Russia is the largest country in the world, and huge portions of this nation in Eurasia are uninhabited, providing murderers with lots of isolated areas to kill their victims and dispose of their corpses. Not surprisingly, Russia has provided the world with some of the most terrifying serial killers known to man, and during the height of the Soviet Union, many of these shocking murders weren’t publicized by the press which was controlled by the Soviet state and the Communist Party. While serial murderers like Andrei Chikatilo and Anatoly Slivko killed their victims before the fall of the Soviet Union, other Russian serial killers like Alexander Pichushkin and Mikhail Popkov committed their crimes following the dissolution of the Soviet state.
Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova — a member of Russia nobility — is believed to have murdered more than 100 peasants long before the Soviet Union was formed, while another female serial killer — Irina Gaidamachuk — ended the lives of several elderly women years after the collapse of the Soviet state. Mikhail Popkov — who was dubbed the “Werewolf” by the media — and Maxim Petrov — who was nicknamed “Doctor Death” by the press — began their reigns of terror after the Soviet Union was dissolved, and they are some of the worst Russian serial killers in recent history. Alexander Spesivtsev — who killed several street children with the help of his mother — committed his first known murder shortly before the end of the Soviet state, while Vasili Komaroff — a horse trader who killed at least 29 people — started taking lives right around the time the Soviet Union was formed.
For more than a decade, Andrei Chikatilo terrorized the people of the Soviet Union, killing many of his victims in Rostov Oblast, an area that is now part of Russia. From 1978 to 1990, Chikatilo — who was dubbed the “Butcher of Rostov,” the “Red Ripper,” and the “Rostov Ripper” by the media — murdered more than 50 people, including men, women, and children. He committed his first known murder in the town of Shakthy in September 1978, when he attacked 9-year-old Yelena Zakotnova with the intention of raping the girl: when he was unable to get an erection, he stabbed the child multiple times, strangled her into unconsciousness, and dumped her body in a nearby river where her lifeless corpse was discovered two days later. According to Chikatilo, he ejaculated while stabbing the 9-year-old girl, indicating he found murder sexually exciting.
Many of Chikatilo’s victims were found near train stations in Rostov Oblast, so law enforcement staked out these railway stops in an effort to catch their killer. After murdering Svetlana Korostik on November 6, 1990, the Rostov Ripper was under police surveillance when an undercover officer spotted him in a wooded area near the station — dressed inappropriately for a nature hike — where the 22-year-old woman’s body was discovered one week later. Chikatilo was arrested when officers witnessed him attempting to initiate conversations with lone women and children, and after spending several days behind bars, he confessed to killing more than 30 people. Eventually, the Russian serial killer admitted to 56 murders, and he even led law enforcement to the remains of some of his victims. In 1992, the Butcher of Rostov was convicted of 52 counts of murder, and on February 14, 1994, Chikatilo was executed by a firing squad at the age of 57.
Over the course of more than two decades, Anatoly Slivko — who was born in Izerbash, Soviet Union, on December 28, 1938 — murdered at least seven boys. In addition to killing several children, Slivko molested and raped many more after convincing them to let him choke them into unconsciousness as part of what he claimed was an “experiment” designed to help them grow taller. The majority of the boys Slivko sexually assaulted and murdered were children he met via a youth organization he operated while living in the Russian city of Stavropol with his wife and two children. Slivko documented his crimes by taking photographs and videos of his unconscious and lifeless victims. Slivko made the boys wear the Russian equivalent of a Boy Scout uniform to help him realize a bizarre sexual fantasy that was based on a fatal accident he witnessed as a young man.
Thankfully, Slivko was arrested in December 1985 after a prosecutor realized many of the local boys who had mysteriously disappeared were connected to the youth club the Russian serial killer used to find his victims. Slivko confessed to the killings and even took investigators to the remains of six boys, but he was unable to recall where he’d buried the body of his first victim, 15-year-old Nikolai Dobryshev. Slivko was convicted of multiple murders, sexual assaults, and acts of necrophilia, and while he was on death row awaiting execution, law enforcement interviewed him in an effort to gain insight into the Russian serial killer who was later identified as Andrei Chikatilo. On September 16, 1989, Slivko was executed by a firing squad when he was just 50 years old.
Born in Mytishchia, Russia, on April 9, 1974, Alexander Pichushkin murdered his first known victim in 1992 when he was only 18 years old. Over the course of 14 years, Pichushkin killed at least 49 people, many of them transient elderly men he lured into isolated sections of Moscow’s Bitsa Park with the promise of free alcohol. After sharing his vodka with his chosen victim, Pichushkin usually beat them to death with a hammer and shoved the empty bottle of alcohol into the person’s open head wound. Before he was apprehended, the press referred to the unknown Russian serial killer as the “Bitsa Park Maniac.”
In 2006, Pichushkin was arrested after surveillance footage showed him walking with his final victim, Marina Moskalyova, shortly before her death. After he was apprehended, Pichushkin told investigators he had intended to kill 64 victims — the number of squares on a chessboard — causing the media referred to him as the “Chessboard Killer.” While Pichushkin was convicted of 49 counts of murder on October 24, 2007, he claimed he killed a total of 60 victims. Pichushkin was given multiple life sentences for his crimes — which he committed in an effort to murder more people than his fellow serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo — and he was ordered to spend his first 15 years in prison in solitary confinement.
