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Lyudmila Pavlichenko

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Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko
Pavlichenko in 1943
Native name
  • Людмила Михайловна Павличенко
Birth nameLyudmila Mikhailovna Belova
Nickname(s)Lady Death
Born12 July [O.S. 29 June] 1916[1]
Bila Tserkva, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire
(present-day Ukraine)
Died10 October 1974(1974-10-10) (aged 58)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
AllegianceSoviet Union
Service/branchRed Army
Years of service1941–1953
  • 25th Rifle Division
  • 54th Stenka Razin Rifle Regiment
  • Soviet Navy General Staff
  • Battles/wars
    AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
    Alexei Pavlichenko
    (m. 1932, divorced)
    Alexei Kitsenko
    (m. 1941; died 1942)
    ChildrenRostislav Pavlichenko[1]
    Other workSoviet Committee of the Veterans of War

    Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko (Russian: Людмила Михайловна Павличенко; Ukrainian: Людмила Михайлівна Павличенко, romanizedLyudmyla Mykhailivna Pavlychenko, née Belova; 12 July [O.S. 29 June] 1916 – 10 October 1974) was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War II. She is credited with killing 309 enemy combatants.[2][3] She served in the Red Army during the siege of Odessa and the siege of Sevastopol, during the early stages of the fighting on the Eastern Front. Her score of 309 kills likely places her within the top five snipers of all time, but her kills may be significantly more numerous, as a confirmed kill has to be witnessed by a third party.[4]

    After she was injured in battle by a mortar shell, she was evacuated to Moscow.[5] After she recovered from her injuries, she trained other Red Army snipers and was a public spokeswoman for the Red Army. In 1942, she toured the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. After the war ended in 1945, she was reassigned as a senior researcher for the Soviet Navy. She died of a stroke at the age of 58.[2]

    Early life and education[edit]

    Lyudmila Belova was born in Bila Tserkva, Kiev Governorate, in the Russian Empire (now in Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine) on 12 July [O.S. 29 June] 1916, to Mikhail Belov, a locksmith from Petrograd, and his wife Elena Trofimovna Belova (1897–1972).[6] The family moved to Kiev when Lyudmila was aged 14.[7] Her father was a Communist Party member, and had served as a regimental commissar in the Red Army, being awarded the Order of the Red Banner.[8] As a child, Lyudmila was a self-described tomboy, who was fiercely competitive at athletic activities. In Kiev, she joined an OSOAVIAKhIM shooting club, developed into an amateur sharpshooter and earned her Voroshilov Sharpshooter badge and a marksman certificate.

    In 1932, she married Alexei Pavlichenko, and gave birth to a son, Rostislav (1932–2007). However, the marriage was soon dissolved, and Lyudmila returned to live with her parents. She attended night school as well as performing household chores.[5] During the day, she worked as a grinder at the Kiev Arsenal factory.[5][9]

    She enrolled at Kiev University in 1937, where she studied history and intended to be a scholar and teacher. There, she competed on the university's track team as a sprinter and pole vaulter.[7][5] She was also enrolled in a military-style sniping school for six months by the Red Army.[5]

    World War II[edit]

    Pavlichenko in a trench (1942).

    In June 1941, Pavlichenko was aged 25 in her fourth year studying history at Kiev University when Nazi Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union.[9] Pavlichenko was among the first round of volunteers at the Odessa recruiting office, where she requested to join the infantry. The registrar pushed Pavlichenko to be a nurse, but she refused. After seeing that she had completed multiple training courses, she was finally accepted into the army as a sniper and assigned to the Red Army's 25th Rifle Division.[9] There, she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army,[5] of whom about 500 survived the war.[7][5] She was initially assigned to digging trenches and communication routes, armed with a single RGD-33 grenade due to weapons shortages. In the second half of July 1941, a comrade was severely injured by shrapnel and handed her his Mosin–Nagant model 1891 bolt-action rifle. On 8 August 1941 Lyudmila experienced her debut as a wartime sniper when she killed two Nazi officers in Biliaivka at a distance of 400 metres.[10]

