Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte and specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.
The 10 Deadliest Female Snipers
- Klavdiya Kalugina
- Tatyana Baramzina
- Mariya Polivanova
- Roza Shanina
- Lidiya Gudovantseva
- Nina Lobkovskaya
- Aliya Moldagulova
- Nina Petrova
- Natalya Kovshova
- Lyudmila Pavlichenko
10. Klavdiya Kalugina (28 Kills)
Klavdiya Yefremovna Kalugina was a Soviet sniper born in 1926 who participated in the Great Patriotic War (World War II) against Nazi Germany. Although Kalugina originally chose to work in a munitions factory at the beginning of the war, her desire to actively fight on the front was rewarded at the age of 17 (June 1943) when she enrolled in the Soviet Komsomol and began military training at their sniper school (thefemalesoldier.com). Despite early struggles with military conditioning, Kalugina later completed her training (March 1944) due to the help of a compassionate squad commander who recognized her true potential. Following her training, Kalugina was immediately sent to the 3rd Belorussian Front becoming one of the youngest women snipers of the war.
Kalugina excelled as a sniper for the Red Army, and participated in numerous battles around Orsha, and later Leningrad and Konigsberg. Operating in a sniper/spotter team with fellow soldier, Marusia Chikhvintseva, Kalugina and her partner engaged Nazi soldiers at distances between 200 and 1,200 meters on a daily basis with modified Mosin-Nagant rifles (thefemalesoldier.com). Although her total number of kills are difficult to measure (due to a lack of official documentation or records), Kalugina is credited with at least 28 confirmed kills, making her one of the deadliest female snipers of the war.
9. Tatyana Baramzina (36 Kills)
Tatyana Nikolayevna Baramzina was a Soviet sniper born on 19 December 1919 in Glazov, Russian SFSR. After originally beginning a career as a kindergarten teacher, Baramzina later joined her local Komsomol (Soviet Youth), allowing her to advance her education at the University of Perm. Once war broke out with Nazi Germany in 1941, however, Baramzina began to attend nursing school during the evening while training as a sniper during the day for the Red Army. After nearly a year of training, Baramzina was transferred to the Central Women’s Sniper Training School near Moscow, where she underwent an additional ten months of training before being sent to the 3rd Belorussian Front with the 252nd Rifle Regiment.
Baramzina’s extensive training was quickly put to the test, as she immediately saw action upon her arrival to the front. Within three months, she was credited with killing 16 German soldiers with numerous probable kills. However, due to poor vision, she was later recalled from her sniper duties to serve as a telephone operator along the front; distinguishing herself once again in this role by repairing over fourteen communication lines under heavy artillery bombardment. In one particular battle, Baramzina was even credited with killing 20 German soldiers after her battalion was parachuted behind enemy lines. Sadly, Baramzina was later captured by the Nazis and was executed after extensive torture for refusal to divulge information about Soviet positions. She was posthumously awarded “Hero of the Soviet Union” for her bravery.
8. Mariya Polivanova (Unknown)
Mariya Polivanova was a Soviet sniper born on 24 October 1922 in Naryshkino, Russian SFSR. Although Polivanova originally graduated from the National Institute of Aviation Technologies in Moscow to pursue work as an aircraft designer, her career plans were halted with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Polivanova immediately enlisted in the Red Army where she was trained for sniper duties and was later assigned to the 3rd Moscow Communist Rifle Division. Less than six months later, however, Polivanova was transferred to the 528th Rifle Regiment where she began additional training at the Central Women’s Sniper Training School.
In February 1942, Polivanova’s regiment was sent to the front, where she saw immediate action around the vicinity of Novaya Russa. She later formed a close bond with a fellow female sniper known as Natalya Kovshova, and often worked together as a team on multiple operations. Although Polivanova primarily served as a spotter for Kovshova, she was highly skilled with a rifle, killing numerous German soldiers during her short career. Sadly, the military careers of both Polivanova and Kovshova was cut short on 14 August 1942 as the pair was spotted and surrounded by a full battalion of German soldiers. Outgunned and running low on ammunition, the pair killed themselves with grenades before they could be captured alive by the Nazis (Pennington, 804-805). In total, historians believe that the pair killed an estimated 300 German soldiers across their career. Polivanova was later awarded the title, “Hero of the Soviet Union” for her bravery.
