Afgantsy - The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89 by Rodric Braithwaite

By Rodric Braithwaite

In a well timed and eye-opening ebook Rodric Braithwaite examines the Russian event in that almost all fresh warfare in Afghanistan (after Alexander's conquests and the various British imperial wars and skirmishes). principally basing his account on Russian resources and interviews he exhibits the conflict during the eyes of the Russians themselves - politicians, officials, squaddies, advisers, journalist, ladies. As former ambassador to Moscow, Rodric Braithwaite brings distinct insights to the Soviet struggle in Afghanistan. the tale has been distorted not just by means of chilly struggle propaganda but in addition through the myths of the 19th century nice online game. It strikes from the excessive politics of the Kremlin to the lonely Russian conscripts in remoted mountain outposts. The parallels with Afghanistan at the present time communicate for themselves. 'A outstanding success of narrative heritage, delicate writing and intriguing clean research': so wrote Simon Sebag Montefiore approximately Rodric Braithwaite's bestseller Moscow 1941. yet these phrases, and so on of compliment that got it, may perhaps both follow to his new publication.

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He modernised the Afghan army with Soviet weapons, equipment, and training. In 1963 Zahir Shah got rid of Daud to appease conservatives infuriated by his flirtations with the left and the Soviets. But the King continued with the policy of reform. He introduced a form of constitutional monarchy with freedom of speech, allowed political parties, gave women the vote, and guaranteed primary education for girls and boys. Women were allowed to attend the university and foreign women taught there. Ariana Airlines employed unveiled women as hostesses and receptionists, there were women announcers on Kabul Radio, and a woman was sent as a delegate to the United Nations.

The main agency for conducting relations with Russia’s neighbours in Central Asia and for collecting intelligence about them was the Frontier Commission based in Orenburg in Siberia. From 1825 to 1845 the Commission was headed by General Grigori Fedorovich Gens (1787–1845), a distinguished Orientalist and scholar. In 1834 Gens sent one of his young officers, a naturalised Pa ra di s e Lo s t 21 Frenchman called Pierre Desmaisons, disguised as a mullah, to discover what he could about the Emirate of Bukhara.

8 Hare-brained schemes continued to be bandied around by hotheads in St Petersburg for some decades. But sober opinion agreed with General von Bennigsen, the Baltic German aristocrat who commanded the Russian army in 1807. The British, he argued, had created a European-style military system in India funded by local taxpayers. This army, ‘formed on the same lines as our European regiments, commanded by English officers, and excellently armed, manoeuvres with the precision of our grenadiers’. In the past Asiatic cavalry armies had invaded India over its north-west frontier and conquered the subcontinent, but these had no chance against the Anglo-Indian infantry and artillery.

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