The impact of the Afghan War on soviet soldiers.

Defense of the Socialist Motherland is the sacred duty of every citizen
of the USSR.

Article 62, Soviet 1977 Constitution

Soviet invasion in Afghanistan started in December 1979, when the first
military troops crossed the Afghan border. Only at the time of
‘perestroyka’, in the year 1988, Gorbachov, the leader of Politburo —
start the process of withdrawing military troops from the territory of
Afghanistan. Between 1979 and 1988, about 15,000 soldiers were killed,
and many others were wounded. Gorbachov wanted to stop that war. He
stopped it as a historical fact. But did he stop that war inside the
hearts of thousands of veterans who came back to their homes? Did he
prevent the negative impact of that war on soldiers’ lives? The answer
is simple — no. My essay will give evidence in support of this opinion.

The Afghan War changed many people’s lives in the USSR. Still, in
present-day Russia, the consequences of that war are appeared. The
greatest impact of the Afghan War can be seen on the people who were
there — soldiers who had to serve in Afghanistan and fulfill their
‘international duty’. The war for which there was no need, had destroyed
many soldiers’ lives. Fifteen thousand of them had been killed, and many
others had been injured, some having become invalids, unneeded to the
government who had sent them to that war, and to the people who were not
in the war. Every single young man who went to Afghanistan continued his
life differently from the people who had never been there. The effect
was due not merely to a war, but to the whole system of the ex-USSR. In
my essay I will try to describe both of these effects on soldiers’
lives.

The new life for the eighteen year old boys began when they graduated
from high school. Some of them became recruits during the spring draft,
others during the fall draft. Recruits bound for Afghanistan would
receive 8-10 weeks’ training before being sent to their units. From that
moment they became subject to the subordination of officers through the
formal channels of authority, and the informal of dedovshina
(discrimination by the older soldiers). Newcomers were kept in line,
while being beaten. This continued until the new soldiers agreed to
acquiesce. That was just the beginning of soldiers’ lives, being sent to
the war they all experienced in very different ways. The impact of
fighting and the experience of killing, dedovshina, an alien military
institution, and an alien land changed the characters and lives of the
soldiers before they returned home. ‘We were in an alien land. And why
were we there? To this day, for some, it doesn’t matter.’

War in Afghanistan was not exclusively a male war. Many of the women
who volunteered to served in Afghanistan were nurses, others filled a
variety of support or nurture roles (as cooks, for example). The rest
were involved in paperwork or communication. For these in Afghanistan
women the main problem became men. They attracted soldiers in
Afghanistan not only as sex objects but also as mother figures. Often
women were raped by soldiers who had been sent to Afghanistan instead of
going to prison. Thus in the Soviet patriarchal society the belief that
women who served in Afghanistan were whores or prostitutes took root.
Here, a woman who had served in Afghanistan describes her feelings:

‘You fulfilled your international duty in a bed’… My mother proudly
announced to her friends: ‘My daughter was in Afghanistan.’ My naive
mother! I want to write to her: ‘Mother, be quiet or you’ll hear people
say your daughter is a prostitute.’

After coming home, soldiers organized the form of a community that they
had been accustomed to in Afghanistan, with their own customs and
jargon. Coming back to normal life was enormously difficult for them,
because of the reasons that I will explain in next paragraph. Thus, from
the beginning they separated themselves from the surrounding society.
Many veterans became members of Mafia groups. The lives of the returning
soldiers differed from each other, but on one point it was the same for
every veteran: they could not live normal lives in society, as they
would have without having experienced the war. In the words of a veteran
who had served in Afghanistan: ‘You never really come home.’

One of the main reason for veterans holding back from society was that
civilians met soldiers coming back to homes without honor. Forty-six
percent of civilians said that the Afghan war was a Russian national
shame, and only 6% of them said that they were proud of their soldiers
who had fulfilled their international duty in Afghanistan. Veterans felt
that their efforts and endurance had not been wholly in vain. Often
veterans became the object of criticism by media and public opinion.
People thought that the war had made warriors of the men, and, in fear,
kept away from veterans. The media blamed them — not the government —
for taking part in the war and partly for losing it. Thus, after coming
back, soldiers started to look with new eyes upon the society that had
sent them to their death. While they had been in Afghanistan, the public
and media had expressed contempt for the soldiers; after they returned,
this sentiment only increased.

