Aliya Moldagulova was a sniper during World War II. She is a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Moldagulova was born in 1925 in Bulak, Kazakhstan. She lost her parents at a young age. Her mother had been shot in 1931 by a guard patrolling potato fields, her father Nurmukhambet Sarkulov was a victim of the stalinist regime. Moldagulova assumed her mother’s maiden name and was taken in by her Uncle Abubakir Moldagulov who worked for the railway.
Moldagulova spent eight years in Alma-Ata until, in 1935 her Uncle enrolled at the Military transport academy in Moscow and she moved with his family, first to Moscow and later to Leningrad. The family only had a small apartment and because of this Moldagulova was sent to a children’s home at the age of 14. She attended Leningrad school number 9 (now number 140). In June 1941 at the beginning of Worl War II her Uncle and his family were evacuated, leaving Moldagulova behind at her request.
In September 1941 the blockade of Leningrad began and Moldagulova became a rooftop lookout for the children’s home. In March of the next year, the children’s home was evacuated to Vyatsk village of Yaroslavl region. Moldagulova initially intended to become a pilot, and won a scholarship to attend the Rybinsk Aviatechnical School in October 1942 but only spent three months there before filing a waiver to join the Red Army. In May 1943, after repeatedly requesting to be sent for active duty she enrolled at the Moscow Central sniper training school for women where she was trained. She graduated in July and despite being asked to stay on as an instructor due to the lasting effects of malnourishment during the blockade, she chose active duty.
Moldagulova was sent to the North-Western Front where she joined the 54th Infantry Brigade (22th Army, 2nd Baltic Front). She made her first two ‘kills’ on her second day there. Moldagulova participated in battles for the liberation of towns and villages of the Pskov region at the end of 1943 to 1944. In January 1944 her brigade ambushed Germans at the Novosokolniki—Dno railway, they had been ordered to capture that section of railway. During the fighting, she realised that her commander was missing and took charge, shouting ‘forward for the motherland’ and leading the whole battalion into the German tranches. It is said that she disabled a machine gun using a hand grenade.
Moldagulova was hit by a land mine blast during hand-to-hand combat but only gained a splinter in her hand. She fought on, but was fatally wounded and died on January 14th, 1944. She had killed 91 German soldiers.
Moldagulova was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union as well as the Order of Lenin. In 1955, on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II Kazakhstan issued a stamp dedicated to Aliya Moldagulova. In 1997 a monument was erected in her name in Astana Square.