(Note: I just learned last night that I have to go to court today, so instead of finishing up the article I was working on here's my favorite chapter from my largely-unpurchased book BADASS: Birth of a Legend.)
Anybody who's ever watched the crazy crap they put on the Winter Olympics networks at like two o'clock in the morning knows that women's biathlon is one of the most ridiculously sweetest sports ever invented. For those unhappy few of you who have never had the glorious, life-altering opportunity to watch this badass-athalon in action, it's basically just a bunch of tall, super-athletic Nordic and Eastern European superwomen sprinting through the snow on cross-country skis with rifles slung on their backs, then dropping down to a prone position every once in a while, somehow instantaneously managing to completely control their heavy breathing and exhaustion-induced hand shaking, and blasting a series of perfectly-aimed rifle rounds through the bullseye of a target a couple hundred meters away.
The much-feared Beliye Kolgotky (White Tights) are what you would get if you took a small detachment of these semi-mechanical sniper babes, dropped them right in the middle of a raging goddamned warzone and told them to completely flip out and just go nuts on anything with a ballsack. The fearsome product of an utterly-unsubstantiated urban legend that has been circulating through the ranks of Russian enlisted men for nearly four decades, many front-line troops swear that the White Tights are a company of elite blonde-haired nationalist biathletes from the Balkans or the Ukraine who abandoned their sport (presumably for it being "too pussy") and took on new careers as manslaughtering anti-Russian mercenaries. Gunning down Russian soldiers and officers without mercy. Rumors of these death-slinging sharpshooters are known to every man serving on the battlefront of Russia's post-Soviet wars.
The White Tights (also known as "White Stockings", or, alternatively, and I'm not making this up, "Bitch-Cuckoos") are so named for their customary battlefield dress – a tight-fitting white camouflage jumpsuit designed to help them remain unseen amidst the snow-covered wilderness of the Caucasus Mountains. The story goes that these women were master athletes and marksmen who harbored intense nationalistic pride for their homelands (usually the Ukraine, Latvia, or Estonia), and decided to dedicate their lives to shoving their fists up the USSR's rectum at every opportunity. Trained by elite foreign sniper instructors, equipped with top-of-the-line overseas weaponry, and motivated by unbending hatred of the Cyrillic alphabet and a seething desire to kill everyone in the world, these women now go around offering their particular services to the enemies of Russia. War stories of these white-clad black widows smoking chumps from concealed sniping positions have persisted through every Russian conflict since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s –they've even been cited as battling alongside the Georgians during the South Ossetia campaign as recently as 2008.
While I should mention that I typically wouldn't refer to any group of soldiers fighting for what they believe in as "villains", every time you hear about these women, it's by someone who was on the receiving end of their handiwork, and in the legends, the White Tights aren't seen as noble freedom fighters or revolutionaries – they are vicious, cold-blooded ice queens. Sitting completely motionless in bombed-out husks of old buildings for days at a time, these calculated killers lie in wait for their unsuspecting prey, deal an insta-kill headshot with all the effort it takes most of us to brush our teeth, and vanish into thin air even before the dead man's comrades hear the gunshot.
The Tights are primarily believed to target Russian officers, dealing them a silent death from a couple hundred yards away with one in the brain and throwing their troops into disarray. When a high-ranking military commander isn't available, these black widows particularly enjoy torturing and tormenting their victims like a cat playing with its prey before finishing it off. They much prefer putting the first round into their victim's kneecap, sending him crumpling to the earth. The next round goes into his right hand, preventing him from working his rifle, and then one more directly through the balls to dish out the maximum amount of pain possible. From there, she lets her prey sit there to die a slow painful death, bleeding out through three 7.62mm-sized holes in three very painful parts of his body. If any of the guy's friends come out to help, she drops them with one shot, sometimes trying to arrange it so that the corpses fall in a way where they spell out swear words. In addition to being motionless, deadly-accurate, and utterly undetectable without some kind of long-range thermal imaging, the Tights are also credited with packing top-of-the-line rifles with effective ranges that more than double the range of standard-issue Russian-built sniper systems, making them damn near unkillable once they've got your range zeroed into their scopes.
In another badass display of fear-inspiring awesomeness, the Tights are occasionally mentioned as being capable of tapping-into protected Russian radio frequencies, and using the channel to taunt their prey, telling the enemy soldiers exactly what they plan on doing to them. Metal Gear fans will immediately recognize it as the modus operandi of Sniper Wolf, the terrorist rebel warrior chick who captured Solid Snake, shot his girlfriend a bunch with a high-powered .50-caliber sniper rifle, and then died one of the more epic deaths in video game history. The common presumption is that the Slavic-accented, blonde-haired, white tights-clad sniper chick from the game was based off of this myth, but when you're talking about anything involving game designer Hideo Kojima, you can never really be sure what the hell is going on.
Of course, the idea of hardcore, mysterious sniper chicks isn't completely unprecedented. Aside from the fact that there were actually women snipers serving for the Soviet Union during World War II – women like Heroine of the Soviet Union Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who won the nation's top award for military bravery by notching 309 confirmed sniper kills during her career blasting Nazi skulls on the Eastern Front – these sorts of tales date all the way back to antiquity. The most famous was of course that of the Amazons. A fierce, mysterious society of asskicking warrior-women who allegedly lived in uncharted lands and only ventured back to civilization once a year so that they could hook up with guys (and hopefully produce female children as a result of their one-night stands), these militaristic slaughter-mongers excelled at archery, javelin-hucking, and cleaving people from head to groin with battle axes. The Amazons were similarly masters of ranged combat, and, perhaps even more interestingly, the Greek historian Herotodus places them as living "North of Scythia", which geographically places them roughly in present-day Ukraine – the same place the Russians suggest the White Tights originated. Also like the Tights, the Amazons were completely mysterious, only exist in hearsay accounts, and are widely believed to have been a figment of some guy's overactive imagination.
In terms of cultural anthropology, it also shouldn't be overlooked that these unseen killer women have blonde-haired and blue-eyes. While this may seem like a pretty standard physical description for an Eastern European woman to you or I, it's also the stereotypical appearance of the some of Russia's oldest and bitterest enemies. Sure, some Russians share these physical attributes, but between two World Wars and the Cold War, these blonde/blue women directly prey on deep-seeded fears instilled through a century and a half of conflict and tension against countries such as Germany and the United States. Taking these ultra-Aryan super-women (überwenchen?) and dropping them into a warzone alongside Russia's other greatest cultural enemy – radical extremist Muslim militants – is kind of like grabbing a bullhorn and telling a battalion of U.S. troops that they're going to war against Nazi-Commie Taliban Zombies who drive Japanese-made automobiles and hate barbecue cookouts.
Despite the fact that no reliable documented evidence has ever been uncovered confirming the existence of these super-shady death babes (the closest thing is one Kremlin spokesman being quoted as saying, "They exist. Military intelligence says so, and they don't make mistakes."), and no Western journalist has ever seen them, this urban myth is so pervasive that most front-line Russian troops implicitly believe in the existence of these women without question. The thought alone of some murderous assassin woman lying in wait for them to make one false step so they could take a gunshot to the balls is enough to inspire belief. To this day, no one knows the truth behind the legends, a detail some folks chalk up to the belief that these women are never captured alive. The theory is that they realize that survival and capture is not an option for them (there have been unconfirmed, presumably-propaganda reports of captured women being drawn-and-quartered by APCs for their suspected involvement in the terror-inspiring elite sniper cadre), and in response they carry a sidearm to put one in the dome if they think there's a chance of being taken alive.
In the end, there are really only two explanations – the White Tights are either really good, or they're non-existent.