Disrespect to the people and to the governmental system became common
among soldiers who were experiencing discrimination after having
fulfilled their duty. This situation galvanized potential men, unhappy
with their political system into striking. During the putsch of 1991,
many veterans supported Mayor Sobchak, who supported the putsch against
the new democratic government in Leningrad.

The long-term impact, and one of the most terrible consequences of the
Afghan War, was the addiction of soldiers to alcohol and drugs. Death,
drinking, and drugs became part of the veterans’ lives forever. Drugs
were essential to the survival of the soldiers. Drugs helped them to
carry 40 kilos of ammunition up and down the mountains, to overcome
depression after their friends’ deaths, to prevail over the fear of
death. Drugs and alcohol became the usual procedure of self-medication
when other options were denied. The abuse of drugs created a generation
of drug and alcohol addicts. According to the official reports of the
Russian Department of Health Services, 40 millions medically certified
alcoholics in 1985 were registered. Consumption of alcohol had increased
20,4% from its consumption in 1950-79. If these were official reports
then it is possible that they were only a part of truth, and another
part is like the bottom part of an iceberg — it cannot be predicted.

There wasn’t a single person among us who did not try drugs in
Afghanistan. You needed relaxation there, or you went out of your mind.

Veteran of Afghan War

Coming back home, veterans found employment in many different fields,
from driving buses to banking. But most of them started to work on the
field which was closest to what they had done in Afghanistan. Emergency
services such as the firemen, militia and rescue departments had a
shortage of workers at that time and many of the Afghan veterans
continued to work there. Finding a job was one of the privileges which
the government gave to the veterans. This was maybe the only privilege
which was really fulfilled. But this was a strategic maneuver for the
Soviet government: to prevent veterans from assuming employment in the
Union of Afghan War Veterans Society. The government was afraid of this
Union because it united the most dangerous and prepared warriors in
Russia.

Another major impact of the Afghan war on soldiers lives’ was injuries
and mental disorders. ‘Most of us came home. Only we all came home
differently. Some of us on crutches, some of us with gray hair, many in
zinc coffins.’ Although a medical service was established on a modern
and highly effective level ( 93% of the troops received initial medical
aid within 30 minutes and the attention of a specialized doctor within
six hours), many soldiers became invalids during the war. Fifty thousand
soldiers were wounded in action, of whom 11,371 became invalids and were
unable to return to work, while 1,479 veterans received the most serious
category of disability. These veterans were unable to continue working
and leading normal lives. These circumstances forced them to live on the
earnings of their family members and on the governments’ invalid
benefit. But even these benefits were paid inconstantly and were
extremely low. One of the privileges which Afghanistan veterans received
was a flat in a newly built house. In the Soviet Russian system, which
recognized no private ownership of property, every single citizen had to
wait in a line of thousands of people before getting a flat. Afghanistan
veterans were put at the beginning of that line, but corruption in the
Russian bureaucracy had widened the process of granting new flats to the
invalids and veterans. Thus when the free market economy was established
in Russia and all the lines for the flats were canceled, people had to
buy them with their own money, and many veterans and invalids of the
Afghan War remained without their flats. Thus the bureaucratic system in
Russia had left most of the veterans without their privileges and
benefits.

One mother wrote in the letter to Politburo ‘Why did you ruin my son,
why did you spoil his mind and his soul?’. While physical disability was
relatively easy to prove and to cure, the psychological damage was far
more complicated to diagnosis and to treat. Modern counter-insurgency
wars involve a particularly high incidence of psychological damage;
generally Post-Traumatic stress disorders, symptoms which include
flashbacks, emotional numbness, withdrawal, jumpy hyperalertness or
over-compensatory extroversion. This was caused partly because of the
critical stresses of combat and injury. In most cases mental disorders
were caused by unclear front-line zones. Soldiers had experienced mostly
‘road war’ without clear front-line meant that no place was safe.
Soldiers were always ready for the battle alarm; there was no time to
rest. ‘Knowing their terrain well, the resistance fighters can move with
ease at night and night vision equipment would enable them to train
accurately their weapons on enemy targets…’ And how could soldiers
relax, knowing that an unguided rocket could penetrate almost all
security perimeters, that even a ten year old boy could carry and use a
pistol or a grenade? One veteran recalled:

…the leading vehicle broke down. The driver got out and lifted the
bonnet — and the boy, about ten years old, rushed out and stabbed him in
the back… We turned the boy into a sieve.

