Chikatilo was born in the Ukrainian village of Yablochnoye in 1936. His childhood was quite traumatic, particularly as the USSR was soon at war with Germany which also caused a devastating famine. At age 5, his mother told him she suspected that his older brother had been kidnapped and eaten by neighbors seven years earlier. In fact, no record exists of Stepan Chikatilo’s birth or death, no proof at all that he existed, but Chikatilo’s mother told the story so convincingly, in near-hysterics, that her children were convinced of its veracity. This established a cannibalistic curiosity inside of him at a very young age.
Chikatilo’s mother was a brutal woman. With his father at war, the young Andrei had to share a bed with his mother. He frequently wet the bed, for which he was badly beaten and humiliated. He did well at school but failed the entrance exam for Moscow State University. Chikatilo’s only sexual experience in adolescence was when, aged 15, he leapt on a young girl and wrestled her to the ground, ejaculating as the girl struggled in his grip. It fostered him a lifelong association between sex and violently overpowering someone.
He married Fayina in 1963, the marriage virtually arranged by Andrei’s younger sister who set him up with one of her friends when she took pity on her brother’s inability to obtain a girlfriend. Although he suffered from impotence, and had a barely existent sex-life, Chikatilo did father a son and daughter. In 1971, he completed a degree in Russian literature by a correspondence course and tried a career as a teacher.
Much like during his childhood, his fellow teachers thought he was strange. He was so shy that it was hard for him to control his students – he was a poor teacher, unable to command any respect from his pupils, but he remained in that profession. From the beginning of his tenure, he was heckled by the boys, who called him Goose in mockery of his long neck and slouching posture. Later, after he began molesting students in the dormitories, they would call him faggot to his face, sometimes assaulting Chikatilo when he entered the dorm to enforce lights-out. Despite his age and size, Chikatilo was so frightened of the boys in his charge that he began to carry a knife on the job. A new job, as a factory supply clerk in Rostov-on-Don, required frequent travel by bus or train, and Chikatilo turned the circumstance to his advantage, trolling for victims in bus depots and railway stations.
Andrei Chikatilo was a late bloomer in terms of the norm for serial murder. Most serial killers begin claiming victims by their early twenties, but Chikatilo was forty-two when he killed for the first time.