Lyudmila Pavlichenko

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Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko
Людми́ла Миха́йловна Павличе́нко
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, before title.png
Birth nameLyudmila Mikhailovna Belova
Nickname(s)Lady Death
Born(1916-07-12)12 July 1916
Bila Tserkva, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Died10 October 1974(1974-10-10) (aged 58)
Moscow, Soviet Union
AllegianceFlag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
Service/branchRed Army flag.svg Red Army
Years of service1941–1953
Rank Major
Unit 25th Rifle Division
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Alexei Pavlichenko (1932–?; divorced)
Other workSoviet Committee of the Veterans of War

Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko [lower-alpha 1] (née  Belova; 12 July 1916 10 October 1974) was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War II, [1] credited with 309 kills. She is regarded as one of the top military snipers of all time [2] and the most successful female sniper in history. [3] [4]

Snipers of the Soviet Union

Snipers of the Soviet Union played an important role mainly on the Eastern Front of World War II, apart from other preceding and subsequent conflicts. In World War II, Soviet snipers used the 7.62×54mmR rifle cartridge with light, heavy, armour-piercing (B-30), armour-piercing-incendiary (B-32), zeroing-and-incendiary (P3), and tracer bullets. Most Soviet World War II snipers carried a combat load of 120 rifle cartridges in the field.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.


Early life and education

Born in Bila Tserkva (in today's Ukraine) in the Russian Empire on 12 July 1916, Pavlichenko (née Belova) moved to Kiev with her family at the age of fourteen. There she joined a OSOAVIAKhIM shooting club and developed into an amateur sharpshooter, while working as a grinder at the Kiev Arsenal factory. [5] In 1932, at the age of 16, she married Alexei Pavlichenko and gave birth to a son Rostislav (1932-2007), but soon they divorced. In 1937, as a student of Kiev University she completed a master's degree in history, focusing on the life of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. [6]

Bila Tserkva City in Kiev Oblast in central Ukraine

Bila Tserkva is a city in central Ukraine, the largest city in Kiev Oblast. Bila Tserkva is located on the Ros River approximately 80 km (50 mi) south of Kiev. The area is 67.8 square kilometres (26.2 sq mi) Its population is approximately 207,745 (2017 est.).

Ukraine Sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.


World War II

In June 1941, 24-year-old Pavlichenko was in her fourth year studying history at the Kiev University when Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union. [5] Pavlichenko was among the first round of volunteers at the Odessa recruiting office, where she requested to join the infantry and subsequently she was assigned to the Red Army's 25th Rifle Division; [5] Pavlichenko had the option of becoming a nurse but refused; "I joined the army when women were not yet accepted". [5] There she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army, of whom about 500 survived the war. In early August 1941 she made her first two kills as a sniper near Belyayevka, using a Mosin-Nagant model 1891 bolt-action rifle with 4X PE (Emelyanov) telescopic sight. According to her memoirs, this became her favored weapon despite the advent of the semi-automatic SVT-40, which was not its equal for accuracy, range and reliability.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.

Infantry military service branch that specializes in combat by individuals on foot

Infantry is a military specialization that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers or infanteers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

1943 postage stamp featuring Pavlichenko Pav-Stamp.jpg
1943 postage stamp featuring Pavlichenko

Pavlichenko fought for about two and a half months near Odessa where she recorded 187 kills. [6] She was promoted to senior sergeant in August 1941 when she reached 100 confirmed kills. When the Romanians gained control of Odessa on 15 October 1941, her unit was withdrawn by sea to Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, [6] where she fought for more than eight months. [5] [7] In May 1942 newly promoted Lieutenant Pavlichenko was cited by the Southern Army Council for killing 257 German soldiers. Her total of confirmed kills during World War II was 309, [8] [5] including 36 enemy snipers.

