The Impact of the Afghan War on soviet soldiers

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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.[8] 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 wasnt 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[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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?.[12] 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 .[13] 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:

: 12/03/2009