'I did not regard myself as a slacker. Even in childhood I taught myself to carry out tasks entrusted conscientiously and carefully. In war, it is no secret that the casual don't survive'.
Yevgeni Nikolaev was one of Russia’s leading snipers of World War II and his memoir provides and unparalleled account of front-line action in crucial theaters of war. Nikolaev is credited with a remarkable 324 kills and his wartime service included time in the siege of Leningrad in 1941/1942.
His memoir is not a neutral, apolitical account. Far from it. Nikolaev asserts, for example, that Finland attacked Russia. As a member of the NKVD, it is not surprising that his memoir full of historical misinterpretation and justification of the agency’s actions.
Equally, Nikoalev is dismissive of his Nazi opponents. On several occasions, he discusses his Nazi counterparts as bandits and scum, and implores the reader to “take a look, fellows, at the beast of a bastard I’ve laid low”.
In vivid, arresting recollections he paints his actions in a saintly heroic light. He describes the comfort of the German foxholes, wired with telephone connections, relative to the Russians who fasted without food or water awaiting the moment for a perfect shot. He claims the Russian soldier was a moral warrior, killing only with head or heart shots.
In addition to describing details of his kills, Nikolaev explains how his life was saved when an explosive rifle bullet struck a watch that he kept in his jacket pocket. His life was saved by a surgeon who extracted all the watch parts.