Odessa Place in Odessa Oblast, Ukraine

Odessa is the third most populous city of Ukraine and a major tourism center, seaport and transport hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. It is also the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast and a multiethnic cultural center. Odessa is sometimes called the "pearl of the Black Sea", the "South Capital", and "Southern Palmyra". Before the Tsarist establishment of Odessa, an ancient Greek settlement existed at its location as elsewhere along the northwestern Black Sea coast. A more recent Tatar settlement was also founded at the location by Hacı I Giray, the Khan of Crimea in 1440 that was named after him as "Hacıbey". After a period of Lithuanian Grand Duchy control, Hacibey and surroundings became part of the domain of the Ottomans in 1529 and remained there until the empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1792.

Sevastopol Place in City with special status, Disputed:

Sevastopol is the largest city on the Crimean Peninsula and a major Black Sea port. Since annexing Crimea in 2014, the Russian Federation has administered Sevastopol as a federal city. Nevertheless, Ukraine and most of the UN member countries continue to regard Sevastopol as a city with special status within Ukraine. The population is made up of mostly Russians with small numbers of Ukrainians and Tatars.

Crimea Peninsula in the Black Sea

Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe that is almost completely surrounded by both the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. It is located south of the Ukrainian region of Kherson, to which it is connected by the Isthmus of Perekop, and west of the Russian region of Kuban, from which it is separated by the Strait of Kerch though linked by the Crimean Bridge. The Arabat Spit is located to the northeast, a narrow strip of land that separates a system of lagoons named Sivash from the Sea of Azov. Across the Black Sea to its west is Romania and to its south Turkey.

In June 1942, Pavlichenko was wounded by mortar fire. Because of her growing status, she was withdrawn from combat less than a month after recovering from her wound.

Mortar (weapon) Artillery weapon that launches explosive projectiles at high angles

A mortar is usually a simple, lightweight, man portable, muzzle-loaded weapon, consisting of a smooth-bore metal tube fixed to a base plate with a lightweight bipod mount and a sight. They launch explosive shells in high-arcing ballistic trajectories. Mortars are typically used as indirect fire weapons for close fire support with a variety of ammunition.

Visits to Allied countries

Pavlichenko (center) with Justice Robert Jackson (left) and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington DC. Justice Robert Jackson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Liudmila Pavlichenko (cropped).jpg
Pavlichenko (center) with Justice Robert Jackson (left) and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington DC.

In 1942, Pavlichenko was sent to Canada and the United States for a publicity visit and became the first Soviet citizen to be received by a US President when Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed her to the White House. [9] Pavlichenko was later invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to tour America relating her experiences. [9] While meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C., she was dumbfounded about the kind of questions put to her. "One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat." [3] [10]

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the Democratic party, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in American history, as well as among the most influential figures of the 20th century. Though he has been subject to substantial criticism, he is generally rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Pavlichenko appeared before the International Student Assembly being held in Washington, D.C., and later attended the meetings of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and made appearances and speeches in New York City and Chicago. In Chicago, she stood before large crowds, chiding the men to support the second front. "Gentlemen," she said, "I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don't you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?" Her words settled on the crowd, then caused a surging roar of support. [9] The United States gave her a Colt semi-automatic pistol. In Canada she was presented with a sighted Winchester rifle now on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow. While visiting in Canada along with fellow sniper Vladimir Pchelintsev and Moscow fuel commissioner Nikolai Kravchenko they were greeted by thousands of people at Toronto's Union Station.[ citation needed ]

On Friday 21 November 1942, Pavlichenko visited Coventry, accepting donations of £4,516 from local workers to pay for three X-ray units for the Red Army. She also visited Coventry Cathedral ruins, then the Alfred Herbert works and Standard Car Factory from where most funds had been raised. She had inspected a factory in Birmingham earlier in the day. [11]

Having attained the rank of major, Pavlichenko never returned to combat but became an instructor and trained Soviet snipers until the war's end. [5] In 1943, she was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, [12] and was commemorated on a Soviet postage stamp.

Later years and death

After the war, she finished her education at Kiev University and began a career as a historian. From 1945 to 1953, she was a research assistant of the Chief HQ of the Soviet Navy. She was later active in the Soviet Committee of the Veterans of War. [5] Pavlichenko died from a stroke on 10 October 1974 at age 58 and was buried in the Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow. [5]

A second Soviet commemorative stamp featuring Lyudmila Pavlichenko's portrait was issued in 1976.