7. Roza Shanina (59 Kills)
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was a Soviet sniper that served with the Red Army during World War II, and was born on 3 April 1924 in Arkhangelsk, Russian SFSR. Originally a college graduate and kindergarten teacher, Shanina later joined her local Komsomol and was caught on the front lines as the German Army advanced on the Soviet Union in 1941. After receiving notification that her elder brother had been killed in the initial invasion, Shanina immediately tried to enlist into the military. It wasn’t until 1943, however, that Shanina’s request was granted. On 22 June 1943 she was immediately sent to the Central Women’s Sniper Training School where she learned marksmanship and graduated with honors. After being deployed to the front with the 184th Rifle Division, Shanina participated in numerous battles and military operations, including “Operation Bagration.”
During her career, Shanina was credited with over 59 confirmed kills, with numerous probables (unconfirmed kills). She was also well-known for her ability to rapidly shoot numerous targets in succession, and later became the first female to be awarded the “Medal for Courage” (rbth.com). During the East Prussian Offensive, however, Shanina’s career was tragically cut short after she was hit by an artillery shell. Although she lived through the night, she later died the following day from her injuries. Her diary was later published throughout the Soviet Union, where she was hailed as a hero for her courageous actions and unwavering spirit against the Germans. To this day, she is considered one of the deadliest female snipers of all time (rbth.com).
6. Lidiya Gudovantseva (76 Kills)
Lidyia Gudovantseva was a sniper for the Red Army during World War II, and was born in the year 1924. Although little is known about her early life or military career, Gudovantseva volunteered for service at the age of 18, and was immediately sent to the Central Women’s Sniper Training School where she learned the art of sharpshooting. Participating in numerous battles and operations against the German invaders, Gudovantseva is credited with over 76 confirmed kills, with numerous probables. Although she never enjoyed killing, and recalled being “scared” beyond measure, Gudovantseva never wavered in her commitment to her fellow soldiers and country (Haskew, 73). Not only did her actions during the war defy “all gender norms and military stereotypes,” but they demonstrated “that women could be snipers” (canadianmilitaryhistory.ca).
Towards the end of her career, Gudovantseva was severely wounded in the jaw by an enemy sniper. Before she could process the severity of her wound, however, Gudovantseva instinctively returned fire toward the enemy soldier who had taken cover in a tree several hundred feet away. Her shot killed the soldier instantaneously, allowing her time to escape to safety. Gudovantseva survived throughout the duration of the war, and was later awarded the “Order of the Red Star for her extraordinary service” (canadianmilitaryhistory.ca). To this day, she is considered one of the deadliest female snipers of the Second World War.
5. Nina Lobkovskaya (89 Kills)
Nina Alexeyevna Lobkovskaya was born on 8 March 1925 in Fyodorovka, Kazakh SSR, and later served as a sniper with the Red Army during the Second World War. Although little is known about her early life, it is believed that Lobkovskaya enlisted in the Red Army after her father was killed on the Eastern Front in 1942 (ww2db.com). As with all women snipers in the Soviet Union, Lobkovskaya was immediately sent to the Central Women’s Sniper Training School in Eastern Russia where she learned basic marksmanship. She was quickly sent to the front, where she saw action on both the Baltic and Belarusian Fronts, respectively.
For her courage and natural ability to lead, Lobkovskaya was eventually promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Red Army, and was placed in charge of a female sniper company with the 3rd Shock Army. During her illustrious career, Lobkovskaya participated in numerous battles and operations, and was credited with 89 confirmed kills by the end of the war. In her final action during the Battle of Berlin, Lobkovskaya and her unit even managed to capture a large contingent of German soldiers (27 in total) after surrounding them and taking them by surprise. For her actions during the war, Lobkovskaya was awarded the “Order of the Red Banner,” along with the “Medal for Courage” (ww2db.com).
4. Aliya Moldagulova (91 Kills)
Aliya Nurmuhametqyzy Moldagulova was a Soviet sniper who served with the Red Army during the Second World War. Moldagulova was born on 25 October 1925 in Bulak, Kazakhstan. After being orphaned at an early age, Moldagulova spent much of her early life with an uncle who lived in Alma-Ata. However, she was later forced into an orphanage as her uncle was unable to properly care for her.
