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Russia rethink the failure of the Afghan war to victory




Soldiers after completing the service in Afghanistan in Kabul. (Victor Khabarov / Victor Khabarov)

Red Army veterans came to the stage and exposed songs from the battlefield: a collision with the enemy and the thirst for wartime Russian vodka. The crowd of the Afghan military elite knocked on the usual blow.

The rock concert was something like thematic music for the Kremlin's attempt to rewrite history, turning the defeat into Afghanistan for the patriotic victory of Mother Russia.

"Are you a friend of Afghanistan? Shine with lights, Muslim screams? "The band" Cascade "sang – including camouflage veterans and a medal, including a percussionist with an Afghan drum and a keyboard player who lost his leg in battle.

This was only one of the ways in which Russia celebrates the 30th anniversary departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan after a decade of war the Soviet armed forces strained and left a stellar hole in the finances of the country.


Cascade, a Russian rock group consisting of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, played in the Moscow City Hall of Crocus on February 9 within the framework of the 30th anniversary of Russia since the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. (Amy Ferris-Rotman / The Washington Post)

The February 1989 issue also had a deeper bite for the Kremlin.

The Red Army was expelled from Afghanistan by US-backed Mujahideen, who completed the key message of the Cold War. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Pro-democratic movements in Eastern Europe gained momentum and became less fearful of dispersal with the Soviet order.

The 1989 Kremlin called the Afghan war a "political mistake." Now Russian legislators, called by President Vladimir Putin, are trying to make a turn to this degree by 180 degrees.

On the last day of of the Red Army, which left Afghanistan 30 years ago, the Russian parliament is planning to adopt a resolution declaring war to be justified. It is expected that Putin will hold a grand ceremony in the Kremlin.

"These courageous men served their homeland, fulfilled their duty," said a nationalist veteran and Afghan veteran Sergei Baburin last week at the opening ceremony in Moscow. Photo exhibition proclaimed intent was to show a more attractive side of the war.

Reviving history is not uncommon in many countries. Other inconvenient truths can not be disguised – for example, as anti-Soviet Mujahideen helped create Al Qaeda and the Taliban, both of which opposed the West.

But the reprocessing of Russian narracy in Afghanistan is one of the most comprehensive and systematic historical reviews.

This is part of a wider attempt by Moscow to formulate a historical narrative that is consistent with Putin's current ideology, whose leadership has been designed. the image of a strong Russia with an impeccable past.

Parliament's resolution condemns the condemnation of the 1989 war, stating that it "is contrary to the principles of historical justice," and argues that Moscow sent troops to Afghanistan in December 1979 on the orders of the communist government of the Kremlin in Kabul. (In fact, the forces of the Soviet invasion overthrew this government, killed his leader and found that Moscow is completely opposed to the communist faction.)

The war rehabilitation also takes place against the backdrop of the new influence of Moscow in Afghanistan. In recent months, there have been two major meetings between the Taliban and Afghan power brokers in Russia to find ways to put an end to the current US-led war.

Today's government in Kabul is unlikely to warm up to the idea of ​​protecting Moscow from that early war, especially given the recent resentment of the Afghan government by the revisionist praises of President Trump's Soviet invasion. The national anthem of the Stalin era at the beginning of his rule or the transformation of Ivan the Terrible from the bloody to the heroic – the rehabilitation work on Afghanistan became a surprise.

Recently, in November, the TV Channel "First TV Channel" in the channel "Russia 1", a state heavyweight, produces a fictional TV series "Stormy Weather" depicting war veterans in Afghanistan as shredding society in the chaotic 1990s. The show received enthusiastic reviews.

For some veterans of the conflict, the government flip-flop only combines the old sense of despair.

"Such a resolution is really terrible," said Valery Shiryaev, who was decorated with a military interpreter in Afghanistan. Now the deputy director of the independent newspaper "Novaya Gazeta".

"My friends, who are other veterans, do not think that the Afghan war was a good cause. It was a terrible mistake, "he said.


Wounded paratrooper in the Panjshir valley during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, from 1986 to 1989. (Viktor Khabarov)

Around 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in a conflict, at least 1 million Afghans were killed. At first, the war was hidden from the views of the Soviet public, and conscripts sometimes did not know about their ultimate destination until they arrived in Afghanistan. When the body of soldiers began to return home, a wave of hysteria captured young men and their mothers throughout the country.

"Afghans" – like well-known Russian veterans – have returned to find the Soviet Union collapsing, not concerned with the trials. have suffered from the prospective benefits of their homeland.

Afghans have formed dense groups throughout the country. They meet regularly to recall and hold concerts, sing deeply songs whose lyrics are littered with phrases in Dari, one of the main languages ​​of Afghanistan. But this is just one for each other.

In a small War Museum in Afghanistan, seized on the outskirts of Moscow, school groups were increasingly visited. "The interest in the war is increasing, especially with the onset of the 30th anniversary," said the director of the museum Igor Yerin.

The veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Yerin, has been collecting military memorials for a museum for decades, where Soviet missiles and canned beef rations compete for space with tattered Mujahideen clothing.

But even for Yerin, the war causes contradictory feelings.

"The revaluation of the government is not about rehabilitation, but about retention," he said.