A military sniper’s effectiveness can be as much about their ability to conceal their location and to move without detection as it is about hitting targets at long range in a precise manner.
These Russian snipers based in Tajikistan seem to be doing all the right things, donning ghillie suits and creeping into positions that allow them clear shots on targets. Yet the bright silver scopes attached to their SVDK sniper rifles seem like the last piece of kit a sniper would choose for concealed operations.
Snipers play a strong role in Russian military heritage and lore. Their work during the Great Patriotic War (World War II, in Russian parlance) elevated the job to near-mythical proportions. Vasily Zaytsev was given the title "Hero of the Soviet Union" for his efforts during the war, during which he took down hundreds of German troops—including many opposing snipers. The movie Enemy at the Gates depicts Zaytsev’s counter-sniper battle with a German sniper instructor, although exactly how accurate the story is remains debatable. In all, Russian snipers were by far the most deadly and prolific snipers of World War II.
The elevation of snipers in then-communist Russian culture is interesting, as it highlights the individual soldier, not the collective team. It is not a uniquely Russian phenomenon, though. In the U.S., snipers have also been showcased and sensationalized to a great degree. This makes more sense culturally, as America’s focus on individualism is more suited to idealizing a lone highly-trained sharpshooter heading into enemy territory to single-handedly take on the bad guys. And this is far from a Cold War fluke; Hollywood blockbusters like Shooter and American Sniper continue to prove the sniper myth remains of interest to Americans.
As time has passed and technology has advanced, modern snipers now have a whole slew of gadgetry available to them that can help them accomplish their missions. Even guided bullets will likely be an operational tool in the not-so-distant future. But in spite of all this tech, for now, the sniper’s mission is still largely based around the individual and his or her rifle. These two things need to be optimized above all else. So it is pretty sad to see Russian snipers decked out in camouflage...while toting bright silver optics.
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