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Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev
Zaytsev with his Mosin-Nagant rifle in Stalingrad, October 1942
Native name Василий Григорьевич Зайцев
Nickname Vasya
Born (1915-03-23)23 March 1915
Died 15 December 1991(1991-12-15) (aged 76)
Place of birth Yeleninskoye, Russian Empire
(now Chelyabinsk Oblast)
Place of death Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Place of burial Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd, Russia
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Years of service 1937–1945
Rank Captain

Eastern Front (World War II)

Awards Hero of the Soviet Union — 1943

Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev (Russian: Васи́лий Григо́рьевич За́йцев; 23 March 1915 – 15 December 1991) was a Soviet sniper during World War II, notable particularly for his activities between 10 November and 17 December 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad; during this five-week period he killed 225 soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht and other Axis armies, including 11 enemy snipers.[1]

Prior to 10 November, he had already killed 32 Axis soldiers with the standard-issue Mosin–Nagant rifle effective range of 900 meters.[1] Between October 1942 and January 1943, Zaytsev made an estimated 400 kills, some of which were over 1000 meters.[citation needed]

Early life

Zaytsev was born in Yeleninskoye and grew up in the Ural Mountains, where he learned marksmanship by hunting deer and wolves with his grandfather and younger brother. He brought home his first trophy at the age of twelve: a wolf that he shot with a single bullet from his first personal weapon, a large single-barreled Berdan rifle, which he was just barely able to carry behind his back at the time.

War career

Zaytsev served in the Soviet Navy as a clerk in Vladivostok. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Zaytsev, like many of his comrades, volunteered to be transferred to the front line. He was a chief petty officer in the Navy, and was assigned the rank of senior warrant officer upon transfer to the army.

World War II

Zaytsev's grave at Volgograd (former Stalingrad).

On 22 September 1942, while still in training, Zaytsev and a comrade were hidden in one building, with a German sniper in another building. When Zaytsev's friend was shot by the German, Zaytsev found himself locked into a duel with the German sniper over the next three days. When Zaytsev finally killed his opponent, he examined the body expecting that the German was of high rank, but instead discovered that his victim was a regular soldier.

During Zaytsev's career as a sniper, he would conceal himself in various locations – on high ground, under rubble, in water pipes, etc. After a few kills, he would change his position. Together with his partner Nikolay Kulikov, Zaytsev would exercise his hide and sting tactics. One of Zaytsev’s common tactics was to cover one large area from three positions, with two men at each point – a sniper and scout. This tactic, known as the “sixes”, is still in use today, and was implemented during the war in Chechnya.[2]

Zaytsev took part in the Battle of Stalingrad until January 1943, when he suffered an injury to his eyes from a mortar attack. He was attended to by Vladimir Filatov, who is credited with restoring his sight. On 22 February 1943, Zaytsev was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. He then returned to the front and finished the war in Seelow Heights in Germany with the military rank of Captain.

Civil life

After the war, Zaytsev settled in Kiev, where he studied at a textile university before he obtained employment as an engineer. He rose to become the director of a textile factory in Kiev, and remained in that city until he died in 1991 at the age of 76, just 10 days before the final dissolution of the Soviet Union. He was initially buried in Kiev despite his final request to be buried at Volgograd.

2006 commemoration

On 31 January 2006, Vasily Zaytsev was reburied on Mamayev Kurgan in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) with full military honours.[1] Zaytsev's dying wish was to be buried at the monument to the defenders of Stalingrad. His coffin was carried next to a monument where his famous quote is written: "For us there was no land beyond (the) Volga". Colonel Donald Paquette of the US Sniper School was present and laid a wreath as a sign of respect to a legendary sniper. US Army News quoted Colonel Paquette: "Vasily Zaytsev is a legend and every American sniper must memorize his tactics and methods. He is a legend amongst snipers. May he rest in peace."[citation needed]

In popular culture

In 2001, a feature length film, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law as Zaytsev, was based on part of William Craig's book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which includes a "sniper's duel" between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König. Zaytsev himself indicates in his own memoirs that a three-day duel did indeed occur and that the sniper he killed was the head of a sniper school near Berlin.[citation needed] However, there is no evidence that any Major Erwin König ever existed, despite the claim made by the Armed Forces Museum of Moscow that they are in possession of his telescopic sight.

Honours and awards


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Biography (in Russian) at the website on Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia
  2. Russiapedia

Further reading

  • Zaitsev, Vassili (2003). Notes of a Sniper. Trans. David Givens, Peter Kornakov, Konstantin Kornakov. Ed. Neil Okrent. Los Angeles: 2826 Press Inc. ISBN 0-615-12148-9.
  • Beevor, Antony (1998). Stalingrad. London: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-100131-3.
  • Robbins, David L. (2000). War of the Rats. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-58135-X.
  • The Reader's Digest Illustrated History of World War II (1989). London: Reader's Digest Association Limited. ISBN 0-89577-333-3

External links

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