Veteran of Afghan War

Another historical testament to that violence was found in a different
source:

‘…in early May 1981 they killed a number of children in the village
of Kalakan, the stronghold of SAMA. The Russian soldiers were stated to
have said, ‘When the children grow up they take up arms against us’…’

How can people who killed a ten year old boy live normally after coming
back to the motherland? Without safe place, restless — these
circumstances may cause a healthy adult to become mentally imbalanced.
What can it do to nineteen year old boys, who had been drafted just
after finishing their school and who had not seen life yet? They can
easily lose their minds. But psychological disorders became classified
adequately to the status of invalid only later. Yet, no category of
invalidity was given to that disability. Thus, mentally sick veterans
had to live almost entirely on support from friends and family. In this
way the government ignored the impact of the war, which was started by
its decree, on soldiers’ lives.

In a normal society the killing of another man is not permitted;
killers receive the death penalty. During the war this situation had
been changed and in Afghanistan soldiers had received a license to kill
their enemies, who were also human beings. With a machine-gun soldiers
received the power of life and death and the feeling of authority to do
what they wished became common among Russian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Problems ensued when soldiers were unable to overcome that feeling once
they has left their guns behind. Some soldiers, unable to square the
demands of war with the demands of their conscience, were stamped with
amorality. Others became compulsively violent. ‘…they killed
thirty-one villages, slaying them inside mosques, in lanes, or inside
their homes.’ These circumstances created another impact of the Afghan
War. By the end of 1989, about 3,000 veterans were in prisons for
criminal offenses, while another 2,540 soldiers were imprisoned for
crimes committed while serving in Afghanistan. Thus the Afghan War
created criminals who were trained to kill. Among the crimes committed
by soldiers in Afghanistan, the most common were hooliganism 12,6%, rape
11,8%, theft of personal property 12,4%, robbery 11,9% and murder 8,4%
(these percentages were taken from the total number of 2,540 soldiers
convicted of crime).

Thus the war had affected all of the soldiers who experienced it. Some
became criminals, others became invalids without any actual support from
the government. The rest had to face the psychological impact of the
war, which was called as ‘afghan syndrome’ by the media. Most of these
people decided to dedicate their lives to helping the victims of the
Afghan War. In Leningrad, several organizations were created with the
aim to aid physical and psychological victims of the war. LAVVA
(Leningrad Association of Veterans of the War in Afghanistan), ‘K
sovesti’ Leningrad Information-Publication Organization, ‘Modul’
Cultural-Leisure Center for Veterans of the Foreign War Association —
these are just a few of many organizations created throughout the USSR.
Left and unsupported by the government, these organizations aimed to
provide extra facilities for the treatment of injured veterans, to
compensate veterans fully or partly for the expenses of necessary
treatment, to develop sports for invalid and to force the government to
support the invalids’ rights.

Thus the experience of the Afghan War had a twofold impact on soldiers’
lives: first, the impact of the war itself and second, the impact of
returning to a peaceful life after the war. In the words of one veteran:

What did the war give to us? Thousands of mothers who lost sons,
thousands of cripples, thousands of torn-up lives.

While in Afghanistan, soldiers experienced discrimination by the older
soldiers and by the officers. The foreign land, the experience of
fighting, the death of friends, the highly difficult conditions of
living, and the absence of a stimulus to fighting made most of the
soldiers addicted to drugs and alcohol. Drugs became an easy source of
relaxation because Afghanistan is one of the biggest suppliers of
marijuana on the black market.

The term ‘lost generation’ can be applied towards the veterans of the
Afghan War. This war had created a generation of alcoholics and drug
addicts. It also made many young people invalids unable to work and to
earn money on their own. The other ‘creation’ of the war in Afghanistan
was the increased rate of violence and immoral behavior among soldiers
and veterans of the war. These circumstances had made criminals out of
19 year old boys. Discrimination by the public opinion and media, and
the unwillingness of the government to help victims of the war even
increased the number of criminals, alcoholics and drug addicts among the
veterans of the Afghan war.

Footnotes:

PAGE

PAGE 1

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam (San Francisco: Mercury
House, 1992), p.156.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War (London:
Bookcraft (Bath) Ltd., Midsomer Norton, 1995), p.35.

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam , p.64.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.41.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.41.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.45.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.47.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.51.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.52.

