Book Review: Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper


by Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Greenhill Books, 2018. Pp. xviii, 254. Illus, notes.. $32.95. ISBN: 1784382701

Memoirs of the Ace Soviet “Girl” Sniper

With 309 confirmed kills, and 200 more unconfirmed, Lyudmila Pavlichenko (1916-1974) was probably the deadliest woman sniper in history. But before she was a sniper, she had been educated as an historian. This background is reflected in the book. Termed by historian Adrian Gilbert “Arguably the finest account of sniping during World War II”, Lady Death is the author’s autobiography and memoir of her service in the “Great Patriotic War”.

After giving us some background on her early life and education, Pavlichenko dives into her service at the front. She gives us a sniper’s eye view of numerous fights, along with discourses on firearms and the craft of sniping, and her wartime romance and marriage that ended in tragedy. Pavlichenko actually spent only about a year at the front (August 1941-August 1942), fighting in western Ukraine, and in the defense of both Odessa and Sevastopol, while rising to lieutenant and command of a sniper team. Following a serious wound, the by-then rather famous young officer was withdrawn from combat.

The highly decorated Pavlichenko toured the United States, Canada, and Britain, drumming up support for the Soviet war effort, becoming something of a media star, meeting the President at the White House and was even being wonderfully portrayed as “Sgt. Natalia Moskoroff”, a Soviet “super woman”, by Eve Arden in the 1944 film The Doughgirls. Upon returning from her tour of the Western allies, Pavlichenko spent the rest of the war training snipers. Postwar Pavlichenko served as an historian with the Soviet Navy and was active in veterans affairs.

Anyone, whether a scholar with an interest in the Russian Front, the Red Army, or sniping, or the layman curious about these subjects, will find Lady Death, a volume in the “Greenhill Sniper Library”, valuable and informative reading.


Note: Lady Death is also available in audio- and e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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