From 1992 to 2010, Mikhail Popkov murdered 81 women and girls in and around the Russian cities of Angarsk and Vladivostok, making him the worst known serial killer in the country’s history. Popkov worked as a police officer in Siberia for several years, and he actually used his uniform and police car to convince unsuspecting women and teenage girls to get into his vehicle. Then, Popkov — whom the media called the “Werewolf — took his victims to the woods where he raped and murdered the women and girls, attacking them with screwdrivers, axes, and knives he’d stolen from the police station’s evidence room.
Thankfully, Popkov’s reign of terror was brought to an end in 2010 when investigators decided to test DNA recovered from his victims’ bodies with samples taken from Siberian police officers, leading law enforcement right to the former cop who had taken a job as a security guard. Popkov admitted to the killings, blaming his wife’s infidelity for his murderous rampage. Following his arrest, the Russian serial killer’s wife and daughter were in disbelief, unable to accept that the man they thought they knew so well had ended the lives of more than 80 women and girls. Popkov was given multiple life sentences for his crimes, and he is currently incarcerated in a Russian correctional facility.
Born in the Soviet Union in 1972, Irina Gaidamachuk — who was a severe alcoholic — murdered at least 17 elderly women near Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, from 2002 to 2010. Gaidamachuk convinced her victims to let her into their homes by pretending to be a social worker, and then once she was inside their houses, she attacked the women with a hammer or a knife. After brutally murdering her elderly victims, Gaidamachuk — who is one of only a few known female Russian serial killers — sometimes set their homes on fire to destroy any evidence linking her to the crimes.
Thankfully, Gaidamachuk was arrested in 2010 after someone saw her near the home of her final victim, Alexandra Povaritsyna, around the time the elderly woman was viciously murdered. During her trial, the press dubbed Gaidamachuk “Satan in a Skirt” for her horrific crimes which the Russian serial killer admitted she committed in order to rob her victims to steal money to purchase alcohol. Following her 2012 trial, Gaidamachuk was given just 20 years in prison for 17 murders and one attempted murder; she is currently incarcerated in Russia.
From 1991 to 1996, Alexander Spesivtsev — who was born in the Soviet Union on March 1, 1970 — committed multiple murders with the help of his mother Lyudmila. This twisted mother and son shared an apartment in Kemerovo Oblast, and in 1996 they started luring street children into their home, with Spesivtsev stabbing the victims to death and cannibalizing their lifeless bodies while Lydumila discarded their remains in a nearby river. The pair were arrested on October 26, 1996, and Spesivtsev admitted to killing 19 people, while investigators discovered a journal and a cache of clothing, jewelry, and photos that caused them to conclude the Russian serial killer may have ended the lives of more than 80 victims.
However, Spesivtsev — who was called the “Siberian Ripper” and the “Novokuznetsk Monster” by the media — was convicted of just four counts of murder. Spesivtsev was given the death penalty for his shocking crimes, while his mother was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison.
While working as a doctor in St. Petersburg, Russia, Maxim Petrov murdered at least 12 people from 1999 to 2000. Years before Petrov killed his first victim, he went to the homes of his patients and injected them with drugs to make them unconscious. Then, Petrov burglarized their houses and even took valuables off of his unconscious patients’ bodies. However, Petrov escalated to murder on February 2, 1999, when he was interrupted while committing a burglary and killed both the unconscious patient and the man’s daughter who had come home unexpectedly. Over the course of several months, Petrov — who was called “Doctor Death” by the media — killed at least 10 more victims, ending their lives with lethal overdoses.
However, Petrov was apprehended when police discovered the victims had been killed by someone who worked with elderly lung patients at a local health center, and they set a trap to catch the person who had murdered 12 innocent people. On January 17, 2000, Doctor Death was arrested when he went to the home of one of his patients, presumably to end the person’s life, and in 2002 Petrov was convicted of 12 murders and given life in prison for his crimes.
Born in the Russian Empire in 1871, Vasili Komaroff is one of the country’s first known serial killers, and he murdered at least 29 people from 1921 to 1923 while living in Moscow. Komaroff was a horse trader who attacked his victims after luring them to his stable to see a horse he claimed he wanted to sell. While he robbed his victims after cutting their throats with a knife or beating them to death with a hammer, Komaroff netted so little from the men he murdered, the authorities weren’t convinced the Russian serial killer was motivated solely by financial gain.
Komaroff’s crimes were uncovered in 1923 when law enforcement visited his home to search for illegal alcohol, only to find the body of a dead man hidden beneath hay in the stable. Confronted with the indisputable evidence, Komaroff confessed to murdering 33 men, but he was only convicted of killing 29 people. Komaroff and his wife — who investigators determined was the serial killer’s accomplice — were given the death penalty, and they were executed by a firing squad on June 18, 1923.
Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova
Born into Russian nobility on November 2, 1730, Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova is believed to have killed more than 100 peasants — many of them girls and young women — while living at the Moscow estate she inherited in 1755 at the age of 26 following the death of her wealthy husband. While many people suspected Saltykova of torturing and killing serfs at her home in Moscow for years, her status in Russian society delayed her arrest until 1762. For six years after her arrest, Russian officials investigated the noblewoman in connection with more than 100 deaths, and they concluded Saltykova was responsible for most of the killings.
However, this female Russian serial killer was only convicted of 38 murders, and on October 2, 1768, Saltykova was taken to a square in Moscow where she was publicly beaten and made to wear a sign detailing her crimes. After this public punishment, Saltykova was imprisoned in the basement of a Moscow convent where she served out her life sentence until her death on December 27, 1801, at the age of 71.
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