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam , p.164.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.68.

Diego Cordovez, Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, Inc., 1995), p.247.

Nasir Shansab, Soviet Expansion in the Third World (Maryland: Silver
Spring, 1986), p.171.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.69.

M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan (Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1995), p.241.

M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan , p.241.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.71.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.72.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.81.

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam , p.164.

Evaluation of the historical sources:

The book Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War by Mark Galeotti were
used a number of materials written both in English and in Russian.
Mostly the references I have used were taken by the author from
articles from newspapers with the interviewees of veterans. I count this
source of information as reliable because the author showed the point of
view on the Afghan War of both veterans of Soviet military forces and
from the United States, which supported Afghanistan during that war.

Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam was written by a Soviet veteran who served
in Afghanistan for two years. Of course he supported the Soviet’s
military forces, so I used this source only to show the general mood of
soldiers during the Afghan War. The author’s personal opinion was taken
for this.

Afghanistan, by Hassan Hakar, showed the Afghan War from the Afghan
side. This source was predisposed against the Soviets, so I used it to
show the other side of soldiers’ characters — the violence and murders
of the civilian population of Afghanistan. This source would be not
reliable if the facts were not proven by the other sources I used.

Out of Afghanistan, by Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, was
interesting because it supported both sides of the Afghan War with
historical facts and documents. The book’s facts were based on official
documents of both the Soviet and the Afghan governments. This source
gave me a whole, truthful picture of what happened in Afghanistan.
According to this information I built my opinion of what was the real
impact of the Afghan War on the personal lives of soldiers while they
were serving in Afghanistan.

Soviet Expansion in the Third World by Nasir Shansab, whose nationality
is afghan, was useful because showed the tragedy of afghan people
without insulting the Soviet military forces. It also showed the Afghan
army’s dangerous force of resistance.

All these books after critical analysis gave me the information needed
for my essay.

Bibliography:

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam (San Francisco: Mercury
House, 1992)

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War (London:
Bookcraft (Bath) Ltd., Midsomer Norton, 1995)

M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan (Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1995)

Nasir Shansab, Soviet Expansion in the Third World (Maryland: Silver
Spring, 1986)

Diego Cordovez, Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, Inc., 1995)

Похожие записи

The impact of the Afghan War on soviet soldiers.

Defense of the Socialist Motherland is the sacred duty of every citizen
of the USSR.

Article 62, Soviet 1977 Constitution

Soviet invasion in Afghanistan started in December 1979, when the first
military troops crossed the Afghan border. Only at the time of
‘perestroyka’, in the year 1988, Gorbachov, the leader of Politburo —
start the process of withdrawing military troops from the territory of
Afghanistan. Between 1979 and 1988, about 15,000 soldiers were killed,
and many others were wounded. Gorbachov wanted to stop that war. He
stopped it as a historical fact. But did he stop that war inside the
hearts of thousands of veterans who came back to their homes? Did he
prevent the negative impact of that war on soldiers’ lives? The answer
is simple — no. My essay will give evidence in support of this opinion.

The Afghan War changed many people’s lives in the USSR. Still, in
present-day Russia, the consequences of that war are appeared. The
greatest impact of the Afghan War can be seen on the people who were
there — soldiers who had to serve in Afghanistan and fulfill their
‘international duty’. The war for which there was no need, had destroyed
many soldiers’ lives. Fifteen thousand of them had been killed, and many
others had been injured, some having become invalids, unneeded to the
government who had sent them to that war, and to the people who were not
in the war. Every single young man who went to Afghanistan continued his
life differently from the people who had never been there. The effect
was due not merely to a war, but to the whole system of the ex-USSR. In
my essay I will try to describe both of these effects on soldiers’
lives.

The new life for the eighteen year old boys began when they graduated
from high school. Some of them became recruits during the spring draft,
others during the fall draft. Recruits bound for Afghanistan would
receive 8-10 weeks’ training before being sent to their units. From that
moment they became subject to the subordination of officers through the
formal channels of authority, and the informal of dedovshina
(discrimination by the older soldiers). Newcomers were kept in line,
while being beaten. This continued until the new soldiers agreed to
acquiesce. That was just the beginning of soldiers’ lives, being sent to
the war they all experienced in very different ways. The impact of
fighting and the experience of killing, dedovshina, an alien military
institution, and an alien land changed the characters and lives of the
soldiers before they returned home. ‘We were in an alien land. And why
were we there? To this day, for some, it doesn’t matter.’

