Smart, Beautiful And Deadly: The Soviet Sniper

The history of female combatants and leaders is a seldom explored narrative.

The history of female combatants and leaders is a seldom explored narrative.
Alongside previous female heroines, some of whom were also snipers, we explore the story of Senior Sergeant Roza Georgiyevna Shanina, the scourge of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.
Soviet WWII sniper Roza Georgiyevna Shanina

Roza Shanina was a 19-year-old Soviet sniper during the Second World War with 59 confirmed kills, including 12 soldiers during the Battle of Vilnius.

Described by Allied newspapers as the "Unseen Terror of East Prussia" she was the first female sniper to receive the Order of Glory and the first servicewoman of the 3rd Belorussian Front to receive it. 

Soviet WWII sniper Roza Georgiyevna Shanina

Amid the German offensive of Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet troops were facing a considerable challenge.

Tasked with the job of stopping the German advance, the Soviet Union began deploying female snipers with the assumption that they had flexible limbs, were patient and cunning.

Soviet WWII sniper Roza Georgiyevna Shanina

Her diary and memoires were published by an army reporter alongside letters written from the front, which detailed her hopes for a peaceful life after the war.

Soviet WWII sniper Roza Georgiyevna Shanina notebook

The description of Shanina's first confirmed kill were as follows:

In Shanina's own words, recorded by an anonymous author, her legs gave way upon that first encounter and she slid down into the trench, saying, "I've killed a man." Concerned, and looking to reassure her friend, the other women ran up saying, "That was a fascist you finished off!"”

Other notable diary entries of Shanina’s memoires highlight her patriotism and commitment to the Soviet war effort and ideology:

"The unconditional requirement—to outwit the enemy and kill him—became an irrevocable law of my hunt".

Soviet WWII sniper Roza Georgiyevna Shanina
Roza Shanina with a Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifle with 3.5x PU scope, 1944

"The essence of my happiness is fighting for the happiness of others. It's strange, why is it that in grammar, the word "happiness" can only be singular? That is counter to its meaning, after all. ... If it turns necessary to die for the common happiness, then I'm braced to."

Ultimately, Shanina's life ended on the frontline in the battlefield and in sombre spirits. In her final diary entry, she reflected that she "cannot find a solace" now and "was of no use to anyone".

She is said to have 59 confirmed kills. While other researchers claim this figure to be higher, her reputation as a fearsome female fighter is not an issue up for debate.

Between 1941 and 1945 a total of 2,484 Soviet female snipers were deployed for the war and their combined tally of kills is conservatively estimated to be at least 11,280.

Watch Roza's life story animated in a short feature below:

More: Sniper Breaks Brit's Record For Longest Kill Shot In History