On December 9, 1987, Soviet serial killer Gennady Mikhasevich was executed by firing squad in the USSR.
Police were able to prove that Mikhasevich, who raped, strangled, and smothered his victims with a variety of weapons, committed 36 murders. He actually confessed to 43, but experts say that his real body count may have been 55 or even higher.
Mikhasevich also made history by becoming known as the first serial killer who was acknowledged by the secretive Soviet media.
Robert Keller wrote in his book Murder By Numbers: The 100 Most Deadly Serial Killers From Around The World that the investigation was held back due to the fact that police insisted that serial killers were only a decadent capitalist phenomenon that did not exist in a socialist society.
Mikhasevich, a metal worker, did not fit the profile of the typical serial killer. On the surface he appeared to be a good family man. He was married with two children, did not drink, and was a diligent worker and a good member of the Communist Party. Mikhasevich also served as part of a volunteer police militia force.
He later told investigators that his killing spree began after he came home from the Army and discovered that his girlfriend had abandoned him and married someone else.
On the night of May 14, 1971, he was feeling despondent due to the breakup and decided to hang himself when, by chance, he met a young woman on the road.
Enraged, his suicidal instincts turned homicidal instead and he made the decision to kill her — using the rope he had initially planned to use to take his own life.
He killed again in October 1971, and strangled two other women in 1972 near Vitebsk. He raped his victims and strangled or smothered them. Rather than bringing weapons with him, he improvised with items that he found near the scene, such as a cord made of rye.
During the time period in which he was committing these killings, he was able to graduate from technical school and get married. He also robbed his victims of money and stole valuables — some of which he would later present as gifts to his wife.
During the 1980s, a young investigator named Nikolay Ignatovich began to figure out that the killings of females near roadways were the work of the same person. In 1985 alone, even as the investigation escalated, Mikhasevich killed 12 women.
Then, in an attempt to mislead investigators, he sent an anonymous letter to the local newspaper on behalf of an imaginary underground organization, “Patriots of Vitebsk,” supposedly calling on his fellow militants to intensify their struggle of killing communists and “lewd women.”
Experts were eventually able to determine that Mikhasevich’s handwriting was a match to the notes, and also uncovered other evidence incriminating him. He was arrested in December 1985. He later confessed and was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad in 1987.
His case became notorious in the USSR as “The Vitebsk Case” or “Витебское дело” as it revealed both the incompetence of the police and the corruption of law enforcement.
By the time Mikhasevich was arrested, 14 people had already been arrested for the same crimes and had been tortured and forced to confess to them.
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Main photo: State Emblem of the Soviet Union [Wikimedia Commons]