War in Afghanistan was not exclusively a male war. Many of the women
who volunteered to served in Afghanistan were nurses, others filled a
variety of support or nurture roles (as cooks, for example). The rest
were involved in paperwork or communication. For these in Afghanistan
women the main problem became men. They attracted soldiers in
Afghanistan not only as sex objects but also as mother figures. Often
women were raped by soldiers who had been sent to Afghanistan instead of
going to prison. Thus in the Soviet patriarchal society the belief that
women who served in Afghanistan were whores or prostitutes took root.
Here, a woman who had served in Afghanistan describes her feelings:

‘You fulfilled your international duty in a bed’… My mother proudly
announced to her friends: ‘My daughter was in Afghanistan.’ My naive
mother! I want to write to her: ‘Mother, be quiet or you’ll hear people
say your daughter is a prostitute.’

After coming home, soldiers organized the form of a community that they
had been accustomed to in Afghanistan, with their own customs and
jargon. Coming back to normal life was enormously difficult for them,
because of the reasons that I will explain in next paragraph. Thus, from
the beginning they separated themselves from the surrounding society.
Many veterans became members of Mafia groups. The lives of the returning
soldiers differed from each other, but on one point it was the same for
every veteran: they could not live normal lives in society, as they
would have without having experienced the war. In the words of a veteran
who had served in Afghanistan: ‘You never really come home.’

One of the main reason for veterans holding back from society was that
civilians met soldiers coming back to homes without honor. Forty-six
percent of civilians said that the Afghan war was a Russian national
shame, and only 6% of them said that they were proud of their soldiers
who had fulfilled their international duty in Afghanistan. Veterans felt
that their efforts and endurance had not been wholly in vain. Often
veterans became the object of criticism by media and public opinion.
People thought that the war had made warriors of the men, and, in fear,
kept away from veterans. The media blamed them — not the government —
for taking part in the war and partly for losing it. Thus, after coming
back, soldiers started to look with new eyes upon the society that had
sent them to their death. While they had been in Afghanistan, the public
and media had expressed contempt for the soldiers; after they returned,
this sentiment only increased.

Disrespect to the people and to the governmental system became common
among soldiers who were experiencing discrimination after having
fulfilled their duty. This situation galvanized potential men, unhappy
with their political system into striking. During the putsch of 1991,
many veterans supported Mayor Sobchak, who supported the putsch against
the new democratic government in Leningrad.

The long-term impact, and one of the most terrible consequences of the
Afghan War, was the addiction of soldiers to alcohol and drugs. Death,
drinking, and drugs became part of the veterans’ lives forever. Drugs
were essential to the survival of the soldiers. Drugs helped them to
carry 40 kilos of ammunition up and down the mountains, to overcome
depression after their friends’ deaths, to prevail over the fear of
death. Drugs and alcohol became the usual procedure of self-medication
when other options were denied. The abuse of drugs created a generation
of drug and alcohol addicts. According to the official reports of the
Russian Department of Health Services, 40 millions medically certified
alcoholics in 1985 were registered. Consumption of alcohol had increased
20,4% from its consumption in 1950-79. If these were official reports
then it is possible that they were only a part of truth, and another
part is like the bottom part of an iceberg — it cannot be predicted.

There wasn’t a single person among us who did not try drugs in
Afghanistan. You needed relaxation there, or you went out of your mind.

Veteran of Afghan War

Coming back home, veterans found employment in many different fields,
from driving buses to banking. But most of them started to work on the
field which was closest to what they had done in Afghanistan. Emergency
services such as the firemen, militia and rescue departments had a
shortage of workers at that time and many of the Afghan veterans
continued to work there. Finding a job was one of the privileges which
the government gave to the veterans. This was maybe the only privilege
which was really fulfilled. But this was a strategic maneuver for the
Soviet government: to prevent veterans from assuming employment in the
Union of Afghan War Veterans Society. The government was afraid of this
Union because it united the most dangerous and prepared warriors in
Russia.

