Whether as host of the Olympics or instigator of unrest in Ukraine, it seems the global media spotlight has been on Russia of late. These days, the country can more readily handle its high profile, but it certainly proved ill-prepared in April 1992, when the eyes of the world were fixed on a small-town Russian courthouse for the first international media spectacle in its post-communist era.
It was the trial of a mild-mannered family man and former schoolteacher named Andrei Chikatilo, and it was finally now that the world learned of his exploits.
Chikatilo stood accused of 53 murders from 1978 to 1990. His victims varied in age from 7 to 45, though most were young females or runaways. He would usually approach them at local train stations or bus depots, with which he was very familiar. The ruse was simple, usually involving the promise of money, drugs, alcohol, or even candy. Most of the time, they went willingly with him to a nearby forest, where he would stab them, mutilate them, and occasionally eat parts of their bodies.
Chronically impotent, Chikatilo had discovered that the only way he could achieve orgasm was through the taking of another human life. His trial also revealed that his killings were particularly brutal. He stabbed a 10-year-old 54 times. He decapitated an 11-year-old girl after she saw him kill her mother with a knife and hammer. He castrated a 9-year-old boy and stuffed his orifices with dirt. He bit off the tongue of a 10-year-old boy, cut off his genitals, then buried him alive. Some victims were dismembered. Pieces of others – a nipple, a uterus – were eaten.
His mutilations often included cutting out his victims’ tongues and genitals, as well as gouging out his victims’ eyes because he still believed in the old notion that they contained a snapshot of the last thing they saw. Interestingly, he discontinued the latter practice after he learned it wasn’t true.
Such was the outrage with this man that he had to be placed inside an iron cage to protect him from the family members of his victims. This may have emboldened him to repeatedly disrupt the proceedings with bizarre outbursts. At times, he claimed to be pregnant and lactating. Twice he pulled down his pants and exposed himself – slapping his limp penis on one memorable occasion as he shouted that he was not a homosexual.