The Soviet Afghan War

The Soviet-Afghan War lasted ten years between 1979-1989 and led to the deaths of between 500k and 2m Afghan civilians.

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I speak with Nick Geering a Russian history and language teacher. From his memories of the haunting sight of uniformed amputees in St Petersburg to the complex origins of the conflict, we explore the intricacies of a war that was both an accident and a tragedy.

Our conversation traverses the murky politics that led to the Soviet invasion, the unpreparedness of the conscript-heavy Soviet army, and the brutal reality of life for soldiers caught in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. We also discuss the question of international support for the Mujahideen and the controversial impact of Western-supplied weaponry.

The episode also shines a light on the deeply entrenched hierarchy within the Soviet military, drug abuse among troops, and the chilling treatment of prisoners of war on both sides. We also reflect on the war’s enduring scars, the fate of the communist Afghan government, and how the conflict is remembered today in Russia.

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