Women snipers in white leggings (Белые_колготки) from the Baltic nations is a propaganda legend from our eastern neighbour that has become almost an integral part of every Russian military conflict in the last quarter of a century.
The latest mention of women snipers from the Baltic nations was at the end of 2017, when they were apparently seen in the occupied areas of Donbass. Prior to that there were stories circulating that they were supposedly taking part in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict of 2014 as well as in the war in Southern Ossetia in 2008.
Although the legend has been around for a while and it is rumoured that women wearing white leggings took part in the war in Afghanistan. The first active use of the term was actually during the first Chechen war (1994-1996) as well as the second one. Apparently, during this war a young sniper in the Shamil Bassajev unit by the name of Jelena, code name „Lolita“ was captured. This arrest has never been confirmed by the Russian authorities but it is one of the first stories in which the „women in white leggings“ has taken hold.
They are also mentioned in stories of the massacre in Vilnius in January 1991, where they supposedly shot their own team members.
The legend of women snipers with the generic name of women in white leggings is decades old and has gained maturity and detail throughout that time. White leggings refers to blonde women fighters from the Baltic nations with amazon warrior type qualities, who are credited with biathlon skills and consequently are also skilled sharpshooters. They are considered brutal and cold-blooded, as they kill only male soldiers and conscripts and frequently aim in the crotch area of their victims. In Propaganda stories, they are seen as mercenaries earning from war conflicts who are always fighting against Russia.
The women in white leggings is on both the English– language and Russian-language Wikipedia websites, where there are collected overviews of the legend of their participation in various war conflicts.
Participation of women in war is not a surprise to anyone. The Soviet military has been separately training women snipers for a long time and whose history as of 1917 can be read at length here.
The legend is well established in Russian folklore and is re-used every once in a while. Today, the reason for its distribution could be the desire to use supposedly past confirmed stories in shaping Russian negative attitudes towards the Baltic nations.
Photo: Screenshot from the Moskva24 website.