Libmonster ID: BY-2205
Author(s) of the publication: A. M. VASILIEV


Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Urnov's article stands out from the extensive literature on the Afghan events. First, by its honesty and calm objectivity. Secondly, knowledge of the case "from the inside". Third, the outlook of a person who was at a fairly high level in the then nomenclature hierarchy.

And yet, no matter what is written about that time, there are gaps in the details and in general in our knowledge. Therefore, it may not be superfluous to write a postscript, which I decided to do. Let this look from a small high-rise, and not from a large hill, which in those years was Andrey Yuryevich.

On the day of the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan, I was on duty in the editorial office of Pravda together with Yuri Vasilyevich Glukhov. My colleague spent about three years in the Soviet embassy in Afghanistan, and I, working as a correspondent for Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, visited this country every year. We didn't think we were very smart, but we both knew how the Afghan adventure would end. Any orientalist historian knew that three British incursions into Afghanistan ended in their defeat. In the "Geographical Reference Book" as early as 1925, one could read: "Afghanistan is a mountainous country with which Soviet Turkestan borders in the south ... British imperialists have broken their teeth repeatedly trying to enslave the freedom-loving Afghan people."

The gigantic Russian Empire spent more than 50 years conquering the mountainous regions of the North Caucasus inhabited by Muslim ethnic groups in the 19th century and sacrificed tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives of its uniformed peasants and part of its noble elite. And this was at a time when information communication between different parts of the Muslim world was almost nonexistent. The Soviet Union defeated after a decade

page 44

The Basmachi movement began in Central Asia only when they lost their rear bases in Afghanistan.

We were sure that our analysis was correct, although in those years neither Glukhov nor I doubted either the power of the Soviet Army or its morale.

At that time, the editor-in-chief of Pravda was the philosopher, academician Viktor Grigoryevich Afanasyev. After the evening issue, he sometimes went out to smoke in the hallway, just to think about something. At the very least, it was possible to approach him with some sharp question. I couldn't stand it any longer, went up to the editor-in-chief, took him by the button, and repeated my thoughts with Glukhov about the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and the tragedy that awaits us. The chief listened to me carefully, then tapped the ash from his cigarette and said: "You may be right, but it's best not to tell anyone about this. It's no use."

But I didn't stop. One of my comrades was close to Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB and a member of the Politburo. After jotting down my thoughts on a page and a half, I called him and made an appointment. He read my thoughts carefully and said something like this: "If you leave me this note, I'll have to accept it officially and pass it around. But I warn you that you will not change anything, and for you the consequences may be the most severe. Either we tear up your note, or I'll have to use it." We looked into each other's eyes, and the note was torn up.

A. Y. Urnov (and not only him) believes that Y. V. Andropov was one of the initiators of the entry of our troops into Afghanistan. He may be right, though I've heard other opinions. A smart, far-sighted and rather cautious person, Yu. V. Andropov could have feared unforeseen consequences of military intervention, although, obviously, he believed that if not us, the Americans would appear there (the logic of the "cold war"). The mentality of the head of the KGB may have been influenced by several factors other than ignorance of the East. Over the years of his political career, twice the harsh actions of the Soviet troops seemed to solve the problem. We are talking about Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. The West then could have choked with shouts and protests, but the job, as it seemed at the time, was done. So it was assumed that our troops in Afghanistan would restore order and in three weeks they could be mostly withdrawn. Neither the Afghan realities, nor the reaction of the West, China, and the Muslim world were calculated at that time, and the trap was closed. But in those years, someone like me had to be told that if the Politburo's decision had already been made, then to object to it would be to end up in the shadows. Andropov knew it by heart. This logic of behavior extended to the entire Soviet party and state apparatus from top to bottom. Here is just one example. When Pravda's correspondent in Afghanistan, Leonid Mironov, arrived in Moscow and expressed some doubts about the correctness of our policy in Afghanistan at a closed meeting for a narrow circle, he was pronounced a sentence: "politically immature", "defeatist". After some time, he was recalled from Afghanistan and removed from the Pravda newspaper.

I cannot agree with A. Y. Urnov's opinion about the rather significant role that the failure in Afghanistan played in the collapse of the Soviet Union. A small defeat in a remote, peripheral country had little effect on the situation in the capital. After all, if at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 there were at least a handful of intellectuals who protested against it, then there were no such protests against feudal Afghanistan. Perhaps, somewhere in the depths of our public consciousness, there were stereotypes of the 1930s, reflected in Svetlov's poem "Grenada", in which the village boy thought" globally "and was going to"give the land to the peasants" in distant Spain. And during the invasion of Afghanistan, it was assumed that, despite the resistance of "reactionary elements", the" masses of the people " would eventually support the new government. Neither the mentality of the Afghans, nor their pride, nor the deepest religious feelings, nor the strong social roots of the Afghan elite, which they tried to destroy, were taken into account. (Let me remind you that when the" white tsar " annexed the North Caucasus to Russia, politics helped him: the positions of local elites - Chechen, Dagestan, Ingush, Circassian-were not affected. Not only that. Shamil's children later held high government positions in tsarist Russia.)

