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Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89

Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89 [Kindle Edition]

Sir Rodric Braithwaite
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"'This book finally dispels many of the Cold War myths surrounding the Soviet - Afghan war. It offers the most nuanced, sympathetic and comprehensive account yet.' (Rory Stewart) 'An outstanding book... these accounts provide a fascinating insight not only into the war but also into Soviet society' (THES) 'A splendid read, full of interesting material, and essential for anyone trying to understand the Russians' (BBC History Magazine)"

Book Description

In a timely and eye-opening book Rodric Braithwaite examines the Russian experience during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Basing his account on Russian sources and interviews he shows the war through the eyes of the Russians themselves - politicians, officers, soldiers, advisers, journalists and women.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1669 KB
  • Print Length: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (3 Mar 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004PLNK84
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #111,348 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Field Marshall Montogomery's first lesson from the 'Book of War' was 'Don't march on Moscow'. His second should have been 'Don't meddle with Afghanistan', and this book shows why. Braithwaite was British ambassador in Moscow for much of the time that the Russians were fighting there, so was not only in a position to see the effects first hand, but also to track down the history of the combatants, for his crucial chapters on how the returning Russian soldiers were treated. Although he avoids the temptation to make direct comparisons between the Russian experience and the difficulties being undergone by the current western allies, they are so obvious as to barely need pointing out. So too are the comparisons between what the Russians attempted to put in place by way of training and nation building to allow them a dignified exit, and what our 'International Security Assistance Force' is trying to do now.
What is different is the motivations of the leading players. It is clear from Braithwaite's account of the politburo meetings leading up to the Soviet invasion that the Russians were determined to stay out. But they were driven by ideological imperatives to give support, and then to intervene directly. All the time, though, there was the sense that they were on a hiding to nothing, and as the casualties mounted and the burning of villages increased, so the war became ever less winnable. But at the same time, the truth could not be told to the Russian people, so we learn how the bodies of casualties were shipped home to be delivered to their families during the hours of darkness, together with instructions to say nothing.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'It is an old truth ...' 5 Jun 2011
'It is an old truth that an army does not act in accordance with anything except its orders. It bows neither to common sense nor to necessity nor to anything else. That is what distinguished it from any other institution. That is what makes it vulnerable.' (General Lyakhovski, p.242) An exceptionally fair-minded book. Very good in showing how, even with good knowledge and fair intentions, countries can involve themselves in murderous wars which both betray their own values and offer them no significant advantage. And how those wars are often sustained and extended for what have claims to be the best of reasons -- loyalty to those who have fought, faith in the better ideals, a desire not to betray those who have stood up for those ideals. Very interesting in showing the extent to which the Russia's involvement in Afghanistan parallels Nato's involvement, both in aid -- with the proviso that the Russians seem to have been more committed to, and willing to take risks for, their aid projects -- and in fighting. Here the 40th Army can claim to have been remarkably successful in carrying out the tasks it was given, while the Russians never got close to achieving a political resolution. There were four phases: 79--80 and deployment; 80 to 85 direct engagements give way to a classic guerilla campaign; 85-86 Gorbachev negotiating to bring soldiers home, and a reduction in troop numbers; 86-89 a new Afghan president tasked with launching a Policy of National Reconciliation and final withdrawal of all troops. By this time the Russian people have turned strongly against the war, seeing it, to a large extent, as a crime, and generally fearing the returning troops. For all the parallels, there are large differences, too. Read more ›
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant ! 23 May 2011
By sgeoff
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a great book ! Well-written, informative and full of interesting detail. Anyone with knowledge of the US disaster in Vietnam will see the Russians making many of the same mistakes, and we now seem to be repeating those errors ourselves - a common theme being lack of understanding of the people, their culture and their resentment of foreign invaders. The background to communist government in Afghanistan is well-explained, and there is an excellent account of the Russian special forces storming Amin's palace and killing the communist president. The proper invasion followed, at the "request" of the newly-installed leader, and they expected to stay only a few months ! Their aims are ones people in the West would support - roads, clean water, education (including for girls), economic develment etc. - but in the context of the Cold War, the western-backing for the mujahedin helped to make sure that what followed was a 10 year Russian disaster, with over 15,000 coffins returning to Russian families, often in the night to try and avoid bad publicity. Told from Russian sources, this is a great read and highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Afghanistan, then or now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a most important book by the British ambassador in Moscow from 1988 to 1992, who has gathered a collosal amount of information about the ten years of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.
The first part of the book, on the decision to intervene and on the first operations, is fascinating and recalls stories of the Borgias Renaissande period. When the communist prime minister Amin overthrew and killed the communist head of state, the soviet leadership decided to intervene and kill Amin. The 40th army moved in, ostensibly as allies. The special forces sent to attack the almost impregnable and heavily defended residence of Amin resorted to deception, including a lunch where the Afghan officerso were filled with vodka while the Russian drank water, so as to gather information. The night surprise attack was successful: about 10 Russians were killed and around 250 of their deceived Afghan allies, Amin was reached and killed. However he was already dying: the KGB had infiltrated an agent in the palace kitchen and he poisoned all the people at a dinner given by Amin for politburo members, ministers and their families! Another extraordinary fact is that the Soviets tried to keep secret from their own people , for many years, that a war was going on in Afghanistan.
The other chapters of the book cover in great detail all the aspects of the ten years of war. What is astonishing is how NATO repeated almost exactly the Soviet experience, winning battles but unable to hold the ground for long, down to the final problem of how to get out. In fact the Soviet were in a stronger position: they intervened to support a communist government that had siezed power 18 months before and could use the exixting Afghan army, even if weak.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My Point of view on the Russian war in afganistan
It is a very well balanced description . Pity the americans didn't read it before invading the country.You understand also some more aboutRussia
Published 2 months ago by Marzia Costantini
2.0 out of 5 stars Great anecdotes. Average analysis. Intellectually light.
This is a shame: I had high hopes for this book. The anecdotal vignettes describing the fate of individual Russians taking part in the campaign were excellent. Read more
Published 7 months ago by S. Puri
5.0 out of 5 stars War Soviet style
A wonderful read. It is astonishing that we learnt nothing from the Russian experience before out ill-fated ventures into Afghanistan. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Harold Hosking
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
A little bit sentimental, but very balanced and more important myth-bashing. Thanks god.. no more sinister polar bears raping a good girl.
Published 11 months ago by Alexei
1.0 out of 5 stars great book but fell too pieces, cheap skate publisher.
Great material, terrible publishing quality. Pages started too fall out so the book's had it, and I hardly put it through the wars: One flight to Tuscany etc.
Published 12 months ago by WilliamsLeith
5.0 out of 5 stars The Russian adventure in Afghanistan
It is a very good piece of journalistic historical research. It has probably done more than the USSR and the Russian government in explaining the war to the outside world. Read more
Published 13 months ago by K. Tsang
3.0 out of 5 stars mixed feelings
I liked and disliked this book.

