Lyudmila Pavlichenko

This name uses Eastern Slavic naming customs; the patronymic is Mikhailovna and the family name is Pavlichenko.
Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, before title.png
Native name
Людмила Михайловна Павличенко
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
Allegiance Soviet Union
Service/branch Red Army
Years of service1941–1953
RankLieutenant in the Army
Senior Researcher with rank of Major in Coastal Service
Unit54th Stenka Razin Rifle Regiment in 25th Rifle Division
Soviet Navy General Staff
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Alexei Pavlichenko (1932–?; divorced)
Other workSoviet Committee of the Veterans of War

Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko[a] (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]

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]


World War II

Pavlichenko in a trench (1942).

In June 1941, 24-year-old Pavlichenko was in her fourth year studying history at 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.

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.

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.

Visits to Allied countries

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]

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.

In popular culture

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, romanizedLyudmyla Mykhailivna Pavlychenko


  1. ^ Laws. "Secret Entertainment Today".
  2. ^ The 10 deadliest snipers of all time, Business Insider (September 8, 2015)
  3. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d e f g h i Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45 by Henry Skaida, Osprey Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1841765988/ISBN 978-1841765983, page 31
  6. ^ a b c 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 ( (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. ^ a b c 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

  • Valiant, Steve. Lady Death: The True Story of Russian Sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. 2015. ISBN 1518661203
  • Pavlichenko, Lyudmila (foreword by Martin Pegler). Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper. 2018. ISBN 1784382701
  • Pennington, Reina, Higham, Robin. Amazons to fighter pilots: a biographical dictionary of military women/Vol. 1, A-Q. 2003. OCLC 773504359
  • Lyuba, Vinogradova. "Avenging Angels: Young Women of the Soviet Union's WWII Sniper Corps". 2017. ISBN 978-1-68144-285-3 In chapter 2 (page 42) the author reports "Oleg Kaminsky, a Russian historian, undertook the first serious research into the veracity of the tales of the supersniper. He found some oddities in the stories of her earliest days on the front." On page 47 the author writes "Almost all we know about her is based on her own words, which are full of contradictions." The author reports numerous other discrepancies of the sniper's actions and roles.

External links