After war broke out in 1941, Moldagulova was studying at the Rybinsk Aviatechnical School. Driven by patriotism and a sense of duty to her country, however, Moldagulova decided to enlist in the Red Army, and was later enrolled in the Central Women’s Sniper Training School at the age of 16 (rbth.com). Shortly after graduating, she immediately saw action with the 54th Rifle Brigade, participating in numerous battles and campaigns along the Eastern Front. By the end of her career, Moldagulova was credited with 91 confirmed kills. Sadly, her heroic life was cut short on 14 January 1944 during a terrible battle involving hand-to-hand combat. After being struck by a mortar shell and sustaining numerous gunshot wounds, Moldagulova died after fighting off numerous enemy soldiers. She was posthumously awarded the title “Hero of the Soviet Union” as well as the “Order of Lenin” for her heroism and bravery (rbth.com). She is remembered today by a statue that was erected in her honor at Astana Square in Almaty (1997).
3. Nina Petrova (122 Kills)
Nina Petrova was born on 27 July 1893 in Lomonosov, Russia and served as a sniper for the Red Army during both the Winter War and Second World War (Pennington, 804). Originally a star athlete and gym teacher in Leningrad, Petrova later joined the 4th Division of the Leningrad People’s Militia, completing sniper school and becoming a “certified sniper instructor” by the mid-1930s. After participating in the Soviet-Finnish War, she later fought with the 284th Infantry Regiment where she rose to the rank of sergeant-major. Her unit also saw action during the Battle for Leningrad, where she trained additional soldiers the art of sharpshooting. It was here that Petrova distinguished herself as a capable soldier and sniper, as she took out nearly 23 enemy soldiers in one battle alone (earning her the “Order of Glory – 3rd Class”).
Petrova was later transferred to the 3rd Baltic Front where she fought in Estonia, and later the 2nd Belorussian Front where her unit fought for control of Elbing. During the battle, Petrova was nominated for the “Order of Glory – 1st Class.” However, before she could receive the award, she was killed in action on 1 May 1945 during a mortar attack. In total, Petrova was credited with 122 confirmed kills during her long career in the military, and was responsible for training over 512 Soviet snipers (Pennington, 804). To this day, Petrova remains one of four women to have been awarded all three classes of the “Order of Glory,” making her one of the most distinguished and decorated female soldiers of all time.
2. Natalya Kovshova (167 Kills)
Natalya Kovshova was born on 26 November 1920 in Ufa, Russia and served as a sniper for the Red Army during the Second World War. Although she originally pursued work at a Moscow-based research institute, the Nazi invasion of 1941 prompted Kovshova to postpone her career plans as she made preparations to join the fight against German aggression. At the age of 21 (1941), Kovshova joined a self-defense unit in Moscow where she managed an observation post and communication array. As the war progressed, however, Kovshova decided to pursue advanced military training and requested a transfer to the Central Women’s Sniper Training School. Upon completion, she was immediately sent to the front with the 528th Rifle Regiment alongside her spotter, Mariya Polivanova.
Kovshova participated in numerous battles and campaigns, including the Battle of Moscow. She was also instrumental in helping to train other snipers and soldiers in the art of marksmanship. For nearly a year, Kovshova took great pride in fighting back the German Army, racking up numerous kills and medals for her bravery. Sadly, her career was cut short on 14 August 1942, as Kovshova’s regiment engaged German troops near Sutoki-Byakov in Novogorod Oblast. After being pushed back and surrounded by German soldiers, both Kovshova and her spotter, Polivanova, fought bravely to the end. Just as capture seemed inevitable, the pair decided to detonate multiple grenades, killing themselves and several Germans in the process. It is estimated that Kovshova and her partner managed to kill over 300 Germans during their short military career (Pennington, 804). For her sacrifice and bravery, Kovshova was later awarded the title, “Hero of the Soviet Union.” A Soviet factory was later named in her honor during the 1960s.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko Quote
"The only feeling I have is the great satisfaction a hunter feels who has killed a beast of prey."