Reading the reviews, I was looking forward to read this book and its was confirmed in the first two or three chapters (the first 50 pages... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Eric le rouge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great review of the Soviet war in Afghanistan
I grew up in the 80s watching news reports with plenty of those large Soviet assault helicopters and BMPs fighting in Afghanistan. I could not make much sense of it at the time. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Miquel
5.0 out of 5 stars The Soviet Vietnam , the place where 15.000 Russians and about 2.5...
To better understand a conflict, sometimes it is useful to use the numbers and that's what I did in the title of this review. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Carrosio Roberto
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone interested in Afghanistan will find this account of the Soviet...
Rodric Braithwaite provides an extremely well informed account of the (ill-thought) rationale behind the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the ten years thereafter. Read more
Published 16 months ago by N. R. Clarke
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Popular Highlights

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Step by step, with great reluctance, strongly suspecting that it would be a mistake, the Russians slithered towards a military intervention because they could not think of a better alternative. &quote;
Highlighted by 9 Kindle users
In the end the Russians had good tactics but no workable strategy. They could win their fights, but they could not convincingly win the war. Their best efforts, military and political, went for nothing. They eventually had no choice but to disentangle themselves as best they could. &quote;
Highlighted by 8 Kindle users
The intentions of the Soviet government were modest: they aimed to secure the main towns and the roads, stabilise the government, train up the Afghan army and police, and withdraw within six months or a year. Instead they found themselves in a bloody war from which it took them nine years and fifty-two days to extricate themselves. &quote;
Highlighted by 8 Kindle users

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