Another major impact of the Afghan war on soldiers lives’ was injuries
and mental disorders. ‘Most of us came home. Only we all came home
differently. Some of us on crutches, some of us with gray hair, many in
zinc coffins.’ Although a medical service was established on a modern
and highly effective level ( 93% of the troops received initial medical
aid within 30 minutes and the attention of a specialized doctor within
six hours), many soldiers became invalids during the war. Fifty thousand
soldiers were wounded in action, of whom 11,371 became invalids and were
unable to return to work, while 1,479 veterans received the most serious
category of disability. These veterans were unable to continue working
and leading normal lives. These circumstances forced them to live on the
earnings of their family members and on the governments’ invalid
benefit. But even these benefits were paid inconstantly and were
extremely low. One of the privileges which Afghanistan veterans received
was a flat in a newly built house. In the Soviet Russian system, which
recognized no private ownership of property, every single citizen had to
wait in a line of thousands of people before getting a flat. Afghanistan
veterans were put at the beginning of that line, but corruption in the
Russian bureaucracy had widened the process of granting new flats to the
invalids and veterans. Thus when the free market economy was established
in Russia and all the lines for the flats were canceled, people had to
buy them with their own money, and many veterans and invalids of the
Afghan War remained without their flats. Thus the bureaucratic system in
Russia had left most of the veterans without their privileges and
benefits.

One mother wrote in the letter to Politburo ‘Why did you ruin my son,
why did you spoil his mind and his soul?’. While physical disability was
relatively easy to prove and to cure, the psychological damage was far
more complicated to diagnosis and to treat. Modern counter-insurgency
wars involve a particularly high incidence of psychological damage;
generally Post-Traumatic stress disorders, symptoms which include
flashbacks, emotional numbness, withdrawal, jumpy hyperalertness or
over-compensatory extroversion. This was caused partly because of the
critical stresses of combat and injury. In most cases mental disorders
were caused by unclear front-line zones. Soldiers had experienced mostly
‘road war’ without clear front-line meant that no place was safe.
Soldiers were always ready for the battle alarm; there was no time to
rest. ‘Knowing their terrain well, the resistance fighters can move with
ease at night and night vision equipment would enable them to train
accurately their weapons on enemy targets…’ And how could soldiers
relax, knowing that an unguided rocket could penetrate almost all
security perimeters, that even a ten year old boy could carry and use a
pistol or a grenade? One veteran recalled:

…the leading vehicle broke down. The driver got out and lifted the
bonnet — and the boy, about ten years old, rushed out and stabbed him in
the back… We turned the boy into a sieve.

Veteran of Afghan War

Another historical testament to that violence was found in a different
source:

‘…in early May 1981 they killed a number of children in the village
of Kalakan, the stronghold of SAMA. The Russian soldiers were stated to
have said, ‘When the children grow up they take up arms against us’…’

How can people who killed a ten year old boy live normally after coming
back to the motherland? Without safe place, restless — these
circumstances may cause a healthy adult to become mentally imbalanced.
What can it do to nineteen year old boys, who had been drafted just
after finishing their school and who had not seen life yet? They can
easily lose their minds. But psychological disorders became classified
adequately to the status of invalid only later. Yet, no category of
invalidity was given to that disability. Thus, mentally sick veterans
had to live almost entirely on support from friends and family. In this
way the government ignored the impact of the war, which was started by
its decree, on soldiers’ lives.

In a normal society the killing of another man is not permitted;
killers receive the death penalty. During the war this situation had
been changed and in Afghanistan soldiers had received a license to kill
their enemies, who were also human beings. With a machine-gun soldiers
received the power of life and death and the feeling of authority to do
what they wished became common among Russian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Problems ensued when soldiers were unable to overcome that feeling once
they has left their guns behind. Some soldiers, unable to square the
demands of war with the demands of their conscience, were stamped with
amorality. Others became compulsively violent. ‘…they killed
thirty-one villages, slaying them inside mosques, in lanes, or inside
their homes.’ These circumstances created another impact of the Afghan
War. By the end of 1989, about 3,000 veterans were in prisons for
criminal offenses, while another 2,540 soldiers were imprisoned for
crimes committed while serving in Afghanistan. Thus the Afghan War
created criminals who were trained to kill. Among the crimes committed
by soldiers in Afghanistan, the most common were hooliganism 12,6%, rape
11,8%, theft of personal property 12,4%, robbery 11,9% and murder 8,4%
(these percentages were taken from the total number of 2,540 soldiers
convicted of crime).

