The Girl with the Tokarev SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle.

From a western perspective, female roles during wartime are kept nearly exclusively to the home front. Women are placed in temporary industry jobs in order to advance the war effort, which is where iconic personas such as Rosie the Riveter emerge. However, this concept of females roles vary on the eastern front. During World War II the Soviet Union would have 300,000 women self enlist and by 1941 another roughly 400,000 would be drafted to serve on the front lines.

The Pavlichenko family moved to Kiev, like other Soviets every member of the family engaged in work, Lyudmila Pavlichenko a 16 year old girl began work as a grinder in a local factory and started university work, where she also took an interest in an amateur shooting club. This interest would turn into her career when at the age of 24 she self enlisted as one of 2,000 female snipers for the eastern front. Credited with over 300 kills during her career, she quickly became renowned as the most successful sniper in military history (regardless of gender). Pavlichenko was and is a Soviet hero, immortalized in Soviet stamps (see below)

.Pav-Stamp.jpg 170px-Pav-1976-stamp.jpg

She was the first Soviet soldier to visit the White house, meeting the Roosevelts. Where Pavlichenko famously stated “I did not kill a man, I killed 309 fascists.” She then began a tour across America and Europe fighting for gender equality. As western media outlets criticized her lack of makeup and lack of style, Pavlichenko argued that women were necessary to win the fight against fascism. I believe this shows one way in which the Soviet Union was capable of winning the war on the Eastern Front. The war effort was total and all encompassing. Women actively engaged in the war effort like never before, and like never seen in the west, their influence would alter the direction of the war as well as the way society viewed  women as a whole.

Pavlichenko is seen in various films of world war II including the “Battle of Sevastapool”

Not a man fascists.gif

Lyudmila.jpg One of Lyudmila’s famous quotes.

Her role in the war effort is also told asa “princess story” here, it is a visual storytelling of her life however these retellings may not be the most historically accurate.


Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper.

Lyudmila. Warheroes.

The Deadliest Female Sniper in History. War History Online.


15 thoughts on “The Girl with the Tokarev SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle.

  1. I have never heard of Lyudmila Pavlichenko before this article and it was awesome to learn about her. We always hear about Rosie the Riveter but it is cool to know there was more equivalents to her in other countries at the time. I especially love her quote regarding not killing men but killing fascists.


  2. This was a very interesting read! As i was writing my post about veterans i was wondering if women were allowed to fight on the frontline or if they had to take a more back seat approach. It is super cool to know she is the first soviet soldier to go to the white house!


  3. Great post – I briefly mentioned the role of women in the Red Army in my post! It’s really interesting how a lot of German propaganda used the fact that females fought in the Soviet army as an example of how terrible the Soviets were. They felt that because they were “making” women fight, they were barbaric. The quote about killing fascists rather than men seems like an example of a dangerous attitude though. Dehumanizing the enemy is the same tactic Nazis used against the Jews, I don’t think it ever leads anywhere good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! However I do disagree with you in response to her quote. Dehumanizing Nazis is not the equivalent of dehumanizing Jewish populations. When a Nazi is dehumanized it is because they promote and advocate for the intentional harm and destruction of minorities. Nazis pose an immediate danger to people around them if they are given a platform. However when a minority population is dehumanized it is on the basis of their cultural, social, or ethnic background. Silencing voices who advocate for the oppression and extermination of minorities, I believe is of the upmost importance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s fair – I don’t think they’re equivalent either, of course. Just that it’s a dangerous path to dehumanize an entire population.


  4. I really enjoyed this post because as you mentioned the Soviet Union woman was much different from the American woman. This also serves as an example of the tough-mindedness of women in the Soviet Union, a characteristic that was often frowned upon in the United States. I wonder if it would have been beneficial to the United States to have such a large group of women joining their ranks?


  5. I really loved how you focused on Lyudmila Pavlichenko in your blog post! She was an amazing soldier and sniper who greatly contributed to the war effort, but is sadly overshadowed in the mainstream narratives surrounding the battles of World War II. How do you think her experiences as a female soldier and those of the “Night Witches,” the all female Soviet aviator unit, overall affect Soviet attitudes towards women both in general and during times of war? Do you think they played a role in changing how other nations such as the United States viewed the roles of women in war?


  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I wrote on something similar about romance during the war and women’s roles. I also talked about how women took more active roles in the military and local factories. It’s amazing how women transformed gender roles during this time, and I’m sure this helped, and is still helping, to make people more equal in the military across the world.


  7. Ok, so this was a really cool post to read about, and the presentation of this Soviet hero was very well done. I vaguely knew about Pavlichenko before reading this post, but the statistics and images you provided made me truly understand not only how impressive this woman was as a sniper, but also the indiscriminate hate she had for all Nazis. This post, I feel, sheds light on how the people of Russia felt, regardless of Soviet propaganda, and involved the war effort was for everyone. Great job with this post.


  8. What a really cool post! In World War II, Germans would refer to these soldiers as “gun women” and refused to acknowledge them as soldiers. Instead, they would be treated as partisans and likely executed if captured. Lyudmila is a very cool example of women serving in the Red Army. It is a very fascinating topic.


  9. Leave it to the Soviets to be the most progressive country in the world on gender equality. Despite a lack of personal freedoms, they definitely made up for it with at least the presumption of equality.


  10. Wow I had never heard of her before. You should check out Bryan’s post, he also wrote about a sniper. I just read an article about women who disguised themselves to serve in the American Civil War.


  11. Thanks for citing my entry on her! I put in extensive footnotes as to where I took artistic license and added citations as to sources and whatnot. It’s still an artistic interpretation but I tried my best.

    I will say that my version hews much closer to her story than Battle for Sevastopol, which wholesale invents characters, plotlines, and events. 🙂 Perhaps that deserves a disclaimer too?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s