When it comes about WWII and snipers, there are few names and stories frequently presented. If we’re talking about the Eastern Front, one name is above all, at least for the media and the desire to build a myth. Many of us have heard about the legendary Soviet Sniper Vasily Zaytsev, who had 225 confirmed sniper kills during the Battle of Stalingrad. But the Soviet sniper tradition goes further, by combining deadly accuracy with traditional beauty.
A Beautiful 19 Year Old Angel with 59 Confirmed Sniper Kills
There were several well-known Soviet female snipers deployed on the Eastern Front, maybe the most well-known being Liudmyla Pavlychenko, with 309 confirmed kills, but our story forms around another one, around this angel:
Her name is Roza Shanina, she had 19 years old and was a Soviet sniper during WW II. She decided to enlist after her brother’s death. She chose to become a marksman, willing to face the enemy who killed her brother. Her skills were very good, so in short time she became praised for her accuracy with the rifle, also becoming the first Soviet female sniper who received the Order of Glory.
During the war, two more Shanina’s brothers died, one of them, 19-year-old Mikhail, during the Siege of Leningrad. At the beginning of April 1944, Shanina was attached to the 18th Rifle Division, which had a separate female sniper platoon, Shanina becoming the Commander of it. Three days after Shanina’s enrollment in the new platoon, she killed her first German soldier, near the village of Vitebsk. On 17 April she was awarded her first military distinction, the Order of Glory 3rd Class. Between 6 and 11 April, Shanina recorder 13 enemy kills, by May she reached 17 confirmed kills. On 9 June Shanina’s portrait was presented on the front page of the Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga, together with an article of a specific propagandistic stamp, in which she was praised for bravery and accuracy in her marksman duty. In 1944 she participated to the Vitebsk-Orsha Offensive and took also part in the struggle for Vilnius, which was occupied by German troops since 1941.
While on the frontline Shanina kept a combat diary, even if diaries were totally forbidden in the Soviet Army. She kept the records between 6 October 1944 and January 1945, developing a personal method in order to register the kills: ”blacks” for the killed, and ”red” for the wounded. After Shanina’s death, the diary was transferred to the regional Museum of Arkhangelsk Oblast, where several of Shanina’s letters and logs could be seen. A shorter version of the diary was published in 1965 in the Yunost magazine.
In August 1944, Shanina reached East Prussia, as the Soviet troops were advancing. At that time, Shanina’s record had increased to 42 kills. On September she was credited with 51 kills. In the same September, she was awarded a new military distinction, the second one for her, the Order of Glory 2nd Class, for the various battles against the Germans, in which she took part with bravery and courage. For her action during the Battle of Schlossberg, she was awarded the Medal of Courage. At the beginning of December 1944, Shanina was wounded by a German sniper; she was shot in the right shoulder. She reported in her diary, that during the previous day, she had a premonitory dream in which she was wounded in the exact same spot.
During the East Prussian Offensive, Shanina felt something wasn’t right. She wrote in her diary on 16 January 1945 that despite her wish to be in a safer place, some unknown force was drawing her to the front line. On 17 January she wrote in a new note that she might be on the verge of being killed because her battalion had lost 72 out of 78 people. On 27 January, Shanina was badly injured by artillery fire, having her chest opened by a shell fragment. She died the following day.