The Impact of the Afghan War on soviet soldiers — страница 2

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paragraph. Thus, from the beginning they separated themselves from the surrounding society. Many veterans became members of Mafia groups. The lives of the returning soldiers differed from each other, but on one point it was the same for every veteran: they could not live normal lives in society, as they would have without having experienced the war. In the words of a veteran who had served in Afghanistan: ‘You never really come home.’[6] One of the main reason for veterans holding back from society was that civilians met soldiers coming back to homes without honor. Forty-six percent of civilians said that the Afghan war was a Russian national shame, and only 6% of them said that they were proud of their soldiers who had fulfilled their international duty in Afghanistan.[7]

Veterans felt that their efforts and endurance had not been wholly in vain. Often veterans became the object of criticism by media and public opinion. People thought that the war had made warriors of the men, and, in fear, kept away from veterans. The media blamed them - not the government - for taking part in the war and partly for losing it. Thus, after coming back, soldiers started to look with new eyes upon the society that had sent them to their death. While they had been in Afghanistan, the public and media had expressed contempt for the soldiers; after they returned, this sentiment only increased. 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 wasn’t 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