Second Soviet Union-issued postage stamp dedicated to Pavlichenko Pav-1976-stamp.jpg
Second Soviet Union-issued postage stamp dedicated to Pavlichenko

The American folk singer Woody Guthrie composed a song ("Miss Pavlichenko") as a tribute to her war record and to memorialize her visits to the United States and Canada. [13] It was released as part of The Asch Recordings . [14] [15]

Pavlichenko was a subject of the 2015 film, Battle for Sevastopol (original Ukrainian title, "Незламна " ("Indestructible" / "Unbreakable")). A joint Russian-Ukrainian production, it was released in both countries on 2 April 2015. [16] The international premiere took place two weeks later at the Beijing International Film Festival. The film is a heavily romanticized version of her life, with several fictitious characters and many departures from the events related in her memoirs.

The first English language edition of her memoirs, titled Lady Death, was published by Greenhill Books in February 2018. [17] The book has a foreword by Martin Pegler and is part of the Greenhill Books Sniper Library series. [18] The book was serialised in the Mail on Sunday newspaper on Sunday 18 March 2018. [19]

Pavlichenko's story was featured in the fourth season of Drunk History in which she was played by Mae Whitman [20] .

She was featured in Jason Porath's website Rejected Princess. [21]

Awards and honors

Pavlichenko's war record was recognized in the Soviet Union by two commemorative stamps with her portrait (see images above). [22] She was awarded the following:

See also


  1. Russian: Людми́ла Миха́йловна Павличе́нко; Ukrainian: Людмила Михайлівна Павличенко, romanized: Lyudmyla Mykhailivna Pavlychenko

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  1. Laws. "Secret Entertainment Today".
  2. The 10 deadliest snipers of all time, Business Insider (September 8, 2015)
  3. 1 2 Lady Sniper, TIME Magazine (Monday, 28 September 1942)
  4. Farey, Pat; Spicer, Mark (2009-05-05). Sniping: An Illustrated History. Voyageur Press. p. 129. ISBN   9780760337172.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45 by Henry Skaida, Osprey Publishing, 2003, ISBN   1841765988/ ISBN   978-1841765983, page 31
  6. 1 2 3 Women and War: A Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present originally from Ukraine by Arthur Bernard Cook, ABC-CLIO, 2006, ISBN   1851097708/ ISBN   978-1851097708, page 457
  7. 1Павличенко Людмила Михайловна, Country's Heroes ( ‹See Tfd› (in Russian)
  8. Pat Farey; Mark Spicer (5 May 2009). Sniping: An Illustrated History. MBI Publishing Company. p. 129. ISBN   978-0-7603-3717-2 . Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  9. 1 2 3 King, Gilbert (February 21, 2013). "Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper". Smithsonian . Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  10. The World War Two Reader by Gordon Martel, Routledge, 2004, ISBN   0415224039/ ISBN   978-0415224031, page 268
  11. The Coventry Evening Telegraph, Saturday November 21st 1942
  12. Henry Sakaida; Christa Hook (2003), Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45, 90, Osprey Publishing, p. 21, ISBN   978-1-84176-598-3, OCLC   829740681 , retrieved 2011-12-03
  13. "Miss Pavlichenko" dated to 1942 at
  14. Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3,
  15. " Miss Pavlichenko: Woody Guthrie: MP3 Downloads".
  16. Battle for Sevastopol , retrieved 2018-09-29
  17. Pavlichenko, Lyudmila; Pegler, Martin (5 February 2018). "Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper". Greenhill Books. Retrieved 9 June 2018 via Amazon.
  18. "Greenhill Books". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  19. "Stalin's angel of death: The world's most successful female sniper" . Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  20. Battle for Sevastopol
  21. "Lyudmila Pavlichenko: The Deadliest Female Sniper in History". Rejected Princesses. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  22. Sakaida, Henry "Mankiller: Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko."

Further reading