Let's return to the question of whether Afghanistan can be considered an important factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union. One phrase - do not answer. And yet, it seems that the main thing was that the economy stopped working normally, the shelves in stores were empty, people lost faith in the old ideals, the development of the country stopped, and part of the nomenclature, especially its young part, was ready to abandon the former, which had become formal, ideals, their own propaganda was counterproductive, and the West intensively, purposefully and effectively worked for the collapse of the USSR. The deepest socio-political crisis of the old-style system, call it administrative-command, call it totalitarian, which was headed by an ossified gerontocracy, and the lost "cold war", especially in the information aspect-these were the main reasons for the collapse of the USSR.

But we will not go beyond the topic. The only correct solution in those circumstances would have been to honestly and quickly admit defeat and simply take the newly created thin layer of the revolutionary elite out of Afghanistan and settle with us. This is partly what happened during

page 45

the flight of many leftist figures to the USSR during the Mujahideen offensive.

What else can I add? A large number of documents have already been collected that confirm the absolutely correct thesis of A. Y. Urnov that it was, so to speak, "defensive aggression". The Soviet Union did not seek warm seas, access to the Persian Gulf, or the destruction of Pakistan or Iran. But in accordance with the mentality of that time, the Soviet leadership could not abandon a regime that claimed to be friendly and ready to follow the socialist path.

History is a combination of objective forces that determine the social movement in one direction or another, and the activities of individuals. That is why the notes of A. Y. Urnov, who personally knew many Afghan and Soviet leaders, are so interesting. And his article quite convincingly shows how pathetic Mikhail Gorbachev's throwing around on the Afghan issue was. I would also like to add my personal impression of the Soviet leader in Kabul (1972-1979), A. M. Puzanov , who was not the last cog in the Soviet foreign policy machine.

A. M. Puzanov's personality is specific. The former pre-Soviet of the RSFSR, who helped N. S. Khrushchev in the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine, worked as an ambassador to Yugoslavia and Bulgaria before Afghanistan. I remember how in one of the Arab countries I met our former Ambassador to Vietnam Ilya Shcherbakov, with whom I established a warm and trusting relationship during my work in Hanoi. At that time, he was deputy head of the department of foreign frames of the Central Committee of the CPSU and came to this country to check. He wanted someone to drink with, but not the people he was testing, and he chose me as his partner, even though he knew I didn't drink much and didn't want to. And I could not refuse the" authorities", although not my own. After Ilya Sergeyevich had warmed up enough, and I mentioned Puzanov's last name, he suddenly began to tell me: "Yes, I knew Puzanov. He was the ambassador to Yugoslavia, but turned out to be dishonest. We then punished him, sent him as an ambassador to Bulgaria. But even there, he did not show himself in the best way. And so they were demoted - sent as an ambassador to Afghanistan and removed from the Central Committee." "Dirty tricks" of those times looks like a child's game in the sandbox today compared to privatization in the 90s, but the point is different.

Having lost his place in the highest political elite of the Soviet Union, Puzanov wanted to return there by any means, and for this Afghanistan had to be declared either a socialist state or a country of popular democracy. So, according to our embassy staff, with whom I still have friendly relations, he was deliberately spreading "misinformation" to the center, portraying things as if everything was going well in Afghanistan, just a small military effort was enough to put the country on the "right path" and go to the heights of popular democracy and socialism. It is unlikely that his position can be called decisive, but nevertheless he added his own weight to the scale of the tragically erroneous decision made by the Soviet leadership.

I agree with A. Y. Urnov that the military leadership of the Soviet Union did not object to a small war. Employees of our General Staff privately told me that the Soviet Union was then "two wars behind the United States - the Korean war and the Vietnam war", in which the American army was shelled and therefore better prepared for a possible future battle. "Let our army be shelled in Afghanistan." This is the military "logic" that was also present in the definition of our policy.

The United States really raised a monster out of Muslim extremists, who then turned against them. After all, they, along with the Pakistani intelligence service, used Saudi money to train bin Laden's people. It was they who supported the most reactionary spectrum of Muslim movements around the world against the Communists and the entire left, whether it was Muslim extremists in Algeria, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or the future Taliban in Pakistan. The main enemy of the United States and Western powers in those years was considered to be the Soviet Union and left-wing movements that, as they thought, threatened their core interests. An erroneous view led to an erroneous strategy and tactics. Afghanistan has become a training camp for Muslim extremists from all over the world, and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Mujahideen have passed through it, who, when they returned to their countries, formed the backbone of anti-Western and terrorist organizations. But this topic is quite developed, and we will not dwell on it.

It would seem that the United States in Afghanistan today is once again stepping on the same rake as Great Britain and the USSR. But who knows what the true, undisclosed, purpose of their stay in the country is? Indeed, American losses are growing. Maybe Afghanistan will be a personal disaster for Obama. But there is another point of view. However, it fits into the "conspiracy theory", which I am not a supporter of. During the occupation of Afghanistan by American and NATO troops, drug production in the country has increased tenfold. American and Western European societies degrade drugs from Latin America. And the main consumers of Afghan drugs were Russia, China, Iran, not to mention the countries of Central Asia. Isn't this a continuation of the "cold war", which some of the American elite did not abandon even in the new conditions?

The pain of Afghanistan is still alive in our society. Much will be written about events in and around this country. Therefore, I will stop here, congratulating A. Y. Urnov on a good, honest article.


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A. M. VASILIEV, P.S. THE PAIN OF AFGHANISTAN // Minsk: Belarusian Electronic Library (BIBLIOTEKA.BY). Updated: 01.08.2023. URL: (date of access: 30.05.2024).

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