From 1979 to 1989 a million Soviet troops engaged in a devastating war in Afghanistan that claimed 50,000 casualties - and the youth and humanity of many tens of thousands more. In Zinky Boys journalist Svetlana Alexievich gives voice to the tragic history of the Afghanistan War. What emerges is a story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory in its similarities to the American experience in Vietnam - a resemblance that Larry Heinemann describes movingly in his introduction to the book, providing ...
From 1979 to 1989 a million Soviet troops engaged in a devastating war in Afghanistan that claimed 50,000 casualties - and the youth and humanity of many tens of thousands more. In Zinky Boys journalist Svetlana Alexievich gives voice to the tragic history of the Afghanistan War. What emerges is a story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory in its similarities to the American experience in Vietnam - a resemblance that Larry Heinemann describes movingly in his introduction to the book, providing American readers with an often uncomfortably intimate connection to a war that may have seemed very remote to us. The Soviet dead were shipped back in sealed zinc coffins (hence the term "Zinky Boys"), while the state denied the very existence of the conflict; even today the radically altered Soviet society continues to reject the memory of the "Soviet Vietnam." Creating controversy and outrage when it was first published in the USSR - it was called by reviewers there a "slanderous piece of fantasy" and part of a "hysterical chorus of malign attacks" - Zinky Boys presents the candid and affecting testimony of the officers and grunts, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the war and its lasting effects. Svetlana Alexievich has snatched from the memory hole the truth of the Afghanistan War: the beauty of the country and the savage Army bullying, the killing and the mutilation, the profusion of Western goods, the shame and shattered lives of returned veterans. Zinky Boys offers a unique, harrowing, and unforgettably powerful insight into the realities of war and the turbulence of Soviet life today.
The 1979-1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan, as Russian author Alexievich remarks in this oral history, wrenched boys from their daily life of school or college, music and discos, and hurled them into a hell of filth. She conveys that hell here through the grotesque memories of infantrymen, helicopter pilots, tank crewmen, medical corpsmen and political officers who survived the ordeal, plus those of widows and mothers of fighters--zinky boys brought home in zinc coffins. In his moving introduction, Heinemann (Close Quarters) points out the uncanny similarities between the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the American war in Vietnam. The reality of being a soldier, as this powerful book demonstrates, is everywhere dismally and remarkably the same: grueling, brutal and ugly. Most affecting are the mother scenes, especially one in which mothers of zinky boys meet regularly at a local cemetery and talk about their sons as though they are still alive. (Oct.)
The price of modern war on the character of its people is something America already knew when the decade-long Soviet involvement in Afghanistan began in 1979; any comparison, only briefly mentioned in promotional material for this work, must be supplied by the reader. The Russian aspect of these recollections, with their unfamiliar allusions (partly explained in the footnotes), does not hide a similar sense of disillusionment and suffering. Alexievich uses first-person accounts to illustrate the style of conflict the Soviet soldier faced, as well as to reveal the enormity of the betrayal of the ordinary Soviet citizen that may have contributed to the end of the U.S.S.R. A powerful, lyrical, and poignant portrait of a brutal chapter in modern history. For general reading and any military collection with a Soviet emphasis.-- Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal.