The Soviet Sharpshooters in WWII

During World War II, highly skilled snipers were in great demand across all areas of hostilities. The Red Army used the skills of its snipers as superior marksmen, visibly dominating in many ways on the battlefields.

The Soviet Union was the only country that had been training snipers for ten years, preparing them for war. Their superiority was notably confirmed by their “death lists.” Experienced snipers killed very many enemy men and officers and their contribution was of great value.

There are no consolidated records or statistics available to account for the Red Army’s overall sniping performance during the Great Patriotic War in terms of official updates to that effect. Therefore, it is very difficult to assess the extent of damages caused to the enemy in terms of the casualties resulting from sniping warfare.

The data available via the field reports are fragmentary. The WWII Soviet Snipers List website («Советские снайперы Великой Отечественной войны 1941–1945 гг.») contains information on close to 75% best Soviet male and female snipers credited with 50+ and 10+ kills, respectively. Those numbers were calculated using both award recommendations which were based on documentary evidence and media stories which were more often than not exaggerated accounts. Concurrently, both those recommendations and newspaper stories often lacked precision due to the timeframe limitation. One can only assume that the assessment of the damage caused to the enemy personnel strength shows the minimum.

The complete name list of active snipers captures statistics on 2,500 fighters including 625 female snipers. The kill tally claims 238,000 victims of which 18,000 (12,000?) or 7.5% fell by the guns of female sharpshooters. According to official sources, more than 70 snipers were the recipients of the Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union.

According to different sources, the strength of trained female snipers serving in the Red Army during the war varied between 1,300 and 2,000 fighters.

Concurrently, it is virtually impossible to benchmark the total kill credits as claimed by the snipers against the marksmen-infantry performance, and which would not be significantly higher. It is noteworthy to consider that during different periods of the war active snipers fighting on the fronts totaled between 32,000 and 40,000.


The kill credits claimed by these five sharpshooters were close to three thousand enemy men and officers. Though not all of them were recognized or appreciated in accordance with their meritorious performance on the battlefields.

  1. Mikhail Surkov

Michael Surkov proved the deadliest and most effective Soviet sniper during Great Patriotic War: he was credited with 702 confirmed kills of the enemy men and officers. In the summer and autumn of 1942, this Siberian hunter would claim on average close to 160 German soldiers killed every month during the battles he fought in Eastern Ukraine and in Northern Caucasus.

Junior Lieutenant Surkov was reputed both for his sharpshooter and close combat fighter skills. On November 30, 1942, he knifed down the entire pillbox crew manned by three German machine gunners. The same day, he was wounded and subsequently discharged; he was never awarded the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union because of his independent character and defiant language for which his commanding officers hated him.

2. Vladimir Salbiyev

Vladimir Salbiev’s distinguished career as a fighting man accounted for the battles he fought at Leningrad and Stalingrad. During the war he also took part in the campaign to liberate Ukraine, he was wounded three times and shell-shocked four times. A piece of shrapnel that hit him to the head near Kharkov in March 1943, could not have been removed and he had to bear with this condition for the rest of his life.

Vladimir Salbiev was the finest active sniper of the 1st Ukrainian front and one of the best marksmen serving in the Red Army; he killed 601 enemy men and officers and trained several effective sniper units. For his amazing successes Salbiev received more than twenty awards, but, as was the case with Surkov, for some unknown reason he was never awarded the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union. Instead, he was awarded a second Order of the Red Banner at the last minute.

3. Vasiliy Kvachantiradze

Vasily Kvachantiradze was reputed for his best sense of exposure and predicting the enemy’s behavior. This famous Soviet sniper’s kill tally totals 534 enemy men and officers.

Vasiliy Kvachantiradze could successfully do his job alone and paired. At one time, his partner was another famous sniper — Kuzma Smolensky who claimed 414 kills. Once they were discovered when they were behind enemy lines. During the ensuing engagement and pursuit, the deadly duo put down two enemy gun crews and killed more than thirty German soldiers when making their way to their own lines.

The recognition of Vasily Kvachantiradze's perfect marksman performance was not an easy one as well. On 9 July 1943, the recommendation to award him with the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union was not approved; the Command of the Kalinin Front awarded him with the Order of Lenin, instead. At last, on March 24, 1945, he was awarded the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union as he had long deserved.

4. Akhat Akhmetyanov

Akhat Akhmetyanov was an ordinary school teacher who killed 502 enemy men and officers during the war. He maintained a detailed record to account for his meritorious combat performance and which he termed “The Book of Revenge”.

“Do things that your enemy thinks are impossible to deliver, and put yourself in his shoes to walk his way as often as you can do it. Learn your lessons from your enemy’s behavior,’ he would often say. Akhat Akhmetyanov shared his experience and knowledge when assigned to train two hundred snipers as their instructor.

In 1944, Akhat Akhmetyanov was wounded and discharged. He was happy to get back on track as a school teacher.

5. Ivan Sidorenko

Lieutenant Ivan Sidorenko began his warfighting campaign against Nazi Germany as commanding officer of a mortar company. At the beginning of 1942, he had to use a rifle during the battles fought in the Smolensk region. As it turned out, he proved himself a talented and skilled marksman.

His commanding officers decided to transfer Lieutenant Ivan Sidorenko to a sniper detail which was a good decision in terms of his skills and performance: his kills credit totaled close 500 enemy men and officers; he also provided hands-on training to 250 snipers.

On June 4, 1944, Ivan Sidorenko was awarded the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union “for his bravery and exemplary performance of combat missions when fighting against Nazis and for his courage and heroism.”

The long list of the deadliest Soviet male snipers in WWII (the Russian language table):

  1. Full name 2. Kill Credits 3. Details

The long list of the deadliest Soviet female snipers in WWII (the Russian language table):

  1. Full name 2. Kill Credits 3. Details


Incredibly, Khanpasha Nuradilov, a machine-gun platoon CO, proved to have been the most effective and deadliest Red Army soldier even though he was not a sharpshooter. He was credited with 920 kills including 7 machine-gun crews and 7 enemy soldiers taken as POWs. He was recommended four times for the title of a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Date and place of birth: July 6, 1924, the village of Yaryksu-Aukh Charavali, Khasavyurt district, Dagestan
Duration of service record: 1940–1942.
On September 12, 1942, he was listed as KIA during the Battle of Stalingrad when fighting near the town of Serafimovich, Stalingrad region.

History Writer, WWII