— Lyudmila Pavlichenko
1. Lyudmila Pavlichenko (309 Kills)
Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko was born on 12 July 1916 in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine and served as a Soviet sniper with the Red Army during World War II. Although Pavlichenko originally worked as a grinder at the Kiev Arsenal Factory, she later developed a keep interest in guns, and even joined a local shooting club in her city to practice sharpshooting (pri.org). After later marrying, having a baby, and finishing her Master’s Degree during the 1930s, Pavlichenko’s career in teaching was abruptly halted with the onset of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Driven by a sense of patriotic duty to her country, Pavlichenko immediately volunteered for military service, where she was assigned to the 25th Rifle Division. Despite having an opportunity to work as a nurse with the Red Army, Pavlichenko opted instead for sniper duty due to her love of guns and ability to shoot (rbth.com). After attending training, Pavlichenko immediately saw action on the Eastern Front, making her first two kills within days of her arrival at Belyayevka. Only a few weeks later, during the Battle for Odessa, Pavlichenko racked up an astounding 187 kills over a period of three months (rbth.com).
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After managing to fight for nearly a year, Pavlichenko was later withdrawn from combat after sustaining a severe wound by mortar fire in June 1942. Despite her relatively short military career, however, Pavlichenko was later credited with having 309 confirmed kills (with numerous probables), and reached the rank of Lieutenant in the Red Army (a remarkable feat in such a short period of time). After recovering from her injuries and participating in numerous speeches and appearances for her heroic acts, Pavlichenko later returned home to finish school and to begin her career as a historian. Sadly, the famous female sniper later died of a stroke on 10 October 1974 at the age of fifty-eight. To this day, Pavlichenko is still considered to be the deadliest female sniper in history, as well as one of the most decorated women soldiers of all time; earning the Order of Lenin (twice) and the title, “Hero of the Soviet Union” (rbth.com).
Chen, C. Peter. “Nina Lobkovskaya.” WW2DB. Accessed September 17, 2019. https://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=872.
Pennington, Reina. "Offensive Women: Women in Combat in the Red Army in the Second World War." The Journal of Military History. Vol. 74:3. (775-820).
Rae, Callum. “Klavdiya Kalugina.” The Female Soldier. The Female Soldier, April 17, 2016. http://thefemalesoldier.com/blog/klavdiya-kalugina.
“The Life and Myths of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Soviet Russia's Deadliest Sniper.” Public Radio International. Accessed September 17, 2019. https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-03-09/life-and-myths-lyudmila-pavlichenko-soviet-russias-deadliest-sniper.
Timofeychev, Alexey. “Lady Death and the Invisible Horror: The Female Face of War.” Russia Beyond, June 20, 2017. https://www.rbth.com/arts/history/2017/06/20/lady-death-and-the-invisible-horror-the-female-face-of-war_786422.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Larry Slawson
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on October 03, 2019:
@Cheryl Thank you! Yeah, I was in the same boat when I started researching each of these women. A lot of them I had never heard of before. They endured quite a lot during the Second World War.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on October 03, 2019:
I had no idea about any of these women. Thank you for this information.
Jeff Zod from Nairobi on September 19, 2019:
I will definitely check it out. Thank you for such excellent articles.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 19, 2019:
Beautiful and deadly. Didn't even know there were sniper instructors. You showed us a side of life that we wish didn't exist, but it's real. Well, women can do it all!
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on September 18, 2019:
Thank you so much Jeff! I did an article on snipers (in general) a few months ago, and figured it was time to address the contributions of women as well haha. Thank you for reading!
Jeff Zod from Nairobi on September 18, 2019:
Your article on female snipers in very fascinating. It is an excellent piece and I really enjoyed reading it.Thank you so much.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on September 17, 2019:
@Lorna Thank you! Glad you liked! I completely agree! Haha!
@Pamela Thank you! Yes, I thought the same thing as well. Quite incredible that most of them gave up their normal lives to take part in the war effort.
@Eric I was thinking the same thing my friend. Women are definitely playing a stronger role in the military nowadays. So I wouldn't be surprised.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 17, 2019:
Wow. I figure against Nazi Germany we can nearly celebrate each of those.
It struck me that we probably and they probably have some today -- they just can't tell us about them yet.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 17, 2019:
Apparently all of the best snipers are born in Russia, but perhaps women from other countries are not trained. I noticed that some of these women were quite beautiful, yet they have so many confirmed kills. Number 9 being in nursing school while working as a sniper seems odd as well. These article is very interesting Robert.
Lorna Lamon on September 17, 2019:
Interesting article Larry and I would certainly prefer to have these ladies on my side.