    Pavlichenko fought for about 2+12 months during the Siege of Odessa and is credited with killing 187 soldiers.[11] She was promoted to senior sergeant in August 1941, when she added 100 more kills to her official tally. At 25, she married a fellow sniper, Alexei Kitsenko.[5] Soon after the marriage, Kitsenko was mortally wounded by a mortar shell and died from his injuries a few days later in the hospital.[7]

    When the Nazis and their Romanian allies overran Odessa on 15 October 1941, her unit was withdrawn by sea to Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula,[11] to fight in the siege of Sevastopol.[9] There, she trained other snipers, who were credited with killing over 100 Axis soldiers during the battle. In May 1942, newly promoted Lieutenant Pavlichenko was cited by the Southern Army Council for killing 257 Axis soldiers. The number of soldiers Pavlichenko is credited with killing during World War II was 309,[12][9] including 36 Axis snipers.

    In June 1942, Pavlichenko was hit in the face with shrapnel from a mortar shell. When she was injured, the Soviet High Command ordered for her to be evacuated from Sevastopol via submarine.[13]

    She spent around a month in the hospital.[7] Once she had recovered from her injuries, instead of being sent back to the front, she became a propagandist for the Red Army,[5] where she was nicknamed "Lady Death."[14][5][2] (The Germans called her "the Russian bitch from hell.")[15] She also trained snipers for combat duty until the end of the war in 1945.[2]

    Visits to Allied countries[edit]

    Pavlichenko (center) with Justice Robert Jackson (left) and US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington DC in September 1942.

    In 1942, Pavlichenko was sent to Canada and the United States for a publicity visit as part of the Soviet Union's attempts to convince the other Allies of World War II to open a second front against Nazi Germany. When she visited the United States, she became the first Soviet citizen to be received by a US president, as Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed her to the White House.[7] Pavlichenko was later invited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to tour the US, relating her experiences as a female soldier on the front lines.[7] During the publicity tour, Pavlichenko was not taken seriously by the press and was referred to as the "Girl Sniper."[5] Not cut out to be a diplomat, she was shy and said she just wanted to kill fascists.[15] When meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C., she was dumbfounded by 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."[16][17] They also asked if she used makeup on the front line.[7] She challenged an especially sexist reporter to a fistfight. She responded to a question about her underwear so:

    "I am proud to wear the uniform of the legendary red army. It has been sanctified by the blood of my comrades who've fallen in combat with the fascists."[15]

    She was described by the reporters as very blunt and unemotional in her responses.[7]

    Pavlichenko appeared before the International Student Assembly being held in Washington, DC, attended the meetings of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and made appearances and speeches in New York City and Chicago. In New York City, she was given a raccoon fur coat by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia.[7] In Chicago, she stood before large crowds, chiding the men to support a second front. "Gentlemen," she said, "I am 26 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.[7] The United States government presented her with a Colt semi-automatic pistol. In Toronto, Ontario, she was presented a Winchester Model 70 rifle equipped with a Weaver telescopic sight, now on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.[18] While visiting Canada, along with fellow sniper Vladimir Pchelintsev and Moscow fuel commissioner Nikolai Kravchenko, she was greeted by thousands of people at Toronto's Union Station.[7]

    On Friday 21 November 1942, Pavlichenko visited Coventry, England, accepting donations of £4,516 from local workers to pay for three X-ray units for the Red Army. She also visited the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, then the Alfred Herbert works and Standard Motor Factory, from where most funds had been raised. She had inspected a factory in Birmingham earlier in the day.[19]

    Having been made an officer, Pavlichenko never returned to combat, instead becoming an instructor and training snipers until the war's end.[9] In 1943, she was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union,[20] as well as the Order of Lenin twice.[7]

    Later life[edit]

    When the war ended, Pavlichenko finished her education at Kiev University and began a career as a historian.[5][7] From 1945 to 1953, she was a research assistant at Soviet Navy headquarters. She was later active in the Soviet Committee of the Veterans of War.[9]

    Death and legacy[edit]

    She died from a stroke on 10 October 1974 at 58 and was buried in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. Her son, Rostislav, is buried next to her.[citation needed]

    A second Soviet commemorative stamp featuring her portrait was issued in 1976.[7]

