Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Soviet’s Female Star Sniper

When the most countries of the world avoid putting women in the front line for some reasons during the World War II, the Soviet Union had taken the plunge and even recruiting a total of 2ooo women as snipers during  the war.

Among this group of markswomen, one stood up and went on to become one of the best snipers in history — Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

She is the record holder of the highest confirmed total kills for a female sniper throughout history, her numbers not very far off from sniper Simo Hayha’s recorded kills which is 542. Hayha is the record holder of confirmed sniper kills in any major battles.

The Beginning

Pavlichenko was a 24-year-old student at Kiev University when the Germans invaded Soviet Union in June 1941. Upon learning about the said event, she immediately went into the local recruiting office to sign up for the infantry.

The recruiter was a little skeptic about her choice at first and recommended she could still be part of the cause but as a nurse or someone with a clerical position. However, when she showed him her Voroshilov Sharpshooter badge and a certificate proving she was a markswoman, he bowed to her wishes and signed her up in the infantry.

She was later given the designation of a private and was assigned to a chapter of the 25th Chapayev Rifle Division, the 54th “Stephan Razin” Rifles Regiment, in the Red Army and thanks to her exceptional skill as a markswoman, she was instantly assigned to the 2nd company sniper platoon together with her regiment.

Being a sniper had meant that she had to stay far away in front of her colleagues, in the no-man’s land which is the area strip that lies between her troops and that of the enemy’s. Nevertheless, she performed her sniping tasks impressively that she became a celebrity among her fellow soldiers.

But Pavlichenko was not at all unscathed by the war. She was injured four times throughout her military career – the fourth one was in June 1942 while Sevastopol was under siege – and shortly after her fourth ordeal, Red Army officials moved her from Sevastopol through a submarine and assigned her elsewhere as a sniping instructor promoting her to the position as a major.

Her Records

Throughout her sniping career, Pavlichenko killed a total of 309 enemies. However, her actual number might actually be more than that as for a shot to be confirmed, one needs top have an eyewitness. Experts have deduced her real total to be more or less than 500.

The move proved to be very fateful as a month after her reassignment, the rest of her regiment died including her husband. The move had saved her life.


When she became a spokeswoman, she was able to travel to the US and Canada. As a matter of fact, she became the first Soviet Union citizen to be received in the White House for a courtesy call.

Her visit in the president’s home had not impressed her, most specifically the reporters who were more concerned about what she was wearing than with the war going on about.

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…This made me angry. I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn,” she stated.


Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE