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"Felled by your gun, felled by your gun ...."
January 12, 2014 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper
"Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper credited with 309 kills—and an advocate for women's rights. On a U.S. tour in 1942, she found a friend in the first lady." posted by the man of twists and turns (31 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is ... odd: she killed two Romanians and she didn't count them, “because they were test shots.” She was accepted into the army on the strength of that audition, but she was concerned about her ability to shoot human beings.

She must have really, really, disliked Romanians.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:19 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


The New York Times dubbed her the “Girl Sniper,” and other newspapers observed that she “wore no lip rouge, or makeup of any kind,” and that “there isn’t much style to her olive-green uniform.”
Man, we had real journalism back in the day!
posted by ignignokt at 3:48 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]


As much as I love feminism and hate nazis, murder worship still rubs me the wrong way.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:52 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]


I recall her being mentioned in this thread about the Nachthexen, Soviet women glider pilots in WWII. Anyone who is concerned that women can't pull their weight in combat should read about these soldiers.
posted by TedW at 4:02 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Killing soldiers who have invaded your country in order to exterminate most of the population and keep the rest as slaves is not murder.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:06 PM on January 12 [31 favorites]


As much as I love feminism and hate nazis, murder worship still rubs me the wrong way.

QFT
posted by nevercalm at 4:46 PM on January 12


If the same Russian soldier fought in Finland, Poland, Moscow, Leningrad, the Ukraine, and Germany, which bits are murder and which arent? Is it Murder, Murder, Not Murder, Murder, Not Murder, Not Murder? Or Murder, Murder, Not Murder, Not Murder, Not Murder, Murder? Or what?

Things are complicated.
posted by Justinian at 4:48 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


Justinian: "If the same Russian soldier fought in Finland, Poland, Moscow, Leningrad, the Ukraine, and Germany, which bits are murder and which arent? Is it Murder, Murder, Not Murder, Murder, Not Murder, Not Murder? Or Murder, Murder, Not Murder, Not Murder, Not Murder, Murder? Or what?

Things are complicated.
"

If I'm shooting you through a scope, it's murder.

Whether it's justifiable or not is a completely different argument.
posted by Sphinx at 5:17 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Hoorah for mittens!
posted by ovvl at 5:24 PM on January 12


Things are not always that complicated, even when they seem to have a bunch of moving parts.

Murder is a legal concept. Killing is a broader verb regarding the same act. I can sit in a tree and shoot someone in the head in combat and get awarded a decoration for it. I don't have to prove that my target was an immediate threat to me or anyone else. Under many situations, the target doesn't even have to be armed. If I do this (sit in a tree and shoot people) at the local high-school I get sent to prison, assuming I survive my arrest. Murder during combat operations is possible, and it's usually well-defined under military law. The penalty is severe (see UCMJ for details).

Anyhow, the difference is legal, not moral. Most of the arguments I hear about conduct during war are not very well thought out.

Pavlichenko was a hero by (pretty much) any definition of the word.

(BTW Those two Romanians she shot were part of an invading Nazi army. The Nazis, you may remember, killed nearly 30 million of her country's people by the time it was over.)
posted by mule98J at 5:30 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]


BTW Those two Romanians she shot were part of an invading Nazi army.

True enough, but it's worth considering why they were taking part.

It's involved (all the pre-war back office international maneuverings were involved), but essentially Russia put the strong arm on Romania in June/July of 1940 and annexed a good deal of territory in consequence. This was largely overshadowed in NYTimes and newsreels by the invasion of France, and of course occurred well before the Axis invasion of Russia. But you can see why Romanians might be taking sides with the devil they knew. They and a whole bunch of other countries stuck between the Germany and Russia (qv comments surrounding the mittens link).

More about the Romanian situation in 1940 can be read here (pdf).
posted by IndigoJones at 5:35 PM on January 12


I wasn't specifically talking about Pavlichenko. It sounds like her entire career was spent wasting invading Nazis. I was talking about the Red Army in general, in which the exact same soldiers were both invading aggressors and defending heroes depending on which front they were currently assigned.
posted by Justinian at 5:36 PM on January 12


Yeah, the Romanians were in a difficult position. Kind of like the Finns.
posted by Justinian at 5:45 PM on January 12


Is the killing of invading Nazis really murder? Or is it more like a regulatory offense?
posted by hal_c_on at 7:59 PM on January 12


Murder is a legal term; killing is a descriptive one. None of her acts were murder, because they were carried out under cover of recognised law. I wasn't surprised that she killed the Romanians; just that she treated their deaths so much more lightly than her subsequent victims.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:05 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I agree that her acts weren't murder (though acts by others in the Red Army almost certainly were) but I strongly disagree that acts carried out under cover of law can't be murder. I don't think I'd get much pushback for calling murder many of the atrocities the Nazis committed despite a lot of them being carried out under the cover of recognized law.

