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"There Is No Land Beyond the Volga..."

Pictured: The Commander of the 62nd Army, Lieutenant General Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov (left) and member of the military council, Lieutenant General Kuzma Akimovich Gurov, during a conversation with the legendary sniper V.G. Zaitsev where he examines Zaitsev’s rifle. In the background is an officer for assignments with a member of the Military Council of the 62nd Army, Major Vasily Petrovich Samsonov. Stalingrad, 1943.

One of the most well-known heroes from the Battle for Stalingrad, famous sniper Vasily Grigorievich Zaitsev, is credited with coining the phrase, “There is no land for us beyond the Volga.” This declaration became a slogan for the 62nd Army, motivating soldiers to fight to the death to defend the besieged city. During the battle, Zaitsev proved his skill as a deadly sniper, gaining the attention of the Commander of the 62nd Army, General Chuikov, among others.

Former Arguments and Facts journalist Ekaterina Goryacheva visited Zaitsev’s widow, Zinaida Sergeevna Zaitseva, in Kyiv in 2005 when an agreement was reached to relocate the sniper’s remains to be buried with honor at Mamev Kurgan in Volgograd. During her interview with Goryacheva, Zinaida shared anecdotes about the famous sniper’s relationship with Marshal Chuikov during the defense of Stalingrad and beyond:

“When little Vasya asked his hunter grandfather to shoot with a rifle, he made him a bow and said: once you learn to hit a squirrel in the eye with it, you will get a gun. The grandson turned out to be capable and within a few days received a rifle, from which he later skillfully fired at wolves. After all, he spent a whole month shooting from an ordinary rifle in Stalingrad. He killed so many fascists that rumors reached Chuikov: ‘Well, bring me this Zaitsev.’ He looked at him and... handed him a real sniper rifle...


Zaitsev found out about his being awarded the title of Hero [of the Soviet Union] by accident. When he was blown up by a mine and went blind, he was sent to Moscow. An operation was successfully completed. Somehow he was lying in the ward with other fighters, and on the radio they announced that ‘Vasily Grigorievich Zaitsev was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.’ He completely ignored this, and a comrade in the ward jumps up to him and pats him on the shoulder: ‘Vaska, they gave you a Hero [star]!’


Vasily Zaitsev’s recommendation for Hero of the Soviet Union,

signed by Generals Chuikov and Gurov (near the top of the left-hand document)

in December 1942 (from Volgograd archives).


After the hospital, he returned to Chuikov again. Vasily Grigorievich had a very reverent relationship with him, almost brotherly, although at the front Chuikov beat Zaitsev with a stick a couple of times. Soviet propaganda constantly idealized our army commanders and front-line life. But the same Chuikov was of simple peasant blood, he could tell his mother and shout [meaning that he swore with choice obscenities when communicating with people – MK]. There was everything at the front—they loved to party and drink more than the front-line 100 grams, for which Chuikov could beat him. Anyone!


Few people know that until the age of 75, Vasily Grigorievich shot as skillfully as he did during the Battle of Stalingrad. I remember once they invited him to evaluate the training of young snipers. When they fired back, the commander said: ‘Well, Vasily Grigorievich, shake off the old days.’ Zaitsev takes the rifle, and all three bullets hit the bull's eye.”


Zinaida Zaitseva at her husband’s grave in Kyiv, 2005

(Photo courtesy of Ekaterina Goryacheva)



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