    In popular culture[edit]

    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.[21][non-primary source needed] It was released as part of The Asch Recordings.[22][23][non-primary source needed]

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

    The first English language edition of her memoirs, Lady Death, was published by Greenhill Books in February 2018.[14] It has a foreword by Martin Pegler and is part of the Lionel Leventhal's Greenhill Sniper Library series.[24]

    Pavlichenko's experiences during World War II, both in battle and on tour in the United States, have inspired several historical fiction novels, including Beautiful Assassin (2010)[25] and Kate Quinn's 2022 novel The Diamond Eye.[26]

    Awards and honors[edit]

    See also[edit]


    1. ^ a b c Simonov & Chudinova 2017, p. 160.
    2. ^ a b c d Lockie, Alex. "Meet the world's deadliest female sniper who terrorized Hitler's Nazi army". Business Insider. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
    3. ^ Vinogradova, Lyuba (2017). Avenging Angels: Young Women of the Soviet Union's WWII Sniper Corps. Quercus. pp. 37–47. ISBN 9781681442839.
    4. ^ "Meet the world's deadliest female sniper who terrorized Hitler's Nazi army". Business Insider.
    5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Lady Death: Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the Greatest Female Sniper of All Time". mentalfloss.com. 6 December 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
    6. ^ "Велика Вітчизняна Війна". 28 June 2009. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
    7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o King, Gilbert (21 February 2013). "Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper". Smithsonian. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
    8. ^ Pavlichenko, L. Lady Death: the Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper 2018 p.1 ISBN 9781784382704
    9. ^ a b c d e f g Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45 by Henry Skaida, Osprey Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1841765988/ISBN 978-1841765983, page 31
    10. ^ Pavlichenko, Lyudmila; Pegler, Martin (2018). Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper. Greenhill Books (published 3 May 2018). pp. 22–29. ISBN 9781784382704.
    11. ^ a b 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
    12. ^ 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.[permanent dead link]
    13. ^ "Mankiller: Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko by Henry Sakaida 1 of 2". soviet-awards.com. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
    14. ^ a b Pavlichenko, Lyudmila; Pegler, Martin (5 February 2018). Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper. Greenhill Books. ASIN 1784382701.
    15. ^ a b c Ross, Greg (12 November 2018). "Podcast Episode 224: Lady Death". Futility Closet. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
    16. ^ Lady Sniper, TIME Magazine (Monday, 28 September 1942)
    17. ^ The World War Two Reader by Gordon Martel, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0415224039/ISBN 978-0415224031, page 268
    18. ^ The Music of World War II: War Songs and Their Stories by Sheldon Winkler Merriam, 2019, ISBN 9780359647798, page 83
    19. ^ The Coventry Evening Telegraph, Saturday November 21st 1942
    20. ^ Henry Sakaida; Christa Hook (2003), Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45, vol. 90, Osprey Publishing, p. 21, ISBN 978-1-84176-598-3, OCLC 829740681, retrieved 3 December 2011
    21. ^ "Miss Pavlichenko" dated to 1942 at [1] Archived 1 June 2020 at the Wayback Machine
    22. ^ Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3,
    23. ^ "Amazon.com: Miss Pavlichenko: Woody Guthrie: MP3 Downloads". amazon.com.
    24. ^ "Greenhill Books". www.greenhillbooks.com. Archived from the original on 28 February 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
    25. ^ readrunwriter (26 June 2020). "Book Review: BEAUTIFUL ASSASSIN by Michael White". READ RUN WRITE. Retrieved 19 May 2024.
    26. ^ Kate Storey (2 May 2022). "#ReadWithMC Reviews 'The Diamond Eye'". Marie Claire Magazine. Retrieved 7 August 2023.
    27. ^ Simonov & Chudinova 2017, p. 164.


    • Simonov, Andrey; Chudinova, Svetlana (2017). Женщины - Герои Советского Союза и России. Moscow: Russian Knights Foundation, Museum of Technology V. Zadorozhny. ISBN 9785990960701. OCLC 1019634607.
    • Pavlichenko, Lyudmila; Pavlichenko (2018). Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper. Greenhill Books, London. ISBN 9785990960701.

    External links[edit]