The Past Is Always Prologue

Rodric Braithwaite is a former British ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yeltsin’s Russia and a specialist in Russian history.  Utilizing his extensive personal contacts with Afghan War veterans (known as afgantsy in Russian) and his fluency in the Russian language, Braithwaite has written an account of the Soviets’ involvement in Afghanistan that is detailed, easy to follow, and balanced.  Unlike other works discussing the Soviets’ experience in Afghanistan, this book is sympathetic to the plight of the Soviet soldiers and officers who found themselves in the Afghan inferno.

The Soviet involvement in Afghanistan began soon after the formation of the Soviet Union and built upon the decades of czarist entanglement, which was fueled by Russo-British rivalry.  In 1929, exactly 50 years before the Afghan War, the Soviet army marched into Afghanistan for the first time.  The goal of the first invasion was to restore the deposed Amanullah Khan to the throne.  Amanullah emulated Ataturk and befriended Mussolini.  His plans to make education compulsory for both men and women and to establish a minimum age for marriage provoked a rebellion by the forerunners of modern mujahideen.  Stalin sent about a thousand troops into Afghanistan, and they proceeded to capture several cities in the north of the country.  The intervention came too late, however, as Amanullah had...

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