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The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's…

The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in… (edition 2001)

by Artyom Borovik

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Title:The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan
Authors:Artyom Borovik
Info:Grove Press (2001), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan by Artyom Borovik


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Borovik could easily be called the Ernie Pyle of the Soviet Army. He presents a candid down to earth reports on the difficulties of one of the world's mightiest Armies with tanks and helicopters being bested by rag-tagged bands of Afghans with little more than shoulder fired weapons. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, they didn't realized they would become mired in a situation that destroyed moral in the homeland, much like America's frustration in Viet Nam. ( )
  jepley38 | Sep 14, 2011 |
This book is an excellent ground-level view of the Soviet war in Afghanistan from a Soviet journalist who was "embedded" in the Red army. While those who may be expecting a military or political history of the war will be disappointed, what this book does so well is capture what it was like to be a soldier in caught up in the conflict. The book itself was patched together from a series of articles that appeared in the age of glasnost.

The first part of the book was written during the author's first 'tour' of afghanistan in 88-87 and the second part in the days leading up to the Soviet withdrawal in 88. The first part focuses more on the lives and experiences of various soldiers and is full of vivid, gripping anecdotes, such as that of the soldier who was killed 3 times in a day and survived (the first 'death' when he stepped on a mine, the second when one of the soldiers carrying him on a stretcher to a waiting helicopter stepped on a mine and the third when the helicopter medevacing him and the other wounded is shot down) or the soldier who is flying home to Moscow for 14 days leave but gets stranded at Tashkent where no flights are available and gets increasingly desperate to be back with his wife while day after day is eaten up waiting for alternative route back home. What comes through is the bravery of the soldiers just trying to do their jobs and stay alive in the face of an implacable enemy, terrible conditions, poor leadership, and a home front which does not understand what they have to face.

The second part of the book is much grimmer in tone. While there was some questioning of why the war was happening in the first part, by the time of the second, the sheer incompetence and unnecessariness of the war has sunk in, discipline has broken down to a greater degree so that there officers are indulging in drugs and arms trafficking, and the unpopularity of the war on the home front leaves returning soldiers feeling like outcasts. The author also visits the USA where he interviews deserters who were taken back to the States and now live lives of luxuriant loneliness, missing their homes, but not trusting the asylum offered by the communist government.

All in all this is the story about the pity of war and the devastating impact it had on a generation of young Soviet men. It was also a landmark book, as the author mentions in an afterward because when it was first published it tested the boundaries of glasnost in the USSR, with many army and party officials wanting it severely censored. Its a pity the author died before he had the chance to revise the book - its origins as magazine articles is obvious and there are times (particularly in the first part) where the author seems to tiptoe around certain details, perhaps due to censorship reasons. But all in all, this captures the Soviet experience of the war vividly. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Feb 7, 2011 |
Conditions of the units that the author was attached to are covered in detail. Not a book for those looking for an overview of the Soviet-Afghan conflict. ( )
  JBreedlove | Dec 13, 2005 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080213775X, Paperback)

Until his death in 2000, Artyom Borovik was considered one of the preeminent journalists in Russia. With The Hidden War he provided the world its first glimpse inside the Soviet military machine, capturing the soldiers' terror, helplessness, and despair at waging war in a foreign land against an unseen enemy for unclear purposes. When first published, Borovik's groundbreaking revelations exposed the weaknesses beneath the Soviet Union's aura of military might, creating an enormous controversy both in Russia and around the world. A vital and fascinating portrait of the Soviet empire at the twilight of its power, this is a book that still resonates today. "An honest and graphic account of individual and general disillusionment during the very worst kind of war." -Christopher Hitchens, New York Newsday; "Alternately fascinating and horrific.... A fascinating look at the life and death of Soviet soldiers." -- Bill Wallace, San Francisco Chronicle; "I have read no other account of the war in Afghanistan equal to this ... this is literature." -- Graham Greene

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:28 -0400)

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