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From 1979 to 1989, a million Soviet troops and thousands of civilian conscripts were engaged in a war the State denied was taking place. Of the estimated 50,000 casualties, the ones who came home in zinc boxes (the ‘Zinky Boys’) were often the luckiest, and thousands more were wounded in ways no statistics record. Yet since 1989, a radically altered Soviet society has continued to reject the memory of war and the many lives that were lost. Not for nothing is the Afghanistan war known as ‘the Soviet Vietnam’. This book, created controversy and outrage when it was first published in the USSR, is not about the politics of war, but about the people it affected. Officers and men, nurses and prostitutes, mothers whose children will never come home and children who no longer know what ‘home’ is, describe the beauty of Afghanistan and the brutal army bullying, the shops full of Western goods and the lack of basic equipment, the killing and the malnutrition. Brash or baffled, defeated or defiant, each voice contains a note of anger – the anger of those whose innocence has been take away.

Svetlana Alexievich author, published by Chatto & Windus Ltd 1992, 197pp, soft cover.

An ex-library book in reasonably tidy condition.

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