Communism…From a Distance

Image result for Russian snipers ww2
Russian Snipers of WWII

“Snipers came of age during World War II.” Snipers throughout the war became instruments of death. During World War I, snipers had been used to kill from a distance between trenches but they had not quite been used to their full lethal potential until further advancements with the usage of increased optics and weaponry as well as deployed on a mass scale. Snipers of World War II, were employed by all the belligerents of the war and became highly effective throughout the war. The Soviet Union, was the only military that specifically trained a portion of its soldiers to be snipers prior to the war. They specialized in utilization of terrain and concealment, as well as becoming experts in urban combat. Almost 10,000 Russians received specialize training to become snipers in the Red army before and during the war with almost 2,000 women specifically having been trained as well. The Russians became experts in their tactics of sniper warfare having some of the most effective and deadliest snipers of all time. The best example of sniper warfare used during the war was in the Battle of Stalingrad when Soviet Russia was facing almost inevitable defeat against the Germans. The Soviets were able to employ many tactics during this battle in regard to new infantry level tactics but most effective were “guardians of the city…” Soviet snipers. The snipers were implemented into infantry level units and assigned as pairs. Because of the conditions of the city, Soviet snipers were able to take full advantage of the ruins and be extremely effective. One of the most impressive snipers during this conflict was Vasili Zaitsev who just in the Battle of Stalingrad had over 100 confirmed kills.

Lyudmila Palvechenko
Lyudmila Pavilchenko: One of Russia’s deadliest Snipers.
“Lady of Death”

During the progressive area of the 1930’s, women began entering the workforce and participating in the economy of the Soviet Union. Over 800,000 women had served in the military during WWII, which was twice as much as women who served in the military in the United States. Having almost 2,000 women deployed to the battlefield as snipers, many of them played a vital role to the success of the Soviet Union. One of the most notorious snipers of all time was Lyudmila Pavilchenko, “Lady Death.” She began shooting at a very young age and volunteered into the military during the onset of the war. She was assigned to the 25th Chapayev Rifle Division fighting off the invading Germans in Odessa, Moldavia, and Sevastopol. “In less than a year of combat, she had made 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers, making her one of the deadliest snipers in history.” She was invited to the United States and to meet with delegates of the other allied countries. Eventually, after the war, she was award the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

Pavlichenko in Washington, D.C.

Snipers of war provide protection, intelligence, chaos, and overall morale boosts to the men and women on the ground. This development during World War II is not something that is taught specifically in a classes on World War II, but I have found to have made a distinct significance on the overall turnout of the war. The ability for the Russians to have perfected the art of snipers on the battlefield allowed them to better fight off the invading Germans and slowed their progression into Russia. Due to the use of Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics, they were able to quickly and effectively capture territory in Russia, however, places like Leningrad and Stalingrad they were quickly stopped and the Russians prevented them from continuing their assault to Moscow and eventually achieving their goal of pushing the Russians past the Ural Mountains. The German’s had planned to take out Soviets in a matter of six weeks, but due to the difficulty in capturing the main cities, six weeks turned into six months and eventually could no longer continue the war in the east.

In 2001 there was a film made about Soviet Snipers during the Battle of Stalingrad depicting Vasily Zaytsev called, Enemy at the Gates. Here is a clip from the movie to give you a good visual on what the city looked like at the time. Be advised some scenes are graphic.

This post was featured on the Comrade’s Corner!

9 thoughts on “Communism…From a Distance

  1. What a great post! I really enjoyed learning about this subject. That many women in the military, particularly in combat seems unfathomable. In some ways the Soviets were more progressive then than we are now. I especially enjoyed the visual aids. Very compelling images. I’m a big fan of the movie “Enemy at the Gates”, which is a great entertaining representation of Soviet snipers.


  2. Hi Austin! You’ve explored a very specific aspect of the Soviet World War II experience in a really fascinating way in this post! I think you’re right that it’s easy to ignore snipers (I guess this is kind of the inherent to their job description), so it’s important to delve into topics like this. Also, your research for this post is really good!


  3. Hello Austin,

    This is so neat, and I had no idea that snipers became prevalent during WWII (I always assumed it was later in history). I am also so intrigued by Pavlichenko; I am curious how her fellow soldiers’ opinions changed as she acquired more kills. I wonder how snipers ultimately adjusted to life once they returned home.

    The movie clip was a really nice addition to your post; I know movies are often overly dramatized, but they are such a great visual for these situations. This one was very compelling, to say the least.


  4. Austin, I found your post very fascinating and compelling as I have always been interested in warfare involving snipers. I had no idea that thousands of women were trained as soldiers and snipers, and Lyudmila Pavilchenko having 309 kills is a crazy amount of confirmed kills for any expert sniper. Great post!


  5. Austin, what an interesting way to provide a new prospective into the role soviet women played in the war. Your discussion on soviet’s Lyudmila Pavilchenko really adds dimension into the societal shift in regard to gender roles. Seldom, are women and snipers acknowledged after war times. This post really pays homage to them while giving us an insightful view of this time period. Job well done!


  6. The focus on Pavlichenko in this post was really a hit! And you found some wonderful material on snipers, and female snipers in particular. Your claim about how critical snipers were to the success of the Soviet war effort is interesting. It makes sense, but how do we know – or how do we measure their impact? I get that they were very effective against Blitzkrieg tactics, but it seems as if they would have been even more decisive in protracted stationary situations — i.e. Stalingrad, where the battle was building to building in very close quarters.
    Also: re: Enemy at the Gates…It’s a nicely produced film, but takes many liberties with the real events (Hollywood!). Have you watched Vilsmaier’s Stalingrad? ( ) If you think Enemy at the Gates is a downer, then you definitely don’t want to watch this one when you’re depressed. Let me know what you think!


    1. I am not totally sure we could obtain some quantitative value to their overall impact on the force on the ground in Russia during the war, besides of course their kill count. However, I would have to do more research but I would submit by saying there are plenty of stories from the time from Russian infantry men who could tell a story about how snipers improved their urban combat capabilities making their movements through the city more effective and lethal. There are a lot of stories in modern combat, especially in places like Fallujah and Ramadi where combat elements moved under the cover of snipers who supported their movements. This tactic may not have been utilized to it’s full capacity in World War II, but certainly was a start. I have never seen that movie… I will be sure to check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Austin, your post was awesome to read. I am glad you mentioned the progressive era of 30’s. I think you addressed one key aspect of the progressive era and restructuring of society to empower women as workers and soldiers. And as you pointed out with the Pavlichenko example women proved to be invaluable to the war effort! You also do a great job or providing how crucial snipers were to halting the Nazi invasion of 1939–especially in Stalingrad. Thanks for the interesting read.


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