Meet The ‘White Tights’ – The Mythical Spandex-Wearing Bombshells of the Chechen War

Russian soldiers fighting in Chechnya in 1999 and 2000 were convinced that they were being stalked by beautiful female sharpshooters.

Strange but true — Russian soldiers fighting in Chechnya in 1999 were convinced that they were being stalked by beautiful female biathlete sharpshooters.

“According to army folklore, rebel commanders recruited the female crack-shots from various Nordic biathlon teams.”

FOR MONTHS, foreign fighters from the Muslim world have been flooding into Syria to take part in the two-year-old civil war there. It’s a pattern common to a number of recent conflicts in the region — outside volunteers enlisting to fight for moral, ideological or religious reasons. But in some cases, it’s cash that’s the motivating factor. At least that’s what supposedly drove the elusive all-girl sniper teams that many Russian soldiers feared were helping enemy insurgents in the first and second Chechen Wars.

Dismissed by many as an invention of overly imaginative (and most likely sexually deprived) young male conscripts, the myth of the white tights was actually given … umm… legs by Moscow no less.

According to army folklore, rebel commanders recruited the female crack-shots from various Nordic biathlon teams. And like something out of James Bond movie, these hired guns were supposedly all fair-skinned, blonde beauties (a combination of Lindsey Vonn and Annie Oakley?). In fact, Russian soldiers dubbed the snipers Beliye Kolgotky or the “White Tights” in reference to the form-fitting spandex bodysuits worn by Olympic women skiers. Other variations of the story described how the shapely sharpshooters dispatched ill-fated soldiers while wearing make-up. Some reported that each of the women collected up to $2,000 from their Chechen employers for every confirmed kill.

Dismissed by many as an invention of overly imaginative (and most likely sexually deprived) young male conscripts, the myth of the white tights was actually given … umm… legs by Moscow no less. According to The Economist in 2000, Kremlin spokesperson Sergey Yastrzhembsky publicly cited official army reports that supposedly verified the existence of the white tights.

Red Army snipers from World War Two. (Image source: WikiCommons)

“They exist,” the British news magazine quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying. “Military intelligence says so. They don’t make mistakes.”

It was an assertion that quickly drew diplomatic protests from at least one Baltic state — and scorn from Russia’s own federation of biathletes.

At the heart of most myths (even highly sexualized adolescent ones) there is usually a kernel of truth. Author and veteran U.S. intelligence official has compiled a detailed study of the role of women fighters in the Chechen independence movement — Allah’s Angels. Published in 2010, the book details the contributions of women to the insurgency both on and off the battlefield.

Despite this, the Russian military claimed to have arrested at least one 22-year-old Ukrainian female combatant in 2000. For the record, she was taken wearing a Muslim head scarf and combat fatigues, not a Lycra body stocking. Two other women fighters, supposedly snipers (one Ukrainian and the other from the Baltic), were reportedly killed in fighting near Dagestan. To be sure, women are known to have played a significant role in the Chechen conflicts. Consider the Black Widow suicide bombers, many of which were spouses of fallen insurgents. At least 50 women were trained in this role and more than a dozen attacks involving the group were launched between 2000 and 2013.

But as the international media mulled the mystery of the white tights, a number of historians were quick to point out that legends of leggy female killers also gained currency among troops during both the Soviet war in Afghanistan as well as the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Some even traced the tale as far back as the Russian Civil War, many news sources have reported. Even more recently, tales of sexy assassins resurfaced among Russian troops deployed to Georgia in 2008.

However, despite the recurrence of the rumours, little in the way of compelling evidence has ever surfaced about the white tights in Chechnya or any other conflict.

(Editor’s Note: Just for the record, this is the strangest story we’ve covered so far at MHN.)

4 comments for “Meet The ‘White Tights’ – The Mythical Spandex-Wearing Bombshells of the Chechen War

  1. 4 September, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Allied troops in Gallipoli during WWI claimed that the Turks employed female snipers. None of the men who repeated this story had actually seen a female sniper: it was always a neighbouring unit that had encountered one.

    As far as I am aware, none of the stories about the alleged Turkish female snipers said anything about them being beautiful or sexily dressed.

  2. 4 September, 2013 at 7:55 am

    In WW2 the Red Army did itself employ female snipers quite extensively. Maybe the memory of this helped convince Soviet / Russian soldiers in later conflicts that their enemies were using such femmes fatales against them. But few, if any, of the WW2 Red Army ladies could have qualified as James Bond girls. Evidence? This photo of a female sniper unit from 1945: –
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lobkovskaya%C2%B4s_company.jpg

  3. 4 September, 2013 at 8:31 am

    My thoughts were similar to manxjack above. The story is strange but passes the interesting test.

  4. 4 September, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Interesting stuff…

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