Russia rewrites Afghan humiliation as triumph
Russia has held a rock concert to make 30 years since the end of the Afghan war as part of a programme aimed at rewriting history to turn it into a victory.
Many Russians see the 10-year Soviet war in Afghanistan as a necessary and largely successful conflict, like the ongoing Russian campaign in Syria. The Afghan war is reportedly widely perceived as a legitimate action against US-backed insurgents.
“Do you, comrade, remember Afghanistan? Glows of fires, Muslim cries?” Cascade sang. The band includes Afghan war veterans, a percussionist with an Afghan drum and a keyboardist who lost a leg in the conflict.
The Red Army was humiliated in Afghanistan after a decade of war that strained the armed forces and the USSR’s finances.
Meanwhile, some say Russia left behind a strong and disciplined army and a 400-bed military hospital that is still among the country’s best clinics.
The withdrawal in February 1989 was forced by the US-backed mujahideen, ending a key Cold War conflict. Months later, the Berlin Wall fell and in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed.
Anti-communist forces were gathering pace in Central Europe and becoming less fearful of a Soviet crackdown after the retreat from Afghanistan.
The Russian parliament is planning to pass a resolution declaring that the Afghan war was justified.
President Vladimir Putin is expected to lead a commemoration event at the Kremlin.
Some observers argue that while former communist president Najibullah’s government was brutal, it was not wracked by the corruption that has undermined Afghanistan’s US-backed government.
“These courageous men were serving their homeland, they were fulfilling their duty,” Afghanistan veteran Sergey Baburin said.
The parliamentary resolution says Russia sent troops to Afghanistan in December 1979 at the request of the Kremlin-backed communist regime in Kabul. However, the Soviet invaders overthrew the Kabul government, assassinated its leader and installed a rival communist puppet faction.
The invasion was partly driven by fears that the US could try to establish influence next to the Soviet Central Asian republics after its influence ended in Iran with the Islamic Revolution.
“Such a resolution is really awful,” said Valery Shiryaev, who was a military translator in Afghanistan and is on the management board of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
“My friends, who are other veterans, do not think the Afghan war was a good thing. It was a terrible mistake.”
Around 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and at least 1 million Afghans.
The war was kept secret from the Soviet public at first and conscripts were sometimes unaware of their destination until they arrived in the hostile, mountainous state.
The turning point in Afghanistan depicting the arrival of US-made Stingers. Picture credit: Wikimedia