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Okhlopkov: Heart of a Giant

Sniper Fyodor Okhlopkov

Fyodor Matveyevich Okhlopkov [Russian: Фёдор Матве́евич Охло́пков] (1908–1968) was a Soviet Army sniper during World War II, credited with over 429 kills. An ethnic Yakut, Okhlopkov was born in the village of Krest-Khaldzhay, Tomponsky district, Sakha Republic, Siberian Czarist Russia.

Fyodor Okhlopkov was born on March 2, 1908 in north-central Siberia. He worked at a governmental farm as a machine operator, hunter, and gold miner. In 1941, when the war against Nazi Germany broke out, Okhlopkov and his brother joined the army, but his brother was soon killed in combat. Okhlopkov was at first a machine-gunner, then commander of a sub-machine gun group, and in October 1942 he became a sniper.

Okhlopkov is officially credited with 429 kills. For comparison, the far more famous Vasily Zaytsev is estimated to have killed about 400 people. Okhlopkov is regarded as the #7 greatest sniper of all WWII (#1 is Finnish Simo “Белая Смерть” Häyhä with 542 confirmed kills).

Of course, it is very difficult to compare snipers like this, since their main interest was not to keep tally of exactly how many enemy soldiers they killed, and it would have been suicidal to go check each fallen body to see if they had really died. Thus sniper tallies are more of a propaganda statistic.

Anyway, Okhlopkov was hailed as one of the greatest snipers in the Soviet Army. The military newspaper Defender of the Fatherland wrote about him during the war: “He has the keen eye of a hunter, the hard hand of a miner, and a big, warm heart.”

However, bureaucrats did not usually pay much attention to the contributions of aboriginal people from remote republics. (Okhlopkov was of Yakut-Asiatic ancestry.) After the war, Okhlopkov quietly went back to Siberia to work at a governmental farm.

But a veterans group petitioned the government, and in 1965 Okhlopkov was finally made a Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded an Order of Lenin, on the 20th anniversary of the end of World War 2. Only three years later, Okhlopkov died at the age of 60. In 1974, a mercantile cargo ship was named in his honor.

“The difficulty in understanding the Russian is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinaman or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them, except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other Asiatic characteristics, the Russians have no regard for human life and is an all-out son of a bitch, barbarian, and chronic drunk,” said General George Patton in 1945.

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