Thus the war had affected all of the soldiers who experienced it. Some
became criminals, others became invalids without any actual support from
the government. The rest had to face the psychological impact of the
war, which was called as ‘afghan syndrome’ by the media. Most of these
people decided to dedicate their lives to helping the victims of the
Afghan War. In Leningrad, several organizations were created with the
aim to aid physical and psychological victims of the war. LAVVA
(Leningrad Association of Veterans of the War in Afghanistan), ‘K
sovesti’ Leningrad Information-Publication Organization, ‘Modul’
Cultural-Leisure Center for Veterans of the Foreign War Association —
these are just a few of many organizations created throughout the USSR.
Left and unsupported by the government, these organizations aimed to
provide extra facilities for the treatment of injured veterans, to
compensate veterans fully or partly for the expenses of necessary
treatment, to develop sports for invalid and to force the government to
support the invalids’ rights.

Thus the experience of the Afghan War had a twofold impact on soldiers’
lives: first, the impact of the war itself and second, the impact of
returning to a peaceful life after the war. In the words of one veteran:

What did the war give to us? Thousands of mothers who lost sons,
thousands of cripples, thousands of torn-up lives.

While in Afghanistan, soldiers experienced discrimination by the older
soldiers and by the officers. The foreign land, the experience of
fighting, the death of friends, the highly difficult conditions of
living, and the absence of a stimulus to fighting made most of the
soldiers addicted to drugs and alcohol. Drugs became an easy source of
relaxation because Afghanistan is one of the biggest suppliers of
marijuana on the black market.

The term ‘lost generation’ can be applied towards the veterans of the
Afghan War. This war had created a generation of alcoholics and drug
addicts. It also made many young people invalids unable to work and to
earn money on their own. The other ‘creation’ of the war in Afghanistan
was the increased rate of violence and immoral behavior among soldiers
and veterans of the war. These circumstances had made criminals out of
19 year old boys. Discrimination by the public opinion and media, and
the unwillingness of the government to help victims of the war even
increased the number of criminals, alcoholics and drug addicts among the
veterans of the Afghan war.

Footnotes:

PAGE

PAGE 1

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam (San Francisco: Mercury
House, 1992), p.156.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War (London:
Bookcraft (Bath) Ltd., Midsomer Norton, 1995), p.35.

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam , p.64.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.41.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.41.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.45.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.47.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.51.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.52.

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam , p.164.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.68.

Diego Cordovez, Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, Inc., 1995), p.247.

Nasir Shansab, Soviet Expansion in the Third World (Maryland: Silver
Spring, 1986), p.171.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.69.

M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan (Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1995), p.241.

M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan , p.241.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.71.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.72.

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , p.81.

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam , p.164.

Evaluation of the historical sources:

The book Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War by Mark Galeotti were
used a number of materials written both in English and in Russian.
Mostly the references I have used were taken by the author from
articles from newspapers with the interviewees of veterans. I count this
source of information as reliable because the author showed the point of
view on the Afghan War of both veterans of Soviet military forces and
from the United States, which supported Afghanistan during that war.

Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam was written by a Soviet veteran who served
in Afghanistan for two years. Of course he supported the Soviet’s
military forces, so I used this source only to show the general mood of
soldiers during the Afghan War. The author’s personal opinion was taken
for this.

Afghanistan, by Hassan Hakar, showed the Afghan War from the Afghan
side. This source was predisposed against the Soviets, so I used it to
show the other side of soldiers’ characters — the violence and murders
of the civilian population of Afghanistan. This source would be not
reliable if the facts were not proven by the other sources I used.

Out of Afghanistan, by Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, was
interesting because it supported both sides of the Afghan War with
historical facts and documents. The book’s facts were based on official
documents of both the Soviet and the Afghan governments. This source
gave me a whole, truthful picture of what happened in Afghanistan.
According to this information I built my opinion of what was the real
impact of the Afghan War on the personal lives of soldiers while they
were serving in Afghanistan.

Soviet Expansion in the Third World by Nasir Shansab, whose nationality
is afghan, was useful because showed the tragedy of afghan people
without insulting the Soviet military forces. It also showed the Afghan
army’s dangerous force of resistance.

All these books after critical analysis gave me the information needed
for my essay.

Bibliography:

Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam (San Francisco: Mercury
House, 1992)

Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War (London:
Bookcraft (Bath) Ltd., Midsomer Norton, 1995)

M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan (Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1995)

Nasir Shansab, Soviet Expansion in the Third World (Maryland: Silver
Spring, 1986)

Diego Cordovez, Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, Inc., 1995)

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