Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Citizen X


In the Soviet Union there is no prostitution. Soviet airliners do not fall from the sky. Crime is almost non-existent in the Soviet Union. Coal mines do not collapse, chemical factories do not blow up, nuclear dumps do not spontaneously spew waste over whole oblasts, and rocket ships do not explode on the pad in the Soviet Union. (All these things happened, and were covered up.) There is no such thing as a serial killer in the Soviet Union. Such things are exclusively the province of the Decadent West. And if there were such a thing as a serial killer it could not possibly be a Party member.

Such was daily life until the collapse of the USSR. There was what was actually happening, and there was “Soviet reality.” The latter was vastly more important. Thus, when a madman is on the loose, killing little children, the most important thing is to not let the news get out. Don’t warn the parents. Don’t consult the FBI. Don’t ask a psychiatrist for a profile.

This is the story of Russia’s only (publicly acknowledged) serial killer, and how it took almost 20 years to catch him when any decent small-town police force in America could have nailed the sonuvabitch in a few weeks. When you think about it, the atmosphere of denial that existed before the collapse was tailor-made for such a man. I’d bet big money there were many others who were simply ignored until they died.

The movie was made for HBO, and it’s a bit slow. It’s fascinating to see how the ultra-ultra-ultra-bureaucratic society ruled by literal political correctness officers – “ideology” officers – responds, and how, with enough persistence, a little progress can be made here and there. But I kept comparing it to Gorky Park, which covered much the same ground with a much more interesting hero: Arkady Renko.