind my back, whispering that I was impotent. I was so ashamed. I tried to hang myself. My mother and some young neighbors pulled me out of the noose. Well, I thought no one would want such a shamed man. So I had to run away from there, away from my homeland.”
A few months after the end of his relationship, he relocated to a different town where he had found a job as a communications engineer. His sister lived with him for six months in 1961, before she married a local man and moved into his home.
Tatyana noticed her brother’s shy behavior around women and decided to find him a wife. Less than two years later, Andrei married a woman named Feodosia Odnacheva; it was an arranged marriage, initiated by his sister and her husband.
They were able to find a way around his impotence, and had two children, a daughter, Lyudmila, in 1965, and a son, Yuri, in 1969.
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