I'm sure you could handwave something about laws which make atrocities legal not being real laws but that's pure No True Scotsman. If there is a law which calls it legal for me to kill you and your family for no reason except that I feel like it I'm perfectly okay with calling that murder even if it is legal.
posted by Justinian at 8:33 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


TL;DR - I would argue that murder is both a legal and a moral term rather than purely a legal one as others have claimed.
posted by Justinian at 8:34 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Justinian: A lot of Nazis made just that argument, which is why the Allies developed the somewhat-shaky idea that there are national laws that are illegal, because they are trumped by international law. So it's not really "no true Scotsman", but rather that there's a sort of dimly-perceived Über-law against which other laws can be tested.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:40 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


So one commenter is squicked out and we're debating semantics instead of talking about this piece of history? Are we going to debate whether Truman should have dropped The Bomb here too?

Good or bad, Mrs. Roosevelt and Pavlechenko are a part of history, which is the only point I see this post making.
posted by dry white toast at 11:34 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


That's what metafilter is all about, Toast……..semantics and riding the derails
posted by C.A.S. at 12:57 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


A soldier killing other soldiers in a war isn't murder, but swooning over kill counts like they are high scores is pretty crass.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:34 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


So... how is this not a movie? It's both a story of female friendship and a hard-bitten sniper epic.

It's like Waiting to Inhale.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:43 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


So one commenter is squicked out and we're debating semantics instead of talking about this piece of history? Are we going to debate whether Truman should have dropped The Bomb here too?

Really. Next thing you know is some busybody feminist is going to say something like "If this sniper was a man we wouldn't be calling him a murderer. They'd make a heroic movie about him."
posted by three blind mice at 6:49 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


good preemption there TBM, keep your game face on, gotta keep those on-topic comments off the field next quarter
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:18 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


A soldier killing other soldiers in a war isn't murder, but swooning over kill counts like they are high scores is pretty crass.

Dude, Lyudmila Pavlichenko's frag rate was 309! Clearly a spawn camper.
posted by Justinian at 12:18 PM on January 13


It sounds like her entire career was spent wasting invading Nazis.

Do not conflate Wehrmacht with Nazis.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:21 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


They were the armed forces of Nazi Germany. Or "Nazis" for short.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Justinian: "I wasn't specifically talking about Pavlichenko. It sounds like her entire career was spent wasting invading Nazis. I was talking about the Red Army in general, in which the exact same soldiers were both invading aggressors and defending heroes depending on which front they were currently assigned."

So... you were ignoring the focus of this FPP, and commenting on something else entirely? Gotcha.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:09 PM on January 14


No, I was participating in a tangent which developed in the thread. Which tends to happen on Metafilter, as in other places.
posted by Justinian at 5:47 PM on January 14


I think that "would people respond the same way about a male Russian sniper who killed 309 Germans (and two Romanians)" is one of those basically unanswerable questions - or rather, a question that people can answer confidently, but which is hard to support with evidence because two instances of the same thread but with reversed genders are unlikely to exist simultaneously under identical conditions.

With that having been said, while it's certainly possible to abhor war, and to abhor the act of killing - abhoring both of those seems very sensible, in fact! - it does sort of feel like shooting only military personnel, in a manner which reduces the risk of civilian casualties to effectively zero, while targeting enemies who are invading your country (and are also, PS, the military representatives of Nazi Germany) clears some pretty high bars for when it is at least according to conventional morality justifiable to take lives.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:30 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Snipers are kind of squicky, but they aren't considered to be in the same category as cluster bombs or chemical weapons. I can't help but feel that much of the discussion here is an updating of "...but she doesn't wear lipstick and stylish uniforms!"
posted by QIbHom at 10:43 AM on January 16


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