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Vasily Zaytsev

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Subject: Battle of Stalingrad, Enemy at the Gates, Mamayev Kurgan, The Motherland Calls, Battle of Stalingrad in popular culture
Collection: 1915 Births, 1991 Deaths, Battle of Stalingrad, Communist Party of the Soviet Union Members, Heroes of the Soviet Union, People from Kartalinsky District, People from Orenburg Governorate, Recipients of the Medal "for Courage" (Russia), Recipients of the Medal of Valour (Russia), Recipients of the Order of Lenin, Twice, Recipients of the Order of the Patriotic War, 1St Class, Recipients of the Order of the Red Banner, Russian Atheists, Russian People of World War II, Sniper Warfare, Soviet Military Personnel of World War II, Soviet Navy Personnel
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Vasily Zaytsev

Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev
Zaytsev in December 1942
Native name Василий Григорьевич Зайцев
Nickname(s) Vasya
Born (1915-03-23)23 March 1915
Yeleninskoye, Orenburg Governorate, Russian Empire
(now Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russian Federation)
Died 15 December 1991(1991-12-15) (aged 76)
Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Buried at Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd, Russia
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Years of service 1937–1945
Rank Captain

World War II

Awards Hero of the Soviet Union

Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev (Russian: Васи́лий Григо́рьевич За́йцев; IPA: ; 23 March 1915 – 15 December 1991) was a Soviet sniper and a Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II. Between 10 November and 17 December 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, he killed 225 soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht, and other Axis armies, including 11 enemy snipers.[1]

Prior to 10 November, he killed 32 Axis soldiers with the standard-issue Mosin–Nagant rifle (effective range of 900 metres or 985 yards).[1] Between October 1942 and January 1943, Zaytsev made an estimated 400 kills, some at distances of more than 1,000 metres (1,100 yd).

A feature-length film, Enemy at the Gates (2001), starring Jude Law as Zaytsev, was based on part of William Craig's non-fiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (1973), which includes a "sniper's duel" between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König.


  • Early life 1
  • War career 2
    • World War II 2.1
  • Civilian life 3
  • 2006 commemoration 4
  • In popular culture 5
    • Film 5.1
    • Literature 5.2
  • Awards and honours 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Zaytsev was born in Yeleninskoye, Orenburg Governorate in a peasant family of Russian ethnicity[2] and grew up in the Ural Mountains, where he learned marksmanship by hunting deer and wolves with his grandfather and older brother. He brought home his first trophy at the age of 12: a wolf that he shot with a single bullet from his first personal rifle, a large single-shot Berdan, which at the time he was barely able to carry on his back.

War career

Zaytsev, left, in Stalingrad, December 1942

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. He was eventually assigned to the 1047th Rifle Regiment of the 284th "Tomsk" Rifle Division, which became part of the 62nd Army at Stalingrad on 17 September 1942.[3]

World War II

During Zaytsev's career as a sniper, he would conceal himself in various locations – for example, on high ground, under rubble, or in water pipes. After a few kills, he would change his position. Together with his partner Nikolai 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 a scout. This tactic, known as the “sixes”, is still in use today and was implemented during the war in Chechnya.[4]

Zaytsev took part in the Battle of Stalingrad until January 1943, when a mortar attack injured his eyes. He was attended to by Vladimir Filatov, who is credited with restoring Zaytsev's 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 at the Battle of the Seelow Heights in Germany, with the military rank of captain. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1943.

Civilian life

After the war, Zaytsev settled in Kiev, where he studied at a textile university before obtaining 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.[5]

2006 commemoration

Zaytsev's grave on the Mamayev Kurgan

On 31 January 2006, Vasily Zaytsev was reburied on the Mamayev Kurgan in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) with full military honors.[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 U.S. Sniper School was present and laid a wreath as a sign of respect to a legendary sniper. U.S. 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."

In popular culture


  • A feature-length film, Enemy at the Gates (2001), starring Jude Law as Zaytsev, was based on part of William Craig's book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (1973), which includes a "sniper's duel" between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König. Zaytsev 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. However, there is currently no available evidence that any Major Erwin König ever existed, despite the claim made by the Armed Forces Museum of Moscow to be in possession of his telescopic sight. But as the duel claimed by Zaytsev has never officially been determined to be fiction, historians consider it neither proven nor disproved, and the subject remains open to debate.


  • David L. Robbins's historical novel, War of the Rats (1991) includes a sniper duel in Stalingrad, but between Zaitsev [sic] and a German adversary named Colonel Thorvald, identified in the author's introduction as an actual combatant.[6]

Awards and honours

Hero of the Soviet Union
Four Orders of Lenin
Two Orders of the Red Banner
Order of the Badge of Honour
Medal "For Courage"
Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin"
Medal "For the Defence of Stalingrad"
Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy"
Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
Jubilee Medal "60 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
Jubilee Medal "70 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
  • Honorary Citizen of the Hero City of Volgograd


  1. ^ a b c "Biography: Vasily Zaytsev". Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia (in Russian). 
  2. ^ "Vasily Zaytsev". 
  3. ^ Sharp, Charles C. Sharp (1996). "Red Swarm". Soviet Rifle Divisions Formed From 1942 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II X. p. 108. 
  4. ^ "Prominent Russians: Military: Vaily Zaitsev". Russiapedia. 
  5. ^ "Prominent Russians: Vasily Zaytsev". Russiapedia. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Robbins, David L. (1991).  

Further reading

  • Zaytsev, Vasily (2003). Thoughts 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

  • (Russian) Biography of Vasily Zaytsev at
  • (Russian) Zaytsev, Vasily (1981). Notes of a Sniper. (ZIP). Moscow: Sovremennik.
  • Zaytsev, Vasily Russiapedia Military Prominent Russians at
  • Stick-Breaker and the Hare (Poem)
  • World War II sniper list
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