"There is no ground for us beyond the Volga."
Snipers, once affectionately known in elite Counter-Strike circles as "spawn-camping haxing n00b homos omg wtf die in hell u loser", are some of the deadliest motherfuckers in the history of warfare. Sitting motionless in their cleverly-concealed perches, lying in wait for anyone stupid enough to stroll into the crosshairs of their telescopic sights, and controlling their breathing and their heart rate to ensure the steadiness of their aim, these insane man-hunters are more than capable of blowing your face out with a well-placed rifle round from hundreds of yards away. By the time the sound of the gunshot reaches you, you're already dead.
I've mentioned Hayha and Pavlichenko before, but no discussion of badass snipers would be complete without one of the most famous and effective practitioners of the craft – Soviet Lieutenant Vasily Zaitsev.
Vasily grew up in Siberia, where he spent his early days working as a humble shepherd. For those of you unfamiliar with Siberia, let me take a moment to paint you a little mental image. First, picture the most desolate, inhospitable, unforgiving hellhole of a wasteland you could possibly imagine. Then times that by eleven, bury the entire godforsaken terrain underneath about fifteen feet of solid ice, top that off with a foot-thick layer of wet snow, drop the temperature to a level so ball-chillingly cold that your urine freezes mid-stream, and populate the entire landscape with man-eating bears. Siberia is like the unholy bastard child of Mordor and the North Pole – a place so remote and bitter that it makes up 80% of Russia's landmass but only houses about 30% of its population. This vast disparity in size to population is generally because human beings aren't fucking programmed to survive in an environment where the yearly average temperature is five degrees below zero and goddamned bears and tigers bite your appendages off every time you step foot outside of your shitty fur hut. While living in this region for any period longer than fifteen minutes might make the average person beg for the sweet release of death, it pretty much goes without saying that the indigenous people who hail from this region of the world are definitely not pussies.
Siberia in the midst of a July heat wave.
Vasily left his home and joined the Soviet army to take part in what the USSR referred to as "The Great Patriotic War." He, like many Commie Pinko Russkies, was more than eager to defend his people and his civilization from the onslaught of the German Army and the douchebaggery of Adolph Hitler. Well, shit didn't go quite as planned for Junior Lieutenant Zaitsev - instead of valiantly going down in flames while machinegunning never-ending waves of fascist Nazi stormtroopers to death from the cupola of a badass T-34 tank, he soon found himself sitting on a boat in the fucking Baltic Sea doing bullshit paperwork for the Russian Navy. This bit goat nuts, and it wasn't long before he requested a transfer to front-line duty. He asked to be sent to assist in the tenacious defense of Stalingrad, a critical city along the Volga River and the site of an increasingly bloody conflict between the Nazis and the Soviets.
Just so that you can understand how fucking insane/badass it is that Zaitsev actually requested a transfer from the peaceful confines of his cushy desk job to the war-torn rubble of Stalingrad, here is a fun fact – the Battle of Stalingrad is the bloodiest single military action in human history. Roughly two million people were killed in the span of about eight months during the brutal fighting. This is like taking every single article posted on Wikipedia, transforming those articles into people, and then shooting them all in the face. And this guy volunteered to serve there. Of course, the Battle of Stalingrad was also the turning point of World War II, thanks in no small part to the balls-out actions of Vasily Zaitsev stealthily climbing through the blown-out buildings and rubble-strewn streets, eliminating high-ranking Nazi officers and NCOs one by one.
Upon his arrival in Stalingrad, Zaitsev grabbed his standard-issue Mosin-Nagant rifle and went to work as part of the Soviet 1047th Rifle Regiment. He made a name for himself pretty quickly, killing forty German soldiers over the course of ten days. Eventually he got his hands on a badass sniper rifle and started headshotting motherfuckers all over the place like an insane long-range version of "Whack-a-Mole", wreaking so much havoc that the Germans actually dispatched their most badass sniper out from Berlin to take Zaitsev down. Vasily responded by instant-messaging a chunk of hot lead into the guy's frontal lobe and stealing his telescopic sight as a trophy.
As the mad Russian killer's body count crept towards the triple digits, Soviet High Command decided that he should go to work training more snipers in the badass art of hunting the most dangerous game. He set up a makeshift school in the heart of downtown Stalingrad, teaching a new cadre male and female soldiers in sniper tactics and giving them plenty of on-the-job training. He also started banging one of his students, a babe named Tania Chernova, so that's something as well.
Zaitsev ran the school of hard knocks, where mistakes and slacking-off on your homework resulted in you getting your fucking balls shot off by a German machine gun. One time he gave his students orders to sit motionless in a destroyed warehouse all day and just watch the enemy through the scope of their rifles to study their movements and actions. Well, after a couple hours of this, Tania got impatient and opened fire on the German positions. The Nazis responded by shelling the warehouse with artillery and wiping out half of the entrenched snipers. She barely escaped with her life, and ran to tell Zaitsev what had happened. When he heard the story he said nothing, looked at her emotionlessly for a few seconds, and then fucking bitch-slapped her right in the face. Shit, if this guy was willing to do that to his own girlfriend, you can only imagine how tough he was on the students he wasn't getting it on with.
The rigorous training paid off however, and Zaitsev turned out a hardcore cadre of snipers who went out and inflicted death on the Germans, terrorizing them to the point where the mere act of raising one's head to survey the surroundings became a frightening prospect to many Nazi infantrymen. Vasily continued going nuts with his own rifle as well, recording a mind-destroyingly insane 242 confirmed kills in the span of four fucking months – including at least 11 German snipers. Tania notched another 80 dead bodies, and it's generally accepted that the snipers trained by Zaitsev went on to kill thousands of enemy soldiers and snipers. The defenders of Stalingrad held the line, and the German Army was repulsed. It was the furthest the Nazis would reach in their offensive against the Soviet Union.
After Stalingrad, Vasily Zaitsev continued fighting the Fascists, pushing them out of the heart o the Soviet Union and chasing them all the way back to Germany. He got kind of fucked up when he stepped on a landmine at one point, but while most people would have called it quits after having the ass blown out of them, Zaitsev got right back into action as soon as the doctors cleared him for service. He marched with the Red Army all the way to Berlin.
Lieutenant Vasily Zaitsev was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union – the highest award for bravery offered by the USSR. After the war he ran an engineering school and a factory in the Ukraine, and lived to be 76 years old. He was a national hero, an expert marksman, and a badass sniper who voluntarily put himself into the middle of the deadliest warzone the planet has ever seen -- and did his part to make the whole thing